Part 1 - The Legend of Game Monster
Aaron: It's a pretty tough pill to swallow; no one wants to see something that has made a solid impact on your life just fade away. Sadly, that time has come in our lives here in the Midwest.
One of our local retro stores is closing up shop for good, and it stings. This particular store is only a few miles away from my location and it has been a cornerstone of our Main Street area for nearly a decade. Gamers were given a solid and extremely fair option to trade and acquire both retro and new games. This is something that was becoming more obscure as commercial chains started to focus exclusively on new games, if they didn't just shut down altogether and fold up like Saturday night laundry.
For those not from this area, I'm referring to Game Monster. A locally owned and operated Video Game retail store. I've been a pretty regular face at Game Monster for a while now and I've loved everything about their store. It's been one of my biggest inspirations for wanting to own a game store myself. Back in college, I even threw together a potential website for them. Needless to say, this store meant a lot to me.
For years now, they've been located on Main Street, Festus, Missouri. Prior to this location they could be found in two other locations throughout the St. Louis-Missouri area. Those two stores, sadly, ended up closing down, but the one in Festus prevailed. Due to it's dependability, it became a weekend staple for me.
That was until this unfortunate Facebook post one winter morning.
My heart plummeted...
We know that the Main Street area has fallen upon some hard times recently. Shops have closed their doors or reduced their hours. It's something that has been ongoing for the last few years as we've lost a few thrift stores and consignment/resale shops. Even our local comic book store has struggled recently.
Nevertheless, we visit regularly and we believed that Game Monster would persist. Unfortunately we're all beginning to get ready to say goodbye to a local staple for retro gamers. Thankfully we still have some strong options in the St. Louis area (Bodach's, Trade-N-Games, and Game Trader II to name a few) so it's not all doom and gloom for the brick and mortar scene at the moment.
That said, the impact Game Monster had on gamers in the local area can't be understated. The selection was great with their fair prices and the staff was always friendly and ready to help. Most importantly, it felt like they cared. Many game stores these days in my opinion are carried largely by their atmosphere. Coming in, browsing, chatting with the clerk(s), and making great connections make these stores such a blessing to have.
This was especially prevalent at Game Monster.
One of my favorite stories is how Helntaro would come in and chat with the staff over Pokemon for what felt like hours. To pass the time, I'd take a game, find a demo system and attempt to speedrun it before they finished their conversation.
That's just one of the many examples that showcased how the people at Game Monster cared about their jobs and enjoyed helping out other gamers.
To share another memory, below is a photo of us at their Black Friday sale a few years back.
It's should be noted that this was also the same Black Friday sale where I ended up getting my Virtual Boy unit that I cherish so much. This is just one of the many great things I got from this store. The biggest thing I'll take away from it all are memories, and the people I met there. I made some good friends and connections that only exacerbated my mad descent into game chasing and collecting.
Rather than going over the numerous things I've gotten from them, I'd rather talk about one piece that I consider to be my most memorable purchase from Game Monster. But first, a little story time...
'bout a year ago, a collector wandered into Game Monster and off-loaded one of their best hauls they've ever recieved. It was a massive and pristine bundle of Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) games. It was so big that the staff decided to take to Facebook as a means of generating some hype for the new merchandise.
The next day they went live and unveiled a goldmine for SNES collectors. I remember watching this video excitedly and shortly after, we prepared a trip to the store to scope out the games in person. If you want to go ahead and skip to 8:20 in the video that's where it starts to become relevant to my story. If not, feel free to listen to both Mike and TJ go on about what an awesome collection it is.
I'd also like to take just a moment to thank both of them. They were a pleasure to do business with and they both gave me some of my fondest memories of Game Monster.
Shortly after this video was posted, I ended up buying that complete in box (CIB) copy of The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, and it's by far the most cherished piece I've collected from Game Monster. Not only is it a fantastic game, but the condition of everything (including the box) is beyond mint and absolutely splendid. I fully intend to frame the map soon so I can display it more properly.
Like I've already stated, the fun doesn't end there. I've had many treasured items that came from Game Monster. While my story is going to end here, I'm sure I'll cover these other acquisitions sometime in the future. For now, I'd like to close with a big thanks to the staff of Game Monster, as well as the Perez family for giving us nearly a decade of great service and experiences.
While Game Monster's story ends here, it's legacy will go on through it's many patrons and fans. Maybe some day, a new game shop will pick up the torch and bring the retro collecting scene back to Festus.
But for now it's time to turn the page.
Part 2 - The Store that helped us "Catch 'Em All"
Helntaro: Though I don’t have as long a history with Game Monster as Aaron does, my history with the store is still rich with fond memories. When you come in every Saturday for the games but stay because you become friends with the workers, that’s when the store becomes more than just a store.
When the building is alive with excited Smash Brothers fans before a tournament, it becomes more than a place of commerce; it is a place for connection and camaraderie. Game Monster was so much more than just a video game store. The owners always went above and beyond with their fun events to bring gamers in, but more importantly, keep them coming in. From Call of Duty and Smash Bros tournaments to free play days on new systems, Game Monster was a great place to spend your Saturdays.
For many gamers in our area, this was THE place to meet and connect with other gamers.
I’m definitely going to miss these special events and the friendly faces at the events when the store closes its doors for the last time next month.
The customer service at Game Monster was always top notch. I remember one time I brought in a Gameboy game to have the internal battery replaced. Instead of merely changing the battery, the clerk cleaned the game’s case and contacts, both inside and out, AND removed a sticky, ten-year-old GameStop label from the cartridge, all for less than five dollars. Game Monster did these things just because they could. This is the kind of business plan that all retro stores should adopt: going above and beyond to restore a customer’s beloved game.
Nice job, Game Monster.
If I had to choose a favorite memory, it would probably have to be a sleepy Saturday a few months ago when Mike and I played Pokemon together for so long that Aaron decided to try to speed run the original Metal Gear Solid on the store’s demo PS2. He got most of the way through the first disc in the time it took both Mike and I to get all three of the Johto starter Pokemon on the virtual console releases of Gold and Silver. Many good times were had at The Monster.
Every trip to Game Monster was a great one. There have been many times where Aaron and I found ourselves standing amidst the store’s many shelves of vintage games deciding if we really needed another N64, Genesis, or Super Nintendo game. Spoiler alert: We did. 🙂
I’ve acquired some great things from Game Monster over the years, both from the store itself and from friends that I’ve made there throughout the years. These pieces in my collection are some of my favorites because of the stories associated with them. I’ll always hold them dear to my heart.
With this said, Game Monster, you will be missed.
To the Perez family, thank you for the (almost) decade of memories and treasures.
The Game Monster save file will always be stored on my memory card. <3
Thank You, Game Monster.
Below is a gallery of our most recent visit. Unfortunately probably one of the last we will have too.