10.) Metal Slug (Neo Geo; NTSC-U)
Estimated Price: $1000 (Complete)
Known universally for its hand drawn, over-the-top comic carnage, the original Metal Slug is an amazingly difficult find on the Neo Geo AES.
The US Neo Geo is home to many overpriced rarities, with most of its games costing well over $100 each and many more at over $500. Metal Slug, even though it became increasingly popular, wasn’t produced very high quantities by even these standards, and is now valued around $1000.
To put this into perspective, you could for that price buy not only the MVS arcade cartridge of Metal Slug, but the arcade cabinet to play it on. If you decided on a four slot Neo Geo machine, you could fill the other three slots. Depending on your game choices, you may even have enough to get a Wii and Metal Slug Anthology, which contains this very Metal Slug and most others as well. With luck, you could lastly pick up a Neo Geo Pocket (Color) and of course, Metal Slug (First Mission).
Tempting as all that is, the Neo Geo fans want it on Neo Geo, and by all accounts they want it more than any other US Neo Geo game. The only high-priced contestants aiming for its throne are either not as commonly popular (Stakes Winner), or were distributed by less than savory groups who are known to destroy game inserts (King of Fighters 2000).
Between Metal Slug’s rarity and its level of desire, the North American Neo Geo fans have on their hands a Holy Grail, and one of the highest quality rarities in gaming.
9.) Atlantis II (Atari 2600; NTSC-U)
Estimated Price: $1000+ (Complete)
Many collectors consider Atlantis II to be the most difficult-to-acquire game on the Atari 2600, a system that actually has quite a few rare titles in its library.
This cartridge was never officially released, but rather sent out to players during a competition held by its publisher Imagic. The tournament, dubbed “The Great Defend Atlantis Shoot-Off”, was based on the original Atlantis release and spawned several tiers before pronouncing a winner.
Imagic originally had players send in their Atlantis scores via picture, with the intention of the four highest being flown to Bermuda for the finale. Atlantis was a popular game however, which meant more than four players achieved a “perfect” score where the counter would not reach any higher.
Surprised by this, Imagic had no other choice than to create a new version of Atlantis, specifically for those with a perfect score. “Atlantis II” was then shipped, to separate the great players from the greatest.
With little more than a white “Atlantis II” sticker on the box, these games had enhanced speed, were given a lower scoring system, and were made with the intention of abolishing perfect scoring. Oh, and results were due in two days…that’d show ’em.
Naturally, Atlantis II is a Holy Grail Almighty today, with the game rarely even displayed in public. In fact, the game is more often than not sold for a dollar or less, being that its label is identical to the standard Atlantis; only the gameplay and box (whose “Atlantis II” sticker is unprofessional at best) are any different.
So the next time you see the “regular” Atlantis, take a chance and waste some change, you might just strike gold.
8.) Virtual Bowling/SD Gundam Dimension War (Virtual Boy; NTSC-J)
Estimated Price: $1000+ (Each, Complete)
As you might have noticed from the Games That Defined The Virtual Boy feature, Nintendo’s 3D experiment console didn’t have an especially extensive library of games due to the quick commercial demise of the system.
Many gamers in the US, however will recall select gaming stores carrying Japanese Virtual Boy games in 1996, post-apocalypse. These games were imported due to the abrupt cease of Virtual Boy hardware and software production, and with the few distraught Virtual Boy owners demanding more titles to play.
Given the cheap prices these imports were tagged at, many VB supporters would grab every one they saw, leaving just two titles strangely absent from their otherwise complete collections. These two very similar and about equally as desired titles, Virtual Bowling and Dimension War are what make collecting for the Virtual Boy near impossible.
Ten years after the Virtual Boy collapse, most of those collectors as well as many new ones, still can’t find Virtual Bowling or SD Gundam: Dimension War. What drives these games to be so expensive is not just their supreme rarity, but since there were only about 30 Virtual Boy titles available worldwide, collectors from every region have attempted to snag each last game for it since it isn’t a very large feat.
Not to be confused with the common Nester’s Funky Bowling for the North American Virtual Boy, Virtual Bowling is an original title, and almost never seen boxed. As the name suggests, its a bowling title, this one being story driven and viewed in first-person.
Dimension War is based on the popular Gundam anime series’ and is a standard turned-based strategy game. Aimed at younger players, the game’s difficulty is markedly easier than others of the genre. As with Virtual Bowling, a boxed copy of Dimension War is a near impossible find for under $1000.
While collectors situated only on North American Virtual Boy releases will tell tales of hunting Jack Bros., the aforementioned pair of games are the Holy Grails, regardless of region, for Nintendo’s much neglected red-ridden oddity.
7.) Air Raid (Atari 2600; NTSC-U)
Estimated Price: $3500 (Loose)
The Atari 2600 is still growing in popularity among hardcore retro-gaming collectors and if there is one game that has seen an explosion in price recently, it has to be Air Raid
for the Atari 2600.
The only game released by the company “MenAvision” (clever), Air Raid is quickly gaining the notoriety it needs to become the Holy Grail of Atari collecting. Two of the most recent sales have reached over $3000, and for the loose cartridge alone.
The game itself is a standard shooter along the lines of Space Invaders. Much like that Taito classic, in Air Raid you’re tasked with defending endangered buildings from rapidly lowering space menaces, the primary gameplay difference being that your ship is above and not below said buildings.
Air Raid’s cartridge is perhaps the strangest looking for the 2600, disregarding the need for a title and having both a handle and a sky-blue finish. its this unique image that is likely to remain at the forefront of a collector’s thoughts, driving the desire to find it extremely high.
its unknown exactly how many copies were printed, but Air Raid’s rarity suggests that it may have seen the most limited production run of any commercially released Atari 2600 title.
(Be sure not to confuse Air Raid with Air Raiders, an unrelated and very common game also on the Atari 2600.)
6.) Stadium Events (NES: NTSC-U)
Copies Produced: 2000
Estimated Price: $1000+ (complete)
Out of all the commercially sold NES games, Stadium Events is the most rare and in most cases the most realistic goal of NES collectors. What makes this otherwise standard game so rare, is that just after its release, it was recalled.
As an official third party title, Stadium Events made use of an accessory called the Family Fun Fitness Pad. It required the player(s) to run or step rapidly in order to complete each event, not unlike Dance Dance Revolution’s Pad. Upon its release, Nintendo decided to grant the game a first party production, recalling the scant initial cartridges that had been sent out.
The game would later become “World Class Track Meet” and would be played with Nintendo’s own controller the “Power Pad”. Both became very common and were boxed-in with many NES consoles.
But Stadium Events, the original anomaly, had snuck out in ever so limited numbers. 2000 copies is believed to have been the total distribution tally, but doesn’t consider how many of those were sold prior to Nintendo’s recall. Some have suggested that no more than 200 actually made it into NES owners’ homes.
Boxed copies of Stadium Events have been sold for over $1000, and even loose cartridges are closing in on that cost. With just under 800 licensed US games for the NES, collectors of this console have already decided upon a grand challenge, and would be willing to pay almost anything to finish off their collection.
For being such a difficult thing to do, its surprising that completing an NES collection is a desire for so many US collectors; this is likely because of a heavy nostalgia factor and the widespread affinity many people retain for this classic system, Nintendo’s first. But for all of the collectors who chase this achievement, they will need Stadium Events, and there are not very many cartridges to go around.
5.) Bangai-O: Prize Edition (Sega Dreamcast: NTCS-J)
Copies Produced: 5
Estimated Price: Undetermined
Treasure is known for releasing their masterpieces in low quantities, but Bangai-O: Prize Edition is so rare, I’d wager most collectors have never even heard of it; a quick search on the internet will bring up next to no information.
The original issue of the Dreamcast shmup, Bangai-O is actually a cult favorite (it is one of the best shooters on the Dreamcast) and demands more cash than your normal Dreamcast game, but it pales in comparison to the rarity and value of this extremely limited edition.
This version of the shooter was given out by Treasure to exactly five people as the top prizes in a Japanese high-score competition. While the game itself is identical to the original Bangai-O, the Prize Edition can be identified by a sticker on the case declaring itself as a winner’s trophy.
In the past, two of these games have been sold, both very quietly. its unknown the price of the first sale, but the most recent was placed in the inventory of an online store for $500, and at that selling point was quickly snatched.
The “newness” of this game means that past prices have had nothing to base on, only suggesting that the game was very rare.
Now, with the most interested of collectors turned on to its existence, any future sales would likely break $1000.
Bangai-O: Prize Edition would seem to be on its way to becoming an unbelievable Holy Grail…assuming that any more copies even turn up!
Pepsi Invaders is quite a unique game with a unique story behind it. The legend of Pepsi Invaders begins in the early 80’s, the waning days of the Atari 2600. Around this time,
Coca Cola held a employee get-together of sorts with the higher-ups to celebrate a victory against their competitor, Pepsi. So naturally, they made an Atari game to re-imagine the sales figures.
Originally called “Coke Wins”, this title was a Space Invaders-themed shooter that had the player fending off the enemy, in this instance, Pepsi. Following your victory, the game emphatically displays the bold message of “Coke Wins”.
Coming without proper packaging, a true label, or any hint of information, this grail’s victory message was used as its title until a few years ago, when the original developer identified his weird little creation as “Pepsi Invaders”.
Legend has it that only 125 copies of this game were given out, however it wasn’t necessarily game-lovers who received them, so far fewer are likely to still exist. (I’m not sure that many Coke executives bothered to keep a game cartridge around).
As a strange game with an even stranger origin, it is naturally an interest for hardcore fans of obscure and quirky games, not to mention for serious collectors. As a feasibly acquirable game, Pepsi Invaders can perhaps be called the Holy Grail of the Atari 2600.
(Beware of the reproduction cartridges flooding eBay for $50, which are simply independent re-releases created using the dumped ROM, and worth nowhere near as much as the original.)
3.) 1990 Nintendo World Championships: Tournament Cartridge (NES;
Copies Produced: 90
Estimated Price: Around $4000
In 1990, Nintendo famously held a gaming tournament in Los Angeles, California, not unlike the one in the finale of the cult classic film The Wizard. While admittedly a mainstream competition (most of us could have won with no problem), the event was a high point in Nintendo’s glamorous reign at the top of the gaming market, and is remembered by many with great enthusiasm. After its promotion in the popular Nintendo Power and through the Powerfest tour, kids everywhere practiced feverishly in hopes of heading to this event, seeing the wonder of light and sound, playing some Rad Racer, and winning it all.
its easy to understand why the most passionate of gamers today drop thousands of dollars, without any hesitation, to be one of the few people who can hold this timepiece from the event for themselves.
This cartridge, used in the actual tournament, has a monochromatic label and like a lot of EPROM exposed prototypes, has a hole in its casing, but for displaying dipswitches.
The actual game is a timed compilation of three titles, each adjusted for the tournament, and containing a unique scoring system. Players begin the challenge by completing the first world of Super Mario Bros., then must finish a quick lap in Rad Racer before taking off to Tetris where the remaining time runs out. The game then multiplies your Rad Racer and Tetris scores, adds all three results, and lets you know how well you did. It is hardly a real test of skill by today’s standards, but it is $4,000 worth of score-crunching fun.
While many Nintendo fans tried out for this competition, only 90 proved themselves worthy to be finalists. Each of those finalists were given a gray edition copy of this 1990 Nintendo World Championships cartridge to take home, and perhaps, to nightmarishly abuse.
One could suspect many of those copies to have been in various accidents or lost, but they still turn up, and continue to reach a higher and higher value.
There’s a great deal of factors which motivate game collectors to search out this legendary title, and there is always sure to be an insatiably high demand for it.
2.) Kizuna Encounter (Neo Geo; PAL)
Copies Produced: Less than 12
Estimated Price: $10,000+ (Complete)
One of the most rare games on any platform, the PAL version of Kizuna Encounter is the Holy Grail of European game collecting, and also a complete mystery.
A tag-battle fighting game from SNK, the arcade version of Kizuna Encounter is very common, routinely selling for around $50 USD. Also very common is the Japanese AES version of the game, identical in every way to this release, except for the packaging and inserts.
But this version is somehow incredibly rare. It is unknown exactly how many copies of the PAL version exist, but no
more than five have ever been witnessed sold. It is also not possible to confirm that this game was commercially released, given what appears to be an inconceivably low production number, and that the existing copies seem to have originated within a close proximity.
The most recent auctions for Kizuna Encounter have ended in the range of $12,000-13,500, which is about the highest price of any singular video game in history. This price, like all others on this list, is relative to the current demand and desire for the title, and may include many secondary factors such as rumors, small-scale bidding wars and over-estimation.
Many collectors believe this game, while certainly a Holy Grail, does not possess the content, history or widespread desire to remain the most expensive for much longer. For instance, the Nintendo World Championships title is a Mario game,
a solid and storied part of gaming history, and has a huge demand. Kizuna Encounter is perhaps a notable title for only PAL Neo Geo collectors.
While currently questionable in many regards, Kizuna Encounter cannot be denied its stature as one of gaming’s most revered collector’s items. It may be central to only a few collectors, but it somehow has achieved a price that not even one-of-a-kind games have ever reached. You may never encounter it.
Nintendo World Championships: Gold Edition (NES; NTSC-U)
Copies Produced: 26
Estimated Price: $10,000+
As interesting as it would have been to close this list with a surprise, in the topic of Video Game Holy Grails, there’s no doing so.
This literally golden game is not the world’s most rare, and its price may not even be the highest…but gamers everywhere know very well of its existence. And now, there is absolutely no denying: its desire is furious, its demand is unmatched, and the determination of gamers everywhere to possess this most holy of grails, is a dream-induced phenomenon.
Will you ever get one? Unlikely. Will you ever see one? I doubt it. Will some lucky gamer out there -one day- find one of the remaining carts in the wild? its going to happen.
The 1990 Nintendo World Championships: Gold
Edition was the contest prize in one of Nintendo Power’s monthly promotions. One grand prize winner and twenty-five equally as fortunate runners-up were each sent a single copy. The game is virtually identical to the gray tournament edition above, containing the very same collection of timed games. This version simply has a full color logo, and most poetically, is gold.
What gives this game an incredible dynamic is that while so few copies exist, they were distributed to winners throughout all of North America. Many rare/prototype games and systems with this low of a production, had their entire allotment sent to or found in a single localized area. These cartridges we are speaking of could be anywhere…
Making your weekly rounds at the local thrift store, you search through a rack of some newly brought in gold Zelda carts. “Two dollars each? I’ll sell these on eBay.” You take them home, only there to discover that one of your “Zeldas” has a five-digit selling point.
Approaching a yard sale just about to pack up, you spy a lowly box of NES carts. Seeing your curiosity, the seller explains some of the games, “Mario, Zelda, oh, Donkey Kong – my favorite…” before making a dramatic revelation: “This was from a contest.” the seller will say, showing you a gold NWC cart. “its a fun game, you can have it.” Try to stay calm (i.e. don’t pee): you wouldn’t want to suggest the game is worth anything.
The 1990 Nintendo World Championships: Gold Edition has become the definition and idea of a Holy Grail. its every element seems to add to its energy, and in time, it will only become more costly and harder to acquire. Few people will ever truly complete their NES or Nintendo collections, with this game being the unattainable deity that it absolutely is.
So to the gamers, to the Nintendo fans, to the collectors, dreamers and purists, I wish you good luck. There are/were 26 of these carts out there. It may not be easy or happen tomorrow, next year, or in the next ten years, but for those who remain adamant, it could indeed actually happen. Somewhere and still to this day, the holy grail of game collecting awaits you.
Guardian Heroes, Dragon Force,Daytona USA: CCE Netlink Edition
(Sega Saturn; NTSC-U)
(Sony Playstation; NTSC-J)
(Sega Saturn; NTSC-J)
Sonic Adventure Limited Edition (Sega Dreamcast; NTSC-U)
Border Down Limited Edition (Sega
Tactics Ogre (Playstation; NTSC-U)
Earthbound, Lufia, Final Fantasy
II and III, Breath of Fire Series, various RPGs (SNES;
Mega Man X3 (SNES; NTSC-U)
Akumajo Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (PC
Engine Super CD-ROM; NTSC-J)**
Darxide (Sega 32X; PAL)
Spiderman: Web of Fire (Sega 32X;
Spiker Super Pro Volleyball
Color A Dinosaur, Caltron 6 in 1, Hot Slots (NES; NTSC-U)
Blockbuster World Video Game Championship II (Sega Genesis; NTSC-U)
Chase the Chuck Wagon (Atari 2600;
Video Life, Quadrun, Swordquest Waterworld, Malagai, Eli’s Ladder, Crazy Climber (Atari 2600; NTSC-U)
** These are not truly rare, their high prices are due only to demand.
*** Required dog food can labels to be sent to the game’s manufacturer.
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