If Nintendo had known back in 1983 that some of these rare SNES games would end up going for thousands and millions of pounds, then they probably would have passed out with excitement.
The NES had no problem becoming one of the greatest success stories in video gaming history of its own back and remains one of the most influential consoles to date. It sold 60 million consoles as of 2004, a number that the Nintendo Switch has just surpassed.
There are so many incredible titles for this console, with series and characters that have gone on to greater success across multiple consoles and platforms. But today, we’re only bothered about the rare ones, the ones that collectors lay awake thinking about at night.
The ones that cost a whole heap of money!
Tracking Down The Best Rare NES Games
What Constitutes As A Rare NES Game?
With 715 games for the NES, you may well wonder how some of them ended up becoming more sought after than others.
Like our other rare compendiums such as our article on the top rare Gameboy games, you’ll notice a few patterns emerging below. Games become rare when they either:
- Have a limited run
- Get recalled
- Are released near the end of a consoles life
- Don’t have a lot of marketing capital behind them
- Were only released in a certain country
All of these reasons can lead to game prices skyrocketing and collectors battling it out to be victorious on auction sites.
How Does This List Of Rare NES Games Work?
In most cases, you’ll see two prices next to the title of each game. The first price is for the game cart on its own without a case, box, or manual.
The second price is what you might expect to pay for a top-notch, perfect quality copy. Some of them have even been graded and are still sealed.
In some cases, there will only be one price, either because the game is so rare or immensely valuable (like the first two items in our list).
If you do have money burning a hole in your pocket, then you can click the link under the first picture in each section and try your luck against other collectors in bagging a gaming trophy. Be warned though; this is not ‘pocket money’ territory.
1. 1990 Nintendo World Championships Cart: Gold Edition: $1,000,000.00
Consider this cart the ‘Golden Ticket’ of the retro gaming world. Only 26 of these cartridges were ever made, given away as prizes to 1-winner and 25-runners up in a competition inside Nintendo Power Magazine.
The cart features specially modified timed versions of three games that were played at the phenomenal Nintendo World Championships in 1990; Super Mario, Tetris, and Rad Racer.
Way before Fortnite and Rocket League Tournaments existed, the Nintendo World Championships was the crowning title in the gaming world. This tournament represented a time where Nintendo was at the top of the gaming world, the masters of the golden age itself.
While I was busy being a baby, having just been born, kids were shunning their homework in favour of becoming the ultimate block-stacking master and perfecting those ‘rad’ corners. The Gold Championship game cart is one of the rarest game carts in existence and the most expensive rare NES game in the world!
2. 1990 Nintendo World Championships Cart: Grey Edition: $149,000.00
The grey World Championships cart has the same timed games on as the shiny gold version. 90 of these game carts were made and given to the gamers that managed to become finalists in the tournament. Win or lose, you still took home a piece of gaming history.
The hype around the 26 gold cartridges has helped to bump the price of these grey carts up over the years. The cart has an exposed dip-switch and a simple monochrome label, but the story behind each unit is far more exciting than it looks. Imagine holding one of these in your hands after making it to the finals of one of the biggest gaming tournaments of all time!
Sources tell us that only half of these grey cartridges are actually in circulation. Like some of the best SNES games, there’s a possibility that some might be still stored away in a drawer at Nintendo HQ, or gamers may well be sitting on them and waiting until the price rockets once again.
3. Stadium Events: $708.56 – $24,999.99
The Nintendo World Championship carts might be two of the most sought after games in existence, but the next entry on our list of rare NES games isn’t far behind them.
Stadium Events was the Mario and Sonic at the Olympics of its day and could well have been the inspiration behind Wii Fit and the Wii Fit board. This game promoted Family Fun and Fitness right from the off and was played using something called the Family Fun Fitness Pad (catchy title!)
Some of you might recognise this game as World Class Track Meet, the game played with Nintendo’s own Power Pad. Well, that’s because this is the same game. It was originally released as a third-party title before Nintendo recalled it and slapped their badge on it.
Around 2000 of these North American copies of Stadium Events were released before Nintendo recalled the stock to make the change. Some sources guesstimate that as little as 200 copies might have actually made it into NES owners homes. If you’re reading this and have a copy in your collection, I’d consider getting it graded; you might be sitting on a small fortune!
4. The Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak: $573.80 – $2,899.99
The next title on our list of rare NES games is one that went straight into the rental market. It’s crazy to think back at how popular game rentals were in the ’90s. Because of this fact, it’s very difficult to find a decent, boxed version in good condition.
The Flintstones were one of my favourite childhood cartoons, not to mention the film with John Goodman that I watched about a hundred times. Taito’s rental release of The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak came out towards the end of the NES’ reign of glory and was a superb title to help bring the era to a close on a high.
Like the Asterix and Obelix games, players can choose between Fred and Barney as they play through the game. Each character has different attacks, but aside from that, you get to play with your favourite character.
A run-of-the-mill rental copy can set you back over $500, where as a mint-condition copy could cost as much as $2,899.99!
5. Little Samson: $452.86 -$5499.99
Could you imagine paying almost $5,500 for a sealed copy of one of the most elusive rare NES games on the market? If the answer is yes, then go grab Little Samson and add a piece of retro gaming history to your collection.
Little Samson is another Taito release, featuring bright, colourful worlds with lots of exciting detailing. It’s an action/shooter that has a similar feel to the Mega Man series, though Taito didn’t have enough marketing capital to make the game as popular.
Despite being titled Little Samson, the player must take four heroes through this side-scrolling adventure. A dark prince has been awoken from his slumber, and you and your heroic mates have to put things back in order.
Little Samson is made by the same director as Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts, another epic title that we’ve spent far too many hours on. Despite the poor marketing strategy, it garnered great reviews and has become incredibly sought after. Some auctions are starting at $1,000, and that’s just for a bare cart!
6. Bonk’s Adventure : $650.00 – $2,999.99
You may well remember Bonk from the PC Engine, but it’s the NES port of his maiden adventure that we’re interested in today. While the colours might not be as sharp, the game itself is still as fun to play and filled with prehistoric delights.
Bonk was named thusly because he ‘bonks’ enemies with his massive, indestructible head. I guess cavemen didn’t have much else to work with back then!
Back in 1991, this game was voted the third greatest game available. It’s fun, cartoony, and easy to play, making it accessible for gamers of any age.
Bonk’s adventure made it onto the Wii and Wii-U in recent years, and it features on the TurboGrafx-16 Mini console for any nostalgic gamers that want to relive the good-old-days. Bonk might not be the world’s greatest action hero, but he’s a cool character and one that you should check out if you have some cash lying around.
7. Zombie Nation: $289.00 – $3,295.00
Far from the terrifying zombies in the Resident Evil series, the front cover of the next title in our rare NES games list look like something you might find in a Morph cartoon. To be honest, I’m still not sure what the heck goes on in this game, but it’s one that you never forget once you’ve played.
Zombie Nation is a shoot ’em up title, so you can expect madness from the offset. Zombie heads, explosions, samurai masks; you name it, and you’ll find it in this game.
If any game falls into the category of ‘cult classic’, then it’s definitely Zombie Nation. Players control a samurai head that can shoot out of its eyes and vomit on enemies. You’ve got to fight everything from zeppelins to lava monsters.
I’m guessing the developers were high when they made this….
Although games where 1-million bullets a minute are now commonplace, Zombie Nation didn’t receive incredible scores with critics. Since the 90s, it’s developed a dedicated group of hardcore fans, prompting other gamers to try a slice of the madness. At $289 its a gamble, but one that won’t break the bank.
8. Duck Tales 2: $209.00 – $1,200
The next title in our list of rare NES games features my favourite cartoon duck of all time; Scrooge McDuck. I think every kid wanted to have their own swimming pool filled with gold coins when they were younger. Until they realised that diving into coins would absolutely destroy their body, that is.
Duck Tales 2 came out in ’93, towards the end of the NES’ reign. It didn’t have a lot of time to sell many units, hence why it now has that ‘mysterious’ sought after quality that game collectors search for.
If you liked the original Duck Tales title, then you’re bound to love the sequel. The game mechanics are very similar and Scrooge’s character traits haven’t changed.
The revival of the Duck Tales TV show in 2017 has seen prices for the game skyrocket. Collectors are looking at paying 5-times the price just for a cartridge, with a boxed copy selling for around $1,200. At those prices, you might have to ask ‘ol Scrooge for a quick loan!
9. Snow Brothers : $220.00 – $2,495.00
If you thought that Zombie Nation was a bit trippy, then wait till you check out the next title in our list of rare NES games. Snow Brothers might look semi normal on the surface, but the garish clashing colours on some of the levels will leave you rushing to find your shades!
The game is essentially a remake of the arcade puzzle classic. It’s a little like the early versions of Bubble Bobble crossed with the Mario Bros. arcade game. You play as two snowman twins who have to save two princesses.
Enemies must be turned into a snowball by throwing snow at them. Once fully covered, they can be thrown or rolled into walls where they will crack and disappear. There are over 50 levels of this madness for you to work through, with the player moving to a new stage once the level has been cleared.
People went mad for Snow Bros. It spawned a sequel, but the original is the one that brings home the bacon up on auction sites. Cart only copies go for over $200, but you’re looking at close to $2,500 for a boxed copy with a manual.
Talk about a major mark up!
10. King Neptune’s Adventure: $128.00 – $1,200.00
Last but not least on our list of rare NES games is the king of the sea himself. King Neptune’s Adventures is an unlicensed title for the NES that sees players working through underwater worlds such as Atlantis.
It’s an adventure game and one that received fairly positive reviews on release. The rarity comes in the form of two different types of cartridge, with one being more expensive than the other.
Most of the games came in a baby blue colour, but the black ones are worth the most money on resale sites. The artwork on the game box is also pretty amazing too!
Neptune can shoot light beams and bubble bombs as you try to discover where his eight missing treasures are. Don’t expect many other colours than blues and greens in the background though; it is the ocean after all.