I went to Seattle's retro gaming paradise, and it blew away my expectations. Here's what it's like to visit 'Pink Gorilla'

Pink Gorilla video game store, Seattle, WashingtonBen Gilbert/Business InsiderVideo games!Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

  • Seattle is home to an iconic video game store named "Pink Gorilla."
  • The store has two locations, and aims to re-create the organized chaos of Tokyo's gaming stores.
  • On a recent visit to Seattle, I went to the original Pink Gorilla location to see what all the hype was about - and it was even better than I expected.

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 recent visit to the area.

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:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

Let's go inside!

Let's go inside!

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.

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.

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 colorful 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.

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

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 $1, spin the wheel, and get a prize!

Many Japanese gaming stores in Tokyo's Akihabara district have these capsule machines ("Gachapon" machines). Put in $1, spin the wheel, and get a prize!

Each capsule has a unique toy, and you get a randomized prize. It's hard to resist for just $1.

Each capsule has a unique toy, and you get a randomized prize. It's hard to resist for just $1.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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 $12 at retail — now it goes for $50 or more on the second-hand market.

Pink Gorilla also carries rare items, like this gold Super Mario amiibo. It originally cost about $12 at retail — now it goes for $50 or more on the second-hand market.

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:

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:

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 it's 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 labeled "Pocket Monsters."

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

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.

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.

Below the counter, an array of adorable little Pokémon figurines tempts customers with a last-minute impulse purchase. Just $4 each, or would you prefer three for $10?

Below the counter, an array of adorable little Pokémon figurines tempts customers with a last-minute impulse purchase. Just $4 each, or would you prefer three for $10?

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

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

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.

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