Loose Carts Nintendo Life
Image: Nintendo Life

Many many moons ago, I used to have a hard rule when it came to buying secondhand games: CIB, or on yer bike. You can tell it was years ago, because back then we called them 'secondhand', not 'preowned'.

You see, I was the type of kid who would keep not only the pamphlets and warranty cards that came with every new game, but also the little plastic bag the cart came in. After playing and enjoying my video game in the regulation manner, I'd diligently slide it back into its plastic slip, place it in its cardboard sleeve, carefully close the box (making sure not to put undue stress on the tabs, of course) and pop the game back into its drawer away from sunlight, pets and other hazards. The idea that people would leave loose carts lying about the place horrified me, even though cartridges are pretty hardwearing. Leaving a disc to get scratched up or chewed by the dog? I mean, how do people live like that?

With the prices of retro games rising astronomically in the intervening years, I've gradually relaxed my stance on loose carts. Some might say I've evolved a little; maybe I'm a bit less snotty and uptight these days (I'm even beginning to lighten up about that single 'Player's Choice' version of Everything or Nothing disrupting the unity of my GameCube shelf) — but the fact that complete-in-box games regularly go for three times the price (or more) of a lonesome cart is a more likely explanation. Nowadays, if you end up paying original RRP for a popular or mildly rare title, you're probably doing well.

Loose N64 Carts Nintendo Life
I've had to resort to the ol' double-stacking trick with my trusty pair of N64 Magazine racks. — Image: Nintendo Life

I draw the line at loose discs — I'm not a monster — but I've built up a sizeable collection of carts, especially in the last year or two. Some are yellowing or sun-damaged. Others bear the marks of mistreatment from their previous owner, with labels scratched or ripped. My copy of F-Zero X — which I used to own mint and CIB before getting rid of it for some ungodly reason — even has the title scrawled in black sharpie on the top edge. *shudders*

It's fine, it's fine — it's the contents that's important, right? Still, there's a big part of me that rues the day Nintendo decided cardboard was 'good enough' to convey its media until GameCube and DS rolled around. Given the chance, I would love to box up each and every cart in my collection.

So, why not go for reproduction boxes? After all, it seems half of all gaming eBay search results are repros these days; fan-made reproduction boxes, and even carts themselves (especially Game Boy titles). There's something holding me back from jumping on the repro wagon, though, and not just common sense (what, are you worried that this yellowing, beaten-up copy of Mischief Makers is gonna get cold or something?!). Maybe it's just the fanboy in me who needs the genuine article, but if the box doesn't come with the original Club Nintendo cards, manual, and assorted safety notices — the stuff that packs out the package and gives the box some heft — what's the point of faking it?

Yep, slowly but surely, I've made my peace with loose carts, even grubby ones. In fact, I've expanded my collection considerably over the last year (thanks, lockdown). Perhaps I should look into some sort of storage solution — there sure are some sexy options out there.

That's me, but what about you? How do you feel about buying retro games in a box-less state? Do you not give it a second thought, or are you troubled by all that bare plastic? Let us know in the polls below and feel free to clarify in the comments.

When buying retro games, which option best describes you?
Where do you stand on repro boxes for retro games?
More Loose Carts Nintendo Life
Image: Nintendo Life

Are you pernickety when it comes to your game collection? Or are you the kind of gamer who'll happily leave stickers on boxes and manuals until they're all dried up and impossible to remove without damaging the material beneath? Let us know your preferences — and personal horror stories of discoloured, biro-scrawled, bug-infested carts turning up on your doorstep in a jiffy bag — below.