Food, Water, Shelter and Video Games

If you’re a typical college student, it’s almost certain that things such as homework, dating angst and student loan payments will always be in surplus. Unfortunately, for most of us, one of the things we wouldn’t actually mind having more of – money – isn’t usually on that list.

So after the couch has been ransacked and the ability to buy enough toilet paper for the month is predicated upon your capacity to submit to an all-Ramen-noodle diet, how do you find enough green to game?

Fortunately, like most things, game pricing is cyclical and it’s possible to find some price-reduced gems that may have been previously overlooked due to the aforementioned schoolwork, heartbreak and/or other variables not mentioned in this write-up.

Leading the pack with cheap, awesome games are the Sony consoles. PS2 owners can find plenty to play for under $20, some of which are rated among the best games ever made. Shadow of the Colossus, the Hitman trilogy, Final Fantasy X and XII, and the Ratchet and Clank series are usually both easy to locate and well worth your time.

This high-quality-at-a-low-price trend continues on the PSP with quirky standouts Patapon and Loco Roco, immersing RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, and the pint-sized, open-world, do-anything-ness of Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories, spin-offs of the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

PS3 owners are also included in the thrift parade due to the recent introduction of the Greatest Hits line-up. For $29.99 and under, gamers can pick up a bevy of excellent titles including first-person shooter Resistance, the online-only Warhawk, and Oblivion, arguably the most ridiculously gargantuan adventure game yet conceived.

The Xbox 360 also has a lot of value starting at $20 with open-world sandbox hits like Saints Row and Crackdown, the freakishly-atmospheric and under-appreciated Condemned and Condemned 2, and boxing slug-fest Fight Night Round 3. The 360 also sports a middling-priced line of heavy hitters that start at $39.99 and include critical darlings such as Bioshock, Mass Effect and Gears of War.

Selling like the proverbial hotcakes, the Wii’s software catalog is seemingly immune to the price cuts that its competitors have resorted to. It does boast a solid middle line with titles like Metroid Prime 3, Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition and Okami riding the line between $29.99 to $39.99, but anything below $20 on the Wii is probably something to shy away from.

Nintendo’s other money maker, the DS, sports a variety of great games around that $20 mark including, but not limited to, Brain Age 1 & 2, most of the games in the Ace Attorney series, Lunar Knights and Final Fantasy 3.

There are also a ton of inexpensive downloadable games that are, occasionally, a much better value than some full-priced titles. Braid and Geometry Wars 2 on the 360, PixelJunk Eden and fLOW on the PS3, and Lost Winds and Dr. Mario on the Wii are all worth the price of entry and all under $15.

So you see, gaming on a budget isn’t tough, it’s just a matter or prioritizing. Here are a couple of tips for getting the most bang for your buck.

Buy used. Most stores that sell used games have a working guarantee, so you’ll never be stuck with a lemon.

Trade in old games. While some games are keepers, there are others that you’ll never play again. For those that you probably won’t go back to, trade them in. At least you’ll get something for them as opposed to your roommate stealing them at the end of the semester.

Check around. Places like Target, Walmart and Kmart occasionally run amazing deals that are overlooked by game shop purists. Sears and Smith’s are also great places to hunt for bargains since most people are unaware that they sell games there.

Wait. You don’t have to have every game day one. Most games receive a price drop within the first 3-6 months so sit back, relax and take care of your enormous back log.

Armed with these simple guidelines, and a modicum of self-control, you’ll be able to avoid eviction and starvation without wanting for electronic entertainment.

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