Electric town Akihabara; where your dreams become a reality. A place where fans can indulge in the fantasies of cosplay, maid cafes, technology, and video games. Whether it is from the Yodobashi located as you exit the train station, the main strip, or the back alleys filled with maids handing flyers, you’ll almost certainly find something which caters to your desires. For retro game hunters, Akihabara is the main spot to find the classics, and those rare jewels which never made it overseas. But where exactly can you find them, and how expensive are these games? It depends; Japan doesn’t really have a suggested retail price (SRP) and, as such, your prices can vary from each locale. As far as locations, though, here is a list of the places we visited during our visit to the legendary Akiba.
1. Book Off
A chain of used item stores all over Japan; the one in Akihabara is no different. You can find a smallish selection of retro games here. While I’ve personally purchased more than a few goods in this chain, it pays off bearing in mind that you can find games cheaper at other Book Off’s. You can recognize the store by the big yellow familiar sign, and at times you can find some really good items besides video games. The larger stores stock everything from anime figurines, electronics, clothing, and even cheap traveling cases to take your newly purchased games back home. Because it is located two minutes away from the train station, Book Off should be your first stop in your journey of retro games hunting in Akihabara.
2. Retro Game Camp
Originally, there only used to be one of these in Akihabara, but recently I found another branch popped up a few blocks down the road. This is a really good spot to find retro games but, unfortunately, as with most of Akihabara, it is really expensive. Retro Game Camp is a cornucopia of used games and I’ve found some really interesting titles here. It’s also the location where I bought my copy of Homeland for the GameCube. While it’s not a very large store you can almost always find what you’re looking for in Retro Game Camp. You’ll recognize the store by the familiar tunes that are coming from the store as it is often found via the Super Mario Bros theme by the entrance. The most interesting find I could locate at this store was a NeoGeo that looked to be in great condition. Unfortunately, the price tag is somewhere in the region of 280.00 USD.
3. Trader, Trader 2, Trader 3
Trader is another franchise store that houses used games of all kinds. While there is a slight difference in what branch houses, they aren’t exceptionally unique. I would recommend taking a stop by just to see what they have in stock. It is, however, advisable to keep in mind that the prices can vary even within each of the stores, and you should check all three before buying anything inside. I didn’t find anything particularly special while searching this store, but keep in mind that they probably get stock in everyday. While I’m not sure if it was coincidental or not, I remember asking about Giftpia one day, and finding it in stock the following week. Trader was also the one location I could find myself a GameCube fighting stick for Soul Calibur 2.
Located by one of the biggest buildings in Akihabara, Mandarake is a cornucopia of geeky paraphernalia. Mandarake hosts a large amount of legendary items which can’t be found anywhere else, and this is reflected in the price tag. You can’t go to Mandarake without knowing you’re leaving with a hole in your wallet. I personally love this store, and it’s pretty well known for the fact that their collection of games on the 5th floor is huge. When you’re inside, you’ll find all manner of collectible items that aren’t for sale precisely because of their rarity. I would consider Mandarake more of a museum than a store, though, as it is extremely expensive. Did I mention how costly it was? Because it is! While Mandarake is definitely a must stop for any retro game hunter, I don’t suggest ever buying anything in there, unless you absolutely can’t find it anywhere else.
5. Super Potato
Almost everyone who’s been to Akihabara has heard of Super Potato. A legendary spot where Naked Snake is perched, awaiting to be visited by fans of old school video games everywhere. Personally, I don’t particularly care too much for the spot, as it tends to be overpriced. Similar to Mandarake, it is almost a museum of sorts with walls upon walls of old school videogames. The entrance to this location is nearly across the street from Trader 2, and it sits neatly in the middle of a street surrounded by maids of all kinds of cafes. You’ll quickly recognize this location by the sign.
Akihabara is known for its shopping and crazy otaku culture. While it’s still certainly a hub of geekdom, it pays to bear mind that gaming culture has certainly become more popular than it once was. Due to this, the prices in the area have increased exponentially, and finding cheap deals is better left off to towns that aren’t known for videogames. Personally, I’ve found some amazing deals in Yokosuka while exploring the area near my house. Book Off is especially easy to find as there is one in nearly every area you’ll visit, and they have multiple stores such as the awkwardly named Hard Off. Even so, if you find yourself in Akihabara, and are a fan of older videogames, it pays off to take a view around the town as it is virtually a walk in the past. A literal museum of old games, and titles we never had the chance to see in our shores.
For those of you who are willing to make the trip here is a map of the stores I’ve found so far: