From vinyl, to furniture, to clothes, retro is in, and the same applies to video games. Once the domain of only the most dedicated gamers, retro video game collecting is slowly, but surely transforming into a mainstream hobby. Hell, you might have considered starting up a classic video game collection of your own, but where does one start? Which are the best consoles to focus on? What should be avoided?
Here’s a quick list of which classic consoles you should be focusing on, and a few other things to know before getting your retro game hoard started.
Note #1: For the sake of this article, I’m defining retro gaming as anything that came before the advent of polygons and 3-D gaming.
Note # 2: All the prices listed in this article are taken from Price Charting, a truly invaluable resource if you want to get into game collecting.
6) Atari 2600 (1977)
Availability: Fairly common in the wild (used game stores, flea markets, garage sales) although selection tends to be very random. Will have to hit the internet for some stuff.
Cost: $25 – $30 for the system. A buck or two for most games.
Best Games: Yars’ Revenge, Warlords, Frogger, Pitfall, Adventure
Most Valuable Games: Air Raid ($2,800), Eli’s Ladder ($1,500), Video Life ($1,200), Pepsi Invaders ($900), Cakewalk ($400)
The first video-game console, or at least the first one that actually mattered. The Atari 2600 brought video games home, and was host to a lot of classics like Pitfall, Adventure and a handful of okay arcade ports. Be forewarned though, the Atari 2600 is Retro with a capital “R”. This was an era where graphics were mostly symbolic (you’ll be looking at a lot of squares, circles, and other basic shapes), background music was largely unheard of and the d-pad hadn’t been invented yet. Set your expectations accordingly.
If you decide to get into Atari 2600 collecting, systems and games are cheap and plentiful. Of course, the Atari 2600 is nearly 40 years old at this point, so finding a console and controllers that work properly can be mildly challenging – it may be worth paying a minor premium to get a console that’s been well taken care of. As for games, you can often convince game stores to sell you their Atari stock in bulk, and only pay pennies for each game. That said, there was a lot of weird, random stuff released for the 2600 (Atari wasn’t so big on quality control) so if you want to snatch up some of the rarer Atari games, you’ll be paying a pretty penny.
5) TurboGrafx-16 (1989)
Availability: Quite rare in the wild. The basics can be tracked down online without much trouble, but you’ll really have to chase down the less common titles.
Cost: Anywhere from $100 to $500 for the system. $20 to $50 for most games.
Best Games: Bonk’s Adventure, Bomberman ’93, Military Madness, Alien Crush, Ys I & II
Most Valuable Games: Magical Chase ($1,500), The Dynastic Hero ($550), Bonk 3: Bonk’s Big Adventure ($350), Godzilla ($300), Legend of Hero Tonma ($300)