On a Friday afternoon in the fall, I got off the bus and was greeted by my dad, still in his suit and tie from work, grinning ear to ear. As my 7-year-old self bounded up the driveway, I figured he was happy it was Friday. After a hug and inquiring about my day, he posed a question.
“Would you like to go buy your Nintendo 64 today?”
I had already raced to my room to gather my money. Saved up from birthdays, allowance, and extra chores, I proudly had enough money to buy my game system. I remember eagerly picking it out and proudly paying for it myself. Perhaps that’s why 23 years later, that same Nintendo sits in my room with a cartridge ready to play and works as well as it did the day I brought it home.
Thus began a lifelong appreciation for visual arts and video games. From my Nintendo 64 to GameBoy Advance, the original Xbox and the jump to a PS3 with systems in between. Gaming has come a long way since I first picked up the purple translucent controller that’s become synonymous with the N64, and so has the merchandise.
Bottom Line Up Front
Simply stated, there is more merchandise for gaming franchises than games. As someone who has a distinct appreciation for the minutiae of apparel and collectibles with housewares and accessories tossed in for some variety, I’ve found the things I enjoy the most and as any good gamer does, it’s time to share. I’ve put together a list of what I find the most intriguing and worthwhile merchandise for gamers far and wide. Here, I will show you the tips and tricks to finding the best product with the least amount of hassle, getting the top product without spending the absolute top dollar, and how to spot unlicensed, fake merchandise 10 miles away through a dense fog.
My top merchandise pick is the Super Mario 64 Question Mark Block LEGO set. Super Mario 64 was the first game I played, and since this brick is moveable, I have a very soft spot in my heart for it. Later in the guide, I’ll break down the various levels that can be built off of the brick, and you’ll see why this is a must-have for someone who got their gaming start with Super Mario 64. It certainly seems like I’m going to have to get it.
Do you think I’m going to go at this willy-nilly? Guess again, my friend. Figuring out the best stuff to buy for the money spent goes by a tier system for me. I believe in quality over quantity when regarding finding the right gear. I also believe in finding the best bang for your buck, so those factors have been my two overarching themes throughout compiling this guide. As an example, I love t-shirts. I know the best material for a t-shirt is cotton, and the top sites to find what you’re looking for. Ready? Here we go! (If you read that in Mario’s voice, this works so much better.)
You have to pay homage to the roots of gaming. Like most t-shirts, this is a unisex piece, pre-washed to keep the shrink factor minimal.
I’ll give you a heads-up now; PlayStation is typically my platform of choice, so of course, this cotton crewneck t-shirt caught my eye. It’s expressive and doesn’t need a logo to show what system you’re playing. I won’t let my preference bias my picks, I promise.
I think it’s safe to say that when you think of Xbox, you think of Halo. It’s one of the hallmark games for the brand, and as such, the wake-up juice is a sweet tribute to the Infinite iteration of the game but a conversation starter with those who may not be in the know.
If you like science, video games, and a good joke, I have the shirt for you. A cotton shirt for a quick laugh and a good way to show anyone interested that gaming is a hobby you enjoy is a good purchase by my standards.
Another great cotton shirt for a laugh; are you sensing a theme in my decision-making? It has a retro look and feels and is perfect for someone my age to wear. And if you’re wondering, yes, I feel old.
Post-apocalyptic landscapes are a hallmark of games with good open-world landscapes. Fallout is no exception, and the iconic Vault Boy wink is a perfect way to show off your tactical gaming know-how with some comfy pajama pants.
Do you like Nintendo? Do you like bright colors? Do you have a hard time deciding which character is your favorite? If you said yes to any of these questions, then these pajama pants were made with you in mind. Now you don’t have to choose simply slip your hands into your pockets and call it a day.
Another solid throwback from my childhood is the craziest apes out there. Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong are out of the barrel and better than ever one some cozy pants for long, lazy gaming sessions.
Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde were never so obnoxious as when I was doing well at a game of Pac-Man and ran out of fruit to chase them away. Call me a pessimist, but I can’t foresee good dreams in these nightmarish memories.
Socks: The Best Stocking Stuffer
Remember the exhilaration of running as fast as you could down the hallway, gliding into the kitchen in socks with zero grace, and flailing limbs before hitting the ground in a blaze of glory? So do I. Keep the party going with the litany of socks I’ve found for you, and let me know which ones send you the farthest.
Tie-dye and crew high for comfort and style.
Three pairs of socks for three different sock-requiring situations.
Three retro pairs of socks to feel three times older than you thought you were going to.
Bright green with a face that’s just a little mean.
Three pairs of multicolored socks for playing PS3.
Two pairs of socks for when you need some speed.
Three pairs for three times when you realized Xbox and three socks kind of rhymes.
Two pairs of socks to show your love for Mario or Luigi or have Christmas-colored feet on a day of indecision.
Two pairs of socks for when you can’t decide if you want to eat dots or hunt the titular character of the franchise.
The fully padded, durable carrying case is made to be taken wherever the journey leads. While holding all the essential pieces to your Series S. The case holds the Series S system, padded around all four sides to keep it safe and snug during transport. There is ample room for two Xbox controllers, a pocket for the HDMI cable, a power cord, and an inner pocket to store an expansion card. All products are firmly in place with a zipper closure and travel handle. This soft side case is a durable structure but not for rough travel.
If you’re planning on taking a trip where there are going to be bumps in the road, a shaky flight, or you’re planning on flinging your game console out a window, this case was made for you. A custom-designed hardshell exterior insulated with egg-crate foam padding allows for surface density to keep the case durability high. The console fits like a glove with a foam layer over top, a foam insert for your controller, and room for cables on the foam layer top. Dual latch closures below the handle and a spot for a padlock make this the Fort Knox of Xbox travel cases.
This case is tailor-made for taking your Nintendo Switch on the road. The console fits into the main space, with mesh compartments to hold wires and cables, Joy-Con, controller, adapters, and anything you may need to make this portable in a flash. The exterior presents as a softer material, but it encases the durable material inside that holds the rectangular build.
Ripstop Nylon covers the shell that keeps the console safe. This case works for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4/PlayStation 4 Pro. The console lays flat and protected with overlay. Compartments for two controllers, an HDMI cable, and a headset sit on the other side of the console compartment, as well as an external pocket for easy access to power cables, another HDMI, and perhaps a snack; whatever you need to carry is ready. The sling carrying feature is optional, and the padded dividers don’t let anything move around if you decide to throw it over your shoulder and run.
A dual outer shell protects your Quest 2. The case is so light that the weight you feel is the system itself, which is well-protected throughout the interior. Because of the shape, Meta uses to safely encase the VR headset, the foam inside is contoured to keep anything from moving, yet spacious enough to hold the controllers, cables, power adapter, and Elite Strap. The case is made with a recessed dual zipper for easy access inside but is safe and secure. A must-have for the VR gamer on the go.
The Green Hill Zone is well known to anyone that has played Sonic in the past. The zone includes a palm tree, bridge loops, rings, TV screens, Dr. Eggman’s Eggmobile, and spring for Super Sonic Jumps. As Ideas sets go, this one is a no-brainer as something that needs to add to your collection. Unlike within the confines of the TV, you can build this out however you want! Chaos Emeralds are waiting for you as you profess, and the Sonic mini-figure looks proud to have you as his builder. The Green Hill Zone set was voted for by thousands upon thousands of LEGO enthusiasts; this is a pretty super deal.
Nostalgia hits hard here. Building the controller, cartridge, system, and TV and making it all move is crazy. The iconic Super Mario background is the TV on the Starter Course. You build the locking functions to create a hyper-realistic set. The TV has many interactive features, with the ability to make the set and Mario move without any batteries; it’s all you, my friend. The NES console is a mainstay in retro gaming, and this looks like the real thing. The TV is straight out of the 1980s, the brick layout style is like looking at yesteryear. In 2,646 pieces, you have a working game.
If you have played any Super Mario game, you know that slamming Mario’s head into a question mark block could be the best decision you made the entire level, or your dreams could come crashing down around you, and you have to start over. Don’t feel bad; I’ve been in both positions. The recreation of the levels from my intro to gaming open as the block is built out: Princess Peach’s Castle, Bob-omb Battlefield, Cool, Cool Mountain, and Lethal Lava Trouble.
The last one was my favorite. Ten iconic micro-figures: Mario, Yoshi, Princess Peach, King Bob-omb. Chain Chomp, Big Bully, Mr. I, Lakitu, penguin, and baby penguin come included with the set. Ten hidden Power Stars lurk within the 2,064 piece set. Can you find them all?
Five Super Mario play-sets come together in one fantastical, interactive grouping. You have 16 figures to choose from: Luigi, Pink Yoshi, Boom Boom, Boss Sumo Bro, Lakitu and Kamek, a Bone Goomba, Crowber, Fuzzy, Bullet Bill, Blue Toad, 2 Reznors, Grrrol, Rocky Wrench, and a Goomba. The five sets in the bundle are the Adventures with Luigi Starter Course with four expansion sets: Boss Sumo Bro Topple Tower Expansion Set, Lakitu Sky World Expansion Set, Reznor Knockdown Expansion Set, and Bowser’s Airship Expansion Set. This is a rad set for ages 8+, but if you get a glimpse at how cool Bowser looks on his own, you might want to build that shelled nightmare yourself and keep him on display.
Luigi has a mansion rife with ghosts and gems, minor jump scares, and the occasional moment of anxiety. The bundle is four sets: Adventures with Luigi Starter Course, Luigi’s Mansion Lab and Poltergust Expansion Set, Luigi’s Mansion Entryway Expansion Set, and the Luigi’s Mansion Haunt-and-Seek Expansion set. Thirteen figures: Luigi, Pink Yoshi, Boom Boom, Professor E. Gadd, Polterpup, Bogmire, Toad and King Boo, a Bone Goomba, Gold Ghost, Garbage Can Ghost, and Grabbing Ghost.
There are endless ways to build and play for ages 8+, the experience is enhanced with Luigi being able to give responses expressively through an LCD screen. Download the companion app for more inspiration, but the building levels will keep builders young and old entertained.
NEW RELEASE: The Mighty Bowser set isn’t hitting shelves until October 2022, but that isn’t going to stop me from letting you guys in on the good news now! Bowser is here to stay and display, and like always, he didn’t come to play. If you’re like me and this was your go-to game when you were a kid, then you are already over the moon that King Koopa is back and ready to be built. Coming with the lethal spikes we avoided like the plague and posable limbs and hands to stand at the ready on his battle platform, could we ask for more? Everyone, get this. He’s made for 18+. He’s a grown-up build! I need to calm down!
NEW RELEASE: I know, two pieces of sweet news in two paragraphs. What a time to be alive. Dropping on August 1st, 2022 (you know I’m going to scoop it up as soon as possible) Atari’s buildable system replica is transporting us back to the dawn of gaming. Yes, this is a little before my time, but I’m lying if I say I haven’t played hours of Atari once I found a system. Something about the 8-bit glory just stood out to me, and to this day, I’m happy to grab a joystick, pop in a cartridge, and play. The console will build out just like the 1980s model and has all the retro details you’re looking for.
Assembling three game cartridges; classics, of course: Asteroids, Adventure, and Centipede. They’ll pop into the console just like they did the first time. My wish list is getting longer than I can afford.
I don’t want to brag, but I’m very good at Tetris. I’m also very good at napping. Put those two talents together, and what do you have? A sleeping gamer. But worry not, I woke myself up to get cozy under this throw blanket and fit shapes into even lines until kingdom come. Or until I have to go to work. Touted as a silk touch blanket, we know it’s going to be snuggly and comfortable with one of my favorite games coming to life and to keep me toasty.
I’m thoroughly convinced that adulthood is finding joy in ridiculous things for your home. For me, apparently, it’s coasters. A drink leaves a ring on a table, and if it can be avoided, why are we letting it slide? Eight classic games: Excitebike, Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 2, Super Mario 3, Metroid, Duck Hunt, and Legend of Zelda will keep eight drinks off your table and fresh.
A 16-ounce ceramic mug with a simple logo to hold a beverage in the morning so I can take on the day with some caffeine and a pep in my step? Count me in. It’s dishwasher safe too? Can this get any better? Depending on how the coffee tastes, probably!
I’m sure this will be a little on the difficult side to wash, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice for how cool it looks. The 11-ounce mug has a really solid grip with a PlayStation 4 controller as the handle. Again, probably a little tough to wash depending on how aggressively you drink your coffee, but hey, to each their own. It’s a durable ceramic piece, so have at it.
This is a fun addition to a kids’ room or the office of someone who is very proudly a Super Mario fan. Mario is at the end of the socket pull-chain, and the iconic Question Mark Block is over his head, a constant reminder that we never know what’s coming next, or something kind of deep like that.
A Couple Fun Things
I’m sure you’ve also stared down at the blue liquid suspension that the dodecahedron of truth sat in, waiting for an answer to the greatest mysteries and questions you had at the time. Magic 8 Balls are pretty spot on and super legitimate in the answers they give, although I’m still waiting to hear what kind of cereal I should have had one morning when I was around 10 or so.
Lucky Charms or Cap’n Crunch? I wasn’t asking a lot but evidently 20 years of “ask again later” isn’t enough time to yield the results I’m looking for. Maybe I’ll have better luck with this Magic 8 Ball iteration. Or maybe I’ll still be wondering what cereal to eat.
I like playing cards and I like playing PlayStation. I enjoy collecting memorabilia, so when you add this entire thing together, I’m basically holding the key to a great gift to give myself or someone very similar to me. Enjoy the PlayStation symbols we know and love as you play another round of Go Fish.
The realm of merchandise when it comes to gaming is vast. I found the things in this guide based on what I would like to own, what I would like to wear, and what I think people at large would want in their collection. That’s one beautiful thing about gaming though. Even though it’s a competitive world, and now there are entire teams dedicated to playing for money, video games are some of the memories we hold closest to our hearts.
Cheesy as it sounds, every Legend of Zelda fan remembers playing the Song of Time in the Temple of Time to gain the Master Sword. Every Super Mario 64 player remembers when they beat the final Bowser and Mario’s cap adorned itself with wings. The Last of Us fans know the Firefly logo and well up at Joel and Ellie’s ersatz familial relationship. I could go on ad infinitum.
Merchandise like this takes us back to those moments that we felt while we played those video games. Those items sit on our desks or we wear them on our backs, or we pack up our consoles and go create new memories. Gaming is nostalgia and the future mixed into one lump of fantastic confusion.
I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: There are so Many Options. Where do I Find Licensed Merchandise?
Answer: I can’t recommend websites like Fifth Sun Apparel, BioWorld Merchandising, Friday89, Seven Times Six, and Box Lunch enough. All legitimate companies with the gamers’ best interest at heart. You can’t go wrong at Target, Walmart, GameStop, or Hot Topic. Macy’s, Sears, Kohl’s, and a handful of other big-box chain stores will carry legitimate merchandise.
Question: If I’m Using Google Shopping How do I Know I’m Getting the Right Merchandise?
Answer: Google Shopping has a blue checkmark next to “Trusted Stores” and will let you know with ratings and customer feedback if where you’re looking is a good idea. Amazon is hit or miss because third-party sellers can make a buck off advertising licensed merchandise and sending you something of a bootleg version. Hence why I made you this guide.
Question: What is the Best Gaming System?
Answer: Talk about a personal choice. You know my picks, but everyone is different. Depending on your favorite game genre, you may gravitate towards one system over another. Horror/survival games? PlayStation. Easy-going, less violent games? Nintendo. Everything else? You have to be the judge of that, my friend.