Most Popular Computer Games as Told by Thrift Stores

Image: My boxed copy of Myst
Written by: Elijah Moon Blackwell

Locals donate everything. I’ve seen 90s fax machines on the overcrowded shelves.

I both love and hate thrift stores. Most of the time you can get stuff dirt cheap. It’s a great way to start a VHS or DVD collection. However, some of the local thrift stores have been researching the wares that come in. Goodwill has a glass case now. Stuff that would have been on the shelves with the rest of the junk now might be behind glass. It also means a higher price.

Thankfully, no one cares about computer gaming in my area. Computer games are usually slapped with the $1.50 price tag. Except for Habitat for Humanity; they charge $3.

The best thrift stores are the Mom-and-Pops. They slap CD based media with a $0.50 sticker. I’ve gotten hundreds of games from these places. Never change small time thrift stores. You are the reason that the CD-ROM Fossil collection is so big.

Every time I go to a thrift store I see the same handful of computer games. It has led me to infer that these are the most popular titles in my area. I thought it’d be fun to keep track of all the duplicates I saw at thrift stores and write about it. I think it says a lot about the older computer gaming generation in my area.

Sure, I still see games I don’t own, but there are a slew of titles that always find their way to the shelves.

Note: All games are in jewel cases unless otherwise stated. I don’t know what people did with the big boxes but they rarely pop up at a thrift store.

Rainbow Six

I see the first two Rainbow Six games every time I visit a thrift store. I’ve even seen the Collector’s Edition box at Goodwill. They knew they had something too because they put it behind glass and charged $20 for it. Luckily I already had it.

I’ve stopped buying duplicate copies of games. But before I did, I amassed a ton of Rainbow Six CD-ROMs. From the base game to the mission packs, I see these games constantly.

Rainbow Six is a first person squad based shooter. That’s a lot of buzz words for one game but Rainbow Six did define the genre. The player leads a small team of elite soldiers. Missions involve rescuing hostages or eliminating hostiles. The game is extremely difficult due to the amount of enemy forces. Players have to be methodical.

Age of Empires II

This is honestly not a surprise. Age of Empires II is the most popular game in the series. It is also one of the most popular strategy games. So popular that it recently got a full remake.

It’s the game that got kid me into strategy games. You can make the AI brain dead so that you can build your kingdom in peace.

There is also a map editor so you can create your own scenarios. The campaign mode is also quite entertaining. From Genghis Khan to Joan of Arc, titans of history are given fairly in-depth campaigns. It’s a fun way to learn surface level history. Of course it’s not 100% accurate but the important facts are right. Though sometimes I wish Joan of Arc was given an alternate history timeline where she wasn’t burned at the stake.

I did find the MacOS version of the game in a Hospice Resell Shop that just recently opened. It’s actually a great store with amazing prices. So if you have one in your area, I highly suggest checking it out.

Myst

I don’t know why this 90s puzzle game is polluting my home town. Myst isn’t a bad game, I’m just sick of seeing it. I had almost a dozen copies of the jewel case. Myst is the reason I stopped collecting doubles.

Why is this game in every thrift store? It sold really well. My boxed copy of Myst has a “Best Selling CD-ROM Game Ever” sticker on it. There’s an old IGN article where the writer seems to almost complain about it’s popularity.

I tried to find an exact number of sales without using Wikipedia but the developer’s website has no info. In fact, it even tells you to go to Wikipedia. I think this is a first for me, a developer just telling a visitor to read about their game on Wikipedia.

Anyway, Myst is everywhere and it will haunt me till the day all copies are finally bought up.

Command & Conquer: Generals

This one really confuses me. Command & Conquer has 11 titles and the only one I ever see is Generals. Growing up I knew about Red Alert 1, 2 and 3. I assumed that everyone else was the same way.

Apparently not. At least in my area, the more modern day focused real time strategy game is more popular than the strange alternate histories of Red Alert.

I guess when thinking about my area, a strategy game set in modern day would be more popular. The mainline series of games are campy and full of science fiction elements. Generals is a little bit more relatable. By relatable, I mean the player has frequently watched the Military Channel (now known as the American Heroes Channel).

I don’t mean to make fun of you rural North Carolina, but you guys are ultra obsessed with the military. I also realize that’s the pot calling the kettle black.

Backyard Baseball

Humongous Entertainment pops up constantly. Freddie Fish, Putt-Putt and many other series end up on the thrift store shelves. The most consistent game is Backyard Baseball. Specifically the 1997 release.

I’ve had friends who grew up with Backyard Baseball. Heck, I grew up with it. Seeing this lighthearted baseball game brings a smile to my face every time. I know for a fact that some kid had a good time playing it. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t get at least a shred of happiness from a short game of Backyard Baseball. I reviewed the 2005 version on the YouTube channel.

An amazing series that is unfortunately dormant. I fear that the 90s and early 2000s children’s games will never make a comeback. Maybe it’s for the best. If children play Fortnite today, none of them will be excited by a talking car and it’s dog going to the zoo or the moon to learn stuff. It would be a financial disaster.

Delta Force: Black Hawk Down

Delta Force is a series. Why Black Hawk Down is the common one is beyond me. It came out in 2003, which is the same year as the first Call of Duty. My theory is that this is one of the few shooters at the time that had an online multiplayer that wasn’t hard to join.

Since this was before Call of Duty became THE shooter to play, I imagine this got a lot more press and attention. This is just speculation though.

Some of the copies I’ve come across have had clearance stickers on them. So maybe it’s common because places like Walmart had it cheap. Who knows.

Should you check it out? I like it. Mostly my love for it is fueled by nostalgia because I still have my original copy. Objectively the game is…you know…serviceable. Okay, it’s bad. Kinda like Brink, it’s a subpar game that I have affection for.

Honorable Mentions

As always I don’t want to turn these articles into novels. Here are a few games that I see all the time. Games that are probably a given and don’t need much explanation:

The Sims 3
Sim City 4
Madden 08
Half-Life 2
World of Warcraft
Battlefield 2
Bejeweled
Tetris
Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit
All the LEGO games.


The endless amounts of Jumpstart educational games. Their website is still active but it looks like a shell of it’s former self. Again, not to be too reactionary, but I can’t help but miss the old days of Jumpstart.

I started writing this article before the COVID-19 outbreak. Things may have changed but I highly advise against anyone going to out to see.

Recently, I masked up and went to get my thrift store fix. Due to quarantine and the economy being what it is, there was nothing new. The shelves were the same as I left them months ago.

Cheap computer software isn’t worth the potential of getting COVID-19. Especially since the underpaid workers of the thrift stores may not be able to adequately clean the wares. Thrift stores have always been somewhat unclean and I’ve accepted that. But now you could get a highly contagious and potentially dangerous virus. Seriously, it isn’t worth it.

Be safe! Play some video games! In fact, let me know what you are playing by emailing me at cdromfossil@gmail.com!

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