What Makes A Game “Rare”?

To follow up on my last post about video game collecting, I wanted to go through some of the games in my collection and discuss why they are considered to be “rare.” A game can fluctuate in price fairly easily and the cause of this change can originate from many different places, not the least of which being scarcity of the item. So as a collector, what do you need to look for in a game, and more importantly, what games should you look for to add that special gem to your collection.

**DISCLAIMER: I am not claiming my points are the end-all reasons and answers to game collecting and rarity for any game. I am presenting what my thoughts are on the subject and how it has lead me for many years of successful collecting. Each gamer should develop their own methods for where/how/what they’re collecting: these are just my own personal guidelines. Thanks… I wanted to get that out of the way**

Ogre Battle 64 - Nintendo 64

Why are some games “rare?”

In order to better understand how a game becomes rare, we need to first understand what it means to be “rare.” I use the quotation marks because rarity for a game is largely subjective: what is rare to one person is in no way rare to someone else. The below factors make up a large portion of a game’s rarity:

  • Scarcity of the game: Probably the most common factor on a game’s rarity is how readily available the game is. Usually older games (pretty much DreamCast/PS1 and older) are intrinsically more rare than PS2/PS3 games and newer because they’re just not produced anymore. Duh, right? Outside of that, games that have limited availability or production also become very rare. The Nintendo World Championships cartridge is the prime example of this. When a game becomes available again, like when a game is re-released as a downloadable title, the value for the hard copy of the game will fall. This was the case with games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and the Final Fantasy games. These titles still command high prices, but no where near as much as they used too.
Gunbird 2 - Sega Dreamcast
  • Demand: If a game is highly sought after, people will pay more for to have it. Again, games with limited production usually see high demand, even if the game is a piece of shit in terms of quality. A lot of PS1 RPGs fall into this category: Threads of Fate, Tales of Destiny (and II), and Grandia. Even new games can meet high demand, especially if the game is a special collector’s edition. Want to pick up the new Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Collector’s Edition bundle? That’ll still set you back over $140. Demand may go down, lowering the price, but it may stay right where it is, or get even higher.
Baldur's Gate II: Dark Alliance - Xbox
  • Seller’s input: This is the part of rarity that changes the most from place to place. Big businesses like GameStop and Best Buy don’t really change their prices, they come from a corporate office that regulates their price of games. Independently owned places can sell games for whatever they want, and sometimes they markup prices because they think the game demands more. I saw a copy of Rune Factor: Frontier for the Wii selling at one store for $65! I bought that game for under $14 at GameStop. Seller’s input puts more credence in the idea of shopping around. Keep shopping around and you’ll find the right price from someone that knows how to sell a game right.

Adding those gems to your collection is easy… it just takes time

Dragon Warrior VII - PlayStation 1

Again, as I mentioned in my post about game collecting, finding games you’re looking for takes a lot of patience and time. Unless you’ve got tons of expendable income and can afford whatever price for a game, you’re going to have to look around at different stores to find your game for the right price. But don’t fret! After a good amount of time hunting and diligently seeking out titles, you’ll surely have some great games to brag about! Here’s some methods to help:

  • Make a list: It doesn’t have to be a physical list you take with you, though it could be if you prefer, but having games in mind that you are looking for is a great way to stay on top of collecting. I for one use an app on my phone to keep track of the games I already have so I don’t accidentally buy two copies of the same title. If you keep the games you want on your mind you’ll be a lot more likely to look for them when out and about.
Record of Lodoss War - Sega Dreamcast
  • Look through every bin: Here’s a trick that a lot of people will use and you can benefit greatly from it if you’re lucky: Look through every row/bin of games, even behind stacks of titles that are supposedly the same game: you might find another game behind a stack of old Tony Hawk games! It’s not uncommon for people to see something they want and move it to a completely different part of the store in hopes to “hide” it from someone else buying it. You might find it first, and it’s perfectly fine for you to pick it up and buy it. That’s actually how I found a copy of Strider 2 on the PS1 for a mere $5.
Strider 2 - PlayStation 1
  • Check thrift stores and pawn shops: A lot of times places like Good Will won’t know what they have when they get it, and that’s not their fault. You might be able to score excellent titles for fantastic prices. You never know what someone will donate or get rid of. I scored a copy of Diablo for the PS1 at my local Good WIll for $3.
Diablo - PlayStation 1
  • Obscure games can be gems in themselves: It will become easy to see the popular games for a system whilst hunting. I’m fond of the PS1, so let’s take an example from that system. There will be boatloads of copies of Resident Evil, Castlevania, and even Final Fantasy floating around because they’re highly sought after, making them relatively easy to find. But how often have you seen a copy of Devil Dice? Or Intelligent Qube? Tecmo’s Deception? These titles won’t command as high a price as others, but can be just as hard (if not harder!) to find than others. Looking through the racks of games can easily cause you to stumble upon a gem, albeit a not-so-normal one.

Here are some examples to help you out

Strider 2
PlayStation 1

Bought at Game Xchange for $5

Record of Lodoss War
Sega Dreamcast

Received as a gift ($30)

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Calibur
Nintendo 64

Bought full price when first released ($50)

The Last Blade 2
Sega Dreamcast

Received as a gift ($30)

Hellfire: Official Diablo Expansion

Bought at Half-Price Books for $2

Gunbird 2
Sega Dreamcast

Received as a gift ($30)

Dragon Warrior VII
PlayStation 1

Bought from a friend for $10

PlayStation 1

Bought from Good Will for $3

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II

Bought at a comic convention for $13

Fatal Frame
PlayStation 2

Bought at GameStop during at 50% off PS2 sale ($15)

Let me know if this helped or if you have any tips of your own. Happy hunting!



I've been writing about video games for years and playing them even longer. You'll find me playing all types of games, old and new. Mega Man III is greater than Mega Man II.