But there are some Nintendo games that, over the years, have become so rare that you can get crazy money for them.
There are different reasons for this – some were unreleased, others were unofficial, some were exclusive to certain shops. But whatever the reason, if you’re lucky enough to somehow have ended up with one of these then you’re sitting on a goldmine.
1. Yoshi’s Story: International Version
Yoshi’s Story was the Nintendo 64 sequel to Yoshi’s Island. Before it was released in the US, some shops were sent early copies of the game so that they could show it off to customers. The thing is, the full English translation for Yoshi’s Story wasn’t ready yet, so the cartridges the shops got were branded ‘International Version’ and were actually the Japanese version of the game. The novelty of a Japanese-language game that only runs on a US system means that copies have been sold for as much as $1,125 (approx. €1,007/£888).
2. Unofficial NES games
The Atari 2600 helped cause the big video game crash of the early 1980s because a lot of rubbish developers jumped on the bandwagon and made terrible games. To prevent this, Nintendo only allowed licensed developers to make games for the NES. This didn’t stop some sneaky companies from making their own unofficial (usually adult-themed) carts and releasing them in low numbers. These games are all complete trash, but they’re worth decent money because so few were sold. Action game Cheetahmen II is $1,300 (approx. €1,164/£1,026), adult puzzler Bubble Bath Babes is $1,200 (approx. €1,074/£947) and X-rated casino titles Hot Slots and Peek-a-Boo Poker are $800 (approx. €716/£631) each.
3. DuckTales Gold Cartridge
In 2013 Capcom made DuckTales: Remastered, a new HD remake of the classic NES game DuckTales. To celebrate and help promote its release, Capcom sent some members of the press a DuckTales lunchbox containing some comedy fliers and fake vouchers for items in the game, but also a gold-coloured DuckTales NES cartridge. To some journalists’ surprise, the cartridge wasn’t just a novelty dummy, but actually played on NES systems. With only 150 created, this instantly became one of the rarest NES games ever and collectors leapt on it. They’re now worth up to $1,300 (approx. €1,164/£1,026) each.
4. Virtual Bowling
The Virtual Boy was a disaster for Nintendo – fewer than a million were sold and it didn’t even make it to Europe before the plug was pulled. This means that most of the Virtual Boy games are reasonably rare, but the rarest of the bunch is Virtual Bowling. The final Virtual Boy game released, it only came out in Japan and the console was already pretty much dead when it did so nobody bought it. Because of this, copies can sell for up to $1,825 (approx. €1,634/£1,440).
5. Amazing Tater and Spud’s Adventure
In the early '90s, Japanese company Atlus released a bunch of bizarre Game Boy puzzle games starring fruit and vegetables. The first game, Kwirk, had you playing as a tomato and was published in the west by big publisher Acclaim. Its sales were average and Acclaim chose not to publish the sequels, but Atlus decided to release Amazing Tater and Spud’s Adventure in the US in limited numbers. Because so few were made, the English-language versions go for $1,700 (approx. €1,522/£1,342) and $2,500 (approx. €2,238/£1,973) respectively.
6. Hagane: The Final Conflict
Here’s an odd example of the collecting community making a game more valuable than it actually is. Hagane was released in the US near the end of the SNES’s life, so not a lot of them were sold. However, it’s not like there was only a handful of copies, so for a long time it was easy enough to get hold of a copy. As years passed rumours began to do the rounds that it was a rare game because it was exclusive to Blockbuster stores in the US, but this rumour actually wasn’t true. Because of this, we’ve got a game that’s only really considered rare because the internet says so. How rare? Well, a sealed copy recently sold for $3,650 (approx. €3,268/£2,881)!
7. Zelda: Oracle Of Ages & Seasons Limited Edition
You wouldn’t think a Zelda game would be one of the rarest Nintendo games ever, but this one is an extremely limited edition. When Capcom made a pair of Zelda games for the Game Boy Color, Nintendo decided to make a special edition which contained both games, pin badges, skins for both the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance, a t-shirt and... um, a boomerang. Only 500 were made and Zelda collectors are a dedicated bunch, so they hardly ever appear for resale. The last time one did was in 2013, when it sold for $3,970 (approx.€3,554/£3,134).
8. ClayFighter: Sculptor’s Cut
Unlike Hagane: The Final Conflict, this one was exclusive to Blockbuster stores in the US. ClayFighter 63⅓ was a comedy fighting game for the Nintendo 64, and the Sculptor’s Cut was a special version that added four new characters and made some gameplay tweaks. The cartridge itself is rare but not incredibly so – you can probably get around $350 (approx. €313/£276) for it. What’s far more valuable is getting a copy in its box: since it was exclusive to Blockbuster as a rental game, most of the people who bought it as an ex-rental either got just the cartridge or a replacement plastic box. Get it in its original box and you’re talking $4,000 (approx. €3,582/£3,158).
9. Exertainment Mountain Bike Rally & Speed Racer
The most dedicated collectors like to get every single game ever released for a system, even re-released versions. Because of this, sometimes games that are common on their own become rare when put together. Take Exertainment Mountain Bike Rally and Speed Racer, two racing games that aren’t worth too much as standalone games. However, they were put together in a single cartridge and sold with the Exertainment LIfe Cycle, an exercise bike that worked with certain SNES games. Because the bike barely sold, the two-in-one game became super rare, meaning it’ll set you back $4,800 (approx. €4,297/£3,789) just to have two common games on one cartridge.
10. Competition cartridges
Throughout the NES and SNES days, Nintendo held a number of national competitions in America to promote their latest games. They made special one-off cartridges for these competitions, and pretty much all of them are obscenely rare.
The Star Fox Super Weekend Competition and Donkey Kong Country Competition Edition were made for high score contests in US shops, and go for $900 (approx. €805/£710) and $2,800 (approx. €2,507/£2,210) respectively. The Nintendo Campus Challenge carts were made for university roadshows, and now go for $4,000 (approx. €3,582/£3,158) (for the 1992 SNES one) and $20,000 (approx. €17,913/£15,791) for the 1991 NES one. Rarest of all though are the Nintendo World Championship carts. These came in two colours – there are 90 grey cartridges worth up to $19,000 (approx. €17,018/£15,002) each, and only 26 gold cartridges worth up to $26,600 (approx. €23,831/£21,003).
11. Family Fun Fitness: Stadium Events
The rarest Nintendo game ever was actually released in the shops – for a while. Stadium Events was an NES athletics game made by Bandai for their new Family Fun Fitness mat. Nintendo liked the mat so much that they asked Bandai to stop making Stadium Events right away so they could help market it. It was re-released as World Class Track Meet with a new mat called the Power Pad. The European version of Stadium Events isn’t rare (because it wasn’t pulled there) but only about 200 copies of the US one were sold before it was recalled. A used copy can go for around $10,000 (approx.€7,895/£21,003) but collectors love their things to be all shiny and new – a sealed copy sold in 2015 for a ridiculous $35,100 (approx. €31,443/£27,712).