Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Finding the Diamond in the Rough: NES

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We’ve had quite a few articles about game collecting lately, most notably the process of how to find and get games from various locations with little to no issues.  One thing that was not as highly discussed is knowing how much items are worth/cost, especially because games’ values vary depending on re-releases and upcoming releases.  At the Midwest Gaming Classic 2015 I got to see first hand how that works and factors you may have never imagined can jack up the value of random items.  For example, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the 3DS was readily available when the game launched in 2011 at the retail price of $39.99.  These days it’s worth quite a bit more at $50 for a loose cart and $65 complete – I’ll get to these price trends in a sec – due to the fact, according to many of the booth vendors I spoke to, that in January of this year the carts became extremely rare on store shelves and it spiked a bit more when the Zelda Wii U delay was announced.  Looks like Nintendo decided to go more digital as the game can be easily purchased on the eShop for MSRP, but if you’re a tangible collector that game has outlived its apparent welcome.  Also it appears that gamers have begun to want that game back in their collections because of the delay of the Wii U title so they have something to be all nostalgic about until that game finally arrives.  These are things I neither knew about nor cared about, but they are important.  A while back I wrote an article on knowing the difference between different games and what games fetch high value, well today I decided to get a little more specific and show you some of the coveted titles that fetch a large sum of money on retro consoles.  Keep in mind this was written in April 2015 and a lot can happen with each passing day as of the writing of this article.  Please keep in mind all prices are based on Price Charting, a US-based price guide that compares eBay, Amazon, and third party sites for what games actually sell for as opposed to what they are listed for.

Note: Due to the size this article has become, I’ve broken it up into several articles that will go live throughout the rest of the week.  I will also feature each article under its appropriate console(s) for easier access.  So lets kick this off with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES):

Part 1 – NES Gems:

  • nes_multicolorOdd (color) carts: If you have any cart that isn’t the traditional Nintendo grey cart (aside from Legend of Zelda or Zelda II‘s gold carts, but those games will fetch you more than $30 each), then it’s probably worth some decent cash.  There are a handful of Nintendo test carts and Legend of Zelda test carts that have the banana yellow color and go for about $700-$1,200 depending on condition and if they save.  Color Dreams (blue carts) can get you some light scratch but it’s the Chinese “x-in-1″ carts that really grab some cash.  The 150-in-1 and 190-in-one can get near and sometimes over $100 each.  Also watch for PAL only games that make their way to the US and go for $100-$200 each.
  • Porn Games: These unlicensed “pornographic” games are of course worth money because they are apparently risque and rare, although I can’t see why anything rendered in 8-bit can be stimulating (guess I don’t have a pixel fetish).  Either way, Bubble Bath BabesHot Slots, and Peek-a-Boo Poker all sell for $600+ as a cart only.
  • Competition Carts:  There was the campus challenge in 1991 and the World Championship carts, you are looking at THOUSANDS of dollars.  In fact, the Gold World Championship cart and “stolen” Campus Challenge carts sell for more than $20,000.  Hell, even the reproduction (repro) carts go for nearly $300.  These are coveted and very clear about their rarity.
  • Bonks Adventure: While Bonk is more known as the partial mascot of the Turbografx-16 console, his first game did receive an NES port that did release in America and is now valued over $300 ($322 for a loose cart, to be exact).  If you are one of the probably dozen people who purchased and/or held onto this item, it is wanted on eBay right now.  While the game has fetched over $100 since 2011, it spiked for some reason in 2012 to over $500 and has dwindled back down and somewhat plateaued around $300.  If you wish to own this cart, it can be found posted on eBay approximately once a week (that’s an average) and as recent as the beginning of this year has had completed auctions for cart only as low as $150 and high as $425.  Keep in mind the original Bonk’s Adventure from the Turbografx-16 is easily found digitally so this is a collector’s only piece.
  • Bubble Bobble Part 2: Not to be mistaken for Rainbow Isles or Bubble Symphony: Bubble Bobble IIBubble Bobble Part 2 is only available in two places: NES and Gameboy.  Both came out in 1993, but at that time NES was on the way out and few picked it up whereas it’s a bit more common (and much cheaper) on the Gameboy, which is a faithful port.  It has always been rare and if you were ever picking up those FuncoLand (now GameStop) papers that told what the store paid for what games, Bubble Bobble Part 2 on NES always got you $50 or more.  These days loose carts are valued at $255 with most auctions ending between $200-$300.  On the other hand the Gameboy cart, which is still rare, is only worth like $20 so grab this one if you want to play the game.
  • Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers 2 and Duck Tales 2:  Another example of some great Capcom sequels that came out after the SNES and just didn’t sell well on the NES.  They are, much like Bubble Bobble Part 2 only available on the NES and Gameboy but the NES versions are worth around $150 while the Gameboy ports are, tops, $20.
  • Family Fun Fitness Stadium Events: This is the rarest commercially available game on the NES in the United States.  It has been sold in a few auctions that always make the news and of the very few copies that have ever been sold, the value has risen and fallen with the tide.  Worth approximately $8,200 right now, this game used to sell for like $1,000 or $2,000 and that has jumped with its popularity in mainstream media.  On the other hand complete copies go for $55,000-$75,000 fueled mostly by avid collectors in pissing contests online.  Be sure to read my article about spotting a PAL (UK) version versus a US version (nearly identical) because the PAL version is only worth like $300 (but still!).  This probably accounts for some of the crazy auction prices as people became savvy to those copycats importing PAL versions.
  • Flintstones Surprise at Dino Peak: Apparently it was only given to Blockbuster video in late 1994 for rental and apparently it wasn’t on store shelves, but you’ll never find evidence of this.  As a result, aside from Stadium Events this is the second rarest cart in the US.  Finding one in your closet could fetch you $662 right now.  It’s apparently not half bad either, but emulation is probably the only way to check it out.
  • Little Samson: This is where rarity, popularity, and gameplay all meet.  A 1992 Taito platformer that saw a limited release in US and PAL territories, some say this is the most impressive looking and best platformer on the NES.  It’s also rare enough that cart only copies of the game are worth almost $700 today (PAL versions are only like $250 though), so keep an open eye in garage sales and Goodwill stores for this money maker.  You may even want to play it once or twice first because it’s probably the only opportunity you’ll get on native hardware and its reputation is strong enough to warrant a non-emulated run.
  • Power Blade 2:  This is also a rare, 1992 Taito title, but it’s apparently much worse than Little Samson.  A US port of the Japanese game Captain Saver, this was your run-of-the-mill early 90s NES action title.  EGM gave it a 5.5/10 back then (among 4 reviewers) so don’t expect much in terms of gameplay, but you can make up for that with the $250 easy you can get for the cart only.
  • Snow Brothers: Taito’s spin-off to Bubble Bobble is worth some money on the NES, especially since Ocean canceled all of its 1991 ports to microcomputers leaving the Capcom NES port (and the much cheaper 1993 Tengen Genesis/Mega Drive port) as the only console versions.  While Capcom did okay at capturing the arcade game’s feel, I think you should get the nearly $200 bounty on this version and grab the better Genesis version for a mere $20.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters: Whether or not this is a good game depends on your nostalgia, love for TMNT, and if you played this version or the 16-bit version.  In short, this version is a terrible attempt to capture the fighting boom on the NES but it’s worth over $125 and might be overlooked in a bundle with the less rare or valuable other titles on the NES.  If you have this, drop it and grab the superior Genesis/Mega Drive port for $15.
  • Wayne’s World: While Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey had a fun Saturday Night Live spot and eventual two movies on this funny but trapped in the 90s property, Wayne’s World on the NES – in addition to the Gameboy, Genesis, and SNES – is a terrible action game.  Unlike it’s other ports, however, it’s worth over $100 on NES so sell it and forget it.
  • ZombienationZombie Nation:  A game I was extremely pleased to have found at a local Midwest chain (Vintage Stock), I ground my teeth spending $49.99 for the cart only version of this unique shmup (which I captured most of for you), but now I’m super happy I did because this game is valued at $225.  I never plan to sell it, but with a severed zombie head instead of a tengu mask like in the Famicom port, it’s a rare piece from the NES days I’m pleased to have.  If you aren’t so attached to what is roughly a 45 minute, somewhat easy (in shmup terms) title, then feel free to grab the two plus Benjamins some collector on eBay has for you.

Written by Fred Rojas

April 23, 2015 at 1:07 pm

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