It is very easy to get overwhelmed when collecting vintage video games. It can be tempting to attempt to collect full console libraries of games, but sometimes focusing on a certain sub-category of a particular library can often be a more practical (and many times more enjoyable) experience.
This is the first of a series of collecting guides that will focus on a subset of games that are popular with collectors. The launch titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) are of particular interest to me, not only for their historical value, but also for their packaging style.
As an added bonus, I also included images and prices for three other games that, while they aren’t launch titles and use silver boxes instead of black boxes, they do use the same pixel art for their covers. They are still pretty cool in my book, so I didn’t want to overlook them.
Personally, I only own a handful of carts for these games, but I hope to collect more – including slowly starting to collect some boxed copies. My motivation for creating this post was actually researching the values of these games in various conditions so I knew what to expect when tracking them down. Knowing which ones are the hardest to find and knowing what is a extra-good deal is very helpful when you stumble upon some in the wild.
After the video game crash in the early 1980’s, Nintendo wanted to take extra precautions when marketing their hardware and games. In addition to naming their console the “Nintendo Entertainment System” to avoid referencing “video games”, they also wanted to be very upfront to consumers what the games would look like.
To make sure gamers weren’t disappointed, Nintendo used pixel art on their covers instead of the more traditional hand-drawn artwork.Even though it was originally intended to avoid getting consumers hopes up about the games, these boxes eventually became iconic pieces of gaming history. More than twenty years later as enthusiasm and nostalgia for retro video games grow, these covers are also viewed as appealing and collectable commercial art.
The Box Art
Since I love the sprite-based artwork, I wanted to round up the best quality scans of the boxes that I could find online and touch them up, so I and anyone else could find them easily. You can click on any of the smaller cover images below to get a large version. These larger versions should be the best you’ll be able to find online. If you know of a better copy, please let me know in the comments below.
|Kid Icarus||Metroid||Rad Racer|
Since values of these games can vary so much depending on condition, I actually have four different price points listed for each game. Of course, the cart-only will be your most affordable option. The “Boxed” value is for a copy with a box that shows some wear (which is easy on these black boxes) that may or may not include the instructions. A “Boxed Mint” copy is one where there is very little wear on the box and instructions are included. And finally, the Sealed prices are for games that have never been opened and are still in their factory shrink wrap. I based these prices on what I have seen in recent months on eBay. If I have not seen particular game in a particular condition, I based the value on another game of similar rarity. I think you’ll find these prices to be rather accurate.
|10 Yard Fight||$2||$25||$30||$200||eBay / Amazon|
|Balloon Fight||$13||$100||$125||$500||eBay / Amazon|
|Baseball||$3||$33||$40||$1500||eBay / Amazon|
|Clu Clu Land||$10||$50||$60||$200||eBay / Amazon|
|Donkey Kong||$15||$50||$70||$300||eBay / Amazon|
|Donkey Kong 3||$10||$60||$70||$250||eBay / Amazon|
|Donkey Kong Jr||$9||$50||$60||$300||eBay / Amazon|
|Donkey Kong Jr Math||$20||$500||$600||$2000||eBay / Amazon|
|Duck Hunt||$4||$18||$30||$150||eBay / Amazon|
|Excitebike||$6||$25||$100||$200||eBay / Amazon|
|Golf||$3||$10||$20||$150||eBay / Amazon|
|Gumshoe||$6||$80||$150||$1500||eBay / Amazon|
|Gyromite||$4||$25||$30||$200||eBay / Amazon|
|Hogan’s Alley||$6||$15||$18||$150||eBay / Amazon|
|Ice Climber||$12||$40||$60||$200||eBay / Amazon|
|Kid Icarus||$10||$38||$45||$300||eBay / Amazon|
|Kung Fu||$4||$25||$30||$170||eBay / Amazon|
|Mach Rider||$2||$15||$25||$150||eBay / Amazon|
|Mario Bros||$15||$50||$60||$400||eBay / Amazon|
|Metroid||$10||$38||$50||$300||eBay / Amazon|
|Pinball||$5||$15||$23||$100||eBay / Amazon|
|Popeye||$7||$35||$55||$350||eBay / Amazon|
|Pro Wrestling||$4||$16||$28||$150||eBay / Amazon|
|Rad Racer||$4||$18||$35||$150||eBay / Amazon|
|Slalom||$3||$20||$27||$150||eBay / Amazon|
|Soccer||$4||$15||$28||$150||eBay / Amazon|
|StackUp||$25||$230||$300||$1000||eBay / Amazon|
|Super Mario Bros||$6||$60||$100||$200||eBay / Amazon|
|Tennis||$4||$15||$25||$150||eBay / Amazon|
|Urban Champion||$5||$15||$23||$150||eBay / Amazon|
|Volleyball||$4||$15||$25||$150||eBay / Amazon|
|Wild Gunman||$9||$40||$50||$250||eBay / Amazon|
|Wrecking Crew||$5||$40||$125||$400||eBay / Amazon|