How to Get Cheap Video Games for Your Kids (or Yourself)

Summer is around the corner, which means the kids will be home more and will inevitably be attacking their video game controllers. They’re probably already asking for the newest Skylander figure or a video game you’ve never heard of.

Retail-priced games can cost up to $60, and there’s no guarantee your kid will even like it. How do you get your child the right game without going broke?

I’ve been video game bargain hunting for years. Here are my tips for finding the right kind of game at the right price.

The new fad

Kids, much like adults, are susceptible to fads, and Skylanders is the latest craze. You start with some basic characters that are introduced to the game through the “Portal of Power,” and then buy additional figurines for more in-game characters. With so many figurines, Skylanders can get expensive fast, so buy them on sale or in bundles (more on that below).

Older games

I recommend that you wait to buy a game until after the reviews are out so you don’t get stuck with a coaster. That way you can find a great title for your child that’s only $20 because it’s 18 months old. Check out the best games of 2011 and 2012 at Metacritic, which sources both professional and user-based reviews in its ratings.

When shopping for older titles that have stood the test of time, look for “Game of the Year” (GOTY) editions. They have additional content and usually sell for about $20.

Auction site bundles

You have a better shot of finding your kid a game he likes by buying five used games for a total of $60 than two brand-new games for $120. Here’s how to grab video game lots at discounted prices using auction sites.

  • First, be careful not to buy a game your kid already has. Snap a photo of his video game shelf with your smartphone.
  • Go to eBay and search for the console plus the word “lot.” For example, search “Wii lot” for games for the Wii or “PS3 lot” for games for the PlayStation 3.
  • Each listing will be different. Search through the listings’ titles. When you find a lot that looks promising, double-check it against games already in your home.
  • If you’re not sure the price is a good deal, search the individual games in the lot. Sort by “ending soonest” to see what people are paying.

Is Skylanders a hit in your house? Do a search for “Skylanders lot” to find figures you can get at a bundled discount.

A word of advice: Avoid lots with old sports games, which have an extremely low resale value. If you’re buying a five-game lot for a price that averages out to $15 per game, but two of them are older sports games, you may be overpaying for the other games in the lot.

Finally, if there’s a particular video game you want, search for the title and add “lot” to the search bar. You may get the game you want at a big discount, with some extra bonus games thrown in.

Online deals

I never buy games that aren’t on sale. Use these sites to find great prices on video games:

  • Slickdeals aggregates deals from around the Web.
  • Amazon Warehouse has cheap deals on video games and accessories.
  • GoHastings has daily deals on video games, and good clearance and used sections.
  • Gamefly has a cheap used game section.

Shopping in-store

Chances are there’s a GameStop store near you. Their new games are usually more expensive than those found elsewhere online, but their used games can be dirt-cheap. With a little research you can use GameStop stores effectively.

  • Avoid trading in video games. You’re unlikely to get the best possible price for them. Instead, sell them on eBay or Craigslist for a better return.
  • If the game stinks, take it back. You can return used games within seven days for a full refund.
  • Sign up for a free PowerUp Rewards account to earn reward points, which can be used for things like video game discounts and free clothing.
  • Check out their price drop list before going.

 Renting

Renting games isn’t dead. Nearly all Redbox stations rent games at $2 a day. And GameFly is the Netflix of video game rentals. You can rent two games at a time per month for $9.95 the first month, then $22.95 a month after that, or one game at a time for $5.95 the first month and $15.95 for subsequent months. These plans include free access to PC games as long as you’re a subscriber.

System price drops

Finally, if you’re considering a new system, wait a bit longer. New PlayStation and Xbox consoles are rumored to be released by Christmas. Historically, price drops happen soon after the official release date is announced. The new Xbox was revealed on May 21 (although a release date wasn’t mentioned); expect PlayStation to follow shortly thereafter. However, the Wii U might not be getting any cheaper for a while, according to IGN.

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