The Nintendo Entertainment System consists of a library of over 700 video games (and that's not counting all the unlicensed ones). Most of the worst games on the system, such as Deadly Towers or Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, typically sell for one dollar or less. However, it's not just because of the fact that those games are complete garbage that they sell for such low prices...it's also because of how common they are. In the world of hardcore NES collecting, it's not always the best games that collectors pay the most money for...but the rarest. If a game is super rare (even if it sucks), collectors will shell out hundreds so they can proudly display it on their shelf along with the rest of their collection. This especially goes for the collectors who are on a quest to buy every single NES game ever made (or quite possibly every game ever made for every system).
While all the different systems have their share of rare games...the NES is one of the most popular to collect for because it has some of the most rare and sought after games out there. In fact, some of the games on the NES are so rare...that they are referred to as "The Holy Grails" of video game collecting. In this article, we will be taking a look at some of the rarest games on the system. I will be starting with some games that are on the uncommon side, but not super rare...and than moving my way up to the "Holy Grails". I will also rate each game on a rarity scale from 1 - 10, based on a popular online rarity guide from the classic gaming website, Digital Press (although I will not be sticking to it entirely, due to it being several years old and outdated in some areas in my opinion). To get a good idea on how the rarity ratings work...if a common game like Super Mario Bros. 3 or The Legend of Zelda were to be rated on the guide, they would have a rating of 1 or 2. I will also show how much each game typically sells for on Ebay based on what I've read on the internet and my own experiences. The prices for these games that I list in this article are what they currently are going for...and may increase or decrease over time. So, get ready to guard your money...cause the following games will try to suck your wallets (or even your entire bank accounts) dry.
Battletoads & Double Dragon
Rarity - 5
In this beat-em-up...Rash, Pimple, and Zitz from Battletoads, and Billy and Jimmy Lee of Double Dragon fame, team up to take on the forces of evil. The game was also available on the SNES and Sega Genesis...but the NES version is the hardest to find of the three. I would not really consider this game to be "rare" (especially when comparing it to some of the later games I have on this list), but it is definitely a lot less common than most other NES games. It's very hard to come across this in a pawn shop or used video game store (or as collectors like to say "in the wild")...but you will probably never have trouble finding a copy of it on Ebay. It usually sells for around $15-$20 if it's just the game cart only (or "loose")...but if it also comes with the box and booklet (CIB, or "Complete in Box"), than it will probably sell for around $40-$60.
Tetris (Tengen Version)
Rarity - 5I'm going to stray off the online rarity guide I'm going by a little with this one. It lists Tengen Tetris as a rarity 6...but I feel the game has become easier to find since the guide was made. The prices for this game have also gone down in recent years.
This is probably the most well known "rarity" on the system. Back before Nintendo released their Tetris...Tengen (who had been making unlicensed games on the NES) released their own version. Nintendo filed a lawsuit against Tengen, and they were forced to remove their Tetris from the store shelves...which was quickly replaced by Nintendo's version. This game used to be considered one of the most rare games on the system...but people have discovered over the years that it is a lot more common than they originally thought. Sure, you most likely will never find it in the wild...but there have been tons of copies popping up on Ebay. A loose cart will sell for around $15-$30, while a complete copy typically goes for $40-$60.
Rarity - 5
Don't let the Contra name fool you...this game is complete garbage. In fact, it originally wasn't even meant to be a Contra game...but Konami figured it would sell better if they slapped the Contra name on it. The game is filled with slow and clunky game play that can't even begin to hold a candle to the greatness that is Contra and Super C. Still, because of the rarity of this game when compared to the other NES Contras, it sells for a good chunk of money. It was also never released in Japan, and was a U.S. exclusive. Despite having about the same rarity as Tengen Tetris...it sells for a good deal more (most likely because it bares the "Contra" name). A loose copy on Ebay will set you back about $30-$40, while a complete copy with the box and booklet usually goes for around $60-$80.
Rarity - 5
An obscure platformer released by Taito in 1992, Panic Restaurant has become increasingly difficult to find over the years...and it is especially hard to find complete. You play as a chef in this game, who must save his restaurant from a bunch of food that has come to life. It's your basic platformer, but it was a decent effort by Taito...and what other game pits you up against evil hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream cones, carrots, and even a killer microwave? A loose copy of this game sells for $30-$50 on Ebay...while a complete copy will set you back around $80-$100.
Ducktales 2 & Rescue Rangers 2
Ducktales 2 - Rarity - 5 Once again, I'm going to ignore a rating the guide I'm going off of lists. It has both of these games at a rarity 5, but due to my personal experiences, as well as others I've read about...I feel that Rescue Rangers 2 deserves a 6. It has become much harder to find in recent years since the guide was made, and I feel its rarity status deserves to be updated
Rescue Rangers 2 - Rarity 6
The original Ducktales and Rescue Rangers NES games are some of the most well loved platformers to appear on the system other than the Super Mario Bros. trilogy. While the originals are very common, and usually never sell for more than $5 each (unless they are complete)...their sequels are a whole different story. Both Ducktales 2 and Rescue Rangers 2 were released in 1993...late in the NES's life. They also both had somewhat limited production runs (as did many NES games that were released in those late 8-bit days, when the 16-bit systems had already taken over). Thus, both Ducktales 2 and especially Rescue Rangers 2 can be pretty hard to come by...making them worth a lot more than their predecessors. Both games were basically just re-hashes of the first Ducktales and Rescue Rangers, with new stages and a couple of other new things tossed in. So, most NES gamers who don't want to pay a hefty price will probably just want to stick with the originals. Ducktales 2 (being the more common one) will usually sell for around $30-$40 when it is the cart only, and around $80-$100 when it is complete. Rescue Rangers 2, which has recently started going up in price, will run about $40-$60 for a loose cart, and $100-$120 for a complete copy!
Fire 'N Ice
Rarity - 6
Another game released late in the NES's life and in limited quantities...Fire 'N Ice is a puzzle game, and sequel to Solomon's Key. You play as a wizard who must extinguish all the fires in a level to move on to the next one. He creates ice blocks with his magic wand that are used to put out the flames, as well as solve the puzzles. Despite this game having a rarity of 6...its price seems to be dropping as of late. Recently, a loose copy of Fire 'N Ice has been going for around $20-$30...while a complete copy goes for $60-$80. I'm going to take a guess and say that this game will be going back up in price again before too long. It is indeed a hard to find game, and a very enjoyable puzzler.
Rarity - 6
Originally an arcade game made by Toaplan...the NES port was made by Capcom. It is similar in gameplay to Bubble Bobble...only rather then trapping your enemies in bubbles to defeat them, you must trap them in snow by throwing snowballs at them. Once all the enemies in a level are defeated, you move on to the next. A fun and addicting game, it's at its best when you are playing two player co-op. I have noticed a larger amount of copies of Snow Brothers showing up on Ebay recently...but the demand for this game remains very high, and it still fetches pretty hefty prices. Expect to pay $60-$80 for a loose cart, and $100-$130 for a complete copy.
Rarity - 6
Now we're starting to get into some of the real biggies. These are the games that you might have to take out a mortgage on if you want them in your collection. While Little Samson may have the same rarity rating as Snow Brothers and Fire 'N Ice...it commands a much higher price due to having the reputation of being one of the better games on the NES. The game was released in 1992, but sold poorly...thus it was retired off the shelves pretty fast. However, if people had given the game a chance...they would have seen that it is a very solid title. Little Samson's gameplay is very similar to Mega Man...with your character being able to shoot projectiles at enemies. The game has four playable characters - Little Samson who is a human, Kikira the dragon, Gamm the golem, and K.O. the mouse. Each character is level specific...but you can go back to levels you have already completed and switch to any character you want. This game could have gone down as one of the great NES classics had it sold well...but unfortunately, it was released during a time when 8-bit games were considered to be over the hill. So now, it costs a small ransom on Ebay due to not many copies of it being released. Brace yourself for this one's price range...a loose cart goes for $100-$120, while a complete one goes for $200-$300! Expensive, right? Well, you ain't seen nothing yet!
Bubble Bobble Part 2
Rarity - 6
Bubble Bobble Part 2 seems to have about the same rarity and demand as Little Samson. Thus, it fetches about the same price on Ebay. The game was released in 1993, and as you would guess...it didn't sell very well due to being released on a dying 8-bit system. Wikipedia claims it was a rental only, but other sources say it was available for sale in stores...so I'm not really sure on that one. As you would have guessed, the game brings back the gameplay from the original classic...only the levels are new, and the graphics have gotten an obvious face lift. There is a game out there called Rainbow Islands that frequently gets mistaken for Bubble Bobble 2, despite them both being completely different games. Even on Ebay, you will see people constantly listing it as "Rainbow Islands: Bubble Bobble Part 2". While Rainbow Islands usually sells for around $10-$20...the real Bubble Bobble 2 will cost you around $100-$120 for a loose copy, and $200-$300 for a complete copy. As I mentioned...basically the same price range as Little Samson.
The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak
Rarity - 7
I'm sure you've probably noticed how many of these rare NES games were made by Taito - Panic Restaurant, Little Samson, Bubble Bobble Part 2...but The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak is the rarest of Taito's NES library by far. In fact, it is the second rarest "Officially Licensed" game on the NES. It has been confirmed by several sources that this game was a Blockbuster video rental exclusive...not only making it very rare, but making the box and booklet almost impossible to find (and if you do get lucky enough to find them, they are usually in pretty bad shape). Add to that the fact that this was among the last NES games to be released, and you have a recipe for one of the rarest games on the system. The Flintstones is your typical platformer, starring everyone's favorite "modern stone-age family". You can play as either Fred or Barney...with Fred attacking by swinging a club, and Barney attacking by shooting a slingshot. The game is a sequel to the MUCH more common "Rescue of Dino and Hoppy". Now, get ready for the highest prices yet...you will need to charge your credit card for this one! A loose copy of this game usually sells in the $200-$300 range. That's right, that's how much a LOOSE copy sells for...basically the same price of a COMPLETE copy of either Little Samson or Bubble Bobble 2. However, a complete copy of Surprise at Dinosaur Peak will drain you a whopping $600-$800, possibly even higher! Ouch!!
Panesian's Adult Titles -
Bubble Bath Babes, Hot Slots, and Peek-a-Boo Poker
Rarity - 8 Each
Like Tengen's version of Tetris, these three games from Panesian were unlicensed. Well, what did you expect? That Nintendo would actually approve of adult games on the NES? The only way to get these back when they were released, was to special order them through certain video stores. As you would guess, the games are filled with scantly clad (or flat out naked) women. Hot Slots and Peek-a-Boo Poker are both casino games with sexual themes added into the mix. For instance, in Peek-a-Boo poker you would play poker against different girls and be rewarded by seeing them naked if you won. Bubble Bath Babes was a typical Tetris/Columns type puzzle game with bubbles instead of blocks...and a naked woman taking a bubble bath at the bottom of the screen (the source of the bubbles). These games will probably bring to mind the adult games that were on the Atari 2600, like Custer's Revenge and Bachelor Party...only these are much more rare and sought after. If you thought Flintstones: Surprise at Dino Peak was worth a ridiculous amount of money...wait until you get a load of these! All three games are worth about the exact same as each other...as their rarity is equal, as well as the demand. You can easily expect them to sell for about $400-$600 each when they are loose, and $1,000 and up when they are complete! It should be noted that the box these games came in was very similar to a plastic clamshell VHS movie case, rather than the standard cardboard NES box.
Rarity - 9
Another unlicensed NES game (just look at that weird looking cart), and also a pretty bad attempt at trying to cash in on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze. Cheetahmen II was just as bad as it sounds. I have never played the game, so I can't tell you any personal stories about it...but in doing some research, I have learned that it is one of the crappiest games on the system (and that's saying a lot, considering how many bad NES games there are out there) Obviously, this one deserves nothing less than being reviewed in an Angry Video Game Nerd video. However, the AVGN will have a very hard time getting his hands on this one due to it being one of the rarest games on the system. In fact, this game was never even actually released. A reported 1,500 copies of it were made, but never left the warehouse. By 1997, however...all of the copies had finally been sold off to collectors. Despite this game being rarer than Bubble Bath Babes, Hot Slots, or Peek-a-Boo poker...it does not sell for as much on Ebay. I guess people would rather pay big bucks to see 8-bit naked women, than to play a crappy game starring anthropomorphic cheetahs. Expect a loose cart to go for around $200-$300, while a complete copy will probably sell for $400-$600.
Rarity - 9
And now we are down to the final two games...and what collector's have come to call the "Holy Grails" of video game collecting. Stadium Events is the rarest officially licensed game on the NES, and is the rarest game that was actually available for purchase (the final game on my list was not commercially available, which is the only reason it is more rare than this one). Stadium Events is an Olympics type sports game that uses the NES Power Pad accessory, and was released as part of Bandai's "Family Fun Fitness" series. Right after its release...Nintendo purchased the rights to the Family Fun Fitness games, and started marketing the series for themselves. Stadium Events was immediately pulled from the shelves, and than re-named and re-packaged by Nintendo as "World Class Track Meet". Stadium Events and World Class Track Meet are the EXACT same games...with the lone exception of the title screens being different in each one.
While World Class Track Meet sells for $1 or less...a loose copy of Stadium Events sells for $1,000 or more. It has also been rumored that only around 10 complete copies of Stadium Events are in existence...so expect one of those to go for $5,000 and up if you are ever lucky enough to see one show up on Ebay. I'm sure all 10 of them are in the hands of collectors who proudly display them behind glass...so the odds of one of them ever being available for sale are next to nothing. It should be also noted, that Stadium Events was released in Europe as well...and the game cart for the European "PAL" version looks almost identical to the North American "NTSC" version. The European version is a lot more common, and usually sells for $150-$200 for a loose copy and $300-400 for a complete copy. You can instantly tell it's the PAL version by looking at the price...there is no way the NTSC version would sell for such a "small" amount of money.
And now, for the holiest of holy grails. The rarest game on the NES...and quite possibly one of the rarest games on ANY video game system. It's the dream of every hardcore video game collector to own this piece of video gaming history....
Nintendo World Championship 1990
Rarity - 10
The Nintendo World Championship is a special competition cart that Nintendo used in its 1990 video game contest (which was heavily inspired by the movie, "The Wizard"). The cart contains three games - Super Mario Bros, Rad Racer, and Tetris...as well as a built in timer (dip switches on the outside of the cart control how long or short the time limit is). The game starts you out on Mario, where you must get 50 coins. Once you have done that, it's on to Rad Racer...where you have to simply complete the first race. Finally, you must get as many points as possible on Tetris before the remainder of your time runs out. It than takes you to a score screen where it tallies up your total score from the three games...multiplying your Rad Racer score by 10, and your Tetris score by 25 (it does not multiply the Mario score).
The Nintendo World Championship contest consisted of eight rounds, all separated into three age groups. Contestants entered by going to one of the 30 competitions held at different cities across the country (which were all part of Nintendo's "Power Fest 1990"). On the first two days of the contest, contestants would play in groups of up to 50, and the 7 players with the highest scores would than go onto the main stage to compete against each other. The game cart's timer was set to 6 minutes and 21 seconds for the competition.
There were 90 finalists total (30 in each age group). The championship was held at Universal Studios, Hollywood...where each of the age group's finalists competed simultaneously. The top seven highest scorers were brought on stage for the semi-final round. It finally came down to the top two players, who competed head-to-head for the title of Nintendo World Champion. They were Rich Ambler and Thor Aackerlund. Thor ended up being crowned the champion...with 2,800,000 points scored in the final round.
The 90 Nintendo World Championship carts that were used in the competition were given away to the 90 finalists. The carts were gray...but there were also 26 gold colored versions of the NWC cart that were given away to the winners of a contest Nintendo held in Nintendo Power Magazine (25 to the second place winners, and 1 to the first place winner). So, there are 90 known gray NWC carts, and 26 gold ones. Now, are you ready to cancel the down payment on your new house so you can afford to buy one of these babies? A gray cart will usually sell for $3,000 - $6,000...and the even rarer gold cart will sell for (are you ready for this?) $15,000 - $20,000!! At least collectors who want to buy an NWC cart don't have to worry about finding it complete...as this game does not have a box or booklet.
Now, it would be pretty cool to own a copy of this competition cart to play against your friends and see who can rack up the highest score...or even just to see how you stack up against the NWC's champion, Thor Aackerlund. Sadly, it's most likely impossible that you'll ever get your hands on one of them...cause after all, this is the "Holy Grail" we're talking about here. Luckily though...a website that has one of the original carts in their possession started making these reproduction carts:
For just a measly $55, you can own a reproduction of The Holy Grail. The cart may look different on the outside from the originals...but the game on the inside is the EXACT SAME. The cart even has the dip switches for setting the time, just like the original ones had. Still, many collectors loath reproduction carts such as this one, the same way many gamers loath emulation...but for someone who doesn't have a few thousand bucks lying around for the real thing, it's a pretty nice deal.
So, there you go...the most rare and sought after games on the NES. You have now seen how crazy the prices for some of these games go as the most hardcore collectors continue their never ending quests to, not only own some of the rarest games ever made...but to own EVERY game ever made.