Image: Lowell Bell / Time Extension

Interspersed throughout three major Japanese cities – Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka – a little chain called Super Potato reigns supreme when it comes to retro gaming. Sure, resale shops in Japan are as common as coins in a Mario level, but few of them match the staggering collection that the Super Potato stores boast; it’s no wonder that, for retrophiles like ourselves, the store named after our favourite pseudo-vegetable has become a mecca of sorts; a must-visit whenever we’re in the area.

It just so happens that last month we had time to visit the larger of two Osaka branches. Located a short distance from Namba station and tucked in with the figurine stores, trading card shops, and maid cafes along the infamous ‘Ota Road,’ Super Potato Retrokan draws immediate attention with its mask-wearing Solid Snake and chained-up Mario standing out front (and, if you squint, a cursed Star Fox wearing a Fatal Fury hat in behind). Even if we weren’t predisposed to decorate our workspace with Super Famicom and Neo Geo game boxes, Super Potato would’ve grabbed our attention.

Like many shops of a similar nature, they front-loaded the entrance with merch; a wall of gaming plushies greeted us on our left, along with a veritable shrine to Kirby that overtook the cash register to our right. We weren’t here for merch, however. Behind this section, the store opened up into three deep – but narrow – aisles split into two rows, all of which the Super Potato staff had packed with the games of yesteryear.

The Super Famicom section grabbed our attention first. While they certainly hadn’t stocked copies of all 1400 or so games released for the system in Japan, it certainly seemed like it. The Donkey Kong Country trilogy, complete with their boxes, threatened to part us with our hard-earned yen immediately. Either written by hand or printed on a little sticker, we could see details about the level of damage to the box (箱), instruction manual (説明書), or game cartridge in three damage levels – small, medium, or large (小, 中, 大). A testament to both Super Potato and Japanese gamers, the vast majority of boxes had little damage. Looking over the boxes marked with 小, we couldn’t detect any significant defects ourselves.

On the shelf opposite, we found rows of absurdly expensive games without their boxes. We assumed they were priced such due to their rarity as most games – such as Choplifter III and Batman Forever – don’t spring to mind when we think about sitting in front of a CRT TV in our childhood home. A friendly staff member confirmed for us a moment later that indeed, they rarely got ahold of these games compared to the rows of Dragon Quest games opposite. A handful of these boxless titles reached over ¥20,000 (about £120, given the current abysmal state of the Japanese yen) in price.

Right around the corner, we received another price-related shock. Locked behind a glass case, shelves filled to the brim with Game Boy Colors sported prices with a few too many numbers in them. If you wished to buy the undisputed best design – the Clear Purple – boxed, it would run you about ¥12,980 (£80). If you wanted something a bit rarer, say an Orange Pokémon Center 3rd Edition, that would set you back nearly ¥100,000 (£620). Hiding behind these staggering prices, an Astro Boy-themed unit outpriced even the Pokémon Edition.

When we purchased a Clear Purple Game Boy Color a few years before the pandemic from the Akihabara Super Potato, the regular Game Boy Colors – and the Game Boys beneath them – were half the price they are now. It seems inflation and the pandemic has affected even retro game stores.

Regardless, the other end-cap of that aisle had pricey Game Boy Advance games in pristine condition, including Metroid: Zero Mission and Fusion and – a personal favourite – Breath of Fire II. Close by, a literal wall of Pokémon games hung like retro-themed wallpaper, with Pokémon Crystal the rarest of them all.

Super Potato dedicated the entire left wall to PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games, with row after row stacked with CD cases. Many foreigners and Japanese shoppers alike had taken up residence in this aisle and wouldn’t budge long enough for us to snap more pictures. PlayStation games, as you might imagine given Sony’s popularity, were much more reasonably priced – around the ¥2000 range on average.

Sony and Nintendo weren’t the only publishers represented. Sega consoles, in all their forms, found homes on the opposite end of the store, including stacks of oxidised Dreamcasts. Game & Watch handhelds hung from racks in plastic packaging, Neo Geo Pockets beckoned from within glass cases, game OSTs overtook entire sections of shelving, and we even found a stack of reasonably priced Mario Paint sets complete with the mouse peripheral that – somehow – we resisted purchasing. And although we didn’t snap a picture, you’ll have to take us at our word that a small corner was also given over to Xbox games.

Despite this varied horde of treasure protected only by the dragon of financial responsibility, we wanted for one thing: a copy of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! for the Nintendo DS to complete our collection of the Elite Beat Agents games. As the Nintendo DS was relatively recent compared to most of Super Potato’s stock, the selection of DS games seemed on par with other resale shops. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! there, even after asking another quite pleasant staff member if he could help us look. He did offer to call the other Super Potato store and ask, but like much of the world right now, it was way too hot to trek to another spud.

We could’ve spent hours more browsing through the games of our youth and resisting the urge to buy them, but we had plans to grab Daruma Kushikatsu and then visit an impressive pinball arcade called The Silver Ball Planet before it closed. We will, however, return with the hope that the gradual increase in tourism and the revival of the Japanese yen lowers the prices of those Game Boy Colors to reasonable levels. Regardless, we wholly recommend a trip to Super Potato for anyone visiting Japan – just be prepared to spend a pretty yen to take home some premium nostalgia.