Bargain bin games: PC, console, and portable games for less than $20
By Jeff Bakalar
(Updated August 7, 2008)
Gaming isn't cheap. The Xbox 360 will set you back $350, and the PlayStation 3 will cost you $50 more, while new games for each console cost a hefty $60 a pop. Even the comparatively cheap Nintendo Wii will set you back $250--even more once you invest in extra controllers and accessories. Fortunately, you can have a great gaming experience without spending a fortune.
The last-generation gaming consoles--the GameCube, the PlayStation 2, and the original Xbox--can be yours for less than $150 and they still have a massive following. Sony and Nintendo's current portables are quite affordable as well. While a few new titles still cost about $50, there are plenty of other games that make the bargain bin. The most popular bargain games are greatest hits titles--repackaged top sellers attempting to pull in even more cash. Others are bargain releases, developed on the cheap and set to sell at a low price, though, more often than not, these are the ones to avoid.
Finally, there's a bunch of critically praised games that just didn't catch on and, instead, had to resort to price cuts to liquidate remaining stock. We've listed our current favorite bargain game for each of the currently available consoles, portables, and the PC. Do you prefer older games? Check out our feature, "Retro gaming roundup," which includes reissues of some old favorites, almost all of which are available for less than $20 as well.
Editors' note: We've made it a point for our bargain picks to be widely available at almost all retailers for less than $20. Nevertheless, some may still be selling the "greatest hits" games for their original prices, while others may be selling used or refurbished copies of games.
PC gaming bargainsAlthough you can buy many PC games on the cheap, some (such as Half-Life 2: Aftermath) require pricey, high-end gaming rigs. Be sure to check a game's system requirements before purchasing it. Just because it is cheap doesn't mean it'll look cheap. You should also be aware that many cheap PC games aren't actually games, per se. Many are expansion packs that add new content to existing, more expensive titles.
Editors' pick: Gears of War
When Gears of War was released on the Xbox 360, it received numerous awards and acclaim. Now the impressive third-person shooter is available for the PC and at a bargain price meaning there's no good reason not to experience 2006's game of the year.
Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming bargainsFor the Xbox 360, $30 is the new $20. Seeing as how new titles sell for 10 bucks more than those of previous-generation consoles, we shouldn't have been surprised that the system's bargain-bin games would be slightly higher, too. Microsoft's Xbox 360 Platinum Hits cost $30, so we'll consider that the cut off for this system's loss-leaders. Now that the 360 is more than a year old, however, you can find some decent games for less than $20.
Editors' pick: Beautiful Katamari
Beautiful Katamari is the first next-generation version of the now infamous Japanese-imported franchise. The Katamari series has swept the United States with its unique gameplay and quirky sense of humor and can now be found for less than $20. Anyone who has never experienced the one-of-a-kind thrill that is rolling a Katamari should not pass up this perfect opportunity.
Sony PlayStation 3 gaming bargainsWith its two-year anniversary coming up this year, the PlayStation 3 has proved itself as a legitimate competitor in this generation of video game consoles. Sony has recently released the first batch of "Greatest Hits" titles for the system, which are now available for $29.99. These 10 selected titles are recognizable by their red Blu-ray game case and "Greatest Hits" graphic on the box art. As the PS3 game library continues to grow, look for more classic titles to make the jump to "Greatest Hits."
Editors' pick: Resistance: Fall of Man
Resistance: Fall of Man was the PlayStation 3's main launch attraction. It featured an intense single player gameplay experience where you must battle aliens that arrive during World War II. With the sequel due this fall, the original classic is now available as part of the "Greatest Hits" line of PlayStation 3 games for $29.99.
Sony PlayStation 2 gaming bargainsBy virtue of being the oldest system--and, by all accounts, the most popular home game console of all time--the PS2 has the widest selection of games, both bargain and full-priced. Moreover, new PS2s continue to be sold, and the system continues to be supported by software publishers. Many titles are compatible with some (but not all) versions of the PlayStation 3.
Editors' pick: God of War II
What many consider to be the best game available for PlayStation 2, God of War II is a triumphant sequel to the original blockbuster game. Now the game costs less than $20, giving everyone plenty to do in anticipation of God of War III, which will be released for the PlayStation 3.
Sony PSP gaming bargainsLike the other Sony platforms, the PSP has an official bargain series in the form of the "Greatest Hits" line. New titles are constantly being added to the "Greatest Hits" lineup, while some games are starting to sell for $20 straight out of the gate.
Editors' pick: Patapon
Patapon is a game that combines rhythm-sensitive gameplay with RPG elements. The game won the hearts of critics and gamers when it was released in February 2008, but disappointing sales let you own this hidden gem for just $20.
Nintendo Wii gaming bargainsThe Wii still does not have a bargain series of games, or as Nintendo has labeled them in the past, "Player's Choice" titles. However, there are plenty of games for the console that are available at a reasonable price and many others that have already been given price reductions.
Editors' pick: Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaro's Treasure
Another game that was disregarded by the gaming masses, Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaro's Treasure won critical acclaim for its unique use of Wii controls but did not do overly well at retail. Titles such as this, unfortunately, fall through the cracks only to be gobbled up by bargain bins. We recommend you grab this title now before it become impossible to find. At less than $20, your wallet won't get hit hard for this overlooked Capcom game.
Nintendo GameCube gaming bargainsThe GameCube was afflicted with the worst third-party support last generation, which led to a weak bargain gaming slate. Wii owners looking to see what they missed on the 'Cube will find only a handful of true gems that were GameCube exclusives. Thankfully, most of them are priced to move, including…
Editors' pick: 'Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door'
Though its name implies otherwise, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has a surprising amount of depth to it. This colorful RPG is filled with charming characters, clever puzzles, and a paper-thin version of one of gaming's most popular characters.
Nintendo DS gaming bargainsThe Nintendo DS lacks a dedicated budget line. Fortunately, there are a few cheap games on the system already, and its backward-compatibility with GameBoy Advance games presents a wide variety of budget titles.
Editors' pick: Arkanoid DS
The brick-busting arcade classic is now available in the palm of your hands for the Nintendo DS. Arkanoid DS features all the gameplay from the original with a revamped graphic style and multiple control options. Arkanoid DS can now be yours for less than $20.
Game Boy Advance gaming bargainsLike the PS2, the GBA is backward-compatible with ultracheap titles from the previous generation (Game Boy and Game Boy Color). Also like the PS2, it's getting fewer and fewer new games. Fortunately, the GBA already has a huge library, and nearly all of its titles can be played on the Nintendo DS. The so-called Player's Choice line includes such classic titles as Super Mario Advance, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, and Yoshi's Island for less than $20 apiece, and plenty of other older games are available on the cheap.
Editors' pick: 'Final Fantasy IV Advance'
A compelling story of betrayal and redemption ties together this excellent remake of the classic RPG. Memorable characters, tense battles, and one of the first truly deep storylines in the Final Fantasy series make this game a must-buy.