The other day I was watching a YouTube video about underrated NES games, and I had a thought that recurs on a fairly regular basis. I wondered, “Do I own that game?” While, generally speaking, I have a pretty good handle on the games in my collection, I do own enough games that I’m not always 100% certain. Such was the case with Willow.
One of the reasons I tend to forget what games I own (other than the sheer number of games) is that due to space limitations I keep many games in storage. They are all close at hand, but they’re also not directly visible. When enough time passes since my last perusal, my memory gets foggy.
Another reason for my lapse is I have other ways of playing retro games (raspberry pi, mini consoles, and retro handhelds) which means sometimes I have played the game digitally. Give me a few months, and I may not remember the version of Earthbound I experienced was on the SNES Classic Mini Console and not a physical copy.
Whatever the reasons, I eventually dig out all my games and proceed to go through every single one on a hunt for the missing piece. It’s a process I usually enjoy (who doesn’t love to go through their games, admire the artwork, clean them up, and play a few?), but it’s also not something I want to do every time I can’t remember if I own a game.
Enter Gameye. This helpful little application allows you categorize and catalog your games using a variety of methods (barcode scanner, image scanner, and manual search). Admittedly, it felt good to finally add all my games to a master list, where I can easily search my collection. Some added benefits are the price-tracker and ability to add consoles, peripherals, and even print media. There are a few different apps like Gameye you can use, and this article certainly isn’t an advertisement (Gameye just happens to be the one I chose to use), so feel free to search through the other options.
Once I finished adding all the games to my new digital tracker, I found the answer to my initial question: No, I do not own the NES game Willow. While perhaps not one of the first games you’d think of when curating a personal retro game collection, Willow was one of the few games in my childhood arsenal I had yet to procure, so it has personal value to me. And really, that had always been my reason for getting into this hobby in the first place. I wanted to retrieve all the games I owned as a kid, which had subsequently been lost to time (and yard sales).
Over a decade ago I started searching for an NES and Genesis, which were my two childhood consoles. In those early days, retro games and consoles were still plentiful and cheap at the yard sales and flea markets. Sure, there were certain sellers that knew the hobby was taking off, but most people were just clearing out junk from their houses and were happy to get a few bucks for the obsolete games. I was lucky to have started collecting when I did, because I managed to get most of the consoles and games for which I searched, and at truly great prices. Sure, there were rarities I never even saw on those trips, but I wasn’t looking to find the most expensive stuff. I was simply looking for what I used to own as a kid, which wasn’t hard considering we could only afford a small library back then. We never owned more than a dozen games at a time, and substantially less in most cases.
Still, every now and then I realize I missed something, as was the case with Willow. Unfortunately, the game collecting landscape has shifted dramatically since those early days. I certainly could have tried to find Willow at a yard sale, but it would take me years (if ever), and even then the seller would probably be asking “eBay prices.”
So, I bit the bullet and purchased a copy online. A decade ago, this games was worth a measly $3. In the 2023 market, the game now goes for an average $20 for a loose copy. This one game today cost me what a box of games would have cost at a 2013 yard sale. Still, I can’t complain. It’s simply the way of things, and I’m happy to have what I have.
And who knows, there might still be some small deals to be had out in the wild. It’s been about three years since I last went hunting, but once again the yard sales are calling me. It’s nice to know this time I’ll have my whole game list in my pocket so I don’t accidental overpay for a game I already own.
What's your favorite retro game in your collection?