Interesting Investments: Rare Video Games

Avery-Taylor Phillips  |


I’ve been on a video game kick recently, so let’s talk about rare and valuable video games. For the most part, these are older games and fall in line with the “rare means valuable” rule that is common to collectibles.

There’s something important to note about these games, however: It’s often not the game itself that is valuable. After all, you could probably find a digital copy on the internet, even if it’s being sold (don’t commit cybercrime just to play a game, of course). Old also doesn’t quite equate to valuable, as you can find arcade games and old Nintendo systems for sale, targeting millennials who wax nostalgic for the era. Instead, it’s the actual cartridges (or “carts”) that carry the value (or the boxes, as we’ll soon see).

Scams are also possible, as there are no actual cartridges of “Star Fox 2” for the SNES, but thanks to the SNES Classic system, bootleg cartridges that will cost more than a new, modern game are available.

With that preface out of the way, let’s look at some oddities in the video game world that are worth looking into.

Stadium Events

First, and possibly most famous, is “Stadium Events” on the NES. Bandai released the game in 1987 for the Family Fun Fitness Mat attachment, but Nintendo bought the rights to the game and mat and re-released it under the name “WorldClass Track Meet” with the Power Pad controller. Nintendo pulled all of the “Stadium Events” carts from store shelves, with only about 200 sold. Only about 20 remain. In 2010, a factory-sealed copy went for $41,300. Even the box itself is highly sought after, and one sold for $10,000. Another factory-sealed copy sold in 2016 for $35,100. Of course, the reissue, “WorldClass Track Meet,” sells on eBay for just a few dollars.

Nintendo Campus Challenge

While there may be 20 copies of “Stadium Events,” there’s only one known copy of “Campus Challenge,” a game used by Nintendo for competitions during Spring Break in the 1990s. There were demo versions of “Super Mario Bros. 3,” “PinBot,” and “Dr. Mario” on the carts, and after the tour ended, all but one copy was destroyed. The Nintendo employee that kept a copy sold it at a garage sale to Rob Walters in 2006. After changing hands a few times, it was last sold for $20,100.

Nintendo Powerfest 1994

Similar to the last entry, but as part of the Nintendo Campus Challenge event (not to be confused with the previous game), the company offered timed trials of “Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels,” “Super Mario Kart,” and “Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League.” A total of 33 carts were produced, and were returned for recycling at the end of the tour — until a cart was sold at a now-famous garage sale, also to Rob Walters. This copy was then bought by Rick Bruns for $10,000 in 2006 but held a special place in his heart, as he had competed in the original competition. Six years after that, an earlier version of the game was found, marking two known carts. The second cart was sold for $12,000, and then again on eBay for just under $11,000.

Ultimate 11 and Kizuna Encounter

While the NeoGeo, a console known for playing games that appeared in arcades, has mostly been lost to time, it has two games that are extremely rare. Soccer game “Ultimate 11” has only 10 copies, each worth about $10,000. “Kizuna Encounter,” while common in Japanese, only has 15 known English copies, worth about $13,000 each. In late 2009, however, a collector bought a copy of both for a total of $55,000.

Tetris

If you’ve heard of video games, you’ve probably heard of “Tetris.” It was one of the first mainstream games, after all. But thanks to a miscommunication with licensing, Sega made the game for its Mega Drive console when the license actually went to Nintendo. Sega was forced to recall all of the carts, but 10 copies remained, worth as much as $17,000.

Air Raid

Atari fans were unsure if the blue cart with a T-shaped handle was actually called “Air Raid,” but the game came out in 1984. No boxes or instruction manuals were known to exist, but 12 carts were available. In 2010, however, Tanner Sandlin recognized the cart, and after rummaging through boxes in his garage, found a copy, complete with box. This 13th copy sold for $31,600. But two years later, Harv Bennett found a copy an Atari salesmen had given him in the ‘80s. It not only had the box, but the instruction manual. The 14th copy, the only “complete in box” copy, sold for $33,433.

Starcraft 64

For our last entry, I’m throwing an oddball. “Starcraft 64,” the extremely popular computer game, was ported over to the Nintendo 64. Instead of a mouse and keyboard, which made the real-time strategy game possible (bear in mind that skill in this game, at the competitive level, is measured in actions per minute) the console version used a controller with a joystick, directional pad, and eight buttons. I can say from personal experience that it was horrible. This is the only game on the list that I have personally played, though at the time, given that it was a rental from Blockbuster, it was hardly worth anything. This is more of a personal entry than an actual investment because of this. Still, a “Starcraft 64” cart will set you back about a few hundred dollars (as of April 2018, the cheapest factory-sealed listing is about $470).

There are plenty of other rare games, but these are generally the rarest and most valuable. It’s also a bit subjective, thanks to collectors. A game may only be rare in one part of the world, or on different consoles. I went to great lengths to secure a Dreamcast copy of the Japanese game “Shenmue 2” as the English version was only available in Great Britain, while I was in the United States. Then, it was ported to the Xbox in America. It’s still $160. The right collector will pay handsomely for rare games.

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