I went to Seattle's retro-gaming paradise, and it blew away my expectations — see what it's like to visit the legendary 'Pink Gorilla'

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderVideo games!
  • Seattle is home to an iconic video game store named “Pink Gorilla.”
  • The store has two locations, and aims to re-create the organised chaos of Tokyo’s gaming stores.
  • On a trip to Seattle in January, I went to the original Pink Gorilla location to see what all the hype was about – and it was even better than I expected.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Seattle’s Pink Gorilla is a delightful, unique video game store.

Its two locations in Seattle are a pilgrimage for video game devotees, and I finally made the trip during a visit to the area earlier this year.

Now that I have, I’m here to tell you: It lives up to the hype.

It outshines the hype, even.

Here’s what it’s like:

The original Pink Gorilla location is in Seattle’s Chinatown/International district, in the basement of a mall.

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderLike most video game stores, Pink Gorilla is open to customer trade-ins and also buys games — in addition to selling stuff, of course.

Before you even get inside, the outer windows of Pink Gorilla are filled with gaming history.

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderHere’s an NES, seemingly dipped in carbonite.

This R.O.B. the Robot is decorative, but it’s entirely likely that Pink Gorilla has one (or several) for sale.

Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

On the other side of the entrance is a massive wall of plush Pokémon and Nintendo characters. This is the first hint that Pink Gorilla is something unique — these aren’t just any plushies.

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderWe’ll get back to these plushies in a minute.

To the left of the plushies is an array of used game consoles, ranging from a Sega Master System to an Xbox One.

Ben Gilbert/Business Insider$US45 for a Sega Dreamcast is a pretty fantastic deal.

Let’s go inside!

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderDon’t miss the adorable art over the doorway — one of many little details.

Of the two Pink Gorilla stores, the original is much smaller. But that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in totally rad stuff to gawk at and/or buy.

Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

Upon entering Pink Gorilla, I felt overwhelmed. Despite the store’s diminutive size, it packs a pretty intense blast of video games.

That’s by design: Like the jam-packed gaming stores of Tokyo’s Akihabara district, Pink Gorilla is intended to celebrate games.

There’s stuff everywhere – shelves full of games from every console, placards from classic arcade machines, and walls lined with colourful video game characters. Somewhere to my right, a game of “Street Fighter II” was running.

Pink Gorilla aims to re-create the experience of visiting the Akihabara district, where stores like Super Potato overwhelm visitors with a whirlwind of gaming history. What Pink Gorilla is, though, is something even better than a direct re-creation: it’s a uniquely American spin on Japan’s iconic gaming stores.

What makes Pink Gorilla different is apparent immediately: it features stuff like the Boss Fight Books series up front.

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderAlso of note: A mess of Sega Saturn and Sega Genesis games.

Only the very nerdiest among us will be excited by the Boss Fight Books series – which is why I got very excited and bought one (on “Spelunky” by Derek Yu).

They’re a series of books that are each written as one-offs – each book is about one specific game. Sometimes they’re written by the game’s creator, and sometimes they’re not.

More specifically, they’re a very American subset of gaming culture, the kind of thing you’d find on sale at a PAX gaming convention, for instance. It’s touches like this that make Pink Gorilla its own thing.

Many Japanese gaming stores in Tokyo’s Akihabara district have these capsule machines (“Gachapon” machines). Put in $US1, spin the wheel, and get a prize!

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderMy wife got a Goldeen!

Each capsule has a unique toy, and you get a randomised prize. It’s hard to resist for just $US1.

Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

But let’s get to the games, of which there are <em>so</em> many. One wall was largely dedicated to American and Japanese versions of original NES games.

Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

Here is another great example of how Pink Gorilla puts a unique spin on the Japanese gaming store concept: both American and Japanese versions of games are on display, next to each other.

You’re just as likely to find a copy of “Super Mario USA” (from Japan) as you are to find a replacement for your destroyed “Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts” cartridge (USA). And that’s super rad!

In the case of Super Nintendo games, Pink Gorilla will even mod your Super Nintendo for free so you can play games from Japan. Pretty sweet!

Each game is wrapped individually, and marked with a price tag. It’s clear that the products for sale aren’t just haphazardly repurposed from trade-ins.

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderIs that a Super Nintendo running ‘Street Fighter II’ in the middle of the wall?

Beyond just games, Pink Gorilla has a wealth of gaming memorabilia:

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderThe ‘Moonwalker’ and ‘Bionic Commando’ art comes from the marquee of arcade machines.

These placards from the arcade machines of “Bionic Commando,” “Super Dodge Ball,” and “Punch-Out!!” are especially rad. All three games ended up on the NES.

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderIf I had an office, I would put these in my office.

Here’s a view of the store from the corner opposite the entrance:

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderThe entrance is no longer visible because there are simply too many video games.

My wife and I took a moment away from browsing to play a quick match of “Street Fighter II” on the SNES. Naturally, she won.

Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

One of the most charming aspects of visiting Tokyo’s gaming shops is the random games ready for play interspersed among shelves overflowing with games for sale.

Take a break and try to survive a night in “Simon’s Quest,” or whatever the game may be.

There’s no promotional aspect to it – just enjoy a classic game while you’re browsing.

For the shelf-diggers among us, Pink Gorilla is a dream come true.

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderHow about a copy of the original ‘Katamari Damacy’ for $US18? Pretty great!

As my wife and I walked around the store, a father and his daughter excitedly dug through a mountain of PlayStation 2 games. She was looking for classics, and he was re-living his PS2 glory days.

“‘Grand Theft Auto’ was on PlayStation 2?” she asked him, shocked. “Oh yeah, that’s ‘San Andreas’ right there,” he said. It went on the growing pile they were building.

Pink Gorilla also carries rare items, like this gold Super Mario amiibo. It originally cost about $US12 at retail — now it goes for $US50 or more on the second-hand market.

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderAdmittedly, Mario is positively resplendent in gold.

The store’s capacity for large peripherals like this is limited, so it was exciting to see a Super Scope in a box for sale:

Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

The Super Nintendo’s Super Scope was a kind of shoulder-mounted sniper rifle/bazooka … thing. It’s a very weird peripheral that was available for the Super Nintendo, and it’s a kind of hilarious piece of gaming ephemera.

It’s exactly the kind of throwback you’d hope to find in a retro gaming store.

Too often, so-called “retro” gaming stores are filled with leftover “Guitar Hero” peripherals and a zillion copies of various sports games that no one will ever play. Pink Gorilla focuses on a more interesting, curated selection. You will absolutely find sports games filling out the shelves at Pink Gorilla, but they’re far from the only thing you’ll find.

Even the tchotchkes are smartly curated — these plushies are all from Japan directly. As a result, all of the “Pokémon” plushies are labelled “Pocket Monsters.”

Ben Gilbert/Business Insider‘Pokémon’ is a portmanteau of ‘Pocket Monsters,’ which is the original name it was given by its creators in Japan.

If you’re looking for connectors, or adapters, or game controllers, Pink Gorilla has you covered. The store seems purpose-built for facilitating people playing as many games as possible.

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderA monitor over the store’s register menaces customers with the robot masters of ‘Mega Man 3.’

Below the counter, an array of adorable little Pokémon figurines tempts customers with a last-minute impulse purchase. Just $US4 each, or would you prefer three for $US10?

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderBack! Back I say, adorable little figurines!

Given the iconic nature of the store, Pink Gorilla sells its own merch as well. It, too, is pretty rad!

Ben Gilbert/Business InsiderAs a bonus: You get 10% off your purchase if you buy some swag.

The second Pink Gorilla is far larger, and has a far larger selection of stuff — check it out in this video tour from YouTube, featuring one of the store’s owners:

And if you’re in Seattle and want to check out Pink Gorilla, you can find much more information about it right here at the store’s official website.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.