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TOP TEN NES US licensed cart values!


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So, first a quick introduction on the background of this article! In early 2019 I responded to a call for writers by the owner of a popular game valuing website. After a few discussions, we agreed on an article topic and I went on my merry way writing! Unfortunately, before the articles made it onto the site, ownership changed hands and the resulting radio silence from the new owners killed any chance of my work seeing the light of day, ALAS!

However, their loss is Video Game Sage's gain, and so I present to you the first of two articles I wrote on the the values of classic Nintendo games! If you enjoy this article about the TOP TEN NES US licensed cart values, please do let me know, and I will publish the SNES article next as a follow up! Also, if you notice any inaccuracies or misrepresentations in the article, feel free to let me know too so I can fix! 🙂

**EDIT: SNES article now live!**

Please note: The values in this article are correct as of early 2019 prices, some games may have shifted in the meantime. Enjoy!

 

10: Kid Klown in Night Mayor World

Developer: Kemco     Publisher: Kemco

Release: Apr, 1993

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Originally released in Japan as a Mickey Mouse title on Famicom, Kid Klown in Night Mayor World was rebranded for the USA due to licencing issues and released by Kemco in 1993. Yet another poorly selling late-release game on our Top Ten list, Kid Klown is a relatively straightforward 2D platformer in which the titular Kid Klown must rescue his parents from the evil magician Night Mayor. For such a late-release title, it has to be said that the game’s visuals are quite bland. It has simple graphics that lack detail, and each level offers very little variety in the colors of enemies, objects and stage features. Indeed, both visually and in terms of gameplay, the game more closely resembles a mid-to-late 80’s NES release, rather than the more advanced games we have come to expect from the early-90’s.

 

Kid Klown in Night Mayor World is the newest member of the NES rich-list club, as it was largely overlooked by collectors in years gone by. Indeed, many collectors only came to realise quite how uncommon the game is towards the end of their NES collecting journeys, when attempting to purchase a copy for themselves. It’s a game that does very little to stand out from the tidal wave of similar mascot platformers on the system, and as a character Kid Klown himself has few diehard fans.

 

In terms of value, Kid Klown was on a shallow growth-curve all the way up until late 2015 when the average sale price for a cart finally broke $100. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the game experienced sudden explosive growth. By mid-2016, barely six months after hitting the hundred dollar mark, it crested $200, and during 2017 it reached a high of almost $300. Since then the feeding frenzy on Kid Klown has quietened down a little and its average sale price has dropped, but due to its rarity there is good potential for the value of this title to climb again soon.

 

Value loose: $243.56     Value complete: $368.26

 

9: Zombie Nation

Developer: KAZe     Publisher: Meldac

Release: Jan, 1991

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What a bizarre game! You take control of the floating decapitated head of the samurai warrior Hamakubi on a carnage-filled quest across the United States, pursuing the evil Darc Seed in order to reclaim the scared sword Shura. Darc Seed has taken control of the armed forces and civilian population and unleashed all manner of ungodly horrors onto the streets, transforming the USA into the titular “Zombie Nation”! Our hero Hamakubi lays waste to all he surveys, levelling entire cities with utter disregard for collateral damage as he single-mindedly battles his way through the chaos!

 

Zombie Nation is undoubtedly one of the most uncommon NES games on the market today. It was released early in 1991, the only NES game published by the little-known publisher Meldac. The game reviewed poorly at the time of its release, which contributed to poor sales. It may also have suffered due to the grotesque imagery and horror themes contained within the game, which would have limited its audience at a time when NES games were generally marketed towards children. Nonetheless, in recent years the game has gained something of a cult following for its utterly bizarre content, especially on YouTube where it features in several hilarious videos by well-known retro gamers, such as in a memorable segment of JonTron’s Japanese Shoot ‘Em Ups episode.

 

Collectors have known that Zombie Nation is uncommon for a long time, and it has increased steadily in value since 2012. However, by far the biggest question about the game is “What happened to the Zombie Nation Yo-Yo?!”. Apparently, according to the Meldac registration card included with the game, 300 Zombie Nation branded Yo-Yo’s were meant to be distributed to reg card respondents on a first come, first served basis. However, to date it is unknown whether any of these Yo-Yo’s were actually sent out, or indeed if even a single person returned the registration card to Meldac. Thus, not one example nor even a photograph of one has ever come to light.

 

Value loose: $263.76     Value complete: $565.61

 

8: Bubble Bobble Part 2

Developer: ITL     Publisher: Taito

Release: Aug, 1993

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Bubble Bobble Part 2 is a belated follow up to the classic Bubble Bobble, featuring the immensely cute bubble dragon duo Bub and Bob. Both games contain a huge number of short levels, featuring fast-paced puzzle-platforming gameplay. The goal of each stage is simply to enclose all the bad guys in bubbles and pop them. Bubble Bobble 2 is a significant visual upgrade on its predecessor, which is unsurprising when you consider the 5 years of additional development experience that benefit this late-release title. For example, while the original game displays only plain black backgrounds and levels constructed with simple patterns of blocks, this game features bright cartoonish worlds and far greater variation in visual design. Part 2 does receive some criticism from gamers, however, for feeling a little more sluggish compared to the first game. Also, the lack of 2 player co-op is another sore point for many, as this is a fan-favourite feature of the first game.

 

The original Bubble Bobble was one of the best selling games on the NES and is now among the cheapest to buy. Meanwhile, Part 2 is far less common and thus much pricier. Possibly due to name recognition, Bubble Bobble 2 has been one of the most expensive games on NES for a long time: loose carts were already selling for over $100 all the way back in 2008. The game continued on a slow but steady increase in value along with the rest of the retro market all the way up until 2016, peaking in value at a high of around $350. However, since then prices on this one have actually cooled somewhat, and it can now be purchased relatively easily below the $300 mark.

 

As Taito’s headline franchise the Bubble Bobble games are always going to be popular amongst gamers and collectors. High demand has made Bubble Bobble Part 2 a valuable game, and it is a clear example of how a late-release sequel can become far more sought-after in the secondary market than it was when new. However, whilst certainly uncommon, the truth is that Bubble Bobble 2 is far from the rarest game on this list. For now at least, it seems supply largely meets demand on this particular game.

 

Value loose: $286.95     Value complete: $559.96

 

7: Dragon Fighter

Developer: Natsume     Publisher: SOFEL

Release: Jan, 1992

 Dragon_Fighter_cover.jpg.cc63b8984e5e907525f32f0f4bd1afe1.jpg

Invariably one of the last games most collectors need to complete their NES set, Dragon Fighter is possibly the most obscure game on our Top Ten list. This game has been slipping under radars and through collectors’ fingers for years. Countless tales are told of collectors passing up Dragon Fighter for cheap or selling copies on for a pittance, only to regret their decisions after realising what they had. This is reflected in the value of the game, which had remained low for years while many other games gained notoriety and jumped way up. It wasn’t until peak demand for retro games spiked in 2016 that the game’s value began to reflect its true rarity, and since 2016 it has more than doubled in value. Dragon Fighter’s time in the shadows appears to have come to an end.

 

So why did this game remain so relatively unknown and unloved for so long? A part of this may be to do with the incredibly basic branding of the game, as well as its generic title. The front cover of the box features a nameless barbarian warrior accompanied by a generic fantasy dragon. The title “Dragon Fighter” itself is remarkably similar to “Dragon Warrior” a very popular series of games on NES. Indeed, the word “Dragon” appears in the title of no fewer than 20 NES games and the word “Fighter” in at least ten. Perhaps it is not so surprising this unassuming title got lost in the shuffle of the NES library, competing against so many famous franchises and well-known characters.

 

Regardless of the branding, the game itself is actually quite special. Dragon Fighter is a side-scrolling action game which combines two different gameplay styles. Your standard hack-n-slash fare is complimented by a transformation mechanic, whereby your fighter turns into a fire-breathing, flying dragon. Transformation is accessible to the player at any time, as long as they have enough energy, and using the dragon alters the game to play more like a side-scrolling shooter. The game is hard, allowing only 3 continues, but is is doubtless worth tracking down for gamers who enjoy a challenge.

 

Value loose: $302.33     Value complete: $450.47

 

6: Power Blade 2

Developer: Natsume     Publisher: Taito

Release: Oct, 1992

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The original Power Blade is a fun action-platformer which occupies a position in the “B-tier” of NES classics. Although not as well-known as the likes of Mega Man, Contra or Castlevania, neither is it obscure enough to be called a “hidden gem”. Power Blade has a reputation among NES gamers as a solid, well designed title, and it performed well enough on its original release to warrant a sequel, Power Blade 2. The sequel takes its design cues from the original, but alters the first game’s more open ended level design to provide a more linear experience. It also throws in a few additional elements such as a variety of power-up suits. The game was featured in the October 1992 issue of Nintendo Power and is generally well-received by NES gamers, although it does earn some criticism for being a lot more punishing than its predecessor.

 

Power Blade 2 follows a trend that many sequels to popular NES games seem to, in that it greatly exceeds the original game in terms of value. The same phenomenon can be seen with games such as Duck Tales 2, Chip and Dale 2, and another of the Taito published sequels on this list Bubble Bobble 2. Of course, the values of these particular sequels benefit from the scarcity effect common for many late-release NES games. However, another effect may also be at play: it is very likely that the popularity of the original titles drives up demand for their sequels. After all, once they’ve bought and played through Power Blade most gamers will be keen to look out for Power Blade 2 so they can get their next action thrill! Meanwhile, most collectors won’t have their collecting-itch scratched until the two matching carts or game boxes are lined up neatly next to each other on their shelf!

 

As yet another scarce late-release Taito game to make this list, as well as being the second game in a lesser-known but well-respected franchise, Power Blade 2 has been carried by high demand and the general growth of the NES market to a comfortable position in the Top Ten.

 

Value loose: $410.53     Value complete: $851.76

 

5: Bonk’s Adventure

Developer: Red Company    Publisher: Hudson Soft

Release: Jan, 1994

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Bonk’s Adventure is a game that almost feels out of place in the NES library. After all, Hudson Soft positioned Bonk as the flagship mascot character for the Turbografx-16 during their software/hardware partnership on that system with NEC. Indeed, Bonk’s Adventure originally debuted on the Turbografx-16 in 1990, almost 4 years prior to this NES release, and during that time an entire series of Bonk games and spin-offs had been and gone. However, by 1994 the fate of the Turbografx-16 as an “also-ran” in the hypercompetitive US video game market had already played out, so Hudson Soft loosed themselves from NEC to relaunch Bonk as a multiplatform star!

 

Unfortunately for Hudson the results of this renewed push for Bonk were decidedly mixed. In Japan the PC Engine (Turbografx-16) performed far better in the marketplace than in the USA and Bonk was relatively popular. Due to this the Famicom version of Bonk’s Adventure sold reasonably well. The same could not be said of the NES version however, which languished in the weak late-release NES market and was quickly over-shadowed by the Super Nintendo’s Super Bonk.

 

All of this is something of a shame. While the NES version of Bonk’s Adventure is slimmed down compared to its TG16 counterpart, with fewer levels and simplified background designs, it retains the exaggerated cartoonish charm that made Bonk popular. The graphics in the game are bold, dominated by strong primary colors, and the stylised characters are remarkably expressive. Bonk really makes you feel the full range of his emotions with his expressions of joy, sadness, shock and anger! Meanwhile, the overall aesthetic of the game rides the difficult line between cute and grotesque perfectly, lending Bonk’s Adventure a definitive and unique identity within the NES library.

 

This is one of those games that has been high up on the NES rich-list for some time. Like Little Samson, Bonk’s Adventure is one of the late-release games that collectors long ago identified as both uncommon and worth seeking out to play. Due to this the game has always commanded something of a premium in the collecting scene, and certainly Bonk’s prehistoric bald head and determined grin emblazoned on the cover hasn’t hurt its appeal either!

 

Value loose: $430.15     Value complete: $1,115.11

 

4: Panic Restaurant

Developer: EIM     Publisher: Taito

Release:  Oct, 1992

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The third late-release Taito game to make its way onto our Top Ten list is another cute looking high-quality platformer; Panic Restaurant! The game is a relatively simple side-scroller painted in light pastel shades and full of humorous characters with chubby little sprites. Certain features of the game’s presentation make it reminiscent of other Mario 3 inspired platformers, such as Tiny Toon Adventures, particularly the info panel at the bottom of the screen showing your life, weapon, score and other stats. This game was likely another attempt by Taito to crack the incredibly popular mascot-platformer market of the day.

 

Although the game has been localised to suit the US market, for example transforming the look of the chef protagonist Cookie from a black-haired childlike character to a more stereotypical white-haired and moustachioed chef, the game retains a very strong Japanese aesthetic and sense of humor. There is plenty of slapstick, with food items flying at our hero from all directions, as well as walking roast chickens, killer carrots, cartwheeling pizzas and all manner of angry dessert dishes. To combat these threats, Cookie wields a variety of utensil and cookware based weapons, from the standard “Clobber Pan” to a Scrooge McDuck style pogo-spork! Clearly the developers' intent for Panic Restaurant was to dish gamers up some simple light-hearted fun. Although the game’s six levels don’t present much lasting challenge, most players will probably enjoy it while it lasts.

 

Panic Restaurant seems to have spiked in price a little later than some of the other titles on this list, such as Little Samson and Surprise at Dinosaur Peak. It didn’t break beyond the $300 range for a loose cart until around 2015, but it has steadily climbed in price since. As with other late-release NES titles the game is scarce. Reasons for this include major competition from similar games and more well-known titles on the system, as well as being overshadowed by games for the powerful new 16-bit systems. The game remained under the radar for a lot of NES collectors too, perhaps due to its food-based subject matter and relatively simple gameplay and presentation which never seem to have inspired fervour to seek it out. Nonetheless, the game has started to receive the attention it deserves, riding up alongside the other rare and expensive Taito games. Panic Restaurant has potential to continue its impressive climb in value for many years to come.

 

Value loose: $484.23     Value complete: $951.00

 

3: The Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak

Developer: Sol     Publisher: Taito

Release: Aug, 1994

 FlintstonesSurpriseatDinosuarPeaknes.jpg.f89c2ecda9512bc796eb7e82e5debe93.jpg

Released in mid-to-late 1994 by the king of late-release NES games Taito, The Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak was one of the very last handful of titles produced for the NES. The game is a follow-up to the much more common and far cheaper Flintstones game, The Rescue of Dino and Hoppy, taking the form of a well-animated and solidly designed 2D platformer.

 

The most interesting question about this title is exactly how the game was distributed, as well as its ultimate release status. The game was never released in Japan, and although it received a standard release through normal retail channels in several PAL countries, in the USA many believe the game was only available to rent rather than buy, distributed exclusively through Blockbuster Video stores. This idea has been challenged, however, as some collectors claim to have bought the game brand-new at smaller independent rental stores or at competing rental chains, which supports the rental distribution theory but refutes Blockbuster Video exclusivity. Still other collectors claim the game had a normal release. To this day no conclusive proof of the US release status of Surprise at Dinosaur Peak has been established either way.

 

Eventually collectors discovered that the game does seem to have had normal, if limited, distribution in certain South American countries, especially in Chile and Brazil. The game released in Chile has the exact same box and contains an identical game to the North American release. Meanwhile the Brazilian version, although containing an identical PCB to the USA version, has a box displaying the Playtronic logo and a cartridge back-label with information written in Portuguese.

 

Whatever the true release status of this game, no one doubts that Surprise at Dinosaur Peak likely had a very small production run by NES standards and sold poorly, making it one of the rarest games for the system. Unlike a few of the other titles here on our Top Ten list, this game has been known to be scarce by collectors by for a very long time. Due to this it was one of the first NES games to shoot up into the multiple hundreds of dollars for a loose cart. However, its early rise in price, combined with a small but steady flow of South American cartridges into the US collector market, has seen the loose value remain remarkably stable over the last half decade. This 500 dollar cart today was also a 500 dollar cart back in 2013. However, the proper US version of the box remains much scarcer, leading to a huge value multiplier for a complete copy of the game, actually the largest such value multiplier for any title on this Top Ten list.

 

Value loose: $501.20     Value complete: $2,416.35

 

2: Little Samson

Developer: Takeru     Publisher: Taito

Release:  Nov, 1992

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Little Samson is the undeniable champion of the NES library’s roster of “hidden gems”. The game was developed by Takeru, a small game studio founded by former Capcom developers with the simple intent to make great games. In Little Samson they seem to have accomplished this goal, and then some! Indeed, although the game is certainly uncommon, its value over time has depended more on its reputation for stellar game design and gameplay rather than simple scarcity alone. The value of this game seems to lean more on the demand side of the supply/demand equation.

 

The game proudly wears the pedigree of its ex-Capcom origins, appearing at first glance very much like the NES Megaman games. However its richly detailed graphics, including beautifully composed backdrops and well designed and animated character sprites, and more complex gameplay set this game apart. You can certainly see the expertise that years of experience developing for the NES have brought to the game, as is true of many other late-releases for the system. One of the most touted features of the game is the ability to select any one of four playable characters at any time, each one offering different modes of attack and movement to navigate the large and interesting levels. Of course, it goes without saying that the control, combat and movement are all tight and enjoyable, and the action-packed levels are punctuated with fun and challenging boss encounters. It is no wonder that Little Samson frequently tops lists of the best games on the platform.

 

So how did such a great game end up as a “hidden gem” rather than a staple of the average NES owner’s collection? After all, Samson himself was designed to be something of a mascot character for the studio, and an amazing amount of love and care has clearly gone into the game’s design. Part of the problem has to do with the game’s relatively late release, with many gamers already having moved on to the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.  Also, as Norman Caruso the Gaming Historian notes, the game received very little marketing, with only a partial walkthrough of the game appearing in Nintendo Power magazine and not much else. Launching an unknown character staring in an action platformer on an outdated system into a market already saturated with action-platforming mascots was always going to be an uphill battle.

 

Regardless, today the game has truly earned its way into both gamers’ and collectors’ hearts. Being an uncommon title the game has always sold for a healthy premium compared to others, fetching as much as $200 dollars on eBay way back in 2012. However, the solid reputation of Little Samson has fed into demand that has seen this title grow consistently in value year-on-year in a way that many other games have not. As such Little Samson has actually overtaken several titles with values which used to dwarf its own, including The Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak, leading to a significant gap between the value of this game and that of third place on our Top Ten list.

 

Value loose: $1,011.67     Value complete: $1,683.94

 

1:  Stadium Events

Developer: Human Entertainment     Publisher: Bandai

Release: Sep, 1987

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Stadium Events was never intended to be special. The generic name, the uninspired and unexciting visual design, the mind-numbing gameplay... What hope, really, was there for the second of only two titles in a series branded for use with a poorly selling fitness mat accessory, the Family Fun Fitness Pad? A minimal print run, a low key launch, a forgotten and unloved game.

 

But, somehow, things turned around for Stadium Events. Based on a close business relationship between Nintendo and the game's publisher Bandai in Japan, as well as Nintendo's interest in marketing the NES as an all-encompassing home entertainment system in the USA, Stadium Events got a fresh coat of paint and a new lease on life. In 1988 it was rebranded alongside the Family Fun Fitness Pad to become World Class Track Meet, the headline launch title for the Power Pad!

 

In its new guise, World Class Track Meet would go on to sell more than 3 million copies, making it one of the most common games on the NES. Stadium Events, on the other hand, faded into obscurity. Rumors have long suggested that the game was recalled from shelves after the rebranding, although no evidence for this claim has ever surfaced. When questioned on the subject even former Nintendo employees, such as Howard Philips, rarely have more information to share. Most likely the game simply sold through remaining stock and vanished unceremoniously from stores shortly after going out of print.

 

This unique set of circumstances have conspired to create the NES set's rarest, most collectable and most valuable title. In the early days of collecting its rarity and obscurity encouraged collectors to take note and keep hold when they found a copy. As retro-game collecting exploded in popularity in the early 2010’s the limited supply and almost mythical status of the game did the rest, and the game's value has grown exponentially since then. Today Stadium Events, a game that both came and went from store shelves with barely a whisper, booms with one of the loudest voices in game collecting.

 

Value loose: $11,384.75     Value complete: $22,977.80

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25 minutes ago, Vectrex28 said:

Still missing Kid Klown, BB2, Samson and SE (Of course) 😞

Better get on those quick dude, otherwise the "VGS effect" might take hold and the prices will shoot through the roof! 😉

Edited by OptOut
  • Haha 1
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Nice list.  May want to caveat it as "Licensed Carts", because Myriad / Cheetahmen / Panesians would probably bump some of these guys off the top 10. 

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15 minutes ago, jonebone said:

Nice list.  May want to caveat it as "Licensed Carts", because Myriad / Cheetahmen / Panesians would probably bump some of these guys off the top 10. 

This. Unlicensed is basically hard mode. Even a fairly inexpensive set like AVE is really hard to complete. Rad Racket or Mermaids of Atlantis are really hard to find

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1 hour ago, jonebone said:

Nice list.  May want to caveat it as "Licensed Carts", because Myriad / Cheetahmen / Panesians would probably bump some of these guys off the top 10. 

Sure, I'll fix that right up, might be confusing for some! Besides, that just gives me a new list to write now, lol! Thanks for the input. 🙂

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Great info. I didn't know the backstory to why some of these were considered such rarities so it's good to fill the gaps in my knowledge.

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5 hours ago, DefaultGen said:

Poor Mah Jong and PAL games getting shafted here.

Lol, PLEASE don't tell me you want me to change the title to licensed US carts! I guess I could... Looks like I got a lot of lists to make, lol!

 

Edit: Thanks a lot, FIXED!!!

Edited by OptOut
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I

6 hours ago, ap123 said:

Great info. I didn't know the backstory to why some of these were considered such rarities so it's good to fill the gaps in my knowledge.

Thanks buddy, glad you enjoyed! :)

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Thanks for the info. I feel better prepared on the million to 1 chance I see one in the wild and I could recognize and capitalize. 

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I have all CIB but the top 3. Damn you Little Samson and Flintstones! I don't even count Stadium Events at this point; that's like a new car right there.

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23 minutes ago, DoctorEncore said:

I have all CIB but the top 3. Damn you Little Samson and Flintstones! I don't even count Stadium Events at this point; that's like a new car right there.

 

Eh, walking is a healthy alternative to driving anyway! 😉

  • Haha 1
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16 minutes ago, OptOut said:

 

Eh, walking is a healthy alternative to driving anyway! 😉

One of my main goals in life is to not be that guy you see walking along the side of the highway. So far, so good!

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Well written good sir.  I honestly am more informed now 😉 .  Sorry it took so long to read, I been a busy boy.  Looking forward to reading more!

Edited by Jeevan
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Nice list. I've got all but #1,#3, and #8. The rest were all found in the wild for under $5 each back in the good old days. I sure miss those days.

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Someday I hope to get my hands on at least one of these. Panic Restaurant is my favorite from a gameplay perspective.

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Here's what I have and the prices I paid in Canadian dollars:

10: Kid Klown

  • Manual = $50 from a Nintendo Age member
  • Box = $50 from a local purchase in a $1050 bundle with other games

9. Zombie Nation

  • Manual = $40 locally but found out a week later it was fake so returned it
  • Box, manual, cartridge and all inserts except the registration card = $700 locally in a $1050 bundle with other games

8. Bubble Bobble Part 2

  • Manual = $50 from a Nintendo Age member
  • Box and cartridge = $460 USD from eBay

7: Dragon Fighter

  • Haven't been able to find anything for this locally

6. Power Blade 2

  • I found one for $1100 locally but no manual. I turned it down.
  • I haven't found anything else for this locally.

5. Bonk's Adventure

  • I had a complete one in my hands a few days ago but the owner won't sell it for anything below full value.
  • I haven't found anything else for this locally.

4. Panic Restaurant

  • I won a $800 auction on Nintendo Age a few years ago that included the back of this cartridge, the board and the manual. After winning the auction at 5pm on Friday, I left work for the weekend and didn't log in from home. On Monday morning I saw he gave it to the next highest bidder because I hadn't contacted him when the auction ended. Laaaaaaaaaaaaame.
  • I haven't found anything else for this game locally.

3. The Flintstones: Surprise At Dinosaur Peak

  • A local guy has a complete one but it's in his keep pile. I will eventually get it from him but he's not ready to let go yet.

2. Little Samson

  • I have not found anything for this game locally.

1. Stadium Events

  • A local game store threw one of these into the $5 sports bin about 15 years ago but that's the only local story I've ever heard of one. The employee that made this mistake ended up purchasing the store and is now the owner of 3 locations. He told me the story himself.
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On 11/9/2019 at 11:11 PM, Richardhead said:

Good read! Thanks.

Thanks yourself!

If you're interested, the SNES article is also now live in my blog section: 

 

Edited by OptOut
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