UK videogame retailers: Games Plus, Sparkhill, Birmingham

Games Plus is easily one of my favourite game shops to visit – and it’s also the least conventional. Like my previous posts on videogame related shops in the UK, I’m going to explain a bit about this shop and my recent experiences there. The first thing to say was that I found this shop by accident. I had heard rumblings of a game shop in Sparkhill, but with no website and Google Streetview not forthcoming, it seemed likely that there was maybe a shop there once upon a time.

Quite tough to take a photo without cars in the way – that’s Stratford Road for you.

Given how this game shop looks from the outside, it’s little wonder I missed it. The entrance to the shop is crowded with children’s bikes (and more recently, ladders and cement mixers – not joking). Nothing against them kiddies, it just wasn’t obvious what was inside… it was a few pass bys until I noticed a sign on the street mentioning Nintendo and Sega. At that point, I took a closer look at the shop window. Behind the bikes was a display featuring a boxed Sega Saturn, a red Wii, one of those oh-so-cute Pikachu N64s, and an NES and a SNES. Oh yes.

Why am I recounting this anecdote about how difficult it was to identify this place as a game shop? Well, it’s the thing I like the most about Games Plus. I love charity shops, car boot sales, flea markets, that sort of thing. This shop, like a good flea market, is stuffed to the gills with all kinds of random stuff. I mean, for starters, the floor is absolutely littered with TVs. The shop itself is basically a single aisle for customers and an aisle behind the counter for the owner. With such limited space you have to squeeze to get past even a single other customer, that’s how tight it is – all the while constantly bumping into TVs.

Seriously, what isn’t in this photo? Gamecube and Megadrive games stacked on the left, DS games in the counter cabinet at the bottom, PS3 and Xbox 360 towards the middle. The “Plus” in the name of the shop applies to seemingly anything – car booster seats, wheelchairs, you name it…

Once you get over how little space there is to move in, the riches of the shop gradually become apparent. It’s all so scattershot – there are drawers filled with loose cartridges for every system from the NES to N64, while the counter displays various GBAs, an Atari Lynx, a NeoGeo Pocket and N-Gage games. Turn to the back wall covered with cables and action figures and expect to see some real oddities: RF leads(!!!) for the Gamecube still in their original packaging, and component cables for various consoles. This shop is a lifesaver for console accessories, especially controllers and cables – if you want component and RF cables you’ve come to the right place, although thankfully there are RGB SCART and HDMI cables too. Under a pile of TVs I found a boxed portable screen for the original Xbox. On subsequent visits, I’ve seen an Xbox 360 retail demo unit and a life-sized blow up Mario figure for sale. (Still not joking. I swear!)

Every time I visit Games Plus it’s like entering a time portal. There’s always some crazy and bizarre stuff that only I would get excited about. I’ve asked the owner – who I can only describe as loveably eccentric – on multiple occasions where/how he got something, and from what I can gather he’s a flea market obsessive who buys and hoards pretty much anything videogame related.

Lotsa PS2 games. Note the G-Con 45 in the top right corner. (Here is a shop after my own heart.)

At the same time it’s obvious that Games Plus is curated. There’s a refreshing absence of sports games, and the selection of games is varied, leaning more towards obscure stuff. On the original Xbox, I’ve seen less than common games like the Otogi series and Psychonauts, while on the Sega Saturn, Mansion of Hidden Souls is a new one on me. I don’t know that there’s much in the way of ultra-rare expensive stuff, but it’s well worth a check for anything off the beaten track or generally uncommon. Price-wise, I’ve never felt like I overpaid here – and more than once I’ve gotten a great bargain. Also, the one time I bought something in error I was able to return it, no questions asked.

I’m sure there are some people who after seeing these crowded photos and reading my descriptions of tripping over TVs in the narrow aisle will immediately say, “nope, not for me”. Fair enough. But, if you love games and a good flea market, and you’re based in the West Midlands, I would 110% recommend giving this place a look. Finally, just a heads-up – the shop is closed between 1 and 2 everyday for lunch. I’ve been caught out by this before, and annoyingly there is no sign or message on the door to indicate what is going on. Otherwise I assume the opening hours are the standard retail hours, 9-5ish. Happy shopping!

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3 comments

  1. Aether

    I miss those good independent game stores. They’re just a lot of fun, but yeah, it’s really hard to keep them open in the modern age. So when you do have one like this, it’s obviously a labor of great passion.

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