Considering how much of a nostalgic powerhouse the NES is, there should be little surprise that Nintendo’s 8-bit library is filled with many collectible pieces. In contrast with the Super Nintendo’s rare and valuable list, the most desirable NES games are not necessarily populated with the most popular games. Because of the unassuming nature of these titles, you may be unaware of the treasures that could be found in a local garage sale, flea market, or your own closet. Since our 2018 guide revision, we have seen some stabilization of some of the high-priced game, but there have been a few standouts that have emerged into the top 30 list over the last couple of years. This year, we also added a new section covering the recent uptick in collecting pristine, graded, and sealed classic (but common) classics.
In stark contrast to the Cheapest Games series, this Rare & Valuable series will round up the rarest and most valuable games for a given console or handheld so you’ll know what to look for whether you are buying or selling. Below you will see two prices beside each title. The first is the average daily selling price of what is typically the cartridge by itself. The second price is the highest selling price of recent history of a an unsealed copy (typically with box and manual). The list is ordered by the balance of the two prices. Note that some of these games are not rare in the sense that there are not many available, but rare relative to demand, which makes the games expensive. It is also worth nothing that we are not including prototype cartridges.
Rare & Valuable NES Games Table of Contents:
Note: Values updated on October 2020
Limited Edition Collectibles
Super Mario Bros. – Matte Sticker Sealed Variant: $100,000 – $115,000 (Sealed/Graded)
While the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES is one of the most iconic and common games on the system, this particular variant is actually incredibly rare. It has a matte sticker seal on the outer packaging that was only used during the test market launch of the NES in New York (in late 1985) and Los Angeles (in early 1986). For this brief period of time, Nintendo used these matte stickers to seal the flap, but they eventually transitioned to a more secure glossy sticker and then full-box shrink wrap.
In July of 2020, a mint copy sold for $114K at Heritage Auctions.
Going back more than a year, a similar copy sold for $100,500 at Heritage Auction in February of 2019.
Interestingly enough, at the time of this writing there have been two offers made in September 2020 in excess of $150,000 for this same unit. I’m sure the recent buyer isn’t looking to offload it super-soon, but if it gets up toward the $200,000 mark, I’m sure it would be considered!
Also, even at launch, there were only between 2,000 and 10,000 units of these matte-sticker units produced. Of course, most were opened and many even had the boxes discarded completely. Deniz Kahn, CEO and founder of game grading service Wata Games, estimates that only “single digit” units of unopened units still exist to this day. These units that have sold for more than $100K are also in absolute pristine condition, which is especially challenging considering how sensitive those black cardboard boxes are.
1990 Nintendo World Championships: Gold Edition:
$25,000 – $100,000
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.
The actual game is a timed compilation of three titles (Super Mario Bros, Rad Racer, and Tetris), each adjusted for the tournament and containing a unique scoring system. The 1990 Nintendo Worldwide 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 (which makes 26 copies in the wild).
What gives these competition cartridges 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.
Successful sales of these cartridges only really seem to happen every few years. However, you will often see ones on eBay like this graded copy (listed for a $1 Million asking price with a “Make an Offer” option). From the turn of the millennium t0 2010, Gold cartridges sold in the range of $5,000 to $18,000). This last decade it has doubled to quadrupled in value. It is still quite difficult to quantify an expected value for this piece, so we have the range based what little info we have. There was a sale in 2015 for $26,000 and there was supposedly a private sale of one in the “triple digits”.
1990 Nintendo World Championships: Grey Cart: $13,000 – $25,000
These essentially have the same story behind them as the gold cartridge mentioned above, but the more common grey cartridges were the ones actually used in the tournaments and were then given to each of the finalists. The grey carts had a print run of 90 and has a monochromatic label and, like a lot of EPROM exposed prototypes, has a hole in its casing for displaying dip-switches.
What is rather interesting about these cartridges is the fact that only about half of the cartridges have reportedly surfaced, so there are still more out there hidden in somebody’s closet, garage sale, or flea market. Even though these are cartridge-only releases, condition can be a large factor. However the buzz of these championship cartridges helped a sale for $25,000 complete in May of 2017.
We previously had the low-end price at $8,000 based on the 2012 sale, but we have bumped it up to $13,000 based on a [surprising] trade in at Pink Gorilla Games store for $13,000 (and they later sold).
Much like the Gold Cartridge, there is a current eBay listing out there to see if they can get a bite at a high price. The cartridge is graded, but has an asking price of $150,000 with a “Make an Offer” option.
1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge: $13,000 – $21,100
The 1991 Nintendo Campus cartridge was created by Nintendo for a video game competition like the Nintendo World Championships in 1990, but this one would tour college campuses and spring break hot spots. The cartridges had three games on them, Super Mario 3, PinBot, and Dr. Mario and a time limit of about 6 minutes. Players attempted to get the most points on all three games within the allotted time.
After the event, the games were all supposed to be destroyed, but one was found at an ex-Nintendo employee’s garage sale in 2006. Up until 2006, it was hard to pin down a value for this cartridge as it never really surfaced on the marketplace. That year, the cartridge was sold privately (by a collector who found it at a garage sale in New York) for $14,000 and then later resold for on eBay $20,100 — at the time, bringing it just shy of the mark at the time for the 1990 Gold Nintendo World Championship Cartridge. (Read More) The cartridge hasn’t surfaced since 2006 — neither new sightings of additional, legitimate cartridges or new sales of the original find.
One could argue that this cartridge is less of an “official game” than even the 1990 Championship Cartridges and more in the area of prototype cartridges (which typically aren’t worth as much as official game releases). These are the types of difficult discussions that collectors face — similar to putting a value on a game like Gamma Attack for the Atari 2600 that only has one known copy after being sold via mail order. Ultimately, a game is only worth what somebody will pay. The question is whether somebody will pay more than $21,000 the next time a cartridge goes up for sale.
Treasured Standard USA Releases
Stadium Events: $7,500 – $30,000 ($42,000 Sealed)
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. 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 that 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. It should be noted that PAL versions were not recalled and are not worth as much (even though many eBay sellers try to pass them off as rarities or jump on the hype of the rare North American version).
In 2011, we saw complete copies of Stadium Events peak with an eBay sale closing at $45, 000. As more copies (sometimes unopened) surfaced, the prices started to come down to $30,000 or even $20,000. Loose copies seem to have increased over time, but there are still relatively frequent.
In 2017, we saw one more sealed copy surface. It was randomly found at a thrift store, picked up by the recent seller’s mom. Here’s a recount of the story (hear a full recollection on his Youtube video):
“Mom always buys things for me and she thought that this might be something I would like, that I would probably open it up and play it. She also knows that I like video games and I would be happy with this if it had no value. I’d say thanks Mom, but at the same time this one actually did have value so it was amazing she found it.”
This particular sealed copy sold for about $42,000 USD. So it does show that Stadium Events does still have legs on the marketplace — especially if the condition is top-notch.
Little Samson: $1,500 – $3000
Little Samson has become the NES collecting “success story” in the last decade (without the mainstream media hype of Stadium Events). In our original publication of this guide in 2008, Little Samson was on the radar, but it didn’t crack the top 10 list and could be found for a reasonable amount of money for one of our NES Hidden gems that was relatively hard to find. In our 2012 revision of the guide it jumps to $90 for a bare cart and $200 for a complete copy.
If you check into eBay or any other experienced seller that is selling a copy of Little Samson today, you will find those bare carts being over 15x as expensive — sometimes nearing $2,000 for a bare cart if its clean and proven to be authentic. Although, just in August, there was a complete copy with box and manual (granted, with noticeable wear) that sold for only $1500. Mint complete copies have been reported in the $3,000 range or slightly higher though. However, all this easily makes it the most valuable un-recalled retail NES game in the collector market.
With all that being said, Little Samson is a gem of a action shooter developed by Taito in 1991 to jump into the platforming trend. It also had the bright graphics and smooth animation to earn its way onto our NES Games That Pushed the Limits back in 2007. Unfortunately, back in the early 90s, Taito didn’t have the marketing push to help it get the attention in the crowded NES platforming space.
The Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak: $900 – $2,000
As the NES era drew to a close, publishers like Taito released many of their games exclusively to game rental companies while bypassing the traditional retail market. The Flintstones II is the best example of this in the US, but is a bit easier to find in Europe. Of course, since it was primarily a rental game, finding a complete copy in good condition is especially challenging. You can currently find some boxed copies on eBay with asking prices getting close to $3,000 but we rarely see buyers taking them up on prices this high.
The combination of the rarity element and a fun pop-culture tie-in helped The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak to see a similar trajectory to Little Samson on the NES collectors charts. In 2008, it was an affordable gem to keep a look out for. However, by 2012, it had made it to the top 5 licensed retail/rental games for the NES at the $120 to $250 range. Now, you’re easily creeping toward the $1000 mark just for loose cartridges.
- Check for Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak on eBay
- Check for Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak on Amazon
Bonk’s Adventure: $600 – $1600
While it was know primarily for being the leading franchise on the TurboGrafx-16 / PC-Engine, Bonk also received an adaptation on the NES (in addition to the Game Boy, the Arcade and Amiga). The original TG16 game was developed by Red Entertainment and published by Hudson. A.I. Co worked with Red Entertainment on the NES port to be released released in January 1994 (4 years after the TG16 release and exceptionally late in the NES timeline.).
The NES port obviously had the colors downgraded due to hardware limitations, but it looks like a pretty decent presentation considering the circumstances. However, since the cartridge space was bigger of a limitation on the NES than color palette, some levels were cut from the original, and the remaining levels have some edits to them. You also won’t find the NES version to be as challenging as the hardware wasn’t able to put as many enemies on the screen at a time.
This rather limited release didn’t get much attention on this original publication of this list in 2008 as it was selling for between $30 and $60 at the time. It doubled in value by 2012 to a $60 to $250 range. However, in the last 5 years, it was multiplied 5 to 6 times. In 2017, we actually saw a complete copy sell for $2000, but it’s cooled down just a bit since then (unless somebody sells a gem mint copy, you could see it hit $2000+ again). However, since 2017, loose carts have increased from about $400 to $600.
Panic Restaurant: $500 – $1300
Here’s another Taito release that has started to get increased collector attention the past few years. Five or six years ago, it was not hard to find a copy of this game under $100. As the NES market has heated up, you’ll be challenged to find it for less than $500 with prices sometimes exceeding $1000 for a complete copy.
Panic Restaurant is an interesting platformer designed by the late Kenji Eno (who eventually developed the “D” survivor horror series) that puts you in the role of Chef Cookie in an attempt to tame your restaurant of aggressive food products. It has a fun style and theme to it that would feel right at home in the better third-party NES platformers.
Since it is both hard to find and a fun, quirky addition to any NES fan’s collection, it’s not hard to see why this title has climbed the list as everyone wants to round out their collection.
Power Blade 2: $450 – $1000
This action platformer developed by Natsume is yet another Taito publication that has been climbing this list. Interestingly enough, this title was actually released in North America before it was released in Japan (under the name Captain Saver).
While this original Power Blade was adapted from a Mega Man rip-off that ended up being pretty good, Power Blade 2 was watered down from the original other than the addition of some additional power suits. Released in late 1992, it was near the end of the NES lifespan and didn’t get a lot of circulation.
Kid Klown in Night Mayor World: $340 – $1000
Developed by and published in the US in April 1993 by Kemco, Kid Klown was originally Mickey Mouse III: Yume Fuusen (The Dream Balloon) in Japan. Since Capcom held the license for Disney video games in the US, the game’s title and certain character sprites were changed for its North American release.
The game is a fairly standard platformer in many ways, but the game’s biggest innovation is the circus balloons that Kid Klown can deploy as a springboard to high places, a parachute to float safely, and as a projectile weapon that can be thrown in 8 directions. Other than this novelty, there isn’t much in the gameplay or the graphics (especially by 1993 standards) that will keep you coming back to this title.
Kid Klown remained in obscurity in both name and collectibility until it started ascending from tens of dollars pre-2015 to hundreds of dollars in the last few years. In fact, even since our 2017 guide revision, this release has risen dramatically from the $190 to $280 in just those three years (making it one of the fasters risers as of late). Boxed copies are pretty hard to find in good condition — most of them only sell for $400 to $500, but ones in nice condition like this recent eBay sale that actually include all the manual, poster, inserts and such can reach the the $1000 mark.
Bubble Bobble Part 2: $400 – $780
If you’re an old-school gaming fan, it is hard not to love the Bubble Bobble franchise. The original is a common mainstay in the NES library, however, Bubble Bobble Part 2 was released in 1993, coming very late in the NES’s lifespan – a full two years after the SNES was released. Despite it being a follow-up to an arcade classic, it languished on the store shelves, overshadowed by shiny, new Super Nintendo games.
In fact, by 1993, the puzzle platformer style of the game was becoming very much a niche genre, so it wasn’t even released in the arcade. All that results of Taito’s efforts was this NES release and a Game Boy variation.
For those that are into the series, Part 2 is mostly unchanged from the original game, but the player can float up to higher platforms and over walls by holding down the B button. One disappointment with this NES releases, however is that two-player mode only lets you take turns instead of play cooperatively.
Dragon Fighter: $340 – $700
This Natsume creation was published by SOFEL in North America in early 1992. It is a very interesting hybrid of a platformer and shooter that can either be incredibly frustrating or, with some practice, a zen-state action experience.
You primarily venture out as warrior with a hack-n-slash platformer feel, but you can switch to a flying dragon form when you meter fills up (ideal when you’re in a tight spot, certain stages, or during boss battles). This is one of the better examples of a valuable game that has some solid and interesting gameplay.
While being judged purely on gameplay, it might not be “worth” the price, but if you’re looking to add a valuable collector piece to your NES collection that is also a solid gem of a game (see a solid video review), Dragon Fighter is actually a nice choice.
Zombie Nation: $340 – $620
Released in 1990 by Meldac and developed by KAZe, Zombie Nation was originally released in Japan as Abarenbou Tengu. It is a horizontal shmup that features a bizarre setting with a fusion of zombies and samurai.
Zombie Nation could use some additional refinement, but it does show off some technical skill with the amount of activity occurring on the screen without slowdown. The boss battles are also frantic, and the amount of bullet fire in later levels show the promise of the “bullet hell” genre to become popular later in the decade.
While it isn’t one of the greatest shooters on the NES, it’s not difficult to see how fans of shmups or quirky titles could find it appealing to add this to their collections. The game doesn’t have the best historical reputation, but has become a bit more of a rare cult classic over time.
Duck Tales 2: $200 – $630 ($2100 Sealed)
While the original Duck Tales game was released in 1989, sold quite well, and is a regarded as a challenging but thrilling classic in the NES library, the follow-up title was not released until 1993, dooming it to be a slow-moving title. For those who enjoyed the original Duck Tales game, you will mostly likely find enjoyment here. There are a few subtle changes, but some argued that the game was rather short.
Duck Tales 2 has been high on this list of NES collectibles for quite some time. While it’s numerical ranking may have gone down, it is still worth 4 to 5 times what its value from 5 years ago. It will be interesting to see if the new (and enjoyable, IMO) Duck Tales cartoon reboot will add more collector appeal to this release.
Mighty Final Fight: $200 – $660
Final Fight was a landmark beat ‘em up on which Capcom began work as a follow-up to the original Street Fighter (but before Street Fighter II). It was a hit in the arcades in 1989 and received a successful Super Nintendo port in 1991. Once 1993 came around, Capcom wanted to try to bring the successful game to the still-surviving NES but obviously needed to make some graphical changes to make it work on the older hardware.
As a nice compromise, Capcom took some inspiration from the likes of Double Dragon and River City Ransom. The result is a “chibi,” or super-deformed, art style that works as a bit of parody of the Final Fight series (think of Capcom’s later Pocket Fighter as a fun take on Street Fighter). While you may be disappointed if you expect Mighty Final Fight to be a replacement for the original, if you go in with an open mind ready to have fun, it’s still one of the best beat ‘em ups on the NES.
For a collector’s standpoint, Mighty Final Fight skyrocketed out of mid-double digit cartridge pricing to going for $200 for a bare cartridge over the last 5 years. Complete copies can easily exceed $500 in good shape and with manual.
Gun-Nac: $250 – $600 ($4,000 Sealed/Graded)
While most of this lists relies heavily on the rarity of the game and collectors trying to add buzz-worthy investments to their collection, Gun-Nac is one of the most serious combinations of rarity and the caliber of the game itself. Fans of scrolling shooters (or shmups as their often called) are some of the most dedicated genre collectors and the genre often has a lot of under-appreciated gems that didn’t sell especially well in their time of release. This can be evidenced in many of our Rare and Valuable guides of 90s consoles such as the Saturn, Dreamcast, Genesis, PlayStation, and SNES.
There was a nice handful of great shmups on the NES, and some of the most well-known classics such as Gradius and 1943 were mainstream hits and have lots of inexpensive copies floating around. Gun-Nac, on the other hand, is commonly on shmup fans list of top NES shooters but also has a much more limited circulation. Gun-Nac was developed by Compile — the Japanese firm known for shmup franchises such as Zanac, Aleste and Gunhed/Blazing Lazers.
Gun Nac is one of the fastest shooters for the NES, probably only rivaled by Recca Summer Carnival or Crisis Zone. Although Gun Nac frequently becomes hectic, it is still one of the most balanced shooters in the NES library. Weapon drops are frequent causing the penalty of dying to be less threatening than most shooters. The money you pick up can be used in the shops between levels to power-up your weapons if you don’t feel like leaving it to fate. Gun-Nac’s graphics are reminiscent of Zanac but with its 5 years of technical advances showing. It also has a zany story and strange bosses that seemed to give Compile a break from its more “serious” themes.
Gun-Nac has seen a slow and steady climb. It’s never been an outright cheap game (lowest would be like $20 to $30 loose a decade ago). And like a lot of these games saw a large rise between 2013 and 2017. But Gun-Nac has still seen a decent increase from its 2017 range of $200-$360.
Cowboy Kid: $320 – $500
Inspired by Konami’s Ganbare Goemon series but with a heavy Western influence, Cowboy Kid was developed by a small upstart company by the name of Pixel and published by Romstar in North America in 1992. It has a lot of similarities to Ganbare Goemon 2 on the Famicom but is different enough that it has been theorized that it could have been rejected by Konami and sold off to be repackaged.
The game isn’t strictly 2D, but some areas give some freedom of movement like a beat ‘em up. Other spots shift to either side-scrolling platforming levels or horseback stages that play like an overhead shooter. To round it out, it even has some RPG aspects and a handful of mini games like a shooting gallery, blackjack, and others.
In the end, Cowboy Kid was a very low run production piece at the later part of the NES lifespan. It didn’t really get a ton of collector action until the last 5 to 7 years. In 2012, we were looking at $16 for a loose cart and around $25 copy for a boxed copy; 5 years later, you are looking at $250 loose and $400 boxed.
Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers 2: $250 – $530 ($1400 sealed)
The original Chip N’ Dale Rescue Rangers is one of the best platforming games on the NES and got a decent amount of attention after its 1990 release. Much like the scenario of Duck Tales and Duck Tales 2, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers 2 is a solid follow up to the original and will make fans happy, but when arrived in 1993, the NES was all but dead, and the novelty of the cartoon franchise was already in limited syndication.
Unlike Duck Tales 2, C&DRR2 stayed under the radar with collectors for quite a while and could be found relatively easily for low double digits in 2012. Now, it will be hard to find a loose cartridge for less than $200. A sealed and graded copy even went for $1400 in 2017.
It is also worth noting that both Duck Tales 2 and Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers 2 were released in The Disney Afternoon Collection compilation for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One in April of 2017 but we’ve seen some modest increase in value even since then.
Snow Brothers: $200 – $500
Snow Brothers is an arcade port of the puzzle platformer title of the same name and has gameplay very similar to Bubble Bobble. It is actually one of the older games on this list, being released in 1991, but the game did not move many copies despite its solid gameplay. In fact, Ocean had licensed the game for the Amiga and Atari ST in 1991 but canceled the games part way through development because of disappointing sales (it was eventually released on the Mega Drive in 1993, however)
Even though Snow Brothers has been on our top 10 list of Licensed US Releases for quite a while, it could be found for a modest $49 for a loose cartridge and up to $150 for a boxed copy. Five years later, it has essentially quadrupled in value, now commanding $200 for a loose copy and up to $500 for a boxed copy.
If you’re paying attention to the developers and publishers on this list, the combination of Natsume developing and Taito publishing should make it unsurprising to see The Jetsons: Cogswell’s Caper appear on this list. Combine that with the release date of late 1992, and you can see why it is an in-demand rarity.
Cogwell’s Caper wasn’t always high on this list; back in 2012, it was simply on the middle of the “Rarest USA Games at Affordable Prices” section. In hindsight, more of us should have tracked down copies of all those titles. Just five years ago, one could have easily scored a loose copy for only $14 and possibly a boxed copy for around $20. Now, it’s about $215 for a loose copy (over 15 times increase) and bump to a range of $350 to $550 for a boxed copy (nearly over 17X to 30x). The game itself is not where its value is found. While the graphics do a nice job of representing the cartoon, there is not much additional substance.
It is worth mentioning that Cogwell’s Caper has cooled down about 10% to 20% or so since our 2017 revision. Probably the biggest drop thus far in the top 20 releases over the last three years.
Wacky Races: $220 – $500 ($850 Graded)
Don’t be fooled by the title of this game — this game has nothing to do with racing but instead is a platforming game based on the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon series featuring Muttley and Dick Dastardly. It was developed and published by Atlus in 1992 and is actually a relatively challenging but beatable platformer that has a nice cartoon presentation and will feel at home with some of the of the best licensed platformers the 8-bit era had to offer.
Much like The Jetsons, Wacky Races was previously on the “Rarest USA Games at Affordable Prices” section back in 2012. Loose copies jumped from $11 to $220 (a 20x jump) and a boxed copy from $15 to $500 (which is up from $300 in 2017).
Sword Master: $200 – $600
Sword Master is a side-scrolling action platformer that relies on action, patience, and strategy. Between the hack-n-slash action and the energetic soundtrack, it has some strong arcade vibes, but it requires more thought and concentration than most of its arcade peers. Despite its challenging and unforgiving nature, it can be really fun once you get a good feel for it.
Sword Master was developed by Athena in 1990 but released by Activision in the US in 1992. It is thought by some to be a follow-activup of Athena’s Castle of Dragon, but it was never officially stated as such. The graphics could actually pass for an early TurboGrafx 16 or a launch-era Sega Genesis game with large, detailed characters and impressive backgrounds and cutscenes. As impressive as it was for the NES, it did pale in comparison to what the SNES offered in 1992 which prevented it from getting substantial sales.
Back in 2012, this game was quite under the radar and could be found for $20 to $30 for a loose copy. While it goes for 10x those prices now, this is another one of those gems that could be worth adding to your collection if you are fan of the genre.
Bucky O’Hare: $160 – $650
Originally beginning as a comic before transitioning to a TV series in the early 90s (perhaps riding off the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Bucky O’Hare was transitioned to the video game world by Konami (who also worked with TMNT, Simpsons and other properties)
While Konami created both a NES game and an arcade game for Bucky O’Hare, they were significantly different games. This also could be likened to Konami’s first TMNT home games compared to the first Turtles arcade game. The NES Bucky O’Hare game drew a lot of inspiration from Capcom’s Mega Man series with some Contra-like elements and TMNT’s character-switching (you unlock characters by completing certain levels). And more so than TMNT, each character in your roster has different skills and advantages. The Bucky arcade game was more of akin to Konami’s other licensed beatemup arcade games but with shooting being more of a focus.
Even though the NES game came out before the arcade game, it was in 1992 and well into the era where the Super Nintendo was around and thriving. This era was interesting in retrospect as skilled developers did put out some interesting games that made good use of the NES hardware such as this Bucky ‘O Hare release, but these late third-party released just didn’t end up getting much commercial exposure, therefore having relatively smaller print runs.
The Bucky ‘O Hare cartridges could often be picked up for $20 or less up until 2012, but gradually increased to the $100 price point between mid 2012 and 2016 (with complete copies goes for about double those prices). Things plateaued a bit for the next few years. It was in our honorable mentions section in our 2017 guide, but just this year rocketed into the top 20 North American retail listings — accelerating nicely while others slow down a bit.
Stack Up (With Pieces): $120 – $800 ($4000 Sealed)
Remember R.O.B. The Robot? Gyromite may be the most popular game to play with the NES’s early companion, but Stack Up was yet another option for our robotic friend. I’m putting this on the bottom of the main list since the game itself isn’t especially rare (but still sells for $60 to $80 for the cartridge), but it is very difficult to find in complete condition due to all the pieces that were included and the large cardboard box.
Stack Up has appreciated nicely since it’s addition to our guide in 2012. Eight years ago, you could find the cartridge for as little as $15. The complete copy commanded between $160 and $248. Today, it has nearly quadrupled its value for the complete form, surpassing a $800 price tag. (Nearly doubled even from the 2017 level of $480) There was also recently a copy of the game that was complete other than the box, which sold for $120.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters: $150 – $500
Tournament Fighters was a classic attempt to combine the popularity of the franchise at the peak of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ popularity with the peak of the fighting game trend. While there was a lot of noise in the genre, the Tournament Fighters title got a lot of promotion, but this was mostly for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis ports. The NES version was a bit of a gamble to capitalize on the large NES install base late in its lifespan (and actually released a few months after the 16-bit versions). While it did have it’s technical limitation on the NES, it wasn’t as disappointing in comparison to the 16-bit versions as you might think.
Tournament Fighters’ 1994 release was Konami’s final NES title. If it wasn’t enough of a risk to release an NES game in 1994 (only 8 licensed US titles were released after it), Tournament Fighters was also banking on the success of the third live-action Ninja Turles movie that was released in the spring of 1993, but as fans may remember, that movie was painfully disappointing. Interestingly enough, the NES version was not released at all in Japan.
Tournament Fighters was originally in our honorable mentions section of this guide in past revisions, but it only sold for between $25 and $40 in 2012. A loose copy these days can easily go for $150 now, and a boxed copy has sold for between $375 and $500.
Wayne’s World: $130 – $506
For those of you that didn’t grow up in the 1990s, Waynes’s World was the popular SNL skit that became successful film in 1992 — creating a brief cultural phenomenon at the beginning of the decade. Game makers were quick to turnaround the property into a digital experience, but were right at the transition between 8-bit and 16-bit consoles. The NES Wayne’s World game is a completely different game than that was released on the Super Nintendo and Sega Megadrive/Genesis. The NES game also follows the plot of the Wayne’s World film as well.
The NES game actually came out months after the its 16-bit Wayne’s World peers. When you stop and think about it, the less of a surprise that the NES Wayne’s World game wasn’t exactly flying off the retail shelves — the SNES was well on its way to replacing the NES and, to the casual game shopper, this NES release wasn’t something you couldn’t get on a newer system.
The Wayne’s World NES cartridge has never been especially cheap, but it’s mostly been an under-the-radar collectable until about 2012. Before 2012, the bare carts were about $20 to $30. In 2012, the NES cart started its gradually accent into the $100+ range — possibly kick-started by Angry Video Game Nerd’s spotlight the year prior and Youtube’s subsequent growth. These last few years, we’ve continued to see continued strength compared to the overall NES market. Just since our 2017 guide revision, we’ve seen it jump from the $105 to $215 price range in the Honorable Mentions section to landing in the Top 30 section. The premiums placed on mint, complete copies has greatly helped Wayne’s World’s ranking in collectability.
Fire ‘N Ice: $150 – $400
Fire N Ice is a cool little puzzle action game that is the sequel to the NES favorite, Solomon’s Key (and is called Solomon’s Key 2 in Europe and Japan). Fire ‘N Ice puts you in the role of a wizard named Dana who needs traverse maze-like structures while extinguishing flames using his power to move and create blocks of ice. There are even some boss battles that features bigger puzzles, often have lava chasing you, and sometimes rise vertically. They serve as a challenging but rewarding experience to break up the standard levels.
Released in March of 1993 by Tecmo, the North American release didn’t get a lot of attention, and sales were slow. The cover art tried to grab attention with it’s bright colors and “Warning” label, but it didn’t really suit the game well. The name change in the US probably didn’t help any either.
Overall, Fire N Ice has a colorful and whimsical style that rounds out a game that would be a great addition to any NES collection. It is a shame that more gamers didn’t get to experience it. Other than some unofficial clones on the ZX Spectrum and the Amiga, this game remains an NES exclusive.
Pro Sport Hockey: $120 – $420
Pro Sport, published by Jaleco was a relatively ambitious effort at the time, but came out just as EA was really building their EA Sports legacy, including the NHL ‘9X series. Between this strong competition and the fact that the NES was loosing favor during its release in 1993 (and there was an SNES version of the game), Pro Sport Hockey just did not sell real great on the NES.
It’s hard enough to find a loose cartridge of Pro Sport Hockey in the wild, but it’s REALLY hard to find an authentic box of the game — and all the more difficult to find one in good condition along with the manual and such.
Pro Sport Hockey is also one of those NES carts that have gradually increased value over time as more NES collectors have been building out their collections and noticing just how tricky this one is to score.
Metal Storm: $120 – $400 ($600 Sealed)
Metal Storm was published in 1991 by Irem (who is notorious for their punishing shooters such as R-Type). This fantastic gem has you play as a robot that can switch gravity at a push of a button (a feature that was also fun the Gameboy gem, Wendy: Every Witch Way). It’s a wonderful gameplay mechanic that is just as technically impressive as it is fun. Metal Storm is easy to pick up and play, but it takes quite some effort to master. The advanced animation, parallax scrolling, and and mecha style would feel at home on a 16-bit console if it had a deeper color palette.
Despite being featured on the cover of Nintendo Power Issue #22, it didn’t sell very well — Nintendo Power later blamed it on issues with low distribution.
Metal Storm has seen a steady climb over the years, but loose copies have cooled just a bit just recently after Limited Run did a special edition NES cart of Metal Storm. While they are physically different, some collectors that may have considered picking up an original cart (in possibly not ideal condition) may have opted to get a Limited Run copy with packaging for a just as much money or less.
Contra Force: $110 – $500
The original Contra (released in 1987) was one of the most defining games on the NES and a sequel, Super Contra (known as “Super C” on the NES), followed a year later. In the early 90’s, Konami was working on another shooter title by the name of Arc Hound, but it ended up getting its Japanese release cancelled. However, Konami decided to take advantage of the strong brand presence of the Contra series in the US and release it under the name Contra Force.
While it was still a classic 2D run-n-gun, it felt significantly slower than the previous Contra games (it was actually notorious for slowdown issues) and didn’t have some of the weaponry and theme that fans would expect, so many felt betrayed by Konami with the release. In addition, Contra Force was released in September of 1992 which was rather late in the NES’s lifespan. On top of that, Contra III: The Alien Wars came out just a few months earlier on the Super Nintendo. Konami all but admitted that Contra Force was a bit of an afterthought and the sales of the game reflected that.
It is worth noting some interesting aspects of the game, however, such as adding various characters with their own skills, weapons and unique sprites (instead of traditional palette swaps). Also, the player can switch between characters at any time, and even assign them to primitive AI. itretrogamer does a nice video to talk about its place in the series and what benefits it does have.
Bomberman II: $120 – $380
There aren’t too many classic franchises that have had such longevity on so many platforms as Bomberman. The NES received the first US console version of the franchise in 1989, and it was openly embraced for its unique combination of frantic puzzle-like action. Bomberman II added some additional polish, a 2-player Vs Mode, and a 3-player Battle Mode that requires an NES Four Score. It made for a wonderfully addicting experience.
Bomberman II was released in both Japan and PAL regions in 1991, but the North American release didn’t hit until February of 1993. By that time, there were already some TurboGrafx 16 installments out, and the release of Super Bomberman on the SNES was due out that September. Distribution and sales remained relatively low despite being such a successful brand, and it is an easy piece for collectors to want to scoop up.
Since our guide revision in 2012, Bomberman II has seen some healthy gains in value — more than a 3x increase ($37 for a bare cart in 2012 to $120 in 2020)
Pristine Retail Classics: Up To $35,000
For most of the last few decades, collecting classic video games was pretty much limited to those that grew up with the games and continued to build their collection over time.
The last five years or so, we have seen an influx of younger collectors that are broadening their horizons — digging into game libraries that are older than they are.
Since around 2018 and 2019, we have seen more outsiders jump into the retro game collecting world, viewing it as the next big collecting market — another comic books, if you will. With this viewpoint, it should not be a huge surprise that we have begun to see (and will continue to see) increased interest in mint copies of the most iconic and beloved games of history. These collectors are going to be looking more for historical significant instead of complete sets. (Although some people, like myself, do this anyway).
Below are some of the most iconic games on the Nintendo Entertainment System. They are not rare games by any means. In fact, there are some of the most common games out there, in terms of actual cartridges. The values show below are heavily dependent on the condition of box, and all the contents that were included inside. Special premiums are also given if there is proof that it was the first print run of the given game. (Also check out our Defining Games of the NES for additional titles to look out for in pristine condition)
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out
- Sealed – WATA 9.4 Grading: $35,000
- Sealed – $15,100
- Sealed – $6,400
- Sealed – $3,300
- Opened WATA 8.5 Graded – $3,270
- Opened REV-A WATA 8.0 Graded – $1,675
- Opened REV-A WATA 7.5 Graded- $1,500
- Opened REV-A WATA 5.5 Graded- $1,025
- Lower Grading or Complete Ungraded Units: $100 – $1000
Legend of Zelda (Original Release)
- White Sealed – VGA 85+ Grading: $18,000
- REV-A Sealed – $15,600
- White Seal – VGA 80+ Grading: $12,000
- Opened WATA 7.0 Grading: $1,750
- Lower Graded or Complete Ungraded Units: $65 – $400
Super Mario Bros.
- Rev-A Sealed – $14,400
- Sealed VGA 70+ Graded: $4,500
- Sealed – $4,050
- 2nd Print Gloss Seal WATA 7.5 Graded $4,000
- Sealed: $3,200
- Gloss Sticker Seal (2nd Run) WATA 6.0 Graded: $2,800
- Opened PAL VGA 80 Graded: $1,500
- Opened Rev-A WATA 8.0 Graded $1,250
- Sealed WATA 8.5 Graded: $1,000
- Opened WATA 7.0 Graded: $950
- Lower Graded or Complete Ungraded Units: $55 – $800
Super Mario Bros 2
- Sealed WATA 9.2 Graded: $5,000
- Sealed: $4,600
- Sealed: $1,425
- Sealed WATA 6.5 Graded: $1,400
- Sealed $600
- Lower Graded or Complete Ungraded Units: $50 – $300
Super Mario Bros 3
- Sealed: $3,650
- Sealed WATA 9.0 Graded: $3,620
- Sealed WATA 8.5 Graded: $3,500
- Sealed VGA 85 Graded: $3,400
- Sealed: $3,250
- Lower Graded or Complete Ungraded Units: $50 – $2,500
Note: Super Mario Bros 3 sold incredibly well, so there are MANY units in the wild. Only the most impeccable condition go for higher amounts. Valuations swing wildly based on condition.
Coveted Unlicensed Games
The NES had a number of unlicensed titles that didn’t receive the Nintendo Seal of Approval. Since most of them had a very limited release, it isn’t a surprise that many are worth quite a bit.
Cheetahmen II: $1,400 – $2,500
Thinking back to the early 1990s, you can probably easily recall how incredibly popular the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were (at least in the US). The Cheetahmen franchise was a relatively bizarre attempt to capitalize on the idea of humanoid animal action heroes. (I guess those at Active Enterprises thought it sounded like a good idea). In addition to the unlicensed Nintendo games, the publisher actually had high hopes of cashing in with action figures, t-shirts, a cartoon TV show before the word spread of the the series’ lack of quality.
The original Cheetahmen game was released on the Action 52 cartridge for the NES and on the Sega Genesis. Each game also came with a 12-page comic book to tell of the characters’ backstory. Despite the franchise’s lackluster performance a second installment of Cheetahmen was completed, although not officially released. Eventually, in 1996 all of the reported 1,500 copies of the game left their warehouse and were sold to the public. The games were packaged in unused Action 52 cartridges. Once people actually played the game, they realized there was more to its cancellation than its namesake. To this day it is known as one of the most unplayable games of all time.
A patch fixing all the game-breaking bugs was made available on romhacking.net and a “fixed” version of the game was released under the name “Cheetahmen II: The Lost Levels” via a Kickstarter campaign in 2012. You can now see a handful of these cartridges show up on places like eBay, so don’t get them confused with the rare, but buggy original.
While some of the unlicensed games on this list have cooled down in the last handful of years, this renewed interest in Cheetahmen II has actually boosted the value of this original release. Even just back in 2017, the game was only in the $1,000 to $1,200 range, but complete copies have more than doubled since then.
Myriad 6 in 1: $1,200 – $2,000
The 6-in-1 Myriad cart and its sibling, the Caltron 6-in-1 (see below) have been some of the more standout collector’s items on the Nintendo Entertainment System as the retro gaming hobby developed. A decade or more ago, the Myriad 6-in-1 was one of the most valuable NES games out there (more than Stadium Events at that time, if you can believe it), but we’ve seen a gradual degradation as collectors have shifted more to licensed copies (although Cheetahmen II, mentioned above, has built more of a cult status and remained strong).
As the name suggests, they are a collection of 6 games, which are about as good as you’d expect from an independent, unlicensed title. While the games themselves were released many times, these actual carts were released twice, the other time from Caltron, who reportedly went bankrupt during its production.
Myriad Games would later acquire the leftover carts, shipping them out in a new box, and with a numbered label for the price of $69. That sum might have seemed steep then, but it would be a steal for that today. While it might be slightly outdated information, a Digital Press posting lists #888 is the highest number found, so it’s unlikely that more than a thousand exist.
Hot Slots: $1,200 – $2,000
Bubble Bath Babes: $800 – $1,800
Peek A Boo Poker: $700 – $1,700
The games from adult publisher, Panesian, obviously didn’t meet Nintendo’s strict content guidelines. And even without the whole Seal of Approval business, the chances of your average retailer carrying the games would be pretty slim. So what was Panesian (the publisher) to do? Ship it only to video stores as a mail-order release.
I’m not sure it can be said how many copies are out there, but it is presumably less a thousand. 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 one of these games 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.
Bubble Bath Babes is a puzzle game featuring an 8-bit rendered, unclothed female at the bottom of the screen. Peek A Boo Poker and Hot Slots are your standard poker and slot machine games with extra “character” so to speak. The prices for each of these games have been steadily increasing over the last decade or two.
The original Caltron 6-in-1 release is about equally as hard to find as the Myraid 6 in 1, but generally commands a smaller premium. It is worth noting that there have been a number of suspected counterfeits showing up on eBay over the years. Back in 2012, there were mostly fake cartridges for $150, but not there are supposed sealed and graded copies for $500 or less. (looking at the feedback shows the sellers have been selling multiple copies and sell copies of other high profiles games like Stadium Events). In 2012, a loose copy has sold for over $1,000, but it’s slowly gone down to $600 in 2017 and $300 now.
The Rarest Japanese Famicom Games
I don’t have a ton of information or pictures from the wonderful world of Famicom games, but here are the most treasured Famicom and Famicom Disk games via this thread at Famicom World. Most of these were issued as prizes for game competitions. The values are primarily from Japanese transactions on Yahoo! Auctions. If you would like more information and pictures of some of these check out this article.
- Kinnikuman Muscle Tag Match Golden Tag Cartridge (8 Made) $7328 – $9770
- Rockman 4 Gold Cartridge (8 Made) $5370 – $5765
- Uranoid Ii (300 Made) – $4885
- Obake No Q Tarou Wan Wan Panic Present Version (100 Made) $1759 – $3900
- Meimon ! Daisan Yakyuubu Gold Cartridge: $2440
The Rarest Japanese Famicom Disk Games
- Wakusei Aton Gaiden Kokuzeikyou: $290 – $1,000
- Clu Clu Land $1,000 – $3,200
- Gold Disk (Japan Course) + Plate (100 Made)
- Alien II
- Zelda No Densetsu Charumera Version : $1000
- All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros (3000 Made) $830 – $1280
Additional Rare & Valuable PAL NES Games
- Mr. Gimmick: $600 – $750
- Vindicators (Australian HES version) : $600 – $710
- The Flintstones: Surprise At Dinosaur Peak: $600 – $750
- Jetsons: Cogwell’s Caper: $ $300 – $400
- Parasol Stars: $50 – $80
- Banana Prince: $45 – $75
- Noah’s Ark: $35 – $60
The Rarest USA Games At Affordable Prices
Each of these games have a rarity rating greater than 6, but routinely sell for less than $40. If you are an NES collector and see a boxed or sealed copy of any of these on eBay for a low price, you might want to snatch them up — you may never see them again.
Official Retail Games
- Ms. Pac-Man (Namco): $34 – $100 – Amazon / eBay
- Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: $30 – $100: Amazon / eBay
- Hatris: $23 – $45 – Amazon / eBay
- Pac-Man (Namco): $11 – $78 – Amazon / eBay
- Pac-Mania (Tengen): $9 – $65 – Amazon / eBay
- Solitaire: $34 – $130 – Amazon / eBay
- The Jungle Book: $25 – $120 – Amazon / eBay
- Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy (Aladdin): $11-$30 – Amazon / eBay
- Impossible Mission II: $20 – $35 – Amazon / eBay
- Micro Machines (Aladdin): $20/$30/$60 – Amazon / eBay
- Quattro Adventure (Aladdin): $6 – $30 – Amazon / eBay
- Quattro Arcade: $19 – $40 – Amazon / eBay
- Quattro Sports (Aladdin): $5- $20 – Amazon / eBay
- Stunt Kids: $36 – $65 – Amazon / eBay
- Trolls on Treasure Island: $23 – $65 – Amazon / eBay
- Ultimate League Soccer: $24 – $45 – Amazon / eBay
- Venice Beach Volleyball: $10 – $50 – Amazon / eBay
Additional US NES Games of Value
- Godzilla 2: $100 – $465 Amazon / eBay
- Swamp Thing: $140 – $365 Amazon / eBay
- Battletoads & Double Dragon: $82 – $510 Amazon / eBay
- Mega Man 5: $95 – $290 Amazon / eBay
- Gargoyle’s Quest II: $80 – $275 Amazon / eBay
- Die Hard: $125 – $250 Amazon / eBay
- Rockin’ Kats: $100 – $250 Amazon / eBay
- Kick Master: $100 – $250 Amazon / eBay
- Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom: $115 – $230 Amazon / eBay
- Nobunaga’s Ambition II: $100 – $250 Amazon / eBay
- RC Pro-AM II: $85 – $300 Amazon / eBay
- Tetris (Tengen): $70 – $200 ($1500-$1600 Sealed) Amazon / eBay
- Casino Kid II: $90 – $185 Amazon / eBay
- Bandit Kings of Ancient China: $85 – $135 Amazon / eBay
- Sqoon: $80 – $250 Amazon / eBay
- Race America: $57 – $203 – Amazon / eBay
- L’Empereur: $75 – $160 Amazon / eBay
- Jimmy Connors Tennis: $75 – $140 Amazon / eBay
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Ubisoft Version): $70 – $150 Amazon / eBay
- Action 52: $190 – $450 Amazon / eBay
- Color a Dinosaur: $90 – $1400 Amazon / eBay (high premium for mint/complete packaging)
- Menace Beach: $200 – $290 Amazon / eBay
- Moon Ranger: $150 – $300 Amazon / eBay
- Secret Scout in The Temple of Demise: $150 – $270 Amazon / eBay
- Sunday Funday: $150 – $240 Amazon / eBay
- Chiller: $75 – $235 Amazon / eBay
- Big Nose Freaks Out: $75 – $150 ($350 Sealed) Amazon / eBay
- Mermaids of Atlantis: $42 – $85 – Amazon / eBay
- Rare and Valuable Games Series
- Nintendo NES 101
- Games That Defined the NES
- Hidden Gems of the NES
- Digg This Story