An Ode To The Harvey Norman Bargain Bins Of The Early 2000s

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harvey norman bargain bin
Image: Glow Zone Interactive

Growing up with PC games in the early ’00s was a strange time. Gaming successfully breached the mainstream. PC games were the hot new thing, and edutainment was king as classrooms around Australia used educational games as a way to teach young kids. Adaptations of Arthur and The Magic School Bus played on lone classroom computers. A rambunctious ghost taught kids to type in the aptly named Kid’s Typing. If you knew where to look, you could find PC games everywhere. If you regularly hung out at Harvey Norman, you could even find some real treasures.

The bargain bins at Harvey Norman were the holy grail of video games when I was growing up.

Inside, you’d find a range of PC games from humble adventures to story games and maths challenges. For a young girl earning $2 pocket money a week, it was the only viable source for nabbing a decent PC game for cheap. While there were often duds in the mix, you could usually find middling to great games in the bowels of the bargain bins if you spent enough time fishing.

Cheap early 2000s PC games would go for $5 and $10 a pop. For that, you’d get a few hours of fun and probably a life lesson or two. Some went in the actual bin after you loaded them up, but most were solid fun.

If you were lucky, you could find some real gems in the pile, hiding beneath the top layer of boxes and jewel cases. My copies of Freddi Fish, Spy Fox and original The Sims were excellent dumpster dive finds at Harvey Norman. In fact, I nabbed most of the classic Humongous Entertainment line-up.

harvey norman bargain bin
A small portion of my Harvey Norman bargain bin finds.

Later dives yielded copies of the much-beloved (but long forgotten) Fairies of the Forest, created by defunct Australian studio Glow Zone Interactive. There was also a maths game where you played as a little helicopter, a game called Kiki’s Forest starring a little cat and several ‘1000 Game‘ collections filled with shovelware. The CDs weren’t always the best, but they were always a good time.

There was also Reading Blaster 2000Jump Start 2nd Grade and Thinkin’ Things 3 in later bin searches, all of which are personal favourites for me. They’re weird, very niche and I wasted many hours as a kid playing them on the old family Shuttle computer.

Bargain bin hunting for video games was the original ‘loot box’ system for gamers. If it had an interesting enough cover or it was cheap enough, you probably just gave it a go. It was better than nothing, if you could afford it.

I’ve kept all my CDs from the glory days of dumpster diving at Harvey Norman. The vast majority of them no longer run without emulation or some other workaround. Most, you can barely find mention of online. But that was part of the joy in the bargain bin — finding real, uncut gems you and your mates had never heard of.

As physical media becomes less common, the joy of finding a great PC bargain has almost vanished, and that’s a real shame.

Do you remember the great days of the Harvey Norman bargain bin? What gems did you find? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Comments

  • We had a Grace Bros. in the town I grew up in, they had some great specials and random stuff (I got Gateway super cheap when it was new), i was a bit odl for the cheaper stuff at HN but I remember up until at least 2003 they were still using the buy price backwards on the box as a code, so I’d give them a 10-15% margin offer and if they didn’t go to that price I’d get it elsewhere, if they did I’d go back to that salesman all the time.

    ah for the days before EB Games bumped the prices up by ~$30

  • I remember you’d always find copies of Fallout 1 or 2 or Tactics in those bins in the early 2000’s. Then, when 3 was announced, they disappeared.

  • “Growing up with PC games in the early ’00s was a strange time. Gaming successfully breached the mainstream. PC games were the hot new thing, and edutainment was king as classrooms around Australia used educational games as a way to teach young kids.”

    I dunno. I was playing edutainment games (and games) at school in the 80s on Apple IIe computers and then “IBM Compatible” machines in the 90s. Games like Carmen Sandiego, Mystery House, Dino Eggs, Robot Odyssey, etc. were the popular ones. I even got lucky enough to be able to order the Scholastic Microzine disks for myself and to this day I still have fond memories of playing Escape From Ancatraz with my Dad.

    Once we got a 386, my pocket money would end up being spent on the old Apogee shareware disks that would hang on the revolving displays in shops. $10 each seemed like a dream for me when the more mainstream games were significantly more expensive.

    I was quite a lot older when Harvey Norman bargain bins became the thing and though I found a few goodies, I was more into console gaming so EB Game’s bargain racks were where my dollars were spent.

    • The late 90s and early 2000s were the golden years for edutainment, I reckon. It was the first time computers were affordable enough for schools and there were a bunch of hits out. I believe my school got its first ‘computer lab’ around 2001.

  • I managed to dig Planescape Torment out of a Harvey Norman bargain bin back in the day. Still sits somewhere in my top 5 games all these years later.

  • I got my first copies of Morrowind and Deus Ex in a Harvey Norman bargain bin. I think I have got more entertainment from those 2 alone than most full price games!

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