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From Super Mario to Zelda: Why vintage video games are selling for more than $1million

·5-min read
This photo provided by Heritage Auctions shows an unopened copy of Nintendo’s Super Mario 64 that has sold at auction for $1.56 million. Heritage Auctions in Dallas said that the 1996 video game sold Sunday, July 11, 2021, breaking its previous record price for the sale of a single video game. (Courtesy of Heritage Auctions via AP)
This photo provided by Heritage Auctions shows an unopened copy of Nintendo’s Super Mario 64 that has sold at auction for $1.56 million. Heritage Auctions in Dallas said that the 1996 video game sold Sunday, July 11, 2021, breaking its previous record price for the sale of a single video game. (Courtesy of Heritage Auctions via AP)

They normally end up in a box in the attic.

But now video game enthusiasts are shelling out incredible sums for hard-to-find retro game cartridges.

An unopened copy of Nintendo’s Super Mario 64 video game set a new world record when it recently sold at auction for $1.56m.

It went under the hammer at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, who have not said who the anonymous big spender was.

Super Mario 64 was the best selling game on the Nintendo 64, and the first to feature the beloved Mario character in 3D.

The record sale came just days after the auction house sold an unopened 1987 copy of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda for $870,000.

Valarie McLeckie, Heritage’s video game specialist, said the auction house was shocked to see a game sell for more than $1m so soon after the Zelda game had set its own record.

“After the record-breaking sale of the first game in the Zelda series on Friday, the possibility of surpassing $1 million on a single video game seemed like a goal that would need to wait for another auction,” said Ms McLeckie.

“We were shocked to see that it turned out to be in the same one. We are proud to have been a part of this historic event.”

The only rarer version of the Zelda game is the “NES TM” version, of which it is believed there is only one sealed copy in existence.

Back in April, Heritage Auctions sold a 1986 unopened copy of Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. for $660,000, which had been left in a desk drawer and forgotten about.

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Matthew Payne, an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame, who specialises in media and video games studies, says he is not surprised at the spike in classic video game values.

“While those are truly staggering dollar amounts, it’s not terribly surprising to see those particular Nintendo titles generate such interest,” he said.

“They’re both popular installments in classic franchises with international fan bases.

“Furthermore, as video games are increasingly released as digital downloads, physical copies will only climb in value.”

The price increase of rare games is matched by a climb in the value of all games for vintage consoles.

A study by PriceCharting.com showed that during the pandemic lockdowns, from March 2020 to March 2021 the average retro video game increased in value by 33 per cent.

The largest risers were games for the Nintendo GameCube at 70 per cent, the Nintendo 64 at 43 per cent, the Gameboy Advance at 42 per cent, Intellivision at 39 per cent, Gameboy Color at 36 per cent and PlayStation2 at 35 per cent.

The games with the biggest price increases were mostly related to Pokeman, with the biggest increases in those games that have been graded for quality and boxed.

The rarest version of the Zelda game is the “NES TM” version, of which it is believed there is only one sealed copy in existence
The rarest version of the Zelda game is the “NES TM” version, of which it is believed there is only one sealed copy in existence

Games like Pokemon Emerald for Gameboy Advance increased 145 per cent and Pokemon HeartGold for Nintendo DS increased 133 per cent, according to the study.

“Video game collecting became a very popular pandemic past time” said PriceCharting owner JJ Hendricks.

“Game collecting is nostalgic, indoors, and isolated but it also has a big online community so collectors can socially distance while still connecting virtually.”

The study tracked the average game price increase for every major console before the release of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

“That $1.5 million price for Super Mario 64 is pretty wild,” added Mr Hendricks.

“All retro games have been increasing in value since the start of Covid. The average retro game is up 51 per cent since the pandemic started.

“Graded games have increased even more though because people are viewing them as alternative investments. Sealed retro games are entering the same league as comics, baseball cards, stamps, and coins as alternative investments.

“As the investment money has entered the market the price for graded games has jumped to new highs. Most investors will only buy graded games because a third party has authenticated the item and because of its condition.”

Earlier this year Gamer.com published a list of the most rare and expensive classic games, which only sell for big money if they are in perfect, shrink-wrapped, never-before used condition.

  1. Super Mario Bros. In 2020 a copy sold at auction for $114,000

  2. Nintendo World Championships (Gold Cartridge). The rarest NES cartridge in existence, one sold in 2014 for $100,008

  3. Gamma Attack. Valued at $50,000

  4. Stadium Events. NES cartridge sold in 2017 for $41,977

  5. Birthday Mania. Valued at $35,000

  6. Air Raid. Very few copies of the Atari 2600 game ever existed, one sold for $31,600 in 2010 and another for $33.433

  7. Nintendo Campus Challenge 1991. Only known copy sold for $20,100 in 2009.

  8. Nintendo PowerFest ‘94. Valued at $17,500.

  9. The Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak! Valued at up to $9,000 depending on quality.

  10. DuckTales (Gold Cartridge). A sealed version is valued at up to $8,500.

But these games are so rare that they are unlikely to turn up under the bed, and PriceCharting.com has produced a list of the more common vintage games that can still fetch a good price.

NES Games

Little Samson $2,015

Flintstones $1,058

Bonk’s Adventure $815

Power Blade 2 $700

Zombie Nation $550

SNES Games

Hagane $1,020

Aero Fighters $860

Pocky & Rocky 2 $590

Final Fight Guy $400

Harvest Moon $350

Nintendo 64 Games

Clay Fight Sculpters Cut $960

Super Bowling $560

Stunt Racter $450

Worms Armageddon $250

Bomberman Second Attack $240

Playstation 1 Games

Tron Bonne $600

Klonoa Door to Phantomile $480

Clock Tower 2 $415

Persona 2 $370

Suikoden II $320

Playstation 2 Games

Kuon $790

Rule of Rose $575

Blood Will Tell $418

Haunting Ground $370

.hack Quarantine $360

Xbox Games

OutRun 2006 $215

Teen Titans $145

Futurama $140

Marvel vs Capcom 2 $135

Read More

Super Mario 64 becomes most expensive video game ever after unopened cartridge sells for £1.1m

Unopened Legend of Zelda game from 1987 sells for $870,000

How Sega conquered the video games industry with Sonic the Hedgehog – and then threw it all away

Hackers steal Electronic Arts’ code for FIFA, Madden, and Battlefield video games ‘worth $28m’

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