With the announcement of Nintendo’s Project Café, gamers are approaching the end of the seventh console generation. This generation has tried to push the industry forward with even more amazing graphics, unique control schemes, and the rise of online gaming. But what is perhaps the most interesting hallmark of this generation is the rise of nostalgic gaming. Developers have released compilations of their greatest hits along with downloadable versions of classic games. New games have even been released that try to capture that nostalgic spirit. It’s possible for some who started gaming either this generation or the last to play almost all of the classics of the 80s and 90s.
But what if you’re a gamer who wants to do more than play those games? What if you want to collect the classics the same way motorists collect classic cars? It’s possible, probably more so now than ever before with the advent of Craigslist, eBay, and Amazon, to actually track down these gems of the past and add them to your growing collection. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to tell which game is going to be a rare find in the future. Sometimes it is dependent on the amount of copies printed, other times it’s on how revered the game is, still other times the entire console and by extension all the games on it are a rarity. The caveat to this is how much would it cost you? Would you rather have a mint still-in-box game or just a used copy so you at least own it?
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at what the cost might be to collect some of the classics from previous generations. And who knows? Maybe you have a highly valued game and never realized it. However, for the sake of simplicity, I am only looking at the prices offered on Amazon.com. It may be possible to find these games for a cheaper price, but this will provide a general idea on the worth of each game discussed.
Starting at the absolute lowest end of the spectrum, there’s The Adventures of Bayou Billy on the NES. The cheapest asking price for the game? One penny. I’m serious. Of course, this isn’t a brand new copy that includes the box and instruction book, and you would still have to add $3.99 for the shipping and handling, but this is the absolute lowest you can go on Amazon.com. I don’t know the exact reason why the game hasn’t held onto its value over the years, but it’s safe to assume that the brutally difficult gameplay is likely a factor. But that doesn’t mean that all difficult games are cheap. One of the most notoriously hard games of all time, Battletoads on the NES, is a bit more expensive, going at $12.49 used for just the cartridge. However, if you want the game factory sealed you’re going to have to be willing to shell out a lot more, as in $200.
That right there is the crux of collecting games. It’s usually possible to collect the games at a reasonable price, typically between $5 and $20, but if you want it brand new and factory sealed, be ready to pay exponentially more. The quality of the game even inside the factory seal can be a factor. In the case of Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers on the NES, a factory sealed copy with a few creases in the box from storage has a price of $125. If you want it in pristine condition, $200. What it comes down to is whether you want to collect games to play or collect them for keepsake value.
However, that doesn’t mean that all used games that only come with the cartridge or disc are cheap. Cult classic Earthbound is $100 for just the cartridge, and there are, at the time of this writing, no factory sealed copies available on Amazon. The closest you can get to that is the opened box with the instruction book and game, but that will easily run you $450. It’s here that collecting classic games becomes either just a mild pastime to check out them or a serious commitment of your time and money. Panzer Dragoon Saga, which many consider the best game on the Sega Saturn, had a limited print run and even the cheapest used copy is $260. E.V.O: The Search for Eden, a cult classic for the SNES that predates Spore in concept, is only available without the box or manual on Amazon and still costs $140. But the high prices of used games aren’t limited to cult classics. Conker’s Bad Fur Day on Nintendo 64 was widely available and even had a remake on the original Xbox, yet a used copy costs just as much as a new PS3 or Wii game.
Up to this point, I have only been discussing games released in North America, but there are those out there who would love to collect import rarities like Radiant Silvergun which costs about $300 for a brand new, but not factory sealed copy. The more obscure you’re willing to go, the more you can expect to pay. One of the most obscure imports that collectors search for is Bangai-O: Prize Edition for the Dreamcast. Only five copies of this game were ever produced, given as a prize to high score winners during a national competition, and prices for these games have ranged between $500 and $1200. This is a ludicrous amount of money to spend on a single game, especially one that exactly the same as the normal version except for the “Prize Edition” banner on the title screen. Despite its rarity, Bangai-O: Prize Edition doesn’t even come close to being considered the holy grail of gaming. That honor would be shared by two rare and highly sought after NES games.
The games in question are 1990 Nintendo World Championships and Stadium Events. Before I reveal how much these games have gone for in auctions (you’re kidding yourself if you expect to find them on Amazon), I’d like to reveal some of the history that lead to these games being so sought after. First, 1990 Nintendo World Championships is a game that few of you have probably have even heard of. Back in the title year, Nintendo held a video game competition that toured thirty different cities across the US. The tournament was divided into three brackets: 11 and under, 12 to 17, and 18 and older. Each person who entered had to challenge three games different games with their own specific challenges and complete all of them within 6 minutes and 21 seconds. Whoever had the highest score would win. The first challenge was in Super Mario Bros. where players had to collect 50 coins. The second was to complete an original course in Rad Racer designed specifically for the tournament. The final challenge was Tetris where players had to use their remaining time to rack up a high score.
The winners in each bracket won a $10,000 US savings bond, a 1990 Geo Metro convertible, a 40 inch rear-projection TV, and a gold painted Mario trophy. In addition, the winner of each city would win a gray copy of Nintendo World Championships cartridge making 90 total worldwide in addition to 26 gold versions of the game given out as part of a separate Nintendo Power contest. The game itself is a complete recreation of the tournament challenges complete with the timer. The gray copies are relatively common with most selling between $5,000 and $6,000 though they have sold for as much as $10,000 in auction. It’s the gold version that’s the true holy grail though with only 12 copies of the game ever appearing for public sale. The most expensive copy of Nintendo World Championships ever sold was for an astounding $18,000.
And yet, it’s not the most expensive game ever sold. That honor goes to Stadium Events. Like Nintendo World Championships it has a story to go along with its rarity. Released in the US in 1987, it was one of only two games designed to use the Family Fun Fitness mat, a running pad accessory and precursor to Nintendo's own Power Pad. Stadium Events was based around various Track & Field competitions including the 100m dash, the long jump, and 110m hurdles with a Tournament mode and an Olympic mode. This is where it gets tricky as the game was developed by Bandai, but Nintendo noticed the potential of the game and granted it first party production. This meant that the Family Fun Pad was discontinued and replaced with the aforementioned Power Pad and Stadium Events was officially retitled World Class Track Meet. However, copies of Stadium Events still snuck out before Nintendo laid claim to it and while 2000 units were produced, all but 200 copies were recalled to make way for the new branding. The rarity of this game has only increased over the years and on January 22nd 2011, a factory sealed copy of Stadium Events sold on eBay for a whopping total of $22,800.
Like all hobbies, collecting games comes in many shapes and forms. If you just want to play the classics in the way they were intended, it's possible to do so on a modest, but still pricey budget. But if you want to go all-in and seek out brand new editions of these games, you can expect to pay in the hundreds of dollars for a single title...and potentially into the thousands. While it's up to the collector to decide just how much they’re willing to spend on their collection, it truly comes down to that gamer’s passion that decides how far reaching it will be. In the end, no matter how many games you have or how old they are, you are a gamer at heart.
Editor's Note: Some information on 1990 World Championships and Stadium Events was gathered at racketboy.com
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