You can definitely save yourself some money buying used as opposed to new, but there are a few questions you should ask when you consider buying a used game.
Make sure it is good
Do your research and look into the game. Unless you're getting the game simply for the experience of playing something truly horrible (Bubsy 3D, I'm looking at you on this one), you'll want to make sure you are getting a game you'll actually enjoy. Just because some upcoming games may look good in the trailers and promotional material, that isn't a guarantee they'll be anywhere near good (some people are still bitter about Colonial Marines).
Read some reviews from a few different sources, or even look up some YouTube videos. A lot of content creators are pretty impartial and unbiased with their reviews, so they are definitely a great place to start. Of course here at KeenGamer, we have also some great game coverage and reviews to look into as well. Lastly, Metacritic and Steam are also a great resource to use, as they compile multiple review scores for an average game score, giving a fairly unbiased grade thanks to the law of averages.
Compatibility and requirements
It usually goes without saying that games will run on the console they're designed for, and the only time getting games for the wrong console becomes an issue is really only in the case of getting them as a gift. That's not to say there aren't other compatibility issues that might pop up though. You'll want to make sure the platform you're purchasing the game for fits all the requirements of the game, for example, if you're getting an old Majora's Mask cartridge for the N64, make sure to pick up the Expansion Pack also since the added RAM is required to make the game work.
You'll want to make sure there aren't any other peripherals you'll need, like the PlayStation Move, or some other motion controller in order to make the game playable. If your system is running low on space, you'll definitely want to look at the required needed space, as well as see if there are any monthly subscription fees or additional costs. Additional fees are usually tied to online-only games or MMORPGs like Final Fantasy XIV.
Also, be sure to check the PC games requirements because mainly new titles can be quite demanding, and your computer could not be able to handle it well.
After checking out the game case, next you'll want to take a look at the disk. A few scratches or blemishes on the top of the game disk are fine, but you'll want the bottom readable section to be as pristine as possible. Even minor scratches or dings can cause reading issues and make the game unplayable or will prevent you from completing it due to crashes. That is valid mainly for consoles because PC games are mostly downloaded directly to your computer without the need of a DVD.
While this isn't really a major issue when buying games for yourself, as you know your own tastes, this one often comes into play when buying a used game as a gift for someone else. All games have an ESRB rating, essentially categorizing the age appropriateness of the game.
These ratings are always in the bottom right corner on the back of the box. Next to the rating, it will also detail some of the content in the game that factored into determining that rating, such as violence, drug use, language, nudity, etc.
The ratings are as follows:
EC – Early Childhood: These games are generally targeted towards younger children ages 2-5.
E – Everyone: These games are suitable for all audiences. While they may have a more kid-friendly aesthetic, most of the time they can be enjoyed by anyone. Games like Mario Galaxy and Animal Crossing fall into this category.
E10+ – Everyone 10+: These games are suitable for anyone ages 10 and up. This can be due to cartoon violence, or just the game content and complexity from a mechanics standpoint, being a little too advanced for younger audiences. These games may also have more suggestive themes.
T – Teen: These games are suitable for teens aged 13 and up. They are generally more violent, sometimes depicting mild blood and slightly more extreme themes. These games might also include crude humor or infrequent swearing.
M – Mature: Mature games are intended for ages 17 and up, or essentially adults. These games often depict graphic violence, strong violent themes with extreme blood and gore, heavy sexual themes, and possibly some instances of nudity.
AO – Adults Only – These games are intended for adult audiences, ages 18 and older. They often have a lot of the same content as M rated games. What usually tips things over the edge in terms of getting an AO rating is the sexual content depicting explicit sexual scenes in nature, or having intense sexual themes throughout. Think of it as the difference between NC-17 movies and X rated movies.
Where to purchase
Deciding where to purchase your game from is also a very important aspect of searching for a game. If you are looking for a very old or hard to find game, you'll likely have to scour eBay or Amazon for it. If it is something a little more recent, you can likely find it at a game reseller like GameStop.
While GameStop is usually a lot more expensive than buying online, sometimes they do have promotional offers that can help make it worth your while, like the occasional ''buy 2 get one'' sales of used games if you're looking to get a few games in a single trip. You also don't have to wait for the games to be delivered and can play right away, which is always a nice perk.
Licensed and additional content
A lot of games often come with codes for additional content packaged with the game. A lot of this content tends to be cosmetic, so it's often not a huge loss, but sometimes additional levels or other gameplay-related content can be included. If you're lucky, the code hasn't been redeemed and it'll still work.
More often than not though, especially with older games, the code will have been redeemed, and you'll have to shell out some extra money for that additional content. If a used game came with one of these download codes at one point, just keep in mind you'll probably have to purchase that content separately if you want it, inflating the price a little more than advertised.
Is it better to get on PC?
If you have a gaming PC, a big question to ask yourself is if it's better to just buy the game on PC through Steam, Origin or other platform depending on the publisher. If the game is a console exclusive, this isn't really applicable, but if the game is for PC, there are a few follow up questions you need to ask.
You need to find out if your PC can run the game, and read some reviews on the PC version specifically to see if there are any major optimization issues. The PC release of Arkham Knight is a prime example of a game that you're better off getting on console due to horrible PC optimization, which still hasn't been completely resolved.
Is it available digitally?
With things like the Nintendo Virtual Console and a lot of older games being backward compatible via digital download, sometimes it's cheaper to buy a game digitally via the console's online store. Why spend upwards of $100 for a copy of Earthbound on eBay when you can buy it for about 1/10th of the price on Nintendo's Virtual console, or spend about the same amount on the SNES classic and get another 20 or so games along with Earthbound. For older or rarer games that will put a serious dent in your wallet, digital release is often times the best way to go to save on money if you're not a serious collector.
Using the above tips, you'll be able to figure out the best way to buy a used game or if you should even buy the game used at all in lieu of digital distribution. The most important thing is to do your research and shop around for the best price.
With older games, a lot of the market is made up of individual sellers, so prices can vary by as much as $20-$30 depending on the game, especially if it's a collector's item.