Tokyo has often been referred to as a kind of Mecca for those with nerdy hobbies. While many people find themselves confined to Akihabara in search of anime and video game merchandise, there is actually a wide world outside of Electric Town where good deals can be found; while anime goods are a story all of their own, there’s cheap used video games are anywhere and everywhere across the city, and for the savvy shopper, expanding your collection can be a cheap and easy hobby to get in to.
However, it is also important to keep in mind that, for the most part, you’ll only be able to find games in the Japanese language. If you’re buying used games with the intention of playing them, unless you have a decent base of knowledge of the language, it may be best not to shop at brick-and-mortar stores, as it’s nearly impossible to find anything with english language options prior to the most recent generations of consoles. However, if you do speak Japanese, or are just looking for the boxes to fill your shelves, then the following guide can help you get started.
Location, location, location
Of course, as with any other type of shopping, it’s important to know your options. However, unlike with grocery shopping, there isn’t, generally speaking, a store like Gyomu or Hanamasa (wholesale stores with generally cheaper deals).
Additionally, it’s important to be wary of online options, since it’s much more common to find bad deals online, since many of them are counting on a lack of in-person price checking. Because of this, it’s important to have a rotation of stores that you know of, so that you can compare prices and inventory regularly.
While one of the best used game shops (inventory-wise, at least) is in Akihabara, I will also be listing a few chains with locations around the city, as those will likely be more convenient.
1. Super Potato
Super Potato is a famous shop in Akihabara; two floors of its building are composed entirely of retro games and merchandise. If you’re looking for games or consoles from the PlayStation 2 era or earlier, it’s hard to beat Super Potato’s massive collection. If you’re looking for a classic game, Super Potato generally has you covered, though it’s by no means always the best deal around.
2. Book Off
As you might imagine, Book Off is a chain that specializes in used books. However, most Book Off stores carry more than just novels and manga; many have expanded to include things like CDs, DVDs, and video games. While you’re not likely to find much in the way of retro games here, it’s a good place to run for a quick check for more recent releases.
3. Hard Off
Hard Off, like Book Off, is a more generalized used goods store; however, Hard Off specializes in used goods of all types, from books to electronics. While most Book Off stores have a small collection of games, Hard Off is much more likely to have a wider selection, and as a larger chain, it’s not uncommon to find good deals within their walls.
While GEO is generally a store more focused on new releases, it generally has a sizable selection of used goods, though those generally tend to be from the last two or three console generations. If you’re looking for a used copy of a game from the last few years, you’re much more likely to find it here than at places like Hard Off. Additionally, GEO accepts the Ponta point card, so you can rack up points while expanding your collection.
This list is by no means complete; if you find a local store that sells used goods (kanji: 中古), then it may be worth poking your head in to see if they have games or consoles. A lot of the best deals come from smaller, mom-and-pop shops that don’t specialize in video games, and you can find somewhat more unusual finds for low prices.
As with any kind of shopping, price-checking is very important. Especially in Akihabara, most copies of the same game at different stores will be within 100 yen of each other, which is one of the reasons that finding places nearer to you can be important; the same game out of Akihabara can be several hundred yen cheaper, leading to massive savings.
For instance, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence can go for upwards of ¥6,000 (USD ~$60), but at a tiny shop in a small neighborhood in Setagaya, I found a copy for ¥510, including tax.
Prices in Akihabara tend to be somewhere between those numbers, since gaming-focused stores tend to have more of a finger on the pulse as far as demand goes. However, for most games, there is no standard pricing system, which is why making the rounds around your chosen stores is important.
With consoles, however, it can be much easier to find a standard price for your target item. For first and second generation consoles (ie NES or SNES), the standard price is between ¥2000-4000, and the price generally goes up the more recent the console. For a Playstation 2 or N64, you can expect to pay somewhere in the vicinity of ¥5,000 at most resale shops.
As with many things, patience is key! If you’re looking for a certain game, you can make rounds until you find it; used game stores recycle inventory relatively quickly, and you never know when someone will offload the one you’re looking for.
If you’re dedicated and have the financial means, I’d recommend making it a habit to stop in a used goods shop whenever it’s convenient, as you never know what kind of lucky finds may await you.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that, no matter how much you may want a game, it’s never an essential purchase. Instant purchases are rarely your best option; as I’ve said before it’s usually better to shop around before committing, and by doing that, you can often save yourself quite a bit of cash.
These are the basics of used game shopping in Japan; whether you’re looking to start a collection, or just gearing up to ride out the rest of the pandemic with some cheap entertainment, it’s my hope that these tips can help you on your way. Happy Hunting!
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