The Price Is Right!

The Price Is Right!
Great gaming thrills for a few measly bills

Originally Published on October 6, 2004

All video games eventually drop in price. It’s inevitable. Most new console releases these days retail for around $50, but regardless of whether they’re good or not, they don’t stay that price forever. Publishers and retailers reduce the price of poor sellers to unload supply, while even immensely successful games – Grand Theft Auto III, for example – eventually land in the bargain bin.

But what about the games that retail for considerably less than $50 right off the bat? You know, the ones we call “budget titles” that typically retail for $20 or less. These games tend to be criticized for lacking value in spite of their low cost. For the most part, the criticism is justified, since many budget games are indeed forgettable.

Lately, however, more and more quality budget titles are hitting the market. Even top publishers, such as Sega and Midway, are getting in on the act, releasing budget-friendly titles that would likely sell well at normal prices. Nevertheless, gamers are coming out on top. On that note, here are a handful of current and upcoming $20 titles especially worth checking out.

ESPN 2K5 Series
Publisher: Sega
System: PS2, Xbox

The battle between Sega and EA Sports for sports-gaming supremacy has taken a surprising twist this year. In an attempt to better compete with EA Sports, as well as make its sports titles more appealing to consumers, Sega unleashed its entire 2K5 lineup at the low price of $19.99. Whether you prefer football, basketball, or hockey, you can experience first-rate sports gaming on the cheap. What’s more, Sega didn’t skimp on the features, so at these prices, these games are practically a steal.

Guilty Gear X2 #Reload
Publisher: Majesco
System: Xbox

If you fancy 2D fighters – heck, even if you don’t – this Xbox-exclusive brawler is a bargain. With frantic gameplay, cool characters, ultra-sharp visuals, and online play (as sketchy as it may be), the game provides plenty bang for the buck. Capcom and SNK fans will surely disagree, but for the money, Guilty Gear X2 #Reload offers the best value of any 2D fighting game on the Xbox.

Katamari Damacy
Publisher: Namco
System: PS2

What is left to say about Katamari Damacy that has not already been said in our glowing review of the game? In short, it’s a charming little title well worth $20 – if you can manage to find it, that is. As mentioned in our review and affirmed by Namco, availability of the game is limited right now. So, if you see the game at your local retailer, be sure to snap it up right away.

Midway Arcade Treasures 2
Publisher: Midway
System: PS2, Xbox, GameCube

Relive many of Midway’s greatest arcade games of the late ’80s and early ’90s with the second installment of Arcade Treasures. Games like Mortal Kombat II, NARC, Total Carnage, Arch Rivals, and Hard Drivin’ defined an entire generation of gamers. When you need a break from the action, the bonus material, in the form of archival footage, promises to entertain and inform. All told, you get 20 (mostly) topnotch arcade games for only $20. That translates into a dollar a game, in case you couldn’t do the math!

Outlaw Golf 2
Publisher: Global Star Software
System: PS2, Xbox

The original Outlaw Golf was one of the more outrageous golf games released in recent years, boasting (among other things) strippers and caddie abuse. Despite being the antithesis of a golf simulation, the underlying game featured surprisingly good physics and gameplay, complete with an innovative composure system. But with only three courses, things became stale rather quickly. Fortunately, the sequel ups the ante with more courses, extra characters, and new gameplay features, including online play and golf cart driving.

So there you have it: several solid games that will rock your console and not your bank account. Hopefully, this trend of publishers releasing quality games at affordable prices will continue. Quite a few budget titles will see release in the coming months, but it’s unlikely publishers will continue to be so generous when the next console cycle begins. After all, we diehard gamers tend to overindulge our gaming habits each time a new console is released, hastily paying whatever prices have been slapped on the accompanying launch titles.

Perhaps gamers and game makers can meet somewhere in the middle, with the average game retailing for $40 instead of $50. Though it sure would be nice if all new releases cost only $20…

Cliff O’Neill

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