Comprehensive Guide: Where to buy original GameCube controllers in Japan

  • CULTURE
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    A boxed original GameCube controller found tucked onto a shelf above eye level in BEEP @ Akihabara.

    With the recent release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch, original GameCube controllers have become hot commodities. Production of new controllers has stalled, and among the Smash community some consider these new controllers slightly inferior to the originals anyway. With original GameCube controllers approaching their third decade in existence, less controllers are entering the used market with quality control stick rubber. All of these factors have led to prices spiking and people picking up any controller they come across.

    When I visited Tokyo in December of 2017, original GameCube controllers were somewhat plentiful. I even came across a pristine limited edition Club Nintendo controller for only 6200 yen at Trader 2 in Akihabara – totally out in the open! Nowadays, you will be lucky to even find a common silver or purple controller for 3000 yen. The sad truth is that when Super Smash Bros. Ultimate released in December 2018, every store’s stock of original GameCube controllers was immediately bought up by domestic and international shoppers alike. What that means for shoppers today is that there is no store that consistently has original GameCube controllers for sale. Supplies are now more or less at the mercy of Japanese empty nesters dumping their grown children’s forgotten vintage video game collections on the market.

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    Often, the only original GameCube controllers at Super Potato are those for its Super Smash Bros. Melee demo. That Super Potato can no longer keep a consistent stock of original GameCube controllers attests to the demand for them.

    When it comes to retroheads visiting Japan, there is a certain degree of fantasy that there are secret little shops in which you can dig through the junk bins to find super rare goods for bargain prices. While this may still be a phenomenon for truly forgotten items, used video game shops would have been run out of business long ago had they not been able to market and sell their valuable inventory. The fantasy is only somewhat founded, but perhaps less than the hype, based on the fact that the price of many used video game goods is cheapest in Japan.

    There is also a misconception that, because Akihabara is so oversaturated with tourists, you won’t be able to find what you want there. In this case, original GameCube controllers. This couldn’t be further from the truth! If you can’t find an original GameCube controllers in Akihabara, then you’re likely not going to find any in Tokyo or the big Kansai centers. Most stores in Akihabara are chains in Tokyo or throughout Japan that move “hot” items to their flagship stores in Akihabara. Therefore, Akihabara is your one-stop best bet for finding an original GameCube controller. However, each city will have its flagship store. If your itinerary includes heading to less visited cities such as Nagoya, Fukuoka, or Hiroshima, you may be able to find rare original GameCube controllers lurking in shops not yet hit by ravenous retroheads.

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    GameCube consoles are bundled with desirable original GameCube controllers in order to offload console stock.

    How you shop is as if not more important than where you shop. Before scrolling down for the list of best shops to find original GameCube controllers, keep these four tips in mind: look early, look offseason, and look online.

    Look early:

    If you plan to visit Akihabara on a summer Saturday night to get that cyberpunk vibe, that’s great. I highly suggest it. However, don’t expect to find an original GameCube controller. Stores are typically reorganized and restocked overnight, so make sure to get to Akihabara just before 10:00AM in order to be amongst the first to hit any given store.

    Look offseason:

    Summer tourists decimate the original GameCube controller market. You can follow the rules above and below, but chances are you still won’t be able to find a quality one. If you visit in fall, winter, or spring, or even very early summer, you stand a much better chance of finding not only an original GameCube controller, but even a rare one. Once the tourist offseason arrives, original GameCube controllers sit on the shelves for longer as the market transitions from international to domestic. Of course, most people don’t decide when to visit Japan to correlate with the most favorable original GameCube controller market, but go ahead and add it to the list of many reasons why visiting Japan during the offseason is the best.

    Look online:

    If you seek rare original GameCube controllers, Yahoo! Auctions is where you want to look. Often, you can find the same items listed on eBay but for up to 30% lower prices! However, unless you live in Japan, you will be forced to use a proxy service that can eat up a good portion of that price difference. Still, with the direction original GameCube prices are trending outside of Japan, the proxy service is often still worth it. Copy and paste “ゲームキューブ コントローラ” (literally “GameCube Controller”) into Yahoo! Auctions to commence your search. Have Google Translate ready in another tab because there is no English option for this website.

    Yahoo! Auctions Website *Japanese only

    Author's Photo

    A sample GameCube controller outside the ground floor shop of Retro Game Camp.

    It won’t always be possible to follow all of these tips, but at the very least by visiting Akihabara at opening time you will significantly increase your odds of finding an original GameCube controller. Without further ado, here are the most likely shops to find original GameCube controllers in Akihabara.

    1. BEEP @ Akihabara

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    BEEP @ Akihabara is a premiere hole-in-the-wall used video game store in Akihabara.

    I think this is objectively the coolest video game store in the world. What makes it even cooler is that it’s one of the most likely places to find an original GameCube controller. BEEP @ Akihabara is down a narrow staircase tucked into the side of another store, therefore it doesn’t have nearly as many tourists stumbling upon it. While the store is small and may only be carrying a couple controllers, those will stay on the shelf much longer than those at Super Potato which practically fly off the shelves when stocked.

    BEEP @ Akihabara website

    2. Super Potato

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    Famous internationally, Super Potato continues to be a must-go location for anyone visiting Akihabara due to its impressive collection of nostalgia-inducing retro games.

    If you know anything about Akihabara and know anything about retro gaming, you’ve heard of Super Potato. It’s the ultimate used video game store – three floors packed to the brim with video game demos, retro music, and every game or console you could ever want in excellent condition. GameCube products are on the 4th floor, and if you beeline to the right you’ll see GameCube consoles and (hopefully) original controllers organized neatly before you. Beware: Super Potato knows their reputation for having everything and prices accordingly for those who come knowing what they want. When I visited Super Potato last Saturday, they had just freshly stocked about nine original GameCube controllers. However, when I returned around 2 o’clock the next day, only 1 controller remained. Returning an hour later, that last controller was gone, too.

    Super Potato website *Japanese only

    3. Retro Game Camp

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    Retro Game Camp’s basement store offers a relatively clean and spacious layout that you can navigate without fear of knocking something over.

    Retro Game Camp is actually two stores – one at street level, and another down a flight of stairs one store over. For the street level store, head up to the second floor by means of the stairs at the back of the store and see what’s being offered. The basement shop will usually be the better bet, especially if you’re visiting a tad later in the day. Simply put, it has exponentially less traffic than the street level store. Watch out for their occasional store special where they will give you a 20% discount for beating a staff member at a specified game!

    Website

    4. TRADER Headquarters

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    The flagship store of TRADER. There are two other TRADER stores in Akihabara, each with mild variations in inventory.

    Don’t waste time – head to the second floor and look at the shelves in the back. TRADER is a large chain located on the main mall of Akihabara, and thus any controllers they stock will be swiped up quickly. Like some other shops, they will likely only have GameCube console + controller bundles for 4900 yen. They do this to get rid of their spare GameCube console stock. If you’re looking to get a Japanese GameCube anyways, or you just have to get a controller in Akihabara today and you can find no spares, these console + controller combos at TRADER Headquarters and Super Potato are your best bet. TRADER 2 is another decent location for used video game goods but you are not likely to find an original GameCube controller there. The lone Club Nintendo edition I found there 2 years ago was an anomaly and I would not count on finding it there again.

    TRADER website *Japanese only

    5. Surugaya Retro Game Store – Akihabara

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    Surugaya’s Retro Game Store has a dense and cost-effective offering of used video game goods.

    Surugaya has two tourist-paraphernalia locations on the main drag of Akihabara, but Surugaya’s third location is a retro game store in a backstreet behind the drag. While the location is less likely to have an original GameCube controller than the others on this list, it is still a top 5 location to try. Take a right immediately upon entering the store and see what you can find. I once asked the clerk if they might have any original GameCube controllers in the back and he was kind enough to look around for a few minutes before verifying they did not have any in stock. If not for an original GameCube controller, Surugaya Retro Game Store is certainly worth checking out for its more affordable pricing.

    6. HARD OFF Akihabara

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    The ultimate budget hardware store, Hard Off should be your first stop if you’re looking for bargain prices on select classic Japanese games.

    Hard Off Akihabara recently moved its GameBoy cartridges from the basement floor to its main used video game section on the second (or third?) floor, and even that main section has been consolidated. However, it is still one of the more neglected video game stores, which means it has a decent chance of having an original GameCube controller. It will sometimes have controller + console packages, so if you’re in the market, this may be more affordable than TRADER or Super Potato’s similar offerings.

    HARD OFF Akihabara website *Japanese only

    7. BOOK OFF Akihabara

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    The wildly successful Book Off is a used media chain throughout Japan, so it would be worth your time to check it out in other cities for better chances of finding original GameCube controllers.

    Despite common wisdom to check out BOOK OFF Akihabara, it has rather poor offerings when it comes to used video game hardware these days. I have not seen an original GameCube controller there in a long time. However, I include it in this list because it should, and it historically has. Perhaps Book Off is no longer able or willing to compete with the prices offered by other stores for used video game hardware.

    BOOK OFF Akihabara website *Japanese only

    BONUS ROUND: Kaden no Ken

    For making it through my lengthy guide, I am treating you to a secret used video game store few people know about – Kaden no Ken. Kaden no Ken is tucked into the back of the first floor of the Tokyo Radio Department Store, so it is criminally overlooked. Despite the somewhat dingy location, Kaden no Ken runs a solid operation with its physical location being frequented by serious Japanese customers and having what seems to be a flourishing online business. You’ll be quite shocked by the prices and selection of games out in the open – this is one of those “secret little shops” where everything is a bit too good to be true. Don’t expect everything you’re looking for to be there, but you’ll be hard pressed not to pick up a game or ten given the prices. Seriously, is Ken’s online business so good that he just puts video games on clearance out of good will for the lucky person who finds his shop?

    Kaden no Ken website *Japanese only

    Conclusion

    There are a few more video game stores in Akihabara, but until the market dramatically shifts you are unlikely to find original GameCube controllers in those locations. You can find third party CirKa GameCube controllers everywhere, but please don’t be fooled. These are the controllers that friends and family bring back to disappointed fans of the Smash Bros. franchise who asked them to buy a GameCube controller in Japan. I don’t anticipate a timeline in which original GameCube controllers depreciate in value, so my advice when you visit Japan would be to “rush the pumps” and grab any controller you see!