When it comes to videos games nowadays they are much larger and more sophisticated than ever. We have game worlds that seem almost endless, graphics that make you question reality, video games for education, and video game characters based on Hollywood stars through motion-capture tech. But as game development costs rise, so do game prices.
Triple-A games cost around $40-60 these days – and that’s just the base game. If you want to get the full experience you need to cough up around $20-50 more for all the DLCs. These post-release add-ons do have their own benefits, as detailed in our in-depth look on why gamers continue to support DLCs and Season Passes.
But while forking over $90-100 just for a single game seems like an outrageous thing to do, that price range comically pales in comparison to the most expensive and rarest retro video games in the world. Dedicated (and loaded) collectors will gladly pay thousands of dollars just to get their hands on a rare or limited edition retro game. Collecting rare gaming items can be as addicting as video games themselves.
To give you an idea just how much money is at stake, we made a list of the most expensive video games in the world. Who knows, maybe you have one of these listed retro games lying around in your attic or basement. Consider yourself lucky if that’s the case.
1990 Nintendo World Championships
In 1990, Nintendo held a competition in Los Angeles, California where participants played customized versions of Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris. All three games were included in the 1990 Nintendo World Championships cartridge, which came in two versions: a Gold Edition and the standard grey-colored cartridge.
The grey edition were the ones used during the tournament. Nintendo produced only 90 copies of the grey edition, making it one of the rarest video games in the world. RacketBoy, a retro gaming website, estimates the price of the grey edition to be in the $5,000-$8,000 range. Not exactly eye-popping numbers compared to the price tags of the other retro games in this list, but still super expensive nonetheless.
The Gold Edition, on the other hand, is a completely different story. The gold-colored cartridges were given to the top 26 participants in the competition, making them even rarer than the grey edition. According to estimates by RacketBoy, the Gold Edition of the 1990 Nintendo World Championships is in the $15,000-$21,000 range.
However, back in 2014, one copy of the cartridge sold for—buckle up your seatbelts—$100,088. You can stop scratching your eyes now; that’s not a typo. Someone actually bought it for 100 grand. Whoever bought the cartridge must be one filthy rich individual. And the cartridge wasn’t even in mint condition! The front label was torn off and it was already pre-owned. Can you imagine the price if it was in its pure, unaltered form?
The Atari 2600 game Gamma Attack is an extremely rare item, which naturally means it’s one of the most expensive of them all. There’s only one copy of the game in the world that we know of and it’s currently in possession of collector Anthony DeNardo. Back in 2008, the avid collector put up his copy of the game on eBay.
The Buy It Now price? Not much. Just half a million dollars. That’s $500,000 if you want to see actual numbers. Only the most hardcore collector would cough up that much money on a single video game. At the moment, Gamma Attack is estimated to be in the $20,000-50,000 range, easily making it one of the most expensive video games in the world.
Birthday Mania is a game that centers on blowing candles and popping balloons – you know, stuff that you see on birthday parties. Its box also comes with a small space out front where you can write the name of the birthday celebrant or even a short message.
It was intended by distributor Personal Games as the perfect birthday present but it never really took off, with only a handful of them out in the world. Like Gamma Attack, there’s only one copy of Birthday Mania known to exist, which is currently in the hands of an anonymous user on AtariAge, a retro gaming website.
Collector Jerry Greiner also claims to have a copy of the game, though nobody has been able to verify this. Due to its extreme rarity, Birthday Mania is estimated to be between $15,000 and $35,000. So if by some miracle you run into it at a neighborhood yard sale, don’t ever let it out of your sight. Cradle it like your life depends on it.
Stadium Events was originally a third-party game for the NES. It came with the “Family Fun Fitness,” a game controller similar to the Dance Dance Revolution floor mat controllers. Not long after its release, Nintendo pulled it out of the North American market and re-released it as World Class Track Meet, with the new mat controller named “Power Pad.”
Due to the change of plans, only around 200 copies of the game made it to game stores and only a few of them were actually bought, making Stadium Events one of the rarest NES games in the video game collecting market.
There have been a number of purchases in recent years, with one seller managing to squeeze out $41,300 from a more-than-willing buyer in 2010. Another copy sold for $35,100 just two years ago. If you’re interested in buying Stadium Events for future re-selling, there’s one up on eBay now for 26 grand (as of this writing).
Air Raid is an odd-looking game with a T-shaped handle, making it look like a tiny spade for little kids to play with. The game is so rare that there are only 12 copies rumored to exist. Back in April 2010, a thirteenth copy of the game surfaced, put up on eBay by Tanner Sandlin from Austin, Texas.
But unlike the other 12 rumored copies, Sandlin was the original owner of his copy, having bought it in the ‘80s for $5-10. He also had the original box of Air Raid, which contributed greatly in boosting the game’s overall value. And by “greatly,” we mean pushing it all the way to a whopping $31,600.
You know what’s more amazing? According to Sandlin, he and his friends used to borrow games from each other. And like borrowed lighters and pens, there’s no guarantee of their return. However, in a stroke of luck, none of his friends showed interest in keeping Air Raid. Too bad.
Another copy of Air Raid was also sold in 2012 on gaming auction website GameGavel. That one had a $33,400 price tag, beating out Sandlin’s record. What made the difference? It came with the previously undiscovered manual. Yep, an extra two grand for an old instruction manual.
1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge
The 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge was similar to the 1990 Nintendo World Championships competition, except it was held on college campuses and popular Spring Break spots. Nintendo probably figured students badly needed something to get their minds off of books, exams, and grouchy professors. The cartridge used in the competition contained demo versions of Super Mario Bros. 3, Dr. Mario, and PinBot. The goal was to rack up as many points as you can within a time limit.
After the competition, all copies of the game were destroyed – all except one. One of the Nintendo employees on hand for the event sneaked out a copy of the game, which would eventually find its way into the waiting hands of collector Rob Walters. Walters chanced upon the extremely rare game at a garage sale in 2006.
It was sold for $14,000. But the then-new owner probably thought they could squeeze out a few more bucks out of the one-of-a-kind game. They were right. The 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge was later resold at an even loftier price of $20,100. Give it a few more years and someone will probably buy it for an even higher price. Unless, of course, the current owner now has it in their “PRICELESS” vault.
Atlantis II is sort of a sequel that’s not really a sequel to the Atari 2600 game Atlantis. It’s the special tournament edition of the original game, featuring a far more challenging gameplay which centered on defending the mythical city of Atlantis from enemy spaceships. Cosmetics-wise, Atlantis II looks exactly the same as the original game, except for the “Atlantis II” label on the box.
Copies of Atlantis II were given to the winners of the “Defend Atlantis” competition, an event where the top Atlantis players capable of turning the game’s scoring system into a joke gathered for the ultimate showdown. Four of the best players who received Atlantis II were taken to Bermuda – no, they weren’t kidnapped by aliens – to duke it out one last time.
The prize was $10,000, though it was never announced who took home the loot. Why Bermuda? Well, the place is often associated with the lost city of Atlantis – or more specifically, the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. Talk about setting the right mood, eh? Atlantis II has an estimated price range of $5,000-18,000, making it one of the most expensive video games in the world.
Tetris (Sega Mega Drive)
Unlike all the other games in this list, the Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis in North America) version of Tetris owes it rarity due to legal issues between Nintendo and Sega. Sega developed the game alongside the Sega System 16 arcade version but was forced to pull it out of the market before everybody had the chance to grab their copies.
Supposedly, there are only 10 copies of the game in the world, valued at $3,000-$16,000 each. But a few years ago, one copy of the game was put up on eBay. The seller gave it a $1,000,000 Buy It Now price. That’s right. ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Can things get any more outrageous than that?
So what makes this particular copy of the game so incredulously and unbelievably expensive? Well, the game was signed by none other than Tetris creator himself Alexey Pajitnov. Still, $1 million for a single cartridge that only plays on a Japanese console? Come on, man.
Red Sea Crossing
Based on the Biblical event where Moses sliced the titular Red Sea into two to help the Israelites escape from the Egyptians hot on their trail, Red Sea Crossing is an Atari 2600 game that nobody even knew it existed until 2007.
Only 100 copies of the game were produced back in 1983. But all of them were inexplicably lost. (Lost at sea, perhaps? Okay, not funny.) Out of those 100 copies, only two of them have been found. The two copies sold for almost $14,000 on eBay and $10,400 on GameGavel. The latter of which originally popped up at Medium Bob’s Curiosity Shop in Philadelphia.
Red Sea Crossing was initially advertised on religious magazines. According to an unearthed October 7, 1983, issue of Christianity Today, the game was supposed to come with a coloring book and an explanatory audio cassette narrated by late American actress Dale Evans Rogers.
Both the accompanying coloring book and audio cassette have yet to make an appearance, though. Anyone who happens to get their hands on the complete package can expect to receive way more than $14,000.
The European version of Kizuna Encounter is one of the most mysterious retro games in the world, right up there with Red Sea Crossing. Only five sold copies of the game have been verified, making it not only one of the most expensive, but also one of the most difficult to keep track of in the retro games collecting world.
According to RacketBoy, the most recent sales of this ultra-rare game had prices between $12,000 and $13,500, though not many details about the transactions are known. It’s possible that some copies of the game were sold through unknown black markets. Sadly, we can only speculate.
The Ultimate 11
The Ultimate 11, alternatively called Super Sidekicks 4, is the fourth and final standalone installment in the Super Sidekicks series of sports games for the Neo Geo. It features 80 national teams from Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.
Similar to the European version of Kizuna Encounter, the European version of The Ultimate 11 is also exceptionally hard to find. Due to its rarity and the fact that no verified sale has ever been reported yet, its pricing can only be left to speculation and rumors. RacketBoy estimates the price to be in the $4,800-10,000 range, making it one of the most expensive games in the world.
These 11 retro games are the most expensive video games in the world. There are dozens more that are priced below $10,000. The next time you run into a garage or yard sale, be on the lookout for innocent-looking retro cartridges. Who knew decades-old games could be worth thousands of dollars, right? If you had a truckload of Atari or NES games up in your attic but casually sold all of them for a few bucks at a yard sale, believing they’re worthless, you can start kicking yourself right now.