Game Collector: Big Game Hunters

The Game Collector looks at the best games...that the least amount of money can buy.

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Money's tight and getting tighter, and that means you need better mileage out of your gaming dollar. But before you go diving into a bargain bin, wait! Life is too short to waste playing bad video games; no matter how little they cost, it's always too much. Besides, there are better options. If you do a little digging, you can unearth some real gems for costume jewelry prices. To prove it, Game Collector has cobbled together a list of outright amazing video games--all currently retailing at major outlets for 30 dollars or less. And these games aren't just good, they're gold. Every single one got at least a 9.0 from a GameSpot review, meaning they were worth picking up when they were full price. And now they're all on sale at half price or better, so you won't have to take up a collection to collect any of these cheap thrills.

PLEASE NOTE: Other versions of these games are definitely available for other platforms, but only the highest-scoring, and cheapest, versions of these games have been included for your discount shopping pleasure.

The Most Hunted

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Coming and going in Portal never gets old.
Coming and going in Portal never gets old.

The Orange Box

Release Dates: Oct 10, 2007 (X360), Dec 11, 2007 (PS3)

It doesn't take a nuclear physicist to figure out that The Orange Box is a great deal. For half the price of a new game, this smorgasbord includes Half-Life 2 (plus Episodes 1 and 2), Team Fortress 2, and Portal. Half-Life 2 is one of the best first-person shooters ever made, and the two episodes add nearly 10 hours of playtime to the core game. Team Fortress 2 is the sequel to one of the most important online shooters of all time, and features great artwork and class-based online action that can keep you fragging for dozens and dozens of hours. And finally, Portal wasn't just the funniest game of 2007, it also featured the year's most innovative play mechanic. By itself, Portal belongs in every collection, even the Smithsonian's. But for very little money, all these great games can belong in yours.

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The only thing better than crashing on a motorcycle is crashing into one.
The only thing better than crashing on a motorcycle is crashing into one.

Burnout Paradise

Release Dates: Jan 22, 2008 (X360), Jan 22, 2008 (PS3)

Burnout Paradise is a fascinating game. It takes the open-world, online play style pioneered in Test Drive Unlimited and couples it with the Burnout series' action-packed, thrash-and-burn gameplay. The result is one of the best racers on the road, where online and offline opponents cruise the same streets at the same time, and you can basically do anything you want as long as it involves driving fast, crashing, or both. The game takes place in the eponymous Paradise City, a locale that serves triple duty as setting, victim, and front end. It's a setting because it's where you drive; a victim because it's what you'll wreck; and a front end because you'll never have to jump out to a menu to change modes or go online--everything you could ever want to run over or crash into is right here in Paradise City...and it's also downloadable at a discount price as well on the PlayStation Network.

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Kratos smash!
Kratos smash!

God of War II

Release Dates: Mar 13, 2007 (PS2)

Have you begun to detect a pattern? This is yet another one of the greatest video games ever made, and it's only a third of the price of a new Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 game. Like its star, Kratos, this game has no weaknesses, only terrifying strengths. Its graphics still look pretty good on HDTVs, and its epic boss fights have been copied by nearly every action game that's come out in the last few years. You should get this game now, because when retail chains stop carrying it, it's going to go from ludicrously cheap to ludicrously expensive should it become a collector's item. If you're a fan of brutal action adventure games, don't hesitate to add it to your collection now.

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You can be as bad as you want to be.
You can be as bad as you want to be.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Release Dates: Mar 20, 2006 (X360), Mar 20, 2006 (PC)

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is quite possibly the best, cheapest current-gen game money can buy. It provides dozens of hours of open-world role-playing for a third of the cost of a new game. It could take you 50 hours to play through once, and it's worth playing through at least twice. That's because you're free to take any approach to the drama unfolding within its expertly wrought code. If you want to be a muscle-bound, bone-crushing defender of goodness and justice, you can be. Or, you can kill everyone you come across and wreck entire townships as a stealthy wizard. It's your world, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion should be your game.

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They speak Spanish, and they carry a big stick.
They speak Spanish, and they carry a big stick.

Resident Evil 4

Release Dates: Oct 25, 2005 (PS2)

Believe it or not, there are people reading this story right now who haven't played Resident Evil 4 yet. But that's OK. That just means they have something great to look forward to, because the fourth entry in Capcom's survival horror series is a masterpiece of digital design, and now you can get it for a song. It takes a Spanish vacation from Raccoon City, dropping you off in a rural area where you're searching for the president's daughter. You bump into some creepy villagers, run afoul of wicked cultists, and do battle with awesome bosses. There's a lot more we'd like to say, but why not find out for yourself what the fuss was all about? It sure won't cost you very much.

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Rainbow Six Vegas perfected the cover system.
Rainbow Six Vegas perfected the cover system.

Rainbow Six: Vegas

Release Dates: Nov 20, 2006 (X360)

Rainbow Six: Vegas is an outstanding tactical shooter and a dual threat to your spare time. It can pin you down for hours with its gripping single-player campaign. Meanwhile, its deep multiplayer will sneak up from behind and eliminate the rest of your leisure time with extreme prejudice. And though it takes a relatively realistic and tactical approach to action, Vegas' intuitive controls make it surprisingly easy to pick up and play. It's hard but not frustrating, and though it can be intimidating, it's also intuitive. This game really gets the balance right, and that's what made it such a compelling purchase when it first came out. Now that its price has been reduced, it should be one of your primary objectives.

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The only one who won't pay a heavy price for your tank rampage is you.
The only one who won't pay a heavy price for your tank rampage is you.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 2nd Edition

Release Dates: Jun 7, 2005 (PC)

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is one of the best games ever made, and one of the most controversial. Its "Hot Coffee" scandal caused publisher Rockstar all sorts of trouble, and the 2nd Edition is the product of that controversy. When the game was pulled from store shelves for its hidden sexually explicit content, this is the version Rockstar replaced it with. Historical relevance aside, San Andreas is a great game about a young man who returns home to avenge the death of his mother. It features a great soundtrack, awesome voice work, an engrossing plot, and the open-world freedom the series is famous for. It's a fine piece of work, a small piece of history, and only costs a little bit of money.

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It actually looks like this.
It actually looks like this.

Okami

Release Dates: Sep 19, 2006 (PS2)

Okami is the masterpiece of the now defunct Clover Studio. This innovative game seemed ahead of its time, showing that analog sticks are capable of incredible things at a time when motion controls were all the rage. This game out-Wii'd the Wii before Nintendo's funky system even hit store shelves, and the crazy thing is that no one even noticed. If they had, they also would have been hip to one of the very best games of 2006. Okami is an open-world adventure in the same vein as The Legend of Zelda, except that you assume the role of a goddess wolf called Amaterasu. In the game, you can actually paint over reality with a magic paintbrush, leading to all sorts of completely revolutionary play mechanics, like painting lines through enemies to slash them or painting gusts of wind to blow yourself across a pond on a lily pad. And to top it all off, Okami's distinctive art direction makes the game look like a Japanese watercolor painting in motion. It's a fitting motif, because this modestly priced game is undoubtedly a work of fine art.

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This game's low price tag will knock you out.
This game's low price tag will knock you out.

Tekken: Dark Resurrection

Release Dates: Jul 25, 2006 (PSP)

Tekken: Dark Resurrection is a supersolid fighting game and a great value for PSP owners. It features 34 characters, all of whom are playable from the outset, as well as that great Tekken gameplay millions of fighting fans have come to know and love. There's a currency system with tons of unlockable content, and you can challenge other players to wireless fights over an ad hoc connection. And because this is one of the most popular PSP games yet, you should still be able to find some competition among your PSP-owning friends. But before you step into the ring against them, be prepared to be blown away by this game's graphics; like everything else in Tekken, they pack incredible punch. The only thing about this game that isn't big and strong is its little price tag.

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Patapon is as fun to play as it is to look at.
Patapon is as fun to play as it is to look at.

Patapon

Release Dates: Feb 26, 2008 (PSP)

Patapon is a gloriously creative and quirky game from the same studio that produced the deliciously cute LocoRoco. But where its first effort was a little on the short side, Patapon is just right. It's also completely unique in the way it blends rhythm gameplay with side-scrolling tactical combat. Though it follows the exploits of a little band of warriors attempting to reclaim their homeland, you actually play as their god, commanding them through the beats of four war drums. You'll tap out commanding beats and they'll move accordingly. If you think that sounds interesting, you should see it in action. Patapon looks like a million bucks, though it only costs a few.

So there you go--a list of 10 incredible games, all available for reasonable prices from a variety of mainstream retailers. They aren't the newest or the shiniest, but they're easily among the smartest purchases you could make in these tight times.

Have you spotted a great deal that's not on this list? Let us know with a comment.

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