RentZero, based in Houston, Texas, may have a simple-looking website, but it's an innovative company. It's a definite notch beneath the top three companies, but remains a viable option for gamers in the south-central US--which isn't too well-served by the other companies (see shipping time map below)--where shipping times are 1-2 days generally. Nonetheless, the extra features may make it a viable choice for gamers further afield as well.
Admittedly, the site design is dated and simple, but beneath the average looks lies a solid rental engine complete with several features no other company can boast. For instance, RentZero is one of the very few sites that send manuals with their games. This isn't a factor for most shooters and such, which usually are intuitive or have tutorials built into the game anyway, but can be a godsend for a realtime strategy wargame or a roleplaying game.
We have several quibbles, that when scrolling through games of a particular console of genre, you have no idea how many pages of results there are, and can't skip to the middle or end for instance, just "next" and "previous" pages, very tedious for browsing, and why we were not able to easily total up the titles numbers for each console--Rentgame claims 5,000 titles, but we find that unlikely as they only cater to six platforms, and unlike other companies, they don't allow you to easily add up their total titles.
Likewise, far too many of the entries have no picture, just an image coming soon tag--perhaps three quarters of the Wii titles were like this when we reviewed them, if their first few pages are to judge. And there's not even a Wii menu bar on the top as for the other consoles.
RentZero lists an impressive 12 genres (more than most games-only companies, which should make browsing easier). Likewise, they've gone to the trouble creating lists like Most Popular, New Releases, Top 100, All Time Favs--simple steps, but all too few game rental companies do it. They don't do handhelds, but otherwise cover the full-size consoles well. Their title info has the basics, box cover, developer, platform, genre, release date, description, and as a plus they have customer ratings--quite helpful. In the instructions section, they even list all the joystick/button functions and combos from the manual, something practically no other company does.
We like their customer service policy, which states that they usually ship new games the same day old ones are received, and within a maximum of 24 hours in any case. Few companies are willing to go out on a limb and specify this, and it should speed turnaround--estimated mailing times are listed on the map below.
RentZero also has an excellent Try It, Want It, Keep It system. which lets you purchase the rented game at a discounted price. Rent Game also offer good parental controls, so a child can run a rental queue without being able to rent more mature titles.
For their final innovation, RentZero has a Trade It plan, which lets you trade in used copies of your own games for monetary credit--for example, new releases have a trade-in values of up to $40 (probably more than you'd get on ebay)--you can use this as credit off your monthly bills. Definitely check values for used games you no longer play and you could end up with many months of "free" rentals from RentZero, the only company we've seen to offer this.
Prices: RentZero offers a 14-day free trial, 1 game out at a time. Prices for unlimited rentals are $13.95 per month for one game out at a time, $19.95 for 2 games out at a time, and $27.95 for 3 games out at a time. They also offer annual subscription prices which allow large discounts; for instance $119.40/year for 1 disc out (works out to $9.95/month), $191.40/year for 2 discs out (average $15.95/month), and $263/year, average $21.95/month. These annual programs offer significant savings, so if you're a hardcore gamer, we suggest trying them out for a month or two, and if you like them, bite the bullet and pay for the year, you can save as much as $72 on the 3-disc plan.