As many collectors have noticed, it is getting harder and harder to purchase nostalgic games we enjoyed on our classic game consoles. I fortunately knocked out most of my favorites 6 or 7 years back, because now, the hobby would be inaccessible to me unless I did everything via emulation. Let’s just look at the bare minimum cost for someone wanting to re-live the glory days of the 8-bit NES, shall we?
First, the core system. You have three options. The first is an aftermarket clone. While you could get a cheaply made one for 25 to 30 dollars (such as a Retron2), this isn’t a good option to play on. The best option is either the new $185 RetroUSB AVS, a well made product with HDMI output, original controller support, and solid construction, or the Hyperkin Retron5, not a perfect solution, but cheaper at $129 and gets you access to many different systems. Most purists however prefer an original system. You could go with the standard system, which is a classic, but has issues with the pin connectors. These are available for between 80 to 120 dollars. The more reliable NES 2 Top Loader, a short ran product for the US, has many minor fixes including better pin connectors, a removed NES10 chip (this means no blinky screens and foreign carts run in it). The top loader is likely the best option for an NES gamer, but unfortunately has a cost of 150 to 200 used.
We haven’t even gotten to games yet. Most sports games can be had for a few bucks, but quite franky, most of us didn’t play the sports games as much as the classic NES titles. So lets price some real quick. Super Mario Bros. 3 can be had for around 20 dollars. Castlevania 3 another 30 dollars. Metroid is 20. Final Fantasy is another 20. A more obscure classic like Shatterhand is 50 dollars. Battletoads is an average of 25. Contra is a staggering 40, which is shocking considering how many copies of this game was floating around when we were all kids. Depending on which Mega Man game you want (there were 6) could be anywhere from 20 to 80.
We aren’t done yet! We need a way to play these games, and honestly, your 60 inch HDTV won’t do. The games simply won’t look right because they weren’t made to be displayed in high resolution on such a large screen. While they will be playable, your best option is to find an older 90’s era CRT television. And if you want to play light gun games, you need to make sure your CRT is not a flat screen, but a curved screen, or your light gun won’t work. These can range from free to 30 bucks at your local thrift store, but you gotta keep checking and make sure you get one in decent condition.
What has caused this rise in the cost of retro gaming? In the late 90’s you could get a system for ten bucks, and games for 5 apiece. Or you could get a complete set up at a yard sale for around 20 bucks. A few things have contributed to this steep rise. First of all, more and more people are getting back in touch with their childhood, and all these games and systems are in finite supply. They aren’t manufactured anymore, and more and more go to homes that will not resell them later, or even worse, some end up broken or trashed as time goes by. On top of that, other people who weren’t gamers in that era are either finding the games desirable to collect and play, or just want to collect them without even playing them. This limits the supply even more. Years ago, I would have told someone to get original hardware if they wanted to get into these games, but in this era, with the price to entry being so expensive, I would push emulation to start with, than slowly build your physical collection as time goes by.
Strangely, arcade machines are not following this rising trend. Perhaps due to their unyeildy size, arcade machine prices are fairly standard still. In my area, arcade machines are seldom sold, but even a quick glance shows a Capcom Bowling for 300 dollars, a Space Invaders for 250, and a Frogger cocktail for 400. If you decide to get into arcade machines, my first recommendation would be to get a JAMMA compatible machine, than pick up a few arcade boards that are compatibile with your machine (most are either horizontal or vertical). You could even get a multiboard for your particular machine for hundreds of games. This is a great budget way not only to get into retro gaming, but to have a unique piece in your living room to enjoy while having friends over.