Why I still love physical game guides and manuals

Game Guides Manuals
Game Guides Manuals (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

Recently, I discovered that my mother has kept a record of every Christmas gift she's given me and my five siblings since 1995. As you can imagine, I was very curious to see what my young self had wanted throughout the years. Going through these lists turned into a very nostalgic experience, especially as I attempted to decipher what specific items were referenced whenever my mother listed something generic like "Game Boy game" or "Sega game."

While looking over a Christmas list from 2000, I noticed two of the gifts listed for me were "Nintendo game" and "Nintendo book." After searching for other clues and checking what games came out that year, I realized that this was in reference to The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask on Nintendo 64 along with an official game guide for it, which released that year.

Majoras Mask Poster (Image credit: Nintendo)

I absolutely loved that game and referenced the guide book frequently whenever I encountered a particularly tricky section of gameplay. And I didn't just love that book for the instructional aspect. Sometimes I'd just spend hours pouring through the pages to look at the pictures, stare at the included poster which hung on my bedroom wall, or scour the book for secrets that I hadn't uncovered yet. It was a gold mine of information and one of my most valued possessions at the time. This was especially true since the internet wasn't nearly as helpful back then. So, when you needed help, a book was where you needed to go.

Game guides weren't the only important booklet when it came to gaming. When I was an early teen, I used to beg my mom to drive me to the store so I could spend my hard-earned babysitting money on various Nintendo Game Cube and PlayStation 2 video games. On the drive home, I'd excitedly open the game packaging and read through the included manuals staring at the artwork and devouring as much information as I could so I'd be ready to start playing as soon I got home to my console.

These moments of manual-reading anticipation were a major part of the buying experience for me. And with older games, sometimes it was necessary to reference the manual so you could figure out what those blobby 16-bit characters were actually supposed to look like. For instance, when I was in elementary school, my brother got Super Mario RPG for SNES. Granted, the visuals for that game were pretty sweet for the time, but being able to look through the included manual to see what Geno, Mallow, and Mario's other companions were actually supposed to look like was fascinating to me. Sometimes I'd re-read the manual just to relish in my love for this game.

Pokemon Sword Shield Guides

Pokemon Sword Shield Guides (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

Considering that the internet allows you to ask people questions about the games you're playing and offers several walkthroughs, it makes sense that physical game guides and manuals aren't nearly as common as they used to be. However, physical game guides still get made for AAA games, and I still purchase them when I can. For instance, within the last 12 months, I've purchased the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Official Companion Guide as well as the official Pokémon Sword & Shield guide. Both of these books have given me more insight into the games that I didn't see anywhere else. On top of that, it's just fun being able to have all of that handy information in one spot.

Plus, there's tons of cool artwork to look at. For instance, the Pokémon guide I referred to offers plenty of images on the pages, and there are some extras that came with the book too. It includes cool Pokémon decals that I can apply to my Nintendo Switch and Joy-Cons as well as two posters: a Type matchup chart and a list of every Pokémon in the Galar region. It's these fun extras that continue to make manuals and game guides fun to collect.

Even if they aren't as popular as they used to be, I still love collecting game guides and manuals whenever I can.

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Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.