Holy Grails of Console Game Collecting – Part 1
20. 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.
19. 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.
13. 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).