25 Most Expensive NES Video Games
January 10th, 2023
Nintendo’s legendary first console to arrive on American shores, the NES–Nintendo Entertainment System–was a redesign of Nintendo’s Famicom console. Originally the Famicom was created in 1983 so that people could play arcade games without having to leave their houses. It was in 1986 that the NES took over the hearts of America after a successful 1985 Consumer Electronics show and December test market release. This iconic system saw the release of some of the most popular and sought after rare video games in existence today.
The production of NES titles stopped in 1994 and the advent of professional third-party authentication and certification of video games from companies like WATA and CGC alongside sales from reputable auction companies and websites like Standard Gaming, allows us to catalog and track the most expensive NES titles ever publicly sold. This article is updated quarterly and serves to provide readers with the top 25 most expensive NES video games ever sold.
25. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project ($63,000)
This Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project copy, released in 1992 by Konami, sold for $63,000 on Heritage Auctions. This sealed copy received a WATA 9.8 A++ rating. The copy is as close as it can possibly get to being perfect. The seal and the box allow the owner to look 30 years into the past and see an excellently preserved piece of it.
This is not an arcade port like the TMNT games that came before it. Instead, it is a game that was directly made for the NES. It was the last TMNT game to come out on the NES and it did not disappoint in many ways such as allowing players to change turtles with differentiated moves when they died.
24. Popeye ($63,000)
This copy of Popeye, released by Nintendo in 1986, was sold on Heritage Auctions for $63,000. The sealed copy achieved a WATA 9.8 A+ rating. Copies of this game that have a high grade rating are difficult to find. Most of the copies that are sold are at 9.4 or below which gives detail to its high value.
The game originally came out as an arcade game and was then ported over to the NES. The Popeye game was originally supposed to be Donkey Kong as Nintendo couldn’t get the Poopeye rights. As Nintendo gained popularity and time moved on, they eventually got the rights, which allowed Nintendo to make this game which is similar in some platforming aspects.
23. Stadium Events: Family Fun Fitness ($66,000)
Heritage Auctions sold a copy of Stadium Events: Family Fun Fitness, released in 1987 by Bandai, for $66,000. The sealed copy was given a 9.2 A+ rating. A lot of professionals believe there to only be around 200 copies of the game in any condition left. This game's historical rarity makes it one of the most desired NES games by many advanced collectors.
This game was meant to be played with a mat that would plug into the console. It was made to encourage people to exercise. After the rights to the company were bought by Nintendo the copies of this game were meant to be sent back to the factory where they were made and destroyed.
22. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ($72,000)
This copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, released in 1989 by NES Ultra, sold on Heritage Auctions for $72,000. The title was given a 9.8 A++ WATA rating which expresses the value of the copy.
There is a lot of history around the game as its cover art was used for the second printing of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4–a TMNT comic. The particular copy was also in the Mark Freedman collection. Mark Freedman helped get the comic licensed for a toy line. His name was also put on the 1987 cartoon series as a producer.
21. Castlevania ($72,000)
Castlevania, released by Konami in 1987, saw a later production sealed copy sell on Heritage Auctions for $72,000. This sealed copy obtained a 9.4 A+ WATA rating. With a white oval seal of quality on the front of the game box rather than a round black seal this was not even considered a first print copy, making the sale price all that more remarkable.
Castlevania revolutionized gaming as part of its name is used to describe an entire genre of video games: Metroidvania. It’s heavily based on Ghosts and Goblins, but the game is much more advanced in terms of combat. It offers multiple weapons that complement the main character's main whip weapon.
20. Donkey Kong ($72,000)
Heritage Auctions sold a sealed mid-production Donkey Kong copy, released in 1986 by Nintendo, for $72,000. WATA rated the sealed copy at 8.5 B. The cart is a No Rev-A cartridge meaning that the cart was made with 5 screws instead of 3. It also has a round seal of quality on the bottom right.
The copy is so rare that at the time that it was sold, WATA had only graded one copy of the game–this includes any variant of Donkey Kong for the NES. Donkey Kong is special to many as it was one of the first arcade games to be ported onto a console and among the first platformers to be made.
19. Double Dragon ($72,000)
This first production sealed copy of Double Dragon, released by Tradewest in 1988, sold for $72,000 on Heritage Auctions in 2021. WATA rated this sealed copy 9.6 A. This early production copy is marked by a round black seal of quality on the bottom right of the box front, rather than a white oval seal..
This copy of Double Dragon is phenomenal in its presentation but radiates in what it represented at the time. The game was so iconic that it managed to get both a cartoon and a live-action show that was based on it.
18. Excitebike ($87,000)
Heritage Auctions sold a sealed second production copy of Excitebike, released in 1985 by Nintendo, for $87,000. This sealed copy has a WATA 9.0 rating. This game is one of the highest-graded sticker seal NES games to have been graded by WATA. The game is special due to its sticker seal and grading but is also an icon of the time.
This game was programmable so gamers at the time were able to design their own tracks for it on the NES. Excitebike is full of high-speed obstacle-fueled fun as players race against time in order to finish the five different levels included in the game.
17. Urban Champion ($96,000)
This mid-production copy of Urban Champion, released in 1986 by Nintendo, was sold on Heritage Auctions for $96,000. The sealed title has a WATA 8.5 B rating. This game was one of the 17 games that were part of Nintendo’s black box collection which marks the beginning of NES video game sales in the US.
On top of all of this, the game has a hangtab on the back that is still fully intact. It is an extremely rare game as there are very few copies, especially of this variant, that have been graded and far fewer that are sealed and graded.
16. Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link ($102,000)
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, released by Nintendo in 1988, had a sealed copy that was sold by Heritage Auctions for $102,000. WATA gave this sealed copy of the title a 9.8 A+. It’s an early production copy which includes a black round seal of quality on the game’s box front.
Unlike the first game, this one has side-scrolling levels and plays throughout a big world map. There were also experience points in the game. These points allowed people to level up Link’s different attributes which is very different from Zelda games now that have no experience points and focus more on the adventure.
15. Baseball ($144,000)
Heritage Auctions sold a Black Box mid-production copy of Baseball, released in 1985 by Nintendo, for $144,000. The copy has a WATA rating of 9.6 A+. Baseball includes a seal of quality along with a hangtab that accentuates its rarity. This is also another one of the original 17 games released on the NES, hence the black box.
This game was created by the same legendary designer who made Donkey Kong, Shigeru Miyamoto. It was one of the first 1983 Famicom games to be released and the concept for its gameplay was simple to pick up but hard to master.
14. Mega Man ($144,000)
This second production Mega Man copy, released in 1987 by Capcom, sold on Heritage Auctions for $144,000. The game was given a WATA 9.4 A+ rating. This was the first variant of the Dr. Wily box version which solidified Dr. Wily as the primary antagonist of the Mega Man series, who was originally called Dr. Wright in the first edition of the game.
Mega Man was highly innovative when it came out as it offered a gaming experience with a lot of variety in how it could be beaten. Players could choose the level they wanted to go to first. They would have to learn what weapons they unlocked from killing bosses would work as weaknesses against other bosses.
13. Duck Hunt ($144,000)
A first production Duck Hunt copy, released in 1985 by Nintendo, was sold for $144,000 on Heritage Auctions in August 2022. This sealed copy of the game was rated 9.2 A++ by WATA. This is also one of the first games to have ever been released on the NES making it a highly sought-after copy.
Duck Hunt was a different style of NES game as it needed players to hook up a light gun zapper to be played. Players would then aim it at the screen and the gun would be able to detect movement on the screen. The light gun to this day still works well with older TV models but is virtually impossible to use on newer screens.
12. Tecmo Bowl ($144,000)
Tecmo Bowl was released for the NES in 1989 by Tecmo and had a later production copy sold on Heritage Auctions for $144,000 in January 2022. This sealed copy has a WATA 9.4 A+ rating. It also has an oval seal of quality on the bottom right, indicating that it’s a later production copy.
The game made a lot of strides in sports video games as it was the first time that any football game had used the names of real players for different characters. This was because they had the National Football League Players Association license. The game, however, was unable to use team names as there was no league license for it though they made up for this by providing similar team color schemes.
11. Contra ($150,000)
This sealed copy of Contra, released in 1988 by Konami, sold for $150,000 on Heritage Auctions. The sealed Contra copy managed to get a near perfect WATA rating of 9.8 A+. The game box has a black round seal of quality on the front right, indicating that it’s an early production copy. When this Contra copy was sold it was the highest-graded version of the game to have been sold and known to exist.
Contra is comprehensive as a run-and-gun shooter. It offered 8 different stages that had bewitching 8-bit designs. The game is notoriously hard as players will die as soon as they get hit once by an enemy.
10. Super Mario Bros. 3 ($156,000)
Heritage Auctions sold a first production copy of Super Mario Bros. 3, released by Nintendo in 1990, for $156,000. The sealed copy managed to get a 9.2 A+ WATA rating. The copy has the “Bros.” from the Super Mario Bros. 3 logo title on the left-hand side somewhat covering Mario’s hand. Copies after this have the “Bros.” in between Mario’s hat and the “RIO” letters on the cartridge.
This was the first Mario game to have ever introduced what is now a big Mario mainstay: the world map. The game is also beloved for featuring more power-ups that added to both Mario’s aesthetic along with his abilities like the frog suit.
9. Clu Clu Land ($156,000)
A sealed copy of Clu Clu Land, released in 1985 by Nintendo, sold for $156,000 on Heritage Auctions’ website. WATA rated this sealed copy of the game at a 9.4 A+. The condition this game is in is stunning as it’s a black box game but has virtually no rough wear and tear.
The game is fairly simple as it involves players latching onto little knobs, spinning around said knobs to collect gems, and avoiding spiky evildoers. Other than that there is not much to it, but because it is one of the first games to have been released on the NES, it’s a video game that is highly sought after by many collectors.
8. Metroid ($168,000)
This No Rev-A first production copy of Metroid, released in 1987 by Nintendo, was sold by Heritage Auctions for $168,000. The video game copy has a WATA 9.4 A+ rating which isn’t the highest graded version of this title, but it is the most expensive to have been sold. This early print copy also includes a hangtab, adding to the game’s collecting allure.
Metroid made large movements in the gaming world as it was Nintendo’s first game to feature a playable female protagonist. It also helped to propel the Metroidvania genre as it set up a baseline for the genre’s primary level design. This being one giant mazelike map which players can explore that’s split into smaller, more manageable sections.
7. Nintendo World Championships ($180,000)
Nintendo World Championships, released in 1990 by Nintendo, has a copy that sold on Heritage Auctions for $180,000. This cartridge received a WATA 8.0 rating. This is a cartridge that was not meant to be sold but instead used for the 1990s Nintendo World Championships. There are around 100 of these cartridges currently known in existence.
The cart featured Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris. When the contest was going on, players could only play all three games for 6 minutes and 21 seconds. In that time they were supposed to get 50 coins in Super Mario Bros., beat the first track of Rad Racer, and use the remaining time to get the highest Tetris score possible.
6. Final Fantasy ($204,000)
Heritage Auctions sold a sealed copy of Final Fantasy, released in 1990 by Nintendo, for $204,000. That sealed copy received a 9.8 A++ WATA rating. This copy is likely the finest copy of this seminal title in existence!
This game was made as a final effort for Square, now Square Enix, to not go out of business. Final Fantasy restructured the way that RPGs were played. It did this by having a battle screen that was in the third person instead of the first person where players would actually see attack animations versus reading them like in older RPG titles.
5. Mario Bros. ($264,000)
This copy of Mario Bros., released in 1986 by Nintendo, sold on Heritage Auctions for $264,000. This sealed copy achieved a 9.6 A WATA rating. The cart is a Rev-A last production variant of the game with a round seal of quality on the bottom right. This is also a black box game which adds to its collective allure.
Mario Bros. is iconic in the platformer world as it took a lot of inspiration from its Donkey Kong predecessor and grew with it. The game serves as a base for what Mario games slowly became over time as it has players collecting coins and killing enemies that come out of pipes. The game also introduced Luigi for the first time.
4. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! ($312,000)
A copy of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, released in 1987 by Nintendo, sold for $312,000 on Heritage Auctions. WATA rated the sealed copy 9.8 A++ which is the best-preserved copy to have ever been offered. This is a later production copy with a white oval seal of quality.
The game is based on players reading the opposing boxer’s moves and then reacting to them quickly. Everything is telegraphed but players need to know where they should look at their opponent for a tell such as a twitching eyebrow or a glowing gem. The game was also originally called Punch-Out!! when it was in the arcades, but they added Mike Tyson’s name to it for the western NES port after securing his likeness. Later, the game was again subsequently changed back to simply Punch-Out!! after the Tyson agreement ended.
3. Super Mario Bros. 2 ($324,000)
This first production copy of Super Mario Bros. 2, released in 1998 by Nintendo, sold at Heritage Auctions for $324,000. This sealed copy was given an astounding 9.8 A+ rating from WATA. First print copies featuring a black round seal of quality on the box front are a desirable memento as they are likely much rarer than later print white oval seal of quality variants.
Super Mario Bros. 2 was actually a localization of Doki Doki Panic which was reskinned for Western audiences and then made into the game Super Mario USA for Japan. The game is different than its predecessors in its story’s presentation and having players kill enemies by throwing things at them rather than jumping on them.
2. The Legend Of Zelda ($870,000)
Heritage Auctions sold a sealed copy of The Legend of Zelda, released in 1987 by Nintendo, for $870,000. This early production sealed copy has a WATA 9.0 A rating. The cartridge contained within this copy has a round seal of quality and is a five screw cartridge. This variant of the cartridge was only produced for a handful of months, adding in part to the rarity and value of early print copies.
This game did not invent the adventure genre but it innovated the adventure genre with everything that it was able to accomplish. The game created an open-world non-linear adventure with a rich sense of exploration that had never been done at this scale before. It threw the player in and made them figure it all out, and in the process launched what ultimately has become one of Nintendo’s core franchises alongside Mario and Pokemon.
1. Super Mario Bros. ($2,000,000)
In the summer of 2021 we saw a high grade sealed hangtab copy of Super Mario Bros., released by Nintendo in 1985, sell for an astounding $2,000,000 on the Rally website. This copy is graded 9.8 A+ by WATA and is considered by collectors to be a grail among grails as it combines collectability with museum quality preservation.
Effectively the grandfather of modern console gaming, Super Mario Bros. is not only considered one of the greatest video games ever produced, but it's also one of the best selling video games ever made. The 1952 Mickey Mantle of video games, not much compares across most collectible verticals to the combined nostalgia and scarcity of sealed copies of Super Mario Bros. for the NES. The keystone launch title that in 1985 propelled Nintendo to the forefront of the American zeitgeist, Super Mario Bros. sold over 40 million copies worldwide and spawned the most popular video game franchise of all-time.
Top Ten Recap:
- 1. Super Mario Bros. ($2,000,000)
- 2. The Legend Of Zelda ($870,000)
- 3. Super Mario Bros. 2 ($324,000)
- 4. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! ($312,000)
- 5. Mario Bros. ($264,000)
- 6. Final Fantasy ($204,000)
- 7. Nintendo World Championships ($180,000)
- 8. Metroid ($168,000)
- 9. Clu Clu Land ($156,000)
- 10. Super Mario Bros. 3 ($156,000)
- 11. Contra ($150,000)
- 12. Tecmo Bowl ($144,000)
- 13. Duck Hunt ($144,000)
- 14. Mega Man ($144,000)
- 15. Baseball ($144,000)
- 16. Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link ($102,000)
- 17. Urban Champion ($96,000)
- 18. Excitebike ($87,000)
- 19. Double Dragon ($72,000)
- 20. Donkey Kong ($72,000)
- 21. Castlevania ($72,000)
- 22. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ($72,000)
- 23. Stadium Events: Family Fun Fitness ($66,000)
- 24. Popeye ($63,000)
- 25. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project ($63,000)
Note! The games listed above are all in an extremely pristine state of preservation, in many cases nearing museum quality. Copies of just the game cartridge alone may be worth only a few dollars. Standard Gaming is an avid buyer of all rare video games. If you have any games that you believe to be rare and would like to sell please contact us here.