Ahh, the Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES, for short). The console that changed the course of gaming history and brought the US gaming market back from the brink of extinction. It established Nintendo as a household name and introduced players to some of the most iconic franchises and titles the medium has ever seen.
What it also did was have a lot of rare games. Owing to its age and the fact that the landscape of gaming was vastly different back in the 1980s, finding affordable copies of these games is going to be incredibly hard (if you can find the games at all since many have probably been lost to the sands of time). Here are 10 of the rarest and most expensive NES games that might also require your arm and your leg if you want to purchase them.
All listed prices are courtesy of PriceCharting. Used prices are based on the “Loose Price” listing, while new prices are based on the “New Price” listing (unless otherwise noted). Entries are ranked from lowest to highest by their respective “new” price.
10. The Legend of Zelda (Test Cartridge)
N/A New | $7,530 Used
It should come as no surprise that a test cartridge lands on this list somewhere. Much like the vaunted “Not For Resale” copies of games, test cartridges are not readily purchasable, which makes finding them a task in and of itself. Seemingly meant to be little more than a game for test centers to make sure consoles functioned properly, it should come as no surprise that the most expensive one is one of the system’s most influential games, The Legend of Zelda.
When it comes to cartridges like these, you’re not gonna find a “new” copy, since its entire purpose – testing – would require it be used at one point. With that said, if you want to find an authentic cartridge (since there are many decoys), you’ll need to pay some $7,530 to get it. Unless you have a cash-burning hole in your pocket, there are far better (and cheaper) ways to acquire the original Zelda game at this point.
9. Nintendo World Championship
N/A New | $22,682 Used
Most might be ready to anoint this the top spot on the list, but as there is no “new” price for it, it’s going on the lower end. Rest assured, though, that the Nintendo World Championship cart is one of the most iconic rare NES games. These cartridges were made solely for the 1990 Nintendo World Championship tournament, where players showed off their best Nintendo skills and won a variety of prizes.
All 90 finalists received one of these cartridges, while the winner (and 25 runner-ups in a Nintendo Power contest) received gold versions of the cartridges. Ironically, the grey cartridges run for more money than the gold, though both are certainly no small fee; the gold cartridge runs for roughly $18,944, while the grey cartridges sell for about $22,682. Unless ripping your wallet apart is something you find joy in, the NES Remix titles on the Wii U give you a similar experience… and they won’t cost close to your yearly salary.
8. Bubble Bath Babes
$1,345 New* | $1,218 Used
I feel dirty even typing out that title. Bubble Bath Babes…*shivers*…might sound like the game of every hormonal teenager’s dreams, but it’s really not. It’s merely a puzzle game à la Tetris or Bust-a-Move, but there’s a naked woman lying at the bottom of the screen. And sure, completing levels earns you some small bits of erotica, but it’s a NES game, so it’s pretty cheesy. All the nudity and sex appeal is superfluous and adds nothing of value to the game itself.
That said, its status as an adult-oriented title meant it didn’t meet Nintendo’s family-friendly guidelines, and developer Panesian could only ship it to video stores. Just trying to find a used copy sets you back $1,218, while a “complete-in-box” copy (since there are apparently no “new” copies available) would go for $1,345. That said, the puzzle-based gameplay is not bad, so it could be worth a find. What might be better is finding its officially licensed version Mermaids of Atlantis, a much cheaper version that also removes all the erotic elements… Hey, sacrifices needed to be made somewhere.
7. Peek-a-Boo Poker
$2,000 New* | $1,666 Used
Speaking of games distributed by Panesian… this one! The publisher was known for producing adult-oriented games on the NES, and Peek-a-Boo Poker was another example. As the title would have you believe, this was just a poker-based game, but obviously, there was a twist: it was strip poker! So if you’re someone who plays poker for the, ahem, ”plot,” maybe this is the game for you.
Well… unless the price turns you away, and it should. $1,666 will get you a used copy, while a “complete-in-box” version of the game (once again, no “new” price was listed) runs for $2,000. That’s a lot of money to play strip poker with some NES sprites. So unless you’re desperate for a poker video game – or don’t have a very active social life – you might want to redirect your search elsewhere.
6. Hot Slots
$3,000 New | $1,454 Used
I promise this is the last time we’ll be bringing up Panesian in this list. Given their previous games, Hot Slots shouldn’t be difficult to understand because everything you need to know about it is in the title. It’s a slot-machine-based game that’s hot… well, by the standards of the NES, presumably. I mean, hey, if 8-bit girls are your type, go right ahead, I won’t judge.
What I will judge is the price, because $1,454 for a used copy of the game is already pretty ridiculous. Seemingly, this is the only Panesian game that actually has “new” copies of it available, but if you really want one, you’ll have to flush down $3,000 in the process. This is where you’ll have to determine whether it’s better to blow $3,000 on an NES slot machine game, or take $3,000 to an actual slot machine and gamble it down…decisions, decisions.
5. Cheetahmen II
$3,452 New | $1,847 Used
Okay, we’re back in family-friendly territory… I hope. Cheetahmen II is a particularly strange case because this game was never officially released. The original Cheetahmen was part of the infamous Action 52 cartridge, and while the sequel was being planned, it was never officially published. However, 1,500 copies were found in a warehouse in Florida, and they were eventually put up for sale.
You’d be right in thinking a game that was never officially released would be pretty expensive. If you’re willing to get a used copy, you’ll have to give up “only” $1,847, but a “new” copy (how is that a thing for a game like this?) comes to $3,452. A hefty fine for a game that doesn’t appear to be all that good, as it looks like it’s little more than a copycat version of the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games. Thus, it’d probably be better to try out some of the newer, far better Ninja Turtles games we’ve gotten lately.
4. The Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak
$10,700 New | $1,464 Used
Now I can more confidently say we’re in family-friendly territory. You may not think a game like The Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak would be extremely rare given the popularity of its franchise… well, until you realize it was an NES game released in 1994, three years after the American release of the Super NES. But hey, feels fitting for the prehistoric franchise to release on a system that was already feeling pretty prehistoric. And if you want to feel even more prehistoric, the game was allegedly a rental-only game exclusively available at Blockbuster (that sounds familiar), which makes it an even hotter commodity.
A used copy will drain $1,464 out of your wallet, while a new copy will send you down $10,700. That’s an asinine amount, and it’s a shame the price is so high because it seems to be a pretty fun little NES platformer. Most of the time, these rare and expensive games are not all that good, and only jump in price because there are so few copies of them. But here, we actually have a pretty good game, one that may actually be worth your money… well, okay, not for that amount of money.
3. Little Samson
$17,400 New | $2,100 Used
Hey, look at that: another entry on the list that actually seems to be a good game! Yes, Little Samson is a well-liked NES platformer that, in some circles, might even land on the lower end of some “Best NES Games” lists. Unfortunately, the game’s rarity stems from its poor sales, where a hurricane of bad factors negatively affected its sales. A late 1992 release date (a year after the Super NES’s release), some noticeable similarities to the much more popular Mega Man, and publisher Taito not being able to market the game extremely well led to it falling by the wayside.
Still, if you can find a copy of it in the wild, it might be worth grabbing… just not for that price. $2,100 used and a whopping $17,400 new would be an unbelievable amount even if this was one of the greatest games ever created. If you can find a price for something a LOT cheaper, you might want to pounce on it. You could be rewarded with a pretty solid platformer.
2. Family Fun Fitness Stadium Events
$33,109 New | $16,100 Used
That’s right, Nintendo had a noteworthy fitness game before Wii Fit was cool. Stadium Events is one of two games in the Family Fun Fitness series, and it was an attempt by Bandai to promote its Family Fun Fitness mat accessory. After its initial release, Nintendo rebranded it in America as World Class Track Meet to promote the Power Pad accessory, which meant copies of the original version of the game became a much greater rarity.
Even just finding a used copy will put you down $16,100, but if you want a new copy, you better get ready to take out a loan, because you’ll have to pay $33,109 for it. For a long time, this appeared to be the rarest, most expensive NES game on the market. Even if it’s not at the top anymore, it’s still an unbelievable amount for, really, anything. The good news is that there are plenty of cheaper exercise games worth your time, so you won’t have to dig into your trust fund to pay for something like this.
1. Mega Man (Five-Screw Cartridge)
$156,100 New | $10,993 Used
At the top, we get to a rather strange example of a game that may not seem too rare, but there’s a special circumstance in play. Early in the life of the NES, cartridge shells had five screws holding them together. For whatever reason, though, Nintendo would switch to only using three screws on cartridge shells, and games that previously had five-screw cartridges received new three-screw shells. Mega Man happened to be one of them, which meant its five-screw variant became a massive rarity.
If you want to find a used copy, you’ll need to pay $10,993, but if you want a new copy… take a deep breath in for a minute… you’ll need to cough up a whopping $156,100. You can go out right now and buy a house for that amount of money, and that’s saying something given the current housing economy. All that money for nothing more than a different shell, since the actual game was otherwise the exact same.
It sure is a good thing the original Mega Man has been re-issued since because that amount of money is absolute nonsense. You might be paying for extra screws, but really, it’s the buyer that would actually get… screwed… by it… okay, I’ll see myself out now.
But before I do, what are some other exceedingly rare and expensive NES games you can think of? Let us know in the comments below.