The N64 Era Was a Great Time to Buy Video Games

gold n64

Recently, our Editor-in-chief pointed out that the prices for N64 games were completely ridiculous. Junk puzzlers like Tetrisphere retailed for nearly $70; major releases like Turok and Killer Instinct Gold cost even more. Cartridge manufacturing and the increased cost of development were a deadly combination, and amassing a sizable collection of N64 games was a costly proposition.

But while the prices bordered on astronomical, the cost isn’t really what I remember about that era. For me, it was a glorious time to buy video games, high prices and all.

The Nintendo 64 launched in 1996, smack in the middle of my baby-sitting prime. Within a year of its release, I had an actual job and actual paychecks, all of which I could use to spend on video games. I made minimum wage and could only work 20 hours a week, but that didn’t matter. For the first time in my life, I had a disposable income, and no shortage of games to spend it on.

In 1999 — the year games like Super Smash Bros., Donkey Kong 64, and Pokémon Snap were released — I started working at Toys “R” Us. They paid me a then-incredible $6.60 an hour, and gave me all the hours I could ask for. More importantly, they gave me a 20% store discount, which I was free to apply to video games.

Pokémon Snap was a $70 game that offered about 2 hours of gameplay, but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. It wasn’t just that I didn’t have to pay full price, although that certainly helped. It was that I felt as though I had an endless supply of spending money. I had some expenses — food, clothing, dance classes — but none of them seemed very pressing. When I saw a game I wanted, I bought it, regardless of its price.

I’ve held onto my disposable income, but I’ve completely lost that lack of guilt. Nowadays, I obsess over video game purchases, and I hardly ever buy games on impulse. I used to plop down hundreds on games like it was nothing; now I can’t bring myself to grab $5 titles off my Steam wishlist.

In the grand scheme of things, I know my increased level of responsibility is a good thing. I make way more than $6.60 an hour, but my money still disappears pretty quickly. I barely have time for the games I own already; dropping precious cash on new titles is probably a bad idea.

Still, I can’t help but miss that time and the feeling that any game could be mine in an instant. The cost of games was too damn high, but I was never concerned with prices. I took chances, tried new things, and made some incredible discoveries along the way. It was a great time to be a gamer, ridiculous prices and all.

About The Author

Super Mario 64 Was Ultra Game Player Magazine’s 1996 Game of the Year
How Gamers Took Screenshots in the 90s
Mega Man 2’s Box Art Explained by Artist Marc Ericksen
Video Game Box Art Documentary Lands on Kickstarter