I love Japan. The food, the culture, the convenience stores and everything in-between is nothing short of amazing. This year I took my third trip to the land of the rising sun and boy oh boy, did I buy games. Retro or old school games are hard to come by where I live. Japan is a whole other deal. Here you’ll find store after store filled to the brim selling cartridges and disks from the golden years, all at usually reasonable prices making it a gold mine for retro enthusiasts.
However, due to the number of stores in Japan and the amount of retro games still in circulation, knowing where to go or which place has the best deal on a title can be a bit of a challenge. After many hours of dragging my girlfriend around to every nook and cranny that I can find that sells games, I’ve complied a definitive list of the who’s who of retro game stores in Japan.
Every store has its good and bad points. Even with the list below, you’ll still need to do some detective work on your own and ultimately decide that what you’re buying is a bargain or not. With prices and availability always changing its hard to guarantee that one place will have cheaper it than the other.
Each section is broken down by region and we’ll be going to the main three – Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto (yes even Kyoto sells games). If you want a Google Map route of all the locations mentioned here, I’ll leave links below:
When it comes to choice Tokyo or more specifically Akihabara, is a pretty good place to start. If you don’t know already, Akihabara or better know as the “Electric Town” is the otaku / geek capital of Japan. Games, figurines, anime and manga are all here in spades. With around five stores located alone within Akihabara, you’ll be more than spoiled for choice when it comes to searching for games in Tokyo.
Super Potato (Akihabara)
When someone mentions a retro game store in Japan, there’s a high chance that they’re talking about Super Potato. This tiny infamous store located in the heart of Akiharaba is a shrine to games of yesteryear with every inch of the store littered in games, consoles and merchandise. It’s a pretty popular spot for tourists so be prepared to pay a little more. Their choice of titles however is pretty darn good across most platforms, and if you’re looking for a console you can guarantee that Super Potato will have it.
- Pros: Great choice of titles across all platforms, arcade is on the third floor, plenty of consoles.
- Cons: Higher prices than competition (usually) due to tourists
My verdict: The status of the store is worth a visit alone. If you’re having a tough time finding a game or just don’t have the time to go to other stores, grab it from here, just be prepared to pay a little extra.
Trader is a used electronics store located throughout Japan. While not all of them sell a lot of retro games, the one mentioned here sells the most. The range obviously isn’t as good as a dedicated retro game store but there are still a solid amount of bargains to be found. Most Traders have a junk bin and if you dig hard enough (plus a bit of luck is on your side) you’ll find a steal here and there. Their Famicom and Super Nintendo range is by far their strength.
- Pros: Good prices if you look hard enough, junk bins.
- Cons: Range not as extensive as other places.
My verdict: Give it a visit if time permits, I love going through junk bins but that’s subjective.
Book Off (Various)
Similar to Trader, Book Off is a used book store, that just happens to also sell used games, movies and music. Similar to Trader, Book Off have bargain bins but the quality here is a lot better. This one specifically one had a 950 yen cartridge bin with a lot of popular titles such as Super Mario World and A Link to the Past which are great prices. I’ve found Dreamcast games seem to stock pile at Book Offs and they always have a good handheld console range on sale. If you want a portable definitely buy them from here.
- Pros: Quality bargain bins, good PS1, PS2 and Dreamcast selection, great handheld console prices.
- Cons: Range can be hit and miss store to store, so be prepared to hunt.
My verdict: If you see any Book Offs around Japan, pop in. Range changes but you’ll definitely find something you’ll like.
This store is the MVP of Akihabara game stores. Most people don’t know about it mainly cause its located on the outskirts of the main Akihabara area but its well worth the visit. Friends has probably the best balance of range and price when it comes to Tokyo. It can be a bit hard to find so keep an eye out on the street for the billboard. Since it isn’t as popular as the others on this list, its fairly void of tourists therefore pretty quiet.
- Pros: Perfect balance between range and price.
- Cons: That said, range is lacking in some platforms.
My verdict: Must go for me, my favourite place in Tokyo for games by far.
Retro Game Camp (Akihabara)
If you’re walking along the main strip of Akihabara there’s a high chance that you would of come across Retro Game Camp. This place has games out on the street to entice you to head down to their little basement store. I’m just going to be blunt about this place, its a tourist trap. The location off the highway is prime for lots of foot traffic and therefore they charge high prices. Its easy to find and they have a cool selection of stuff but don’t buy anything here, you can find it much cheaper elsewhere.
- Pros: Easy to find, I guess? Has all the most popular titles.
- Cons: Prime location means high prices on everything, sometimes more so than Super Potato.
My verdict: A big meh, store is cute but no bargains to be found here.
The multi level mega complex of otaku. This place is hard to miss, it’s a massive black building within Akihabara. Each floor of the building is dedicated to selling something, toys, games, movies, books, manga – these guys have got it all. The floors are incredibly massive, with isle after isle of games just lined up. Mandarake ranks under “yeah not bad hey” for me, they have a huge selection and their prices are decent.
Just be prepared to spend sometime here however as most games, boxed or not, are usually in small plastic cases on a shelf. This means its pretty tough to identify what the game is off from just the spine alone (unless of course you know Japanese).
- Pros: Huge range and prices aren’t too shabby.
- Cons: Tough to find what you’re looking for due to floor space and way games are arranged.
My verdict: Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area, the sheer size of the place is crazy.
Mandarake (Nakano Broadway)
Nakano Broadway can warrant an article all by itself but if you’re not familiar, its an old school shopping arcade with a ton of stores, one of them Mandarake. If you want figurines come here. Now there are quite a few Mandarake’s in Broadway, similar to their Akihabara store, each one focuses on something different. The video game one is a lot smaller than their big brother but I always manage to snag a bargain or two here. Small but dependable selection and very reasonable prices.
- Pros: Great selection, like the other Mandarake, prices are pretty reasonable.
- Cons: Fairly small store, a bit off the track to find.
My verdict: I love going to Nakano Broadway, a great shopping experience – Mandarake here is solid.
Most tourists go to Tokyo for retro gaming, forgetting about out good ol’ Osaka. A lot of stores here are are no where near as busy as Tokyo and stock a healthy amount of games at not so crazy prices. The main area for games is called Den Den Town (located within Nipponbashi) which is the Akihabara of Osaka. The streets here aren’t so crowded and its a lot easier to find a lot of good stores as its mainly just based off a few streets so nothing is really hidden.
Super Potato (Nipponbashi)
Super Potato has two locations in Osaka. The one that is near Namba station is very similar to the Akihabara one in both range and the store size. However the one in Nipponbashi (linked below) is a real treat. This store is a lot bigger than their Tokyo counter part and the range of titles plus consoles they have is unparalleled compared to any other place in Japan. Things are a tad more expensive here similar to other Super Potato’s but they have nearly every console covered here along with a slick selection of titles to go along with it. Lots of good merchandise too!
- Pros: Best selection and range hands down, nearly all consoles covered.
- Cons: The usual Super Potato mark up.
My verdict: My favourite Super Potato store by far, give this place a visit.
Atoo is similar to Book Off meaning they sell used goods but their game selection and prices are top tier. Aside from the usual line up of titles they stock a lot of lesser known stuff like TurboGrafx and MSX. Best thing about this place though, their Neo-Geo (CD + MVS) and Mega Drive range. Most places seem to neglect these two but Atoo stocks a wealthy range of both. MVS is way out of my price range, but definitely swing by here if you’re an avid Neo-Geo fan.
- Pros: Good prices, excellent Neo Geo and Mega Drive stock.
- Cons: Hardly any consoles for sale.
My verdict: Probably my favourite Osaka game store.
When I left Osaka for Kyoto on my last trip, I was done buying games. I took my girlfriend to all the places on this list and I promised her that was that. As fate would have it, we were bike riding in small town in Kyoto she pointed out and yelled, “Hey, is that a game store?” what a mistake that was.
I completely found this place by accident and if I were to crown my no. 1 favourite spot, this would be it. Located in a fairly quiet part of Fushimi-Ku , Ojamakan is the definition of a hidden gem. I didn’t think much from the outside but hot damn the prices were ridiculous. To give you an idea how cheap this place is, I’ll use Pokemon Red as an example.
Pokemon Red is my benchmark when it comes to figuring out general prices in a game store. Being a popular title with tourists and locals, shops usually mark the price up quite a bit. From here you can sort of figure out how expensive the rest of the games are in the store depending on what Red is priced. Super Potato sells Pokemon Red for around 1300 yen. This place? 380 yen! Once I saw that I went crazy and started combing the place for bargains.
Virtual On for Saturn, 10 yen. Parasite Eve for PS1, 180 yen, Typing of the Dead for Dreamcast, 180 yen. Games aside, console prices are crazy as well. A Super Famicom that had a bit of yellowing was around 1200 yen.
Also the Gameboy range is by far the best I’ve seen, heaps of popular titles for as low as 380 yen. My only criticism of this place is that their Mega Drive selection was horrible ranging like 20 cartridges. It seems to be a common thing in retro game stores, sadly.
- Pros: Stupid low prices, good range across the most popular platforms, solid console selection.
- Cons: Not exactly a big one but its in Kyoto, terrible Mega Drive selection.
My verdict: This place took me by surprise, my favourite in Japan. If you’re in Kyoto it’s worth the travel.
I think I bought over 30 games on this trip, yes my bank account is hating me right now. My office is currently littered with cartridges and CD cases, so I’ll be spending the next few weeks figuring out how the hell to store them. Japan truly is a godsend for people who love the good old days of gaming. If you love old school games, do yourself a favour and head to Japan. You’ll be amazed at just how much they embrace the retro scene.
I can’t wait to go back.