I was gonna write about something else but this post became a big ol' rant about all the retro gaming stores that I've frequented over the years. This is the brick-and-mortar supporting, Baltimore City residing, physical copy buying geek's take on things.
Time Warp Media in Old Ellicott City shut down during the first flood, although it still maintains a strong (and underrated) presence in the indestructible antique shop at the bottom of the hill. That's where I bought the copy of Balloon Kid that I've currently got on pause next to me. The Nerdporium in Hampden no longer has a brick-and-mortar location, they got booted by some greedy landlords who still haven't turned their old space into anything worthwhile. I still support them when they open a stall during any local festivals. Pandora's Closet in College Park is the most atrociously priced store I've ever been to outside of Manhattan, a damn shame because their location is great and their stock is hefty. If you dig around you might find a deal on something that's shot up in price and they haven't bothered to update, at least. Collector's Corner have some great comic book shops but their video games are an afterthought and they've sold me bootlegs. I only discovered the brilliance of GamerZ Paradise at the Joppatowne Flea Market recently. They literally share a wall with the Maryland Championship Wrestling (MCW) training center/home base, so not only do I get to dig through their heinously ample stock, but I get to hear a bunch of dudes taking bumps while I do it. Both times I went I was on a bit of a budget but was able to find a ton of stuff I couldn't get anywhere else. PSP game and general gaming accessories fell into my lap up there. It might wind up my favorite store in the state if I get to know it any better.
My most frequented shop now is re:gen in the White Marsh mall. They get picked over pretty clean since it's the only legit retro game store in the Baltimore beltway area, but if you spend enough time there they're very shoppable. Prices are usually exactly what eBay's asking and they've got deep stocks of every generation - one of the few places I can consistently find Dreamcast and DS games. Play Raven in Eldersburg is probably my favorite stop in the state these days, despite being a little bit out of the way. They always seem to have something I didn't know I was looking for - my last three trips, I bough a copy of Roland's Curse for GB, Lunar Silver Star Story Complete for PS1, and Robot Alchemic Drive for PS2. They've got a Boktai II cartridge, last time I checked... very very good for the obscure. The original Play Raven (which was easily the best store in the state) merged with the pretty damned good Cartridges Galore, a somewhat-chain in Northern Appalachia with stores in Altoona (where I bought my copy of Crystalis, busted battery, fuck you), Hagerstown (significantly underpriced LRG Vita games, love you), Cumberland (went to college out there, always show up when they're closed, owe you), State College, Morgantown, and Johnstown (haven't been).
Speaking of Pennsylvania, I have a lot a love for the Just Press Play stores up there. Two or three of them are centered around the Lancaster area, but I usually go to the one in York. They've got a pretty active social media presence and I've called them a few times to drive games out to the York store and they're enthusiastically cool about doing it. The crown jewel of that operation is their Lancaster Shopping Center location, I think? They're all very well organized. I liked The Vault in Hanover, PA the last time I went, but their York location was a bit of a bust the last time I checked. That one's around the corner from a good arcade and a good tap house, so at least the location's decent. Complete In Box way out in Ephrata was the real deal, but I've only been once. It's a big space, kinda daunting, and I was only buying GBA stuff that day. One of those good-deal-bad-deal places where I wasn't sure if multiple employees were deciding what things cost, but the selection was so big that there were enough good deals to be happy about. Still need to hit up a few joints (jawns? how does that word even work...) north of Philly. Classic Game Junkie in particular is on my shortlist. Finally want to give credit to VGH in Augusta, Georgia for having all the stuff my younger cousin was looking for the last time I was down there and Videogamesnewyork in NoHo for having the most insanely great shit every damn time. Last time they had five import Beatmania games for PS1 + the turntable controller and I didn't bite cause I don't have a CRT for old music games. The shame! Every time I go there I walk out with an armful of great shit and somehow still regret what could have been
If anybody's got some cool spots near them, let's hear it. I go on enough vacations. It might come in handy?