Here is a list of some of the most expensive retro video games on home consoles, along with their descriptions and prices as of 2023:
1. Super Mario Bros. (NES) – $2,000,000
Super Mario Bros., released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985, is not just a video game; it’s a cultural icon. This pioneering side-scroller is credited with reviving the video game industry after the 1983 crash and set the standard for future platform games. Its simplistic yet engaging gameplay, coupled with memorable music and endearing characters, made it an instant classic.
The staggering $2 million sale price for a never-opened copy of Super Mario Bros. in 2021 is a testament to its monumental status in the gaming world. This particular copy was unique due to its pristine condition and rarity. Video game collecting has grown significantly, and collectors are willing to pay premium prices for pieces of gaming history, especially in untouched condition. The fact that this copy remained sealed and unblemished for over three decades is remarkable, considering the widespread popularity and accessibility of the game.
The high auction price also reflects the broader trend of nostalgia in the video game market. For many, Super Mario Bros. is a symbol of childhood and a simpler time of gaming, evoking powerful memories and emotions. This nostalgia, combined with the game’s historical significance and its near-mint condition, drove its value to record-breaking heights, making it the most expensive video game ever sold.
2. Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64) – $1.56 Million
Super Mario 64, released for the Nintendo 64 in 1996, represents a monumental shift in video game design and technology. As one of the first games to successfully implement a 3D world, it set a new standard for the industry and is often cited as one of the greatest video games ever made. The game’s innovative use of 3D graphics, expansive worlds, and fluid character movement was groundbreaking. It introduced players to a new way of interacting with video games, making it a pivotal title in the history of gaming.
The sale of Super Mario 64 for $1.56 million at auction in 2021 is a reflection of its revolutionary impact and enduring popularity. This specific copy of the game was highly valued because of its exceptional condition, with a WATA (a game grading system) score of 9.8 A++, indicating that it was almost in perfect condition. The rarity of finding such a well-preserved copy of a game that is over 25 years old significantly contributed to its high auction price.
The high sale price also underscores the cultural significance of Super Mario 64. For many, this game was their first experience with 3D gaming, marking a memorable and transformative moment in their gaming journey. The nostalgia factor, combined with its historic relevance and near-mint condition, made this copy of Super Mario 64 a highly sought-after item for collectors and enthusiasts, cementing its status as one of the most valuable video games in history.
3. The Legend of Zelda (NES) – $870,000
“The Legend of Zelda,” released for the NES in 1986, is a foundational game in the action-adventure genre, beloved for its intricate world, pioneering gameplay, and compelling narrative. This game introduced gamers to the fantastical land of Hyrule and its iconic characters, setting the stage for a franchise that continues to captivate audiences today. Its open-world design, which was revolutionary for its time, allowed players a level of freedom and exploration that was unprecedented in video games.
In 2021, a rare copy of “The Legend of Zelda” was sold for $870,000, making it one of the most expensive retro video games ever sold. This particular copy was valuable due to its rarity and exceptional condition. It was a special variant produced for only a short period in 1987, identified as a “No Rev-A” cartridge, distinguishable by the absence of the “Rev-A” mark and featuring five screws instead of the usual three. These unique attributes, coupled with its sealed, near-mint condition, significantly increased its rarity and desirability among collectors.
The high price of this game at auction reflects not only its physical rarity but also its immense cultural and historical significance. “The Legend of Zelda” is more than just a game; it’s a piece of gaming history that laid the groundwork for many adventure games that followed. For collectors and fans, owning such a rare piece of this legacy is invaluable, which is why it fetched such a high price at auction.
4. Sonic The Hedgehog (Sega Genesis) – $420,000
“Sonic The Hedgehog,” released for the Sega Genesis in 1991, is not just a game; it’s a cultural phenomenon. As Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Mario, Sonic quickly became an iconic character, symbolizing speed and attitude, which appealed to a wide audience. The game’s fast-paced gameplay, vibrant graphics, and catchy music set it apart in the early 90s, contributing significantly to the success of the Sega Genesis and intensifying the console wars of that era. Sonic’s creation was a strategic move by Sega to compete with Nintendo’s dominance, and it paid off, making Sonic one of the most recognizable characters in gaming history.
A copy of “Sonic The Hedgehog” sold for $420,000, a testament to its enduring popularity and importance in video game history. This sale price reflects the rarity and condition of this particular copy. Despite its lower WATA score compared to other games on the list, it remains highly valuable due to the difficulty in finding original copies in such good condition. The game’s significance goes beyond its gameplay; it represents a pivotal moment in the gaming industry, where competition between console manufacturers led to rapid innovation and creativity.
The high auction price also underscores the nostalgia and emotional connection many gamers have with Sonic. For those who grew up in the 90s, Sonic is not just a game character; he’s a part of their childhood and a symbol of a bygone era of gaming. This emotional value, combined with the game’s historical significance and rarity, made this particular copy of “Sonic The Hedgehog” one of the most expensive retro video games ever sold.
5. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out (NES) – $312,000
“Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out,” released for the NES in 1987, is a classic title that stands out as one of the most memorable and beloved boxing games of all time. Known for its challenging gameplay, distinctive characters, and the inclusion of the legendary boxer Mike Tyson as the final boss, this game captured the imagination of a generation of gamers. It combined sports simulation with arcade-style fun, offering players a unique and engaging experience. The game’s popularity was bolstered by its association with Tyson, one of the most famous athletes at the time.
A copy of “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out” sold for an astonishing $312,000 at auction. This high price is largely attributed to the game’s condition and rarity. The copy that fetched this impressive sum was graded at a WATA 9.8 A++ sealed score, indicating it was in almost perfect condition. Finding a vintage game from the 1980s in such pristine state is incredibly rare, especially for a game as popular and widely played as “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.”
The game’s high auction price also reflects the cultural significance it holds. For many, “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out” is not just a game; it’s a nostalgic piece of their childhood and a symbol of the golden era of gaming. Its historical importance, combined with its near-mint condition, resonated with collectors and enthusiasts, making it one of the most valuable retro video games in the market.
6. Resident Evil (PlayStation) – $264,000
“Resident Evil,” released for the PlayStation in 1996, marked a significant milestone in the video game industry as a pioneering title in the survival horror genre. It introduced players to a world of suspense, horror, and survival tactics, setting a new standard for narrative and atmospheric gaming. The game’s blend of puzzle-solving, strategic combat, and immersive storytelling captivated players, laying the groundwork for numerous sequels and a broad multimedia franchise.
The sale of a copy of “Resident Evil” for $264,000 reflects its rarity and the game’s enduring legacy. This particular copy was notable for being one of the first production printings, preserved in a Ridged Longbox format, a distinctive early casing style for PlayStation games. With less than ten known sealed copies in existence, this specific version’s rarity significantly enhanced its value. The WATA 9.6 A+ sealed rating indicates that the game was kept in exceptional condition, a rare feat for a title released over 25 years ago.
The high auction price of “Resident Evil” also underscores the game’s impact on the gaming culture. It not only established a new genre but also influenced the design and storytelling of future video games. For many gamers, “Resident Evil” was their introduction to horror gaming, leaving a lasting impression. This emotional connection, combined with the game’s historical significance and its scarce availability in mint condition, made this copy one of the most valuable retro video games ever sold.
7. Final Fantasy (NES) – $204,000
“Final Fantasy,” released for the NES in 1987, is a game that reshaped the role-playing game (RPG) genre and marked the beginning of one of the most successful and beloved franchises in gaming history. Created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, it was a last-ditch effort to save a struggling game studio, hence the name “Final Fantasy.” The game’s intricate storytelling, expansive world-building, and innovative gameplay mechanics set a new standard for RPGs and garnered a massive following.
A copy of “Final Fantasy” sold for $204,000, a testament to its monumental status in the gaming world. This particular copy was especially valuable due to its exceptional condition, boasting a WATA 9.8 A++ sealed rating, suggesting it was nearly in perfect condition. Finding such a well-preserved copy of an early and influential game like “Final Fantasy” is exceedingly rare, significantly increasing its worth among collectors.
The high auction price also reflects the game’s cultural and nostalgic value. For many gamers, “Final Fantasy” was a formative experience, introducing them to complex narratives and immersive worlds in video games. It’s a title that represents the evolution of storytelling and gameplay in the medium, making it highly sought after by collectors who value both its historical significance and its role in shaping the RPG genre. This combination of rarity, condition, and cultural impact made this copy of “Final Fantasy” one of the most valuable retro video games in history.
8. Super Mario Bros 3 (NES) – $156,000
“Super Mario Bros 3,” released for the NES in 1988, is widely celebrated as one of the greatest video games of all time. Building on the success of its predecessors, it introduced new gameplay elements and power-ups, offering a level of depth and creativity that was unprecedented at the time. The game’s vibrant worlds, inventive level design, and the introduction of iconic elements like the Tanooki Suit left a lasting impact on the platforming genre and cemented Mario’s status as a cultural icon.
The sale of a copy of “Super Mario Bros 3” for $156,000 underscores its significance and the rarity of the specific version sold. This copy was notable for a unique box art variant, where the word “BROS” is placed on the left-hand side, overlapping Mario’s hand. This subtle difference makes it a rare collector’s item, as most versions of the game have the word “BROS” positioned differently on the cover. The condition of the game, with a WATA 9.2 A+ sealed score, also played a crucial role in its high valuation, indicating it was nearly in perfect condition despite its age.
The high auction price reflects not only the game’s physical rarity but also its immense popularity and nostalgia. “Super Mario Bros 3” is a significant part of many gamers’ childhoods, representing a golden era of gaming. Its innovative design and memorable gameplay have made it a timeless classic. This emotional connection, combined with the game’s historical importance and its rare box art variant, made this copy one of the most valuable retro video games ever sold.
9. Twisted Metal (PlayStation) – $156,000
“Twisted Metal,” released for the PlayStation in 1995, stands out as a seminal title in the vehicular combat genre. The game’s unique premise, which combined high-speed driving with intense combat, captured the imagination of players, offering a distinctly edgy and adrenaline-fueled gaming experience. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, “Twisted Metal” featured a variety of vehicles and drivers, each with their own backstory and special weapons. The game’s blend of dark humor, gritty aesthetics, and chaotic gameplay garnered a dedicated fanbase and spawned a successful franchise.
The sale of a copy of “Twisted Metal” for $156,000 at auction reflects its rarity and cultural significance. This specific variant of the game, known for its Ridged Longbox packaging, is extremely rare. The Longbox format was the first casing style for PlayStation 1 games, and early production copies like this one are scarce. The game’s condition, with a WATA 9.6 A+ sealed score, also contributed to its high value, indicating it was exceptionally well-preserved.
The high price also highlights the game’s impact and legacy within the gaming community. “Twisted Metal” is not only remembered for its unique gameplay but also for how it shaped the combat racing genre. For many, it represents a pivotal moment in their gaming history, encapsulating the excitement and innovation of the early PlayStation era. This nostalgia, combined with the game’s historical importance and the rarity of the Longbox version, made this particular copy one of the most valuable retro video games ever sold.
10. Contra (NES) – $150,000
“Contra,” released for the NES in 1987, is an iconic run-and-gun action game renowned for its challenging gameplay and cooperative mode, where two players could team up to tackle the game’s levels. Set in a sci-fi environment, it tasked players with battling through enemy forces and defeating bosses to prevent an alien invasion. Known for its fast-paced action, varied level designs, and memorable power-ups like the Spread Gun, “Contra” became a staple in the genre and a favorite among gamers for its intense and engaging gameplay.
The sale of a copy of “Contra” for $150,000 signifies the game’s rarity and the high regard in which it is held by collectors. This particular copy’s value was significantly boosted by its exceptional condition, receiving a WATA score of 9.8 and a seal rating of A+. The rarity of finding a vintage game like “Contra” in such pristine condition is incredibly rare, especially considering its popularity and widespread distribution at the time of its release.
The high auction price also reflects the cultural impact and nostalgia associated with “Contra.” For many players, it embodies the essence of classic gaming, characterized by its challenging difficulty and simple yet addictive gameplay. “Contra” holds a special place in the hearts of those who grew up in the era of the NES, often remembered for the famous “Konami Code” that granted extra lives. This combination of historical significance, emotional value, and the game’s near-mint condition made this copy one of the most valuable retro video games on the market.