If you say the words “Namco Museum” to anyone that grew up on the Playstation 2 and Game Boy Advance era, they’ll likely be reminded of bargain bin compilation games with some Pac-Man or Galaga games thrown on there, meant to entice the older player with dreams of yesteryear. Though novel at the time (the first Namco Museum game released on the Playstation in 1995), it seemed there were ports of the compilation to seemingly every console imaginable. Hell, it’s still getting releases to this day! Worse, some of the games included on the Namco Museum games are individually available on the exact same hardware. Long story short, there’s a lot of ways to play these few games.
But there was something special about those original Playstation Namco Museum‘s. First and foremost, there wasn’t just one of them. There were five in fact. Each of the volumes included what I would personally consider more niche and less popular games that what Namco is most known for. For example, the first Namco Museum vol. 1 on the PS1 has classics like Pac-Man, Pole Position, and Galaga. The final iteration Namco Museum vol. 5 includes titles like Metro Cross and Dragon Spirit. Don’t get me wrong, these games are great but I would argue the vast majority of players don’t even know what these games are. Debatably they didn’t know what they were then either, but I digress.Ms. Pac-Man and Rally-X would come on the disc to sell it to most players, while games like Tower of Druaga or Splatterhouse would cater to the more retro or hardcore gaming fanatic.
After the release of these five compilation discs, Namco would go on to release tons of other Namco Museum compilations and remixes, but nothing quite as collectible as these originals. Each console from the PS2 and the Game Boy Advance all the way up to today’s PS4’s and Switch’s have Namco Museum style games. But there’s only one. The Playstation had five games (six if you include the exclusive Encore version only released in Japan). Five separate discs with new and different games on each of them. That alone makes these games somewhat collectible, but it wasn’t until a rebranding came that the games started to catch my eye, and the eyes of many collectors.
Once the Nintendo 64 saw the release of its version of Namco Museum, the original Playstation versions of the Namco Museum games saw some re-releases. Specifically, Vol. 1 and Vol. 3 saw reprints, thanks to their inclusions of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man respectively. However, when these reprints were released, they featured drastically different cover artwork, which more closely resembled the collage style found on the aforementioned N64 version. Why does this matter, you might ask? Well… it ruined something awesome!
The original release of the five PS1 Namco Museum games featured simple cover artwork that featured each letter of the development company Namco. Seeing that stylized n a m c o on the shelf was so great. It really was like a museum experience; it was a celebration of the past victories and explorations of Namco as a company, and we as players could celebrate with a fine collection. Like an encyclopedia for gaming history only! But when Vol. 3 and Vol. 1 come back and look completely different it ruins what could/should have been! For game collectors, it was awful! Sure they games were there and they all worked fine, but it just wasn’t right for collection purposes. Imagine owning an entire book series in hardback, expect two random ones that you can only find in paperback. It’s like that. The shelf appeal is gone.
Worse yet, because volumes 2, 4, and 5 didn’t see re-releases, these three games are stupidly expensive for what they are. Some of them are around $50 used. Volume 5 in particular is perhaps the most expensive, coming in well over $100 for a complete copy! I’ve been collecting for awhile and can understand where the value like this can come from, but ugh if this isn’t a sour deal for some average games. You really think someone wants to pay $100 or more for a game like Metro Cross? No; they’re paying for the plastic and paper around that disc.
And dammit all aren’t I a sucker looking for them! There’s just something about the entire series, the whole lot, having them all in glorious old-school fashion that makes me passionate about collecting. Personally I have three of them, and am still on the lookout for Volumes 2 and 5, the most prestigious of the bunch. As with many games, they’re on my watch list and would be an instant buy if I found it and the price were right. While I do not know if I can put my finger precisely on when I thought about game collecting, I can certainly say when I found out the uniqueness these five games had on the Playstation I was more than interested in finding more games like this.
Here’s to the collectors out there looking for these games. To the retro gamers that actually want to play these games. And to the players that know and respect what they have with the games. I hope to be collecting games for a long time to come, and I hope it can always be as fun and rewarding as it was to learn about and collecting these ones.