A Fortune In Pixels!
Did you give your mother permission to sell your comic books at a garage sale? Did you throw away your baseball card collection to make room for your wife’s shoe rack? Did you lose your Super Nintendo collection in a basement flood? If you answered “yes” to any one of these scenarios, you’ve earned the right to cry yourself to sleep at night. These objects may have been worth thousands of dollars. The 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card is selling for over $200,000. The first issue of Action Comics, where Superman made his debut, is fetching over $350,000. Would you believe that one of your video games could make you $300,000 richer? The video game industry is still relatively young, yet many games are soaring in value. Game Informer, with the help of classic game specialist Nick Reichert of Racketboy.com, has compiled a list of the most valuable video games to date. If you have questions about games in your collection, visit Racketboy for system-by-system listings.
Nintendo World Championship Cartridges
NES • $20,000 (Gold Cartridge) • $6,100 (Grey Cartridge)
In a strange twist, a movie may be responsible for the most sought after collectibles in video games. In 1990, Nintendo held a video game competition that drew inspiration from the film The Wizard.
Contestants had 6 minutes and 21 seconds to complete a series of three minigames. The first minigame was to collect 50 coins in Super Mario Bros. Once this was completed, the game transitioned to a special Nintendo Championship-themed course in Rad Racer. After completing this, the player had to play Tetris until time expires. Scoring totals factored in the Mario Bros. score, Rad Racer score times 10, and Tetris score times 25.
The Nintendo World Championships were held in 30 locations spread across the United States. The competition was split into three age groups. The winner from each was invited to the finals, held at Universal Studios in Hollywood. The winner for each age was awarded a $10,000 U.S. savings bond, a 40-inch rear-projection TV, a 1990 Geo Metro convertible, and a trophy.
The cartridges used in this competition are fetching top dollar among collectors. Nintendo only manufactured 116 cartridges, of which 90 are grey, and 26 are gold. They were handed out to winners and runners up.
Nintendo Powerfest 94
SNES • $300,000*
Nintendo held another competition in 1994, but it wasn’t as highly publicized. Only 33 cartridges were made for this event. The rules for Powerfest 94 were similar to the original Nintendo World Championships. Players had six minutes to complete a series of three minigames. This time trial began with a stage from Super Mario Bros.: Lost Levels. The next leg was a five-lap race in Super Mario Kart. The final task was to hit as many dingers as possible in a Ken Griffey Jr. home run derby.
Of the 33 cartridges made, 32 were shipped back to Nintendo, where they were dismantled for parts. The one known copy that still exists in the wild recently appeared in an auction on myebid.com with the “buy it now” price of $300,000. To no surprise, it wasn’t sold.
Genesis Blockbuster World Video Game Championships II
Sega Genesis • $2,200
The rules for this Genesis tournament were similar to the ones that Nintendo laid out for its competitions. It never took off, however. Maybe it had something to do with the selection of games on the cartridge. NBA Jam is a fine choice. Judge Dredd isn’t. This cartridge was never distributed, but it was apparently stolen twice, as two copies have been spotted.
Neo Geo • $1,950
We never understood the logic behind the roster of characters, but there must be a market out there for people who want to golf as British technicians. This golf game is extremely rare, but can be played today on the PlayStation 2 in SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1.
Mr. Boston’s Clean Sweep
Vectrex • $3,000
Everyone was making video games back in the day, even liquor companies like Mr. Boston. This game was created as a promotional item for Mr. Boston in 1983. Only a handful of copies are known to exist today.
Neo Geo • $2,850 (US) • $1,800 (JP)
This isn’t the rarest Neo Geo AES, but it is the prized item for U.S. collections. This was one of the best games for the system, but was limited in production due to overall lack of demand for Neo Geo products at the time.
Sega Megadrive • $16,000
More rare than the fairly common Tengen NES Tetris is this Sega Megadrive version of the Nintendo classic. Produced for Sega’s System-16 Megadrive arcade unit, it was never released to retail because of Nintendo’s claim to the console rights to Tetris. There are only about 10 known copies of this game in existence.
Neo Geo • $1,800
This little-known 2D fighter was created by ADK, the same team that brought us the World Heroes series. The weapon-heavy ninja play didn’t draw much of a following at the time, but is now making a name for itself with collectors. It was re-released in Japan in 2008 as a part of the ADK Damashii compilation for PS2.
Ultimate 11: SNK Football Championship
Neo Geo (PAL) • $8,000
For the price this football game is going for these days, you’d think that Pelé built the cartridge by hand. With games like this, Neo Geo’s microscopic install base in Europe is being celebrated by the collecting community years later.
Neo Geo (PAL) • $13,500
Rumor has it that the PAL version of Kizuna Encounter was only sold for three days in Austria before SNK recalled it. Only a handful of copies are known to exist today.
Ultima: Escape from Mount Drash
Vic-20 • $2,700
Every self-respecting gamer knows of Richard Garriott. But do you know who Keith Zabalaoui is? He’s Garriott’s friend! Garriott enlisted his talents to write Escape from Mount Drash. Fearing that this primitive 3D dungeon crawler would be a complete disaster, Sierra pulled the plug on the release after only 3,000 Vic-20 cassettes were manufactured. Of those 3,000, people speculate that most of them never saw the light of day on retail shelves, and were instead buried at the foot of an unknown mountain. Now that’s a piece of history we wouldn’t mind having.
Atari 2600 • $3,500
This is known as the rarest commercially released game for the 2600. This classic 2D space shooter is prized by collectors for its sky blue cartridge, which is outfitted with a cool handle (although no actual label).
Nintendo Campus Challenge
NES • $12,000
SNES • $10,000
The Nintendo Campus Challenge was another competition that pushed players to work against the clock to tally as many points as they could in three different games. The NES version consists of Dr. Mario, Pinbot, and Super Mario Bros. 3. The Super Nintendo cartridge features Super Mario World, F-Zero, and Pilotwings. Only one copy of the NES Campus Challenge cart is known to exist.
Atari 2600 • $1,200
Created for Coca-Cola’s 1983 sales convention, this Space Invaders adaptation replaced the lines of descending aliens with the letters “P-E-P-S-I” (plus an alien on the end, as the original code required six enemies per row). Only 125 were ever produced, most of which were discarded by disinterested salesmen, making Pepsi Invaders one of the rarest 2600 carts ever.
Not all rare games will break the bank like the ones above. Read on to learn about some elusive yet not astronomically-priced games...
Here we take a look at games that could put a dent into a checking account, but won’t require a loan or the sale of a kidney. As you’ll find, a game’s rising value isn’t based solely on its rarity; consumer demand also plays a large factor in the price. For more complete lists for each system, head to racketboy.com. The site’s curator, Nick Reichert, is on top of the game, and helped greatly in the creation of this two-part feature.
Batman Forever, Justice League, Maximum Carnage, Virtual Bart, WWF Raw, Judge Dredd, Comix Zone
Mega Drive • Value: $300-$650
All seven of these Genesis games would have a hard time fetching $1 at a garage sale…in the United States. If you can get your hands on the Japanese Mega Drive versions, you could make a small fortune. Most of these games were published by Acclaim, releasing just as the console entered its death throes. Rather than creating unique Japanese packaging for each game, Acclaim cut corners by slapping bar code stickers onto the European packaging. Most of these games have sold for around $300, but one copy of Batman Forever fetched $650. That’s a lot to pay for pixilated Val Kilmer nipples.
Super Nintendo • Value: $1,217
Many of you have a copy of Chrono Trigger in your game collection. It wouldn’t surprise us if some of you are no longer reading this, and are instead rummaging through a closet to locate said game with the hope of selling it on eBay for over $1,000. If your game has been opened, there’s little chance that you’ll even land $100 for it. Collectors are looking for unopened, mint condition copies. Seeing that hardly anyone could wait to get this game out of its wrapper, mint versions are hard to come by. If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s either to keep all of your games sealed (which would leave you bored and miserable), or to buy two copies of all great games – one for playing, and one to pay for your mid-life crisis Corvette.
Elemental Gearbolt: Assassin’s Case
PlayStation • Value: $1,379
At 1998’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, Working Designs handed out 40 special edition bundles of Elemental Gearbolt. In this metal case, lucky recipients walked away with a copy of the game, a golden GunCon, and a golden memory card. The last tracked copy sold for $1,379.
This modern day RPG is fairly easy to find, but demand has kept its value high. The big question surrounding it: why hasn’t Nintendo created a Wii sequel yet? Or at least brought the series' other entries to North America?
Psychic Assassin Taromaru
Saturn (Japan) • Value: $400
Time Warner Interactive manufactured only 7,500 copies of Psychic Assassin Taromaru before the publisher went the way of the dodo. Keen-eyed collectors have spotted differences in the manual art, but no variation as of yet is worth more than the other.
Saturn (Japan) • Value: $350
This game is as common as can be, but for some reason, it has become the item that any self-respecting game collector must have in his or her collection. The demand has driven the price up despite its frequent availability, much to the liking of Japanese game retailers.
Bangai-O Prize Edition
Dreamcast (Japan) • Value: $500
Treasure, the developer behind Gunstar Heroes, Ikaruga, and most awesome games that feature brutal difficulty levels, christened the five top scores in Bangai-O spirits with a rare variant of the game. The only identifier for this version is a special sticker on the cover. Of the five copies handed out, two have been sold, one for $500.
PlayStation • Value: $280
Even after receiving rave reviews, Konami didn’t print enough copies of Suikoden II to meet demand. With role-playing fanatics sitting on their copies, it has become a frequent high-priced seller.
PlayStation • Value: $200
With each passing year, Tactics Ogre’s value continues to climb. This game is fairly easy to track down, which makes its rarity somewhat of a question. However, its reputation of being rare has kept the price up and kept collectors’ bank accounts empty.
NCAA College Basketball 2K3
GameCube • Value: $400
No one knows how many copies were produced, but it is believed that only 2,500 to 5,000 are in the wild. Since the game sucked, we wouldn’t be surprised if many of those were thrown in the trash. The latest sale had the game selling for just under $400.
Dreamcast • Value: $300
Released months after Sega discontinued the Dreamcast, Project Justice joins Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger as a hot commodity for collectors only if it’s in its unopened state.
Stop That Roach
Game Boy • Value: $200
This odd puzzle game is widely considered to be one of the rarest Game Boy titles. You won’t get much for it opened, but a sealed copy recently sold for around $200.
Panzer Dragoon Saga
Saturn • Value: $250
Only 30,000 copies were manufactured, and everyone wants to play it. Expect this game’s value to skyrocket.
Final Fantasy VII
PlayStation (Black Label)
Like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VII isn’t rare. In fact, two of Game Informer’s copies are being used to keep Joe Juba’s desk level. The only rare version of this game is the black bar edition in mint condition. The last sale of an unopened copy went for $417. Before you get any bright ideas, collectors know how to spot the original shrink wrap.
Daytona USA: CCE Netlink Edition
Saturn • Value: $300
The only way to determine if you have the rare edition is to open the case to see if the NetLink booklet is beneath the manual and that the disk has a NetLink logo. If you have a sealed copy, keep it sealed. Finding out that you have a standard version would be devastating.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
PlayStation 2 (Red Box)
Special editions are this generation’s tournament games. They’ll likely never reach the towering thousand dollar mark, but some of them, like the red boxed Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, are proving to be incredibly hard to find.
(All amounts represent the product’s latest list price
or estimated value as of May 2009. This may not reflect actual selling prices.)