Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Video Game Collecting: Boxed or Loose?

As someone who would refer to himself as a "video game collector", one question that has often plagued me when making a purchasing decision is whether or not I want a game boxed or loose.

I count myself as fortunate that these are the types of things that cause me worry.

When I started out trying to collect the whole Famicom set, I was only interested in getting the loose carts. The boxes and manuals didn't interest me much. I was mesmerized by the colorful carts and didn't really give those extras much thought.
Over time though I've come to appreciate the boxes. A lot of them are just as colorful as the carts and exude that retro 80s vibe in ways that the carts alone are incapable of.
I've got about 30 or so boxed Famicom games. I think they look quite nice on my shelf. For financial reasons I'm still focusing on trying to get all the Famicom carts loose, but the boxes have won me over to the point where I am willing to shell out a bit of cash on the odd nice one every now and again.

For the most part I am only interested in the cardboard boxes though. The plastic ones just don't interest me. Some people praise them for being sturdier, but that doesn't impress me. They lack the charm of cardboard.

Wait, did I just praise the charm of cardboard? Oh the eccentricities of this wonderful hobby....

Anyway, part of this is timing - plastic cases started turning up relatively late in the Famicom's career so most of my favorite classic games come in cardboard. Namco's lineup illustrates this point well. All their numbered carts (Galaxian, Pac Man, Xevious, Burger Time, etc) came in tiny cardboard boxes, but their later games (Family Circuit, Family Stadium, etc) came in plastic boxes. The former look about a million times better than the latter.
An oft-overlooked element that adds interest to Famicom collecting in particular is that it is the only Nintendo console where games came in a variety of box sizes and materials. Super Famicom and Nintendo 64 games all came in boxes made of cardboard (a plus) and of the same size and dimensions (a minus). Ditto with the GameCube and Wii, only they used plastic instead of cardboard. I'm sure there are the odd special edition game or something that bucked this trend, but by and large all boxes on subsequent consoles strictly conformed to a single standard.

I also have a small collection of Famicom Disk System boxed games. I'm not sure if these are boxed, actually. They come with their mini-cases anyway:I find these kind of cute too. They are like CD cases only half the size.

Anyway, just some musings on the boxed vs. loose question.

Related Posts:
-Crazy Climber and the Perils of Collecting Loose Famicom Carts
-Famicom Cart Condition: Why Good is Bad and I'll Never Buy Sealed Stuff
Link-Wall of Famicom


  1. I feel that boxed is better, but not necessary. My NES collection is right around 200 games, with about 20 of them being CIB(Mario is Missing and Dr. Mario are missing the manuals). If I find a game I don't have in my collection at a fair price, I'll get it with the box or not. The game is what's important, but it's nice to have all of the extras it originally was sold with. If I get a complete game in the box that I already have, I consider it an upgrade, and then I'll sell or trade to the loose cart.

  2. Sorry to double post, but, you should do a separate post on that Banana game. I am intrigued. I must know more! :)

  3. Thanks for the comments, Jason. I'm very similar, I like boxed better but it isn't necessary. Most of my boxed games (except Crazy Climber) are ones that I bought because the boxed copy was the same price as a loose one.

    Banana is an awesome game. I will do a post devoted solely to that one sometime (it was one of my 100 yen finds). I think it was a Japan only release, I don't know why. It is a bit similar to Boulder Dash.

  4. I only have one boxed Famicom game, kind of. Tecmo Bowl in a Super Tecmo Bowl box with a STB manual. I bought it at a used bookstore that happened to sell games that was close to where I was living in Tokyo that I only found out about the week that I was leaving Japan.

    I haven't really seen Tecmo Super Bowl at all anywhere, so when I saw it for a reasonable price (in a box no less) I knew I had to have it. The guy even took it out of the box and showed me, but I was preoccupied with talking to my friend to notice. So, I was quite surprised when I came home and noticed it was the original.

    I didn't really mind though. It's pretty funny to see something so western decked out in Japanese. The manual actually has a glossary of Football terms. American Football isn't well known in Japan even now, so I could imagine people had even a less idea in 1991.

  5. I generally prefer boxed and complete games, but then, I mostly collect games for Sega systems and they don't really have interesting, colourful cartridges :( I did toy with the idea of starting to collect Japanese MegaDrive games, mainly because they have awesome box art, but I only managed around 12 before I stopped for financial/realisticness reasons... I'd be happy to collect loose Famicom carts if I lived in Japan though (I wish!)

    By the way, is there really a Famicom game called 'Banana'? :|

  6. Nate - that is an interesting story about Super Tecmo Bowl / Tecmo Bowl. That has happened to me with FDS games. A lot. About half the FDS games in the above picture are not what the label says!

    It is kind of interesting though. Perhaps somebody else out there bought a boxed copy of Tecmo Bowl only to get home to discover Super Tecmo Bowl on the inside:)

  7. Simon - yes, I actually like the Mega Drive carts. They aren't as colorful as the Famicom ones, but the labels extend over the top of the cart, making for easy identification, and usually have cool cover art. I have about 15 or 16 of them and quite like 'em!

    The Sega console I would really like to collect for is the SG-1000 series (the one before the Mark III/ Master System). I saw some of the CIB cards for that and they look amazing. I almost bought one even though I don't have the console just because I was so impressed with the case's design.

  8. Hey there, Sean! Well, you certainly know that I like my CIB Famicom games, but I'm weird like that. That said, I really only buy CIB ones when I'm obsessed with a particular box/game (Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, Super Mario Bros.) or when it makes financial sense. In other words, if a CIB version of a game is $10, I'll go for it (if I want the game, obviously). If the CIB version costs $60, though, uh, it had better be a game I *really* want. Otherwise, I'm just going to pick up the loose cart. Anyway, there's nothing wrong with a boxless game, if you ask me -- esp. when it's a colorful Famicom cart :)

  9. Hey, Bryan! Yes, I think it was looking at the photos of your boxed Namco and Pulse line carts that fully convinced me of the boxed game's merit!

    I'm similar too. If the boxed game is cheap enough I'll get that over the loose one. When GEO used to sell Famicom games (they are a Blockbuster-like video rental chain) they would charge the same price for a game boxed or unboxed and I got my boxed Metal Gear from them for quite a good price.

  10. Oh, I'm glad (and surprised) to hear that my puny little collection inspired you :) You're right, though, those Namco and Pulse Line boxes are pretty awesome. Speaking of awesome, I loooooove the photo of stacks of rainbow-colored carts at the top of this post :)

  11. Thanks! When I stack them I usually put the white/grey/black carts in a stack behind the colorful ones, I think they look better like that!

  12. By the way Sean, I saw your Famicom Disk collection and want to ask one thing: those plastic cases are cute but do they usually come inside bigger boxes? All I ever see on eBay is the disc in the cute little plastic container, but I bought Otoky once which came in a large cardboard box. It just might be a one off deal with that game just because he manual is so large.

  13. That is a good question, Mark. I have seen several different FDS games in those large cardboard boxes, so it is more than a one off deal, but I'm not sure if all of them originally came in those or just the few that I have seen. I'm guessing that not all of them did as I've only seen a few.