This is a series of posts dedicated to independent and interesting videogame shops in the UK with a focus on those that sell retro/import games, both those that have perished and those that still survive today. We could always do with tip-offs of new or old places to cover, and would love to get memories or perspectives of the shops featured, so please take the time to comment. With the rise of the internet, dedicated retro videogame retailers are becoming scarcer and harder to find. This series will cover London for the most part since that’s where I’m based but I’m interested in other parts of the UK as well. This second post (see the first here on The Video Gallery in Islington) focuses on the newly opened Crazy Thumbs on Mitcham Road in Tooting, London.
It’s not often you hear about a new retro videogame shop opening. So when I got a tip from Tooting-based activist/campaigner Hamja Ahsan about Crazy Thumbs, I got very excited. The store itself is on Mitcham Road in Tooting, a half-minute walk from Tooting Broadway station. A few weeks after getting the tip I headed over to Tooting to see what Crazy Thumbs had to offer. And it turned out to be plenty! They stock a really diverse and interesting set of games across both new and retro platforms. There are some modern console games, but the emphasis is definitely on retro and I’d estimate roughly three quarters of the games for sale are for pre-PS3/Wii/360 generation platforms. The selection of games on offer is one of the biggest strengths of the store, and the reasons behind this soon become obvious when speaking to the shop’s owner, Imran – a man extremely passionate about games, as the loving attention to detail on display in these photos proves.
The shop has a really pleasant atmosphere. Imran is very welcoming without being intrusive, offering customers assistance as well as drinks, hot and cold. The shop itself is light, clean, uncluttered, and orderly – the complete opposite of the dingy basement feel many game shops have. When I visited, a compilation of iconic videogame music played in the background, including tunes from Zelda, Chrono Cross and Zombies Ate My Neighbours. It’s tasteful stuff, playing at just the right volume(!), and it helps establish a particular atmosphere in the shop that I’d describe as very welcoming, friendly and nostalgic. When I was there, several young guys were battling it out on the latest Virtua Fighter – adding to the “home from home” vibe that can only be maintained by rampant one-up-manship and sore losers (they were all very nice!). Even with them there, the shop was roomy enough to easily accommodate us all.
In the Saturn section (what did you think I was there for?), I was impressed to find the original Clockwork Knight (tempting), Street Fighter Alpha (can’t remember if it was 1 or 2) and Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition (snapped it up). In general the videogame selection at Crazy Thumbs skews more towards fighters, racers and other action titles as opposed to the sports, and especially football, titles which regularly dominate the shelves of other retailers. Honestly, pay a visit to any shop with even a whiff of Saturn stock and you’ll come away thinking every European Saturn owner owned 10 copies of Sega Worldwide Soccer ’97.
Some game genres are slightly overpriced. Fighting games especially, but it’s a niche genre. You might get a bargain though if you’re getting multiple items. I would highly recommend Crazy Thumbs for hardware: the prices for consoles and memory cards/accessories are very competitive, especially compared with online stuff which usually involves substantial costs for postage. I’m no expert, but £4 for an official PS1 memory card and £35 for a Dreamcast with two games seem to me very good deals, plus with buying a console there are obvious benefits to seeing exactly what you’re buying in advance, knowing the hardware has had its innards cleaned and tested, and of course the ease of repairs/replacements if anything goes wrong.
All in all, Crazy Thumbs is well worth checking out. It’s probably one of, if not the best gaming retail experience I’ve had, and the shop is very relaxing and genuinely pleasant to visit – it certainly beats trawling Cash Converters in the late nineties, as well as some of the less palatable experiences I’ve had more recently. There’ll be more on the latter in my upcoming posts about videogame retailers in Birmingham and London. I’ve included a few more photos of Crazy Thumbs in a gallery below so check them out to get a better sense of the shop. Finally, check out Crazy Thumbs on Facebook and/or Twitter to ask about prices, get regular updates on new stock, and so on.