Blockbuster Video going out of business was a long time coming. In fact, many (like myself) thought they were already dead and buried but the final nail came recently with all stores closing. This isn’t an ode to Blockbuster saying they should have stayed in business or how they failed to keep up with streaming demands, no, this is a tale about the importance of Blockbuster’s impact on video games.
I would sometimes rent videos from Blockbuster back when I was in school. The local public library had a good selection of VHS but if you wanted new releases then Blockbuster was the place the go. However, I always wanted to go to Blockbuster because they also rented video games. My best friend and I would save our lawn mower money for the sole purpose of renting a game at Blockbuster and then playing it all weekend long.
Despite video games being 1000x better looking than they were back then, the price of new games hasn’t changed much. A new NES game cost $50 just like a new game today does. And just like today, I can’t afford to plop down a Grant to play a new game every week. Demos and free-to-play wasn’t an option back then so you had to rent a game for $5 at Blockbuster to try out the new games.
I think it’s fair to say that without Blockbuster my love for video games wouldn’t be what it is today. I certainly wouldn’t have played as many games, of which many laid the groundwork for today’s video games…of course, had I not played those games back then I wouldn’t be quick to say “that game is just like…” today. Blockbuster let us kids find out if the actual video game lived up to the box art on the front. Some did, some didn’t.
Very rarely there would be a video game that we would rent more than once simply because it was so much fun and we could never find it to buy it (or still couldn’t afford it). One of those games was Micro Machines on the NES. Besides being a big Micro Machines collector at the time (that’s a story for another week), the video game was pretty awesome. It was a racing game that let players use different vehicles from cars, boats, helicopters and even monster trucks. Venues were in scale, racing on top of kitchen tables, sandboxes and pool tables. The controls were tight, you had a good feeling of speed and it wasn’t a real easy game (still isn’t). It was great for 2-players and my friend and I would play it all night long, betting candy and whatever else. Neither one of us ever owned Micro Machines but we both have great memories about that game thanks to Blockbuster.
Another game I remember fondly that we always rented from Blockbuster was King of the Monsters for the Genesis. My best friend had the Genesis while I still kept things “real” with my NES. The weekends we had sleepovers at his house we rented Genesis, at my house, the NES. King of the Monsters was a beat ’em up game where you choose your stereotypical large monster and then proceed to smash a city ranking up points. In 2-player mode you were trying to get the most points while also trying to beat up your opponent. I later found out that King of the Monsters was a Neo Geo arcade game and must say the Genesis port was pretty good. King of the Monsters remains a classic favorite to this day and all because we saw the game at Blockbuster and gave it a try.
Blockbuster gave us access to more video games than we could ever play. Long before libraries starting lending games, before you could download anything and well before the GameFly’s of the world, there was Blockbuster. Most people associated Blockbuster with movies and rewind fees but I’m one that just remembers the great video games.