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If you collect video games, or are holding onto a batch of your childhood favorites, chances are you have more than a few loose carts and discs in your collection. Many retro games came in flimsy cardboard boxes, and I’m willing to bet I wasn’t the only person whose family got rid of game cases in favor of those giant CD binders.
While not every game needs to be stored in a box—SNES carts stack on top of each other just fine—a box is almost always preferable. Not only does a row of crisp game cases look better than a pile of loose carts, they also securely keep small Game Boy or Nintendo DS games secure, and keep disc-based games safe from scratches and sun damage. Unfortunately, it’s tough to find the original box for any game older than the PlayStation 4 era, and the older the game, the rarer—and more expensive—those boxes can be.
The good news is, you don’t need to buy an original box to safely store and display your unboxed video games without resorting to giant bins or ugly CD binders.
The case for repro cases
One of the best ways to store your loose games is with repro boxes. “Repro” is short for reproduction, and simply means the item is a recreation of the original product. You’ll often find repro video game cases, labels, and instruction manuals in the collection scene. Repro copies of game cartridges and discs are even common—but that discussion deserves its own post.
Despite the commonality, “Repro” is a bad word in some collector circles and online communities. This aversion usually stems from collectors only wanting the authentic, original pieces, but there are also concerns scammers will try to pass a repro box or game off as the real thing and sell them at high prices.
However, if all you’re after is a box to safely store your game on your shelf—and you’re not trying to pass it off as the real thing—then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using repros or custom cases. While these aren’t the “authentic” packaging, they are more affordable and readily available than rare and expensive originals, and often more durable, too.
There are many companies and independent sellers making high-quality repro cases and labels. One of the most well-known is Custom Game Cases, which sells affordable boxes for numerous retro consoles and handhelds like the SNES, Sega Genesis, Game Boy Advance, and more, as well as high-resolution labels of the original box art for hundreds of games. Unlike the flimsy cardboard boxes these original games came in, Custom Game Cases sells plastic clamshells that are custom molded to securely hold your games.
Repro boxes aren’t just a retro gaming thing, either. It’s pretty easy to find repro cases for newer, disc-based systems on those sites as well, which can be handy if you buy a used PlayStation 4 or 5 game that’s missing its original label.
DIY video game cases and labels
Not only are repro cases more affordable, available, and durable, but they’re also customizable. For example, maybe you prefer the Japanese box art of your favorite RPG over the North American version. Many sellers will offer cases with alternate or custom box art.
Or, if you can’t find the case or art you want, you can create it yourself instead.
Blank game boxes for just about every platform are inexpensive on Amazon, and high-resolution box art is easy to find on sites like Moby Games or through Google Image Search. From there, you can print it yourself. In my case, I made a custom box for my Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millennium cart that uses the (vastly superior) Japanese box art, but with the original English box’s text.
There are other DIY options out there, too, like storing Game Boy or Nintendo DS carts in cassette tape cases, or SNES and N64 games in plastic sleeves with custom end labels. These are obviously even less authentic than repro cases, but it can be fun to display your collection in novel ways like this.