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Advice for the Broke Gamer

Posted by: Ryan

Play Free Games

Yes, it's obvious, but I've still got to mention it. Particularly if you're running on a Windows machine, there's a lot of free games out there that can tide you over while you're short on cash. Personally, Cave Story, a free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux, took me about 8 hours on my first playthrough, though your time may vary depending on how much you like exploring around. Knytt is less than 3 hours long, but I've definitely played it more than once. I played Nanaca Crash for over a week (high score = +21,000m), though if you want a similar type of game that's less complicated and less Japanese, Robot Unicorn Attack and Canabalt are also free Flash games (with cheap iPhone versions) to look into.

And you can't forget aggregator sites like Kongregate, where I first found Desktop Tower Defense, and the meta-card-game, Kongai. Quite often, you get what you pay for, but there are some great gems out there for free. The IndieGames.com blog usually does a good job of rounding up games, along with 1UP's annual 101 Free Games article, so you might want to check those out.

Be Less Mainstream

The current video games market is more saturated than it's ever been, which means that if a game doesn't sell well, it'll probably come down in price pretty fast. The most memorable of these is Bionic Commando's drop to $20 less than two months after release, but several good games have fallen to this fate. Zack & Wiki, an excellent adventure-esque Wii game, came down to $20 within a short few months of release. Bangai-O Spirits, an amazing, yet brutally difficult DS game, very quickly came down to an affordable $15. When you're a broke gamer, obscurity and poor marketing are your friends.

And as gamers, it's not too hard for us to fall in love with an imperfect game. Just because a game is poorly-received by the public or by the press doesn't mean that you personally won't like it, and the market will generally reward you for loving games that others don't. Not everyone will appreciate the mind-warping Killer7 or the hard-shaded MadWorld, but if you are that kind of person, it'll be more than worth the $10 that either title will cost. And if you really love a specific genre, you'll probably still love a less expensive, B-tier game in that genre that most people would neglect.

Be More Patient

But of course, with enough time, even most popular games will eventually come down in price as well, depending on how long you're willing to wait. In general, if you wait a year after release, and the game you want to buy isn't a Nintendo game, it'll be at roughly half-price. But most of us can't afford to buy every good game when it comes out anyway. Chances are, there are a few that you missed whether you meant to or not. Just in 2009, did you buy Batman: Arkham Asylum? Assassin's Creed 2? Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time? These are some of the top, critically acclaimed games from last year, and if you missed out on one of them, all three games can be found for about $30 today, if you look around.

However, note that waiting too long can result in some problematic side effects; one of the most prominent being rarity. If you spend too long waiting for a game to come down in price, you may suddenly find it much more difficult to find. I'm still sad that I didn't pick up Dragon Quest V back when I had the chance. (Edit: I found a copy! Oh yeah!)

Go Retro

So I guess this is the extreme side of being patient. But again, unless you grew up completely spoiled and rich, you probably didn't own every console and play every game as a kid. As for me, I never had a Super Nintendo growing up, and I hate using the arrow keys to play a game that I should be playing with a proper D-pad, so the Wii Virtual Console has been an amazing value to me. There are a lot of old classics that I'd never played. I played Super Metroid for the first time for only $8. My girlfriend and I played through River City Ransom for only $5. And if you're down with older RPGs, games such as Secret of Mana or Phantasy Star IV give you an amazing amount of time for your money.

In some cities, you can find a few shops that specialize in selling used and retro video games, which are a great resource if you still own your original systems. I still have a working Sega Genesis, and the majority of Genesis cartridges that I've bought are around $4 each. And don't dismiss the retro games: I was completely absorbed by a cart of The Lost Vikings for a few weeks. Some of those old cartridges are serious business.

Trade with Friends

I'm surprised how often my friends and I buy completely different kinds of games. My girlfriend in particular buys completely different games than I do, so she and I trade games back an forth a lot, which effectively doubles each of our gaming collections. Not only can I play the games that I buy, I also play the games that she buys. I recently played through her copy of Pokemon HeartGold, while she's currently playing through my copy of Chrono Trigger on DS. And we split a copy of Ninjatown, switching off and playing it together.

Just this January, if you bought a copy of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, you might have a friend who bought No More Heroes 2 instead, and that might let you borrow it. If you went out and bought MAG that month, you might have a friend who bought Mass Effect 2 instead that you might be able to borrow from too. If you coordinate with your friends, you'd really be surprised how far you can stretch your budget, even during a month packed with great games.

Downloadable and Budget-Priced Games

Well, downloadable games almost never come down in price, but they're cheaper than normal games to begin with. Even the with the rising cost of XBLA and PSN titles, they still tend to be less than $20, and they're always in stock. And Steam's got some great deals on a regular basis as well.

Also, the occasional value-priced game comes out that's really worth owning, such as Space Invaders Extreme 2, which was released at $20, and Deadly Premonition, which Destructoid's Jim Sterling gave a 10/10. Not an un-obvious tip, but just a reminder that not every retail game comes out at retail price.

Play The Games You Already Own

It seems ridiculous, but I've certainly done it and I know you probably have too: you've bought a game, and never gotten around to really playing it. For whatever reason, if you already own a game and you haven't played it, now is the perfect time! It's already paid for! Play it! Get through that backlog!

Lastly, to paraphrase Topher Cantler, "a video game isn't a fucking hamburger. It's not like it's gone once you eat it." You'd be surprised how many games are worth coming back to after you've been away for a while. Personally, I find action games and strategy games in particular are great to come back to after a while away, such as Ninja Gaiden or Advance Wars. (Advance Wars really doesn't get old.) Just because you've finished a game doesn't mean you should immediately sell it back to the store: if it's good, keep it around and come back to it later.

And friends can help you out here too: multiplayer games are infinitely replayable. If you've got a friend and a fighting game, or two friends and a copy of Rock Band, you'll find hours upon hours worth of entertainment long after you've beaten everything there is to do in single player.

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About LK4O4one of us since 1:47 PM on 05.07.2009

Hello there.

My name is Ryan and I work at a pretty prominent web company. I'm 24 years old, which makes me one of the youngest people at the company (out of over 100 people). I have half of a college degree, a full-time job, and now I've got a place to hang out and talk about awesome video games.

Feel free to talk to me! <3

== Currently Playing ==
FTL: Faster Than Light
Slitherlink by Nikoli

== Recently Finished ==
Thomas Was Alone
Fire Emblem: Awakening
FTL: Faster Than Light (Easy)
Hotline Miami
Little Inferno
Analogue: A Hate Story
Mark of the Ninja
Atom Zombie Smasher
Time Fcuk
Thirty Flights of Loving
Lone Survivor
Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes
Dynamite Jack
Slitherlink by Nikoli
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Ghost Trick
Mighty Switch Force
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords AE
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked
Mighty Flip Champs
Donkey Kong (Game Boy version)
Escapee GO!
Aura-Aura Climber
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
Shantae: Risky's Revenge
Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
Elite Beat Agents (Normal Difficulty)
Paper Mario
Sonic Colors (Wii version)
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride
Mother 3 (Fan Translation)
Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Both Second Endings)
Portal (Steam version)
Cave Story (Wii version)
Spartan: Total Warrior (GameCube version)
LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias
Half-Life 2 (original Xbox version)
The Lost Vikings (Genesis version)
Pokemon HeartGold Version
Bangai-O Spirits (All 160+ Levels Cleared!)
Super Mario 64 DS
The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey & Minnie
The World Ends With You
Ninja Gaiden Black (Normal Difficulty)
Chrono Trigger

== Systems I Own and Love ==
Sega Genesis
Sega Dreamcast
Game Boy Advance
Nintendo DS Lite
Nintendo 3DS

== 3DS Friend Code ==
5241 1905 5146

== Wii System Code ==
4688 2108 9135 7828

== Tatsunoko vs Capcom ==
4297 4386 7686

== Monster Hunter Tri ==
Mii code:4688 2108 9135 7828
3DS Code:5241 1905 5146


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