Maybe you're an avid collector, a hardcore vintage gamer, or it might just be nostalgia. There are some rare and expensive games out there, and vintage merch is really hot these days. Whether you're buying, selling, gaming or all of the above, it's good to know what to keep and what to throw away when you're cleaning out your childhood toys.
Specifically, this list is for the 8-bit Nintendo games designed and intended for the Classic Nintendo Console, titles licensed by the company and available to the general public. That excludes specialty cartridges like the gold version of Nintendo World Championships, a notoriously rare game that was used for a contest, or games that were never released, such as Cheetahmen II.
10 Donkey Kong Junior Math ($70-$1100)
The game is extremely rare, as it was one of the original titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and represents the only entry in the Nintendo Educational Series. The really funny part about this story isn't so much about the rarity of the game as the importance of its packaging.
The "black box" games that were contemporary with Nintendo's early releases are highly prized by collectors. The game by itself is worth a paltry $70 but that can jump to over $1500 if the coveted box is intact.
9 Stadium Events ($22,000-$35,000)
This entry is probably the most surprising to see on the list, and it's also one of the most expensive. Even though it seems familiar, this game isn't as common as you might think. Bandai made the game originally, and after 200 copies were released to the North American public under their name and brand, the rights to the game were acquired by Nintendo, who re-released the game as World Class Track Meet.
The very limited release makes it the rarest of all classic Nintendo games, plus it's seen as a precursor to the present Wii Fit games. Prices for this game are ridiculous, consistently in the five digits, hovering at over $22 000 dollars if the box and manual are also intact.
8 The Flintstones, The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak ($600-$2000)
Late release and some cross-sponsorship sales made this game a rare find. It was only available for rental at Blockbuster in 1993, part of a promotional deal between the video chain and Hanna Barbara.
Very few, if any, were ever put into circulation for the general public. Fans of retro cartoons, vintage promotional merch and collectors have made this rare game even more valuable. That's also why it's so rare and expensive today, selling for between $600 for a loose cartridge and almost $3000 for one still in the box.
7 Little Samson ($900-$31000)
You can describe Little Samson as a fantastic or mythological take on the Megaman Series, as they are both sidescrollers with similar mechanics. Collectors, gamers, and fans of Megaman have been known to search for this elusive title. Little Samson, however, had a late and limited release in 1992.
Like other games on this list, the timing was bad, and the console wars of the early 1990s were just heating up, and the original NES was being pushed aside by the Nintendo 64. This game fell down the memory hole with so many others, to rise decades later as a hidden gem, available for almost $1000 for the game alone or for over $31000 for a complete set that includes a box and manual.
6 Bonk's Adventure ($400-$2700)
This is a whole franchise of games associated with the Turbo Grafix 16 console, but there was also a limited-release version for the NES in 1993. The Super Nintendo had already been released in 1991, and the old console was getting less attention, along with all of the games developed for it.
That's partly why Bonk's Adventure for the NES fell into obscurity, only to emerge later as a valuable collectible. You can pick this game on its own for about $400, making it one of the least economical games on this list, or you can splurge and buy a new version still in the box for $2700.
5 Panic Restaurant ($500-$6000)
You have to fight for your right to cook. Panic Restaurant stars Chef Cookie, fighting the villainous Chef Ohdove for control of the kitchen. The creative food themes and supercute characters are part of the reason this has become a cult classic and a vintage favorite.
This is one of the few games sought after on this list almost exclusively for the engaging gameplay. Like other games on this list, Panic Resturant suffered from a late release in 1993 and had a limited commercial release. Combine all of these factors and you understand the high value, around $500 dollars for a loose cartridge. Prices jump considerably higher for new games that include a box and manual, to more than $4000.
4 Devil World ($100-$1100)
This game is expensive and rare for a number of interesting reasons. First of all, it was the only game designed by Shigeru Miyamoto that was never released in North America. That leads to all of the other reasons. The next logical step would be to ask why, and then we see the content.
In Japan, this kind of storyline and animation would be taken as pure fantasy, but in North America, distributors were afraid that customers and players would associate the characters and setting with the Devil. Japanese versions of the game are common and cheap. The game has an English version in PAL that's rare and expensive, with used copies selling for as much as $1100 and brand-new versions for twice that much.
3 Fire n' Ice ($100-$1800)
As a combination of an adventure game and a puzzle game, this is one of the more unique entries on this list. It has a niche following, sought after by gamers who like both RPG games and stories that you have to think your way through.
It's also the cheapest game on this list by far, with loose copies available for $100 dollars, as it is an obscure title mostly intended for puzzle and fantasy fans. If you find a copy that's still in the box, includes a manual, and has been rated by a recognized video game authority, the price tag hovers around $1800.
2 The Jetsons: Cogswell's Caper ($100-$1100)
Like the Flintstones game, this was a cross-promotional game that was intended to ride on the Jetson's brief revival in the 1980s. The plot of the game reads like one of the episodes, where George gets sent on a wacky adventure by his boss. The gameplay is simple and very similar to other Taito games, but people don't look for this game because it's creative or fun to play. It's related to Hanna Barabara, which makes it part of either a gamer's collection or an animation buff's library. It's also one of the cheaper games on the list, with loose copies going for about $100 and boxed sets selling for $1100.
1 Zombie Nation ($250-$1200)
You've probably never seen this game, but when you do, you might need someone to explain to you that it's a Nintendo game. This is one of the weirdest entries on the list, and even though it did stay obscure because of a late release in 1991, it's obvious once you see it why this was never a popular game.
To be blunt, it's extremely weird. We won't spoil the initial setup story too much, but it involves a meteorite, a zombie revolution, and a villain named Dark Seed. As the head of the samurai, you have to find a magical sword to defeat the zombies. But you are actually a literal floating head. You eat the zombies or shoot them with projectiles from your mouth. It's just as weird, fun and as difficult as it sounds. You can try it on the NES if you're willing to pay around $250 to $1200.