FRIENDS Game Shop in Akihabara
Akihabara, or Akiba for short, is sometimes called the Holy Land by otaku, and not without reason! This part of the Chiyoda ward in Tokyo is the biggest center in the world for anime, cosplay, doujinshi, video games, maid cafes, and more facets of otaku culture. So much so that it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. Akiba boasts dozens of world-class, multistory shopping complexes to cater to pretty much any otaku interest, but if you're in the market for retro games make sure not to miss Friends, the oldest and one of the best (and coziest!) retro game stores in all of Japan!
Friends (フレンズ) Game Shop Info
|location|| 6-14-13 Kanda Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo|
Shin Etsu Okamida Building, 2-3F
It can be hard to find! The store is across the street from the police box next to the UFJ bank, the floor above an udon restaurant.
|Cost of Admission||FREE|
|Hours of Operation|| 11am – 8pm, Closed on Tuesdays|
As alluded to above, the first part of your experience will probably be trying to find the store. If it isn’t raining or snowing, be on the lookout for a wooden sign set out on the sidewalk decorated with colorful drawings of game characters and large text reading “GAME” in English. Once you’re inside, it’s time for games!
While Friends certainly isn’t the largest game store out there, it uses its space very efficiently and makes up for it with extensive variety and great prices! When you go in, you’ll immediately be surrounded by shelves stacked high with console games from the early 8-bit days up to the modern era, as well as older PC games and other oddities like game watches. Each section is well organized which makes browsing fun and easy, so you’ll be able to find whatever you’re looking for without hassle. The store is also decorated with the same charm as the homemade sign outside which, when coupled with the colorful Famicom cartridges and retro illustrations on the game boxes on display, really adds to the cozy experience.
It’s no lie to say that the two things that make Friends so special out of the many retro shops in Akihabara are its friendly mom-and-pop atmosphere and excellent prices, which are noticeably lower than a lot of the other stores, the famous Super Potato in particular. As older games continue to increase in value thanks to their scarcity and the high demand from the growing retro gaming community, stores like Friends are becoming harder to find so don’t miss your chance to get hard copies of your childhood favorites or hidden gems!
Friends specializes in retro games, specifically rare and unusual titles, and pretty frequently updates their stock so you’re bound to see something interesting. The shop has both loose and complete-in-box games from virtually every console ever released, even things like WonderSwan, Vectrex, and NEO GEO, as well as consoles themselves, a wide variety of peripherals, controllers, game-related books, music CDs, and more! The first floor houses most of the older consoles, handhelds, and their games (Famicom, Super Famicom, Mega Drive, Game Boy, etc.) while the second floor has some more modern systems (PlayStation, Saturn, GameCube, Xbox, etc.) and retro computer equipment like MSX and FM-TOWNS.
From our experience, the store doesn’t get particularly crowded, but because of its small size it could become so quite easily if you’re unlucky. Thankfully, even if that were to happen, Akihabara has a myriad of other attractions to keep you occupied if you want to wait for the store to clear out! I recommend the wonderful arcade HEY (Hirose Entertainment Yard) located just a 5 minute walk away which boasts a great collection of retro cabinets along with modern arcade staples to keep you happy for hours. There’s also abundant food available nearby like MOS Burger, Jonathan’s Family Restaurant, the udon shop below, and even nyanny cat cafe and several maid cafes!
Another thing worth mentioning about Friends is that, similar to other stores in Japan and elsewhere, it is possible to sell your own games (and other items) directly to the store! On their website you can see their current buy lists separated out by console with prices for loose and complete-in-box games and consoles. Friends also allows you to do mail order shopping through the website, email, or phone for an additional fee plus a shipping fee but to get the full experience I definitely recommend checking out the store itself!
While Friends certainly doesn’t boost the largest store or the most over-the-top displays, the store’s charm and good prices help it stand out as one of the best retro game stores in Akihabara. For retro gamers or collectors who find themselves in Tokyo, I highly recommend checking out Friends as your final stop if you’ve been spending your day rummaging through the larger stores and are looking for a more relaxed experience.
Comparison shopping is your friend, and since Friends generally has exceptional prices, you might get lucky and save yourself some yen. This also makes Friends an ideal spot for shoppers with limited time who don’t want to check everywhere! If you’re a casual collector or just someone looking for a cool souvenir, Friends has lots of great bargains, I’d recommend picking up a cheap loose Famicom cartridge with a cute design, they have many available for only a few bucks!
Personally, I had already bought a few games from stores in Den Den Town (aka Nipponbashi) in Osaka (which I also highly recommend, I actually like it more than Akihabara) before coming to Tokyo so I wasn’t necessarily looking to purchase anything when I went in but I was pleasantly surprised to find two mildly rare Japanese-exclusive Game Boy games, Penta Dragon and Daiku no Gen-san: Robot Teikoku no Yabou, at great prices that I couldn’t pass up! I think any retro enthusiast will have a fun time at Friends, I hope it continues to be good for years to come!
Have you been to Friends or other game shops in Akiba or elsewhere in Japan? Let us know in the comments what you think of it or if you’re looking for any cool rare games! Matane!