Nineties kids think they were the pioneering generation behind video games. And while gaming systems/software had really hit its stride by the late 90s, 70s and 80s kids got to watch the birth of home video games.
No system blew their minds more than Atari. Today, serious gamers might poke fun at the slim Atari consoles with their joysticks. But these vintage Atari game values aren’t something to turn your nose up at.
8 Valuable Vintage Atari Games Worth More Than Your Memories
While Atari might not have been the first home video game console, it’s the one we all remember (Magnavox Odyssey, who?). After all, who could forget playing the hypnotic two-player Pong on the 23-inch television screen for hours after school?
Atari walked so legendary consoles like PlayStation and Xbox could run. And you don’t have to be a serious gamer to be tempted to grab your wallet when these iconic and valuable Atari games come up for sale.
|Vintage Atari Games
|Recent Sales Prices
|Masters of the Universe
Pac-Man was an arcade smash in the 1980s (Pac-Man Fever, we’re looking at you). So it’s not surprising to us at all that the Atari version would top the most expensive Atari games list. One almost-perfect shrink-wrapped and sealed copy made in 1987 sold for $31,200 in 2022.
But what makes the OG Atari Pac-Man such an interesting auction giant is that the game was pretty lackluster and didn’t have the graphics and magic of the massive arcade games kids loved.
Today, you’d probably queue up Super Smash Bros. or Mario Kart if you wanted to jump into the Mario world. But 40 years ago, you wouldn’t be dodging shells on a Nintendo system. Instead, you’d play Atari’s Mario Bros. game — the first Mario Bros. home video game adaptation.
Despite being the first of an insanely popular series, Atari’s Mario Bros. never took off, and sealed copies are hard to find. One first-release copy sold for $19,800 in 2021, showing that there is a high-dollar market for these games.
If you’re not an avid gamer, you might not be hip to competitive gaming and the massive cash prizes that players compete for. Today, there are countless international video game competitions. But the professional sport got its start with tiny competitions in the 1980s.
One of these was the “Defend Atlantis” contest, where winners could win a more difficult, not retail version of the video game Atlantis called Atlantis II. These copies are few and far between, so they’ll sell for thousands when one pops up. Just like in 2023, when one copy with the original documents proving that it's real sold for $13,800.
Games like CommaVid were precursors to The Sims. In 1981, this rare life development simulation game debuted on the Atari 2600 console. But you had to have specific programming tools to even use the cartridge AND had to send in a mail order to get one. This meant that only about 20 copies were ever made, making it one of the rarest Atari video games ever.
Incredibly, an unopened copy came to auction in 2023. It sold for an unsurprising $12,000.
According to Heritage Auctions, Atari’s Adventure video game is “considered the first action/adventure fantasy video game for a home console.” While young gamers might not recognize the title, those who mastered the joystick probably consider it one of their most played games. Today, sealed copies of Adventure do well at auction, with one copy recently selling for $11,280.
Pac-Man was an awesome game, but the real action was in Ms. Pac-Man. Namco did more than slap a bow on the yellow character. They also randomized/refined the fruits' and ghosts' movements to make it more difficult.
With the original Pac-Man performing so well at auction, it’s no surprise that Ms. Pac-Man holds her own. Sealed copies regularly sell near the 10-grand mark. For example, this 1983 sealed Ms. Pac-Man sold for $10,200 in 2020.
Masters of the Universe
If you were a kid in the 1980s, you absolutely wanted to get embroiled in the fight between He-Man and Skeletor. Atari’s Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man got you closer to living inside of your favorite Saturday morning cartoon than ever before.
There’s a huge collector’s market for cult classic merch from shows like He-Man & Masters of the Universe, TMNT, and Transformers. Naturally, the Atari 2600 game has its steady stream of buyers. For instance, one buyer bought a sealed copy for $10,200 in 2022.
We couldn’t round up the most valuable Atari video games without mentioning one of the arcade games that kept gaming alive while it was still an arcade-only pastime. Space Invaders was a massively successful 70s arcade game. Eventually, it came to the Atari 2600 system.
So many seasoned gamers cut their teeth on games like Space Invaders, which makes it do pretty well on the auction block. Sealed copies sell for the highest amounts, like this early production cartridge from 1978 that sold for $9,600.
Don’t Throw Out Your Atari Consoles Just Yet
Although the Atari 2600 holds fond memories for Gen X, few of them dust off their childhood consoles to play a round or two. Instead of donating your parents' Atari when you declutter, consider selling it online.
Most Atari systems won’t sell for more than $100-$200, but fully boxed systems (especially 2600s) can sell for thousands. For example, this unopened Atari 2600 from 1981 was made for promotional use only and sold for $9,600 in 2020. Less memorable consoles can still bring in something, like this boxed Atari Jaguar from 1993 that racked up $6,600 at auction.
Your Old Atari Games Aren’t Defunct Just Yet
Home gaming has come a long way since the Atari joystick. Today, we’re throwing on immersive headsets and stumbling our way through virtual reality. But unlike most vintage home gadgets, your Atari games aren't defunct just yet. Look through your parents' old stash for sealed or rare games and get ready to quadruple what you paid for them in the 80s.