The rarest retro gaming items in the world
There’s an infamous gaming tournament that took place in Los Angeles in the Nineties, not wholly unlike the preposterous showdown at the un-epic climax of nonsense kids gumph The Wizard, where contestants had to compete in a score-attack challenge across three Nintendo games (Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer and Tetris) completed within a short time limit. 90 grey cartridges of this compilation were given out to contestants, but even rarer is the gold version, 26 of which were given away as a prize in Nintendo Power magazine. The competition was restricted to residents of North America and the last one sold at auction for just north of $100,000.
Donkey Kong Country/Starfox: Super Weekend Competition Cartridges
Worth: £600 – £900 each
Much like the Nintendo World Championship’s competition cart, these two modified versions of Donkey Kong Country and Starfox were used for competitions in the US during the mid-Nineties. Around 2,500 were made for Donkey Kong and slightly less than that of Starfox, they remain two of the rarest official SNES releases. But if you’re looking for the rarest competition cart in existence, then the Genesis Competition Cart (featuring NBA Jam Tournament Edition and Judge Dredd) takes the medal, with only a handful known to exist.
One of the rarest videogames ever made, only a handful of copies of this Atari 2600 game were published. The only copy known to exist appeared at auction several years ago at a Buy-It-Now price of $500,000 – an astronomical demand that was not met. However, it is valued today at somewhere between $20,000 and $50,000, which easily makes it one of the most valuable retro collectables in the world.
Tetris is popular among collectors for a series of well-known hard-to-find ports, but the most coveted is the short-lived Mega Drive version developed in Japan. Only around ten copies are thought to be produced (after an ensuing legal battle gave Nintendo exclusive rights), one of which, signed by Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov, was listed on eBay for $1,000,000 back in 2011. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t sell. Nevertheless, this one-of-a-kind edition is certainly worth more than any of item on this list.
Hot Slots/Bubble Bath Babes/Peek-A-Boo Poker
Worth: £300-£800 each
Such smutty material was never going to receive the Nintendo gold Seal of Approval, which is why publisher Panesian distributed its NES trilogy of risqué puzzles games through mail-order and video shops. Given that these were packaged and sold like VHS tapes, rather than traditional NES games, many of these found themselves at the bottom of the bargain bin in US video rental stores and their value continues to rise as what limited copies that are available (in their original packaging) have become increasingly difficult to track down.
A console that no one thought existed until last year, the Sega Pluto was an updated version of the Sega Saturn, with a built-in NetLink modem. The console never saw commercial release and only two are known to exist in the entire world – one by an ex-employee of Sega and the other by a lucky collector who bought it for $1 at a car boot sale. The latter unsuccessfully tried to sell it on eBay (where the offer of $15,500 failed to meet the reserve price) and it’s unclear whether or not the seller has since been successful in selling the ultra-rare piece of Sega history.
A US version of Japanese shoot-’em-up Sonic Wings 3, this Neo Geo AES offering was previously thought to be unreleased until copies surfaced in 2012 via an ex-SNK employee. Since then a couple have sold for five figure sums, although there’s much debate about the authenticity of these sales, given the increasing rise in bootleg and knock-off copies of classic titles. Still, if real, Aero Fighters 3 is thought to be among one of the rarest games in the world.
One in a long line of hardware failures that have since been forgotten by the industry, the Vectrex Arcade system bucked the trend of the non- portable home console by including a vector display in a vein attempt to bring the arcade experience into the living room. It’s become something of a collectors item in subsequent years and if you happen to own one in its original packaging then you could be looking at around $500 in the US, which, when you adjust the original 1982 retail price of $199 for inflation (around $470), isn’t a huge profit. Still, not bad for something that might be knocking around in the attic.
Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 Box Set
Released in 1999, Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 is the fifth instalment in the series and is also the third and final Fire Emblem title released on the SNES. Few collectables on this list can claim to be this cute and cuddly; released during the height of Fire Emblem’s popularity in Japan, this boxset for SNES’ Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 was a veritable treasure trove for eager fans of the series. Bundled with soft toys, maps, posters and other sundry items alongside the game, it has become one of the most endearing Nintendo collectable items. Copies regularly appear posted up for auction on eBay, with the price varying between sellers.
Capcom Power System Changer
Capcom’s answer to the Neo Geo AES, the Capcom Power System Changer was the company’s attempt to bring its catalogue of arcade games into the living room. This adapter could interface with Capcom’s existing CPS-1 arcade boards and featured a couple of controllers, but it never quite sparked consumer interest – mainly due to its high price tag and the high-quality console ports that already existed – and was eventually abandoned completely by Capcom a couple of years later. Considering it was available for nearly two years, it’s strange that so few appear to be in the wild and it’s rare to see one sold at auction. Still, those that are looking to buy one can expect to pay north of $700 for the pleasure.
Atari Jaguar VR Headset
The Atari Jaguar wasn’t short of ill-fated peripherals, but the most notorious was the VR Headset that the company prototyped in the mid-Nineties. After Atari merged with JTS in 1996, it’s thought that most of these were destroyed, however a couple in working condition have emerged over the years, becoming one of the most desirable videogame peripherals of all time (sorry Rez’s Trance Vibrator).
Special editions of Japanese shoot- ‘em-ups often fetch a decent price at auction, but one of the rarest has to be the Prize Edition of Treasure’s formidable Bangai-O, that was given out to exactly five people as a top prize in a Japanese high-score competition. Unlike other competition iterations created as exclusive prizes by developers, the only difference here is the packaging – more specifically a sticker on the Dreamcast box that declares it a winner’s prize. Very few have been sold in the past but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that a copy would sell today way past its estimated worth.