Your grandparents collected stamps and coins. Your parents had hockey cards and pet rocks. But you had something far more powerful. You had Atari and Nintendo. You had Sega Genesis, N64, and the original Playstation. (There was also that one kid who had a Sega Saturn but nobody liked him.) Sure, video game consoles today have more computing power than the space shuttle, and the graphics are so fine that you can count the individual hairs on Mario’s mustache (there are 53,417 FYI). But back in the day all you needed was 8 bits and a dream (and thumbs) to save the princess from Bowser’s evil clutches.
It’s not surprising that vintage video game collecting has emerged as a serious hobby among 20 and 30-somethings. Those old games posed much more of a challenge than their modern counterparts, and the cartridge itself just feels more tangible than a CD or a digital download. Remember Sonic the Hedgehog? Battletoads? Donkey Kong Country? Kirby’s Dream Land? Those games were hard, and everyone had their own style for beating them. Personally, I was a button-masher, but others took the time to learn all the combos. (And I’m pretty sure you were using cheat codes. How else could you beat me at Tetris? Jerk.) Whatever your flavour, many classic games have stood the test of time and are enjoying a welcome resurgence.
I recently set out to get some of that sweet, sweet resurgence and found a few stores in the Toronto area that cater to this growing niche.
A&C Games is the main spot for retro gaming in downtown TO. Located on Spadina just south of Bloor, they have every game and system you can think of, including some real rarities (think 3DO and Neo-Geo). Be prepared to shell out the bucks, though, as convenience has its price. You can even rent retro games and systems just like old times. Want to show off your chops? Head next door to A&C World for unlimited game play and tournaments.
A little bit uptown is Gamerama. Specializing in video game console repair, they also have a good stock of retro favourites.
If you live in Richmond Hill, be sure to check out Video Game Express at Yonge and Elgin Mills. They have less of a selection than A&C, but great pricing, and you will find all the major classics and more. The store also has a very chilled out atmosphere – don’t be afraid to hang out for a while and talk shop with the guys there.
Take a trek out west to Toyratt in Milton, Ontario. It’s worth the journey: Aside from their vast selection of retro and modern games, they have DVDs, comic books, and vinyl records. Their YouTube videos are a little… quirky… but to be honest that just makes me want to go there more.
So there you have it. With video games these days it’s “out with the new and in with the old.” Break out the NES that’s been sitting in your garage and fire up a session of Duck Hunt. Don’t forget to blow in the cartridge.