Holy Grails of Console Game Collecting – Part 1

| Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 |

Panzer Dragoon Title20. Panzer Dragoon Saga (Sega Saturn; NTSC-U, PAL)
Copies Produced: 10,000
Estimated Price (Complete): $175

While Dragon Force and Guardian Heroes have proven themselves rare, Panzer Dragoon Saga is surely the most sought after title for North American Saturn collectors. Believed to be produced in numbers no more than 10,000, it is certainly limited, though not entirely unattainable.

Given it’s high critical acclaim, RPG fanatics have added this title to their list of the best RPGs of all time, driving it’s price even higher than Sega Saturn collectors have. Like all of the games on this list, Saga is almost impossible to find “in the wild”, leaving it to internet scavengers to locate.

Note that the PAL version has also become a commodity, claiming near identical prices and possessing similar production totals. The high eBay prices for Panzer Dragoon Saga have promted Saturn owners to either pick up a Japanese version (which requires a import boot device and a translation) or get their system to play backups.

Psychic Killer Taromaru Title19. Psychic Killer Taromaru (Sega Saturn; NTSC-J)
Copies Produced: 7,500
Estimated Price (complete): $235

Stealing this place from Radiant Silvergun, the Japan-only Psychic Killer Taromaru is the most difficult to aquire Saturn title, regardless of region. The game is a well drawn 2D acion title, with a decidedly “Shinobi meets Castlevania” style.

Time Warner Interactive, who published the title, shut down all production facilities after only 7,500 copies were made. For the hardcore completists, there exist different manual-art variations as well, all of which are included in the total production number, and each generally fetch the same price.

 18. Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Master System; NTSC-U)
Estimated Price (Complete): Up to $200

You would think that the headlining franchise from the console’s manufacturer would be extremely commonplace. After all, its not hard to find a cheap copy of Sonic for the Genesis or Super Mario Bros on the NES or SNES.

However, the US Sega Master System version of Sonic the Hedgehog was a very low quantity late-release, and today commands the highest price of any game on the system. Think paying $200 for an 8-bit downgrade is steep? Consider that the only difference between this version and the common, $2 PAL version, is a UPC sticker pasted on the packaging! Since the Master System was region-free, Sega simply shipped the PAL extras to the US. It even has the multi-language manual!

 17. Congo Bongo (Intellivision; NTSC-U)
Estimated Price (Loose or Complete): $300

While Sega had plans to develop at least three Intellivsion titles, Congo Bongo proved to be the only game they would release for the system, and is now a high point in the search for Intellivision games.

A not so direct “port” of the Donkey Kong-inspired coin op, finding a boxed copy of this game is a very difficult task which few have accomplished. While the Intellivision title Spiker: Super Pro Volleyball has recently eclipsed the price of Congo Bongo’s, it is believed by some to be just a brief stint at the top, with Congo Bongo still being the more desired (and definitely more interesting) of the two. However, both titles are in “Grail territory” for Intellivision fans, so stay alert for each when searching out obscene rarities.

 16. StarFox: Super Weekend/Donkey Kong Country Competition Cartidge (SNES; NTSC-U, PAL)
Copies Produced: SSW – around 2000; DKCCC – 2,500
Estimated Price (Loose): $200+

If there was a big one-two punch in Nintendo’s fight against Sega’s Genesis, Star Fox and Donkey Kong Country would be it. While the main retail games may not be rare at all, there was a special package that is quite desirable.

The Starfox: Super Weekend and Donkey Kong Country Competiton cartidges were used by Blockbuster Video in tournaments held within the store, and never receieved a true commercial release. The winners of the tournaments would receive prizes such as jackets and sometimes even vacations.

As typical with most video rental stores, a few leftover DKC Competition carts were tossed into the bargain bins for customers to purchase post-tournament. With StarFox: Super Weekend, Nintendo Power for a brief time offered the remaining carts through their catalog, as they did with a few of the DKC Competition carts they had kept.

An article included in the original packaging suggests that the Starfox Weekend cart had a smaller production number, however, the DKC cart has recently reached a bit higher of a price than the Starfox one. This same promotion was also held in Europe, and the carts there are equally as lusted for.

 15. Magical Chase (TurboGrafx 16; NTSC-U)
Estimated Price (Complete): $225

Shmup fans know this as Success’ Cotton, the horizontal shooter originally seen in the arcades before heading to the legendary PC Engine. The only real differences in this Turbo Grafx 16 version are cosmetic ones, such as the box art and main character’s redesign, which both recieved a makeover for the North American market.

As the hardest to find TG-16 title, Magical Chase commands close to $250 for a copy complete in the box. Having a very limited production run and being great game as well, this is the Holy Grail of the neglected Turbo Grafx, for sure.

 14. Myriad 6 in 1 (NES; NTSC-U)
Copies Produced: at least 888
Estimated Price (Loose): $350

The 6-in-1 Myriad cart has become one of the more standout collector’s items on the NES, a system teeming with grail-caliber games. As the name suggests, it’s a collection of 6 games, which are about as good as you’d expect from an independent, unlicensed title.

While the game itself was released many times, these actual carts were released twice, the other time from Caltron, who reportedly went bankrupt during it’s production. Myriad Games would later aquire the leftover carts, shipping them out in a new box, and with a numbered label for the price of $69.

That sum might’ve seemed steep then, but it would be a steal for that today. Digital Press lists that #888 is the highest number found, so it’s unlikely that more than a thousand exist. The original Caltron 6-in-1 release is about equally as hard to find, but generally commands a tad less than the Myriad.

Bounty Hunter Bob13. Bounty Bob Strikes Back! (Atari 5200; NTSC-U)
Estimated Price (Complete): $500

The sequel to the popular classic Miner 2049’er saw a shockingly limited release from Big Five Software on the much panned Atari 5200.

As far as quality, many consider it to be one of the system’s standout titles, offering a huge amount of content and playability for a game on such limited hardware.

Included with the cartridge was a giant folded poster that gave the game’s box larger dimensions; needless to say, the complete package is a rare and pricey find. Given that, and considering there are far fewer quality releases on the Atari 5200 than on the 2600, Bounty Bob maintains a distant spot as the platform’s high-priced Holy Grail.

 12. Mine Storm/Mine Storm II (Vectrex; NTSC-U)
Estimated Price (Loose or Complete): $500

The Vectrex is unique in that it utilized vector graphics drawn on a monitor that was integrated in the console. The console gave a fairly cool arcade-at-home experience. While none of the games are especially common, there is one incident that resulted in a certain version of a game to later become quite a rare treasure.

A very rare Vectrex title, and a somewhat shameless Asteroids clone, Mine Storm/Mine Storm II was sent to players who complained of a glitch in the original game that would often cause the action to “freeze” at or around the 13th level.

This cartridge contained a corrected version that allowed for longer continuous play. With the original glitch-ridden Mine Storm having been built into the Vectrex unit itself, it’s very surprising that so few of these cartridges were requested.

Because of this selective release (if you’d call it a release), this cart is now the most difficult to acquire for the Vectrex, amongst it’s meager library of 30 or so original titles.
(The homebrew scene does expand the library quite a bit).

 11. Bubble Bath Babes (NES; NTSC-U)
Estimated Price (Complete): $500+


Bubble Bath Babes is a…slightly, um, “mature” NES game. Of the puzzle genre. Featuring an 8-bit rendered, unclothed female at the bottom of the screen, it goes without saying that it didn’t get the ‘OK’ from Nintendo, nor would major retailers be keen enough to carry it.

So what was Panesian (the publisher) to do? Ship it only to video stores as a mail-order release, or in other words, create a grail. I’m not sure it can be said how many copies are out there, but it is presumably less a thousand.

Perhaps the definition of a Holy Grail, it is very easy to imagine, even with the game’s immense rarity, that you could walk into a flea market, thrift shop or video store and discover it hidden away for a dollar. Why is that? The game wasn’t packaged in the cardboard box typical of most NES releases, but rather in a VHS-esque movie case. The copies still left unclaimed for are most likely shoved in with regular old movies rather than games, meaning there are plenty of unsearched places to look for it.

Judging from the screenshot above (blurred for the children), I think we all have an idea of what kind of video store might still contain it…but a grail is a grail, and this one goes for over half a grand, so don’t hesitate to uncover a copy for yourself (or for eBay).


Continue to Part 2!


23 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    You just KNOW Dracula X (PC-Engine) will be in the next list… also, wow, I need Psychic Killer Taromaru!! Never heard of that one before.

  2. Jakanden says:

    I am calling the 1990 Nintendo World Championship Cartridge in the next one!

  3. bawitback says:

    Nice entry! It seems you missed Treasure’s Rakigaki Showtime, I heard only a less than 1000 copies were released in Japan.

  4. djera says:

    Awesome list! You’ve picked out some great titles like Sonic the Hedgehog from the SMS days. I can’t wait to see the rest of the list. Just where is the goold Nintendo challenge cartridge going to place?

  5. Jerome says:

    hahahaha, I’ve got MineStorm cartridge but that’s surely one hell of a too funny game to give it away!

  6. Tweek says:

    Well Sonic the Hedgehog Master System version has been released lately for the ps2 in a bundle called Sonic Plus. It of course depends if you are looking for it on the original Master System or not.

  7. Kjell says:

    Erm, regarding the Vectrex Minestorm/Minestorm II item, what exactly would “NTSC-U” mean on a console system with a built-in vector graphics monitor? 🙂

  8. Great list! Now I have to go find Atlantis II. Damn you! 🙂

    My most treasured rare game is Radiant Silvergun, which is pretty easy to find but expensive for an old saturn game. So worth it though, its my favorite shooter ever.

  9. Dave Steiner says:

    I played minestorm a lot as a kid. For those of you that were addicted to it like me…I broke the 5 million point barrier! The game does freeze up at level 87.

  10. cole says:

    where can you purchase vectrex games? i have the system and four games that i picked up off of a friend for 5 dollars.other than that i have not seen any vectrex gearin any store or in anyone elses possesion. ive got berzerk, spinball, armor attack and hyper chase.

  11. Travis says:

    I think Suikoden II (psx) USA deserves to be on this list. Hard to find even a scratched used disc for 125$. New sealed boxes are going for 350+

  12. racketboy says:

    I’m in the middle of a revised series of these by platform — you can see the PS1 list here:
    http://www.racketboy.com/retro/sony/ps1/2008/04/the-rarest-and-most-valuable-playstation-ps1-games.html

  13. sacha says:

    i dont know if that count….but i have the beta copy of castlevania:bloodlines wich includes 2 stage that were not released on the final version of the game, it was given to me by my father in 2001 who was working for a law firm in japan …it was a 6 months contract…he got it apparently from a good friend of his in japan who was working for the same law firm as well…..anyway just wanted to know if this game has any value whatsoever.

    why do i know that it is the beta version? because it is labeled as a beta version and the cartridge is slightly different from the usual genesis cartridges.

  14. Cidsa says:

    There is a Magical Chase on Ebay right now going for $750 with 9 days left. I guess the price jumped since you wrote this, huh?

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