Unlike our parents who fought for high scores on pinball machines in local arcades, us millennials cut our teeth on the video game revolution with at-home consoles and riveting games like Pong and Super Mario Bros. Although Ataris brought video games into your home, it was Nintendo that made them a worldwide sensation. Nowadays, the most valuable Nintendo games aren't collector's edition copies of the latest releases, but the cartridges we furiously blew into when they glitched. See if any of your childhood favorites made the list.
The Most Valuable Nintendo Games
|Most Valuable Vintage Nintendo Games||Average Value|
|Caltron NES 6-in-1||$1,000 - $3,500|
|The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Park||$1,000 - $1,500|
|The Legend of Zelda Test Cartridge||$5,000|
|Sealed Pokemon Cartridges||$150,000|
|Final Fantasy Sealed Cartridges||$200,000|
|The Legend of Zelda 5-Screw Cartridge||$850,000|
|Sealed Super Mario 64||$1.5 million|
As a company, Nintendo has been around since the 1800s, but they really broke new ground in 1983 with their game console NES, and then again in 1989 with the handheld Game Boy. They gifted us with legendary franchises like Mario, Legend of Zelda, and Pokemon. Yet, the vintage games that are worth the most money aren't the heavy hitters we know and love. They're limited releases and competition cartridges that only a handful of people ever got to use.
Caltron NES 6-in-1
Originally released as the Caltron NES 6 in 1 cartridge, this game was an unlicensed compilation of six NES games. Caltron went under pretty quickly after the game debuted, and Myriad Inc. bought up the stock, re-releasing the game under the new name Myriad NES 6-in-1. Only 888 Myriads were made, so both versions of the game are pretty rare, and can sell for about $1,000-$3,500. A used Caltron cartridge that's still working listed on eBay for $625.
The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak
Gen X knows The Flintstones from their Saturday cartoon lineup, but Millennials probably remember the whacky prehistoric family from the 90s live-action movie. A Flintstones game came out for the NES, but so few copies were made that there are a ton of legends surrounding why a random game based on a cartoon would be so rare. Some say it's because of poor marketing, and others because you could only get it in the U.S. with a blockbuster bonus. Either way, you'll have to add a copy to your collection if you're a serious Nintendo fan. It'll cost you about $1,000-$1,500, like this cartridge that sold for $900 in 2019.
The Legend of Zelda Test Cartridge
When blowing on your cartridges didn't do the trick in the 90s, you could visit a Nintendo service center. Similar to Game Stop and Apple, these centers would test your console to diagnose what was wrong. In order to do that, they had to have a game on-hand to test for problems. One of these games was Legend of Zelda, and with how popular Zelda still is in with serious and casual gamers, it's no wonder that out of all the test games, this would be the most valuable one.
Nintendo service centers weren't the fast-food restaurants of the electronics world; there wasn't one on every corner. So, with how few of these test copies come to the market, you'll have to pay about $5,000 to get one for yourself.
Sealed Super Mario 64
Made for the Nintendo 64 (which succeeded the Super Nintendo), Super Mario 64 was so many 90s kids' gateway into the Mario world. Expanded from his 8-bit graphics into early 3D, this game was very popular and meant a lot for where video game tech was heading. It was so popular, in fact, that sealed copies have sold for millions of dollars. One almost perfect copy sold in 2021 for $1.56 million at an auction.
The Legend of Zelda 5-Screw Cartridge
Fantasy intersected with video gaming in a way it never had before with The Legend of Zelda. Game developers send Link on new adventures every few years, but the first game made for the NES system in 1986 is where it all started. While every Zelda fan enjoys revisiting the series's beginning, these old games only have serious value if they have five screws instead of the standard three. One of these five-screw cartridges in a sealed case sold for $870,000 in 2021.
Final Fantasy Sealed Cartridge
The sprawling Final Fantasy we know today is a far cry from its humble beginnings. Released in Japan in 1987 and then in North America in 1990, this epic fantasy puts you in the center of a fight against the Four Fiends using a Dungeons and Dragons-inspired gameplay. Like so many others on this list, the Final Fantasy series is still going strong, and die-hard fans that've been following them since the beginning would rescue their old games from a burning building.
Of course, the game has been re-released for several other platforms, so you don't have to have an original cartridge to revel in the fun. But, some people like collecting the original stuff, and the most expensive of these cartridges is sealed. An American copy sold on Heritage Auctions for just over $200,000.
Honorable Mention: Original Pokemon Cartridges
Although original Pokemon Game Boy cartridges aren't as valuable as other Nintendo games, they were seminal for gaming in the 90s. Thanks to Pokemon Go! and other products, there's been a huge Pokemon resurgence, and the original games are hotter than ever. Mid-quality working copies will sell for anywhere between $70-$150. The really special ones are in sealed boxes, though. A nearly perfect sealed copy of Pokemon Red sold for $156,000 at auction. So, if you've got any original Pokemon games lying around and you can't seem to find your old Game Boy Advanced to play them on, now might be the best time to sell them.
How Are Some Copies More Valuable Than Others?
You might think that two identical games should be worth the same amount, but they end up selling for drastically different prices. Usually, this comes down to a few things:
- Sealed vs. unsealed - Game cartridges that still have the plastic sealing on them are super rare, and they'll also sell for leagues above ones that're unsealed.
- Box vs. no box - Just like with ones that're sealed vs ones that're unsealed, games with their original boxes are worth more than those without them.
- Low production numbers - This one's harder for regular people to know about, but games that were produced in low volume are rarer by nature and usually worth more money to collectors.
- Popular titles - The vintage games that you're going to sell the fastest are ones that were really popular. People like to revisit their past through the games they played, and most people were playing the chart toppers.
Want to Play the Originals for a Fraction of the Cost?
If you gave up your old Nintendo systems a long time ago but you still want to play the games that got you into video gaming in the first place, you've got a couple of options: re-releases and repro games.
Nintendo has a good reputation for re-releasing their old catalog for newer systems. So, browse through the Nintendo Store and search for that game you remember playing over and over again. Mine is Dig Dug, which was recently added to the webstore for the Nintendo Switch.
Another way to play the originals on the systems they were made for is buying repro cartridges. These are reproduction cartridges that've taken all of the coding and game play from the originals and reconstituted it into a new cartridge. Dedicated gamers have painstakingly brought their favorites back to life for a fraction of the cost of buying an original copy, and in many cases, these games are far less glitchy and run much faster than they did when we were kids.
Afternoons Are Still for Gaming
Remember that all-consuming feeling of playing a new video game for the first time as a kid, long before you could watch play throughs or get cheat codes with just a Google search? You can relive some of that magic by revisiting the old games you love. Whether you collect Nintendo religiously and would never play the original cartridges you buy or you're just looking for the exact copy you had as a kid, there's room for everyone to sit down and take a turn.