The world of video gaming has come a long way since the days of Pong and Space Invaders. Today, there are countless video games available across a variety of platforms and formats.  Two of the most popular formats for retro game collectors are cartridge-based video games and disc-based video games, and each has its own set of relative merits.

Cartridge-based Retro Games

Cartridge-based video games use physical cartridges to store the game data and simply slotted into a console before switching it on. These cartridges were popular in the early days of video gaming, and were used in systems such as the Atari 2600, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Sega Mega Drive. Cartridge-based video games tend to be preferred by collectors due to their durability and reliability, meaning they tend to better hold their value. Also, as these cartridge-based games are older than their disc-based counterparts, this makes them more sought after as quantities of the rarer games become scarcer.

One of the biggest advantages of cartridge-based video games is their durability. Unlike disc-based video games, which can be easily scratched or damaged, cartridges are much more durable and can withstand a significant amount of wear and tear. Even a well-worn, dirty cartridge can often be brought back to life with the aid of a little rubbing alcohol.

Due to the nature of the medium, cartridge-based games loaded virtually instantly, so although the games may not be as expansive as the modern games of today, they provide an immediacy that disc-based or downloadable games cannot compete with.

Cartridges are not without their downsides however. As they were often costly to manufacture, not all games were produced in large quantities, meaning that even the more mediocre games become hard to find. This is great if you’re a collector that already has the game, but less so if you’re someone looking for that particular game in good condition.

A more recent problem facing buyers of retro game cartridges is that with time, those games that contain batteries used to save games have inevitably seen their batteries run flat. These games can still be played, but without the ability to save any progress, their value drops. The batteries can be replaced, but as they are often soldered to the internal boards, specialist tools and skills are required. Fortunately, a number of websites have popped up offering this service, but it’s still an unwanted additional expense.

Disc-based Retro Games

On the other hand, disc-based video games have their own set of relative merits. One of the biggest advantages of disc-based video games is the amount of storage space they offer. Unlike cartridges, which offer only a limited amount of storage space, disc-based games can store significantly more data, allowing for larger and more complex games and varied soundtracks.

Disc-based games were often produced in far greater quantities, partly due to the growing popular in gaming, but also due to lower production costs, meaning it’s easier to pick up classic games for disc-based formats than those on cartridges. Many of the disc-based games were sold in more compact cases, making them easier to store in large quantities – although owners of PAL Dreamcast games with their terribly fragile cases may disagree.

Storing games on discs is not without its disadvantages; the most significant being the ease in which discs can be damaged. Even when taking good care of your games, it’s not difficult for them to pick up scuffs and scratches, instantly devaluing them to a collector. Some formats, such as the Sega Saturn or Mega CD used particularly thin discs so when trying to repair scratches, great care has to be taken not to ruin the discs completely.

When it comes to playing disc-based games, there is an inevitable trade-off for that ability to play larger games and that is loading times. Early disc-based consoles had slow disc drives, notably the notoriously slow Neo Geo CD, which can lead to painful pauses in gameplay while the next part of the game was loaded.


In conclusion, both cartridge-based video games and disc-based video games have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the choice between these two formats will come down to personal preferences and the specific needs of each individual gamer. Whether you choose to collect cartridge-based games or disc-based games, you are sure to enjoy the rich and diverse world of video gaming.

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