The 6 Most Valuable Games of All Time (Quantified By NBA Live ’95)
In last week’s article I took a look at some of the most ridiculous Xbox achievements out there and in the article I detailed just how much I hate sports titles. Of course, I used the platform of “worst online achievements ever” to levy my complaints but from an honest and critical standpoint…?
I fucking hate sports games.
Do we really need a new sports game every single year? Do we really need an annual football game when EA, the developers, hold exclusivity rights with the NFL to ensure there is no competition within the market? The obvious answer here is no. No, we don’t need any more goddamn sports games now or ever. How about instead of an annual release EA and 2K Games actually try putting some effort into their turds and make a sports title that can stand on its own for the life of a console with roster updates and other functionality provided as DLC? Or is that idea too obvious for “AAA” developers like EA to figure out? It must be, because I almost failed college-level business classes but even I know a retarded idea when I see one. Sports titles are a worthless waste of money and after only a matter of months aren’t even worth the plastic they are printed on so how do they hold up against the rarest and most valuable games of all time?
As you might imagine, releasing a sports title each year significantly decreases the value of the preceding years. Sports titles are worthless to collectors and they’re literally the only other games other than pack-in titles that collectors avoid like the plague. Even in that case, however, the games that came included with classic consoles (Super Mario World, Sonic the Hedgehog, etc) are still sought after by nostalgic gamers, there is still a market for them. Collectors don’t want pack-in titles and nostalgia buffs don’t want a one-of-a-kind prototype of some obscure game but both types of people can agree on one thing: fuck sports games. You can sell a copy of Final Fantasy and you can sell a copy of Intelligent Qube but if you’re left with a copy of Barkley Shut Up & Jam then you better have a wobbly table that needs fixing because you have better odds of winning the lotto by picking the same number six times than you do of ever selling that game.
To put this into perspective, sports titles are so worthless that the only conceivable usage one collector found for them was making a fucking urinal out of them.
Just for the hell of it I decided to analyze the values of various titles in an assortment of sports game franchises (Madden, NBA Live, etc) using a number of different video game pricing guides, none of which unfortunately go below $0.50 in terms of the lowest values given. This means that almost every copy of these games displayed as 50 cents in value. Regardless, I settled on NBA Live for this experiment just because out of all of the franchises I looked at this one ran the longest (1995 – 2010) with the least amount of “collector’s edition” and special releases to mess up the average value of each installment. I took an average of each annual release that combined all of the values for each console it was released on and decided to make a graph to track the nosediving worth of each game.
The numbers don’t lie. After the first year of release the value of each game goes down in value with the first drop being the steepest (the new worth only 25% of the most recent game’s value). I was upset that the graph stopped at $0.50 so I decided to find out just how worthless the original NBA Live 1995 really is. Warning: Math content follows. After omitting the first giant drop in value I decided to calculate each subsequent drop in price since they seem to be strangely uniform. On average each time the value of these games goes down the new worth is approximately 73.4% of the total value of the game before it. With this in mind I started with NBA Live 2009, worth $2.43, and began multiplying it by .734 for each year until I got down to 1995. The result?
NBA Live ’95 is worth two fucking cents.
For an investment that cost about $50 brand new the return on it is mere pennies and just barely pennies plural. Not every game is able to break its original price tag with its collectors’ value but none of them sink as low as sports titles in terms of how disproportionate their worth is to their original price. All, not just some, of the worst games of all time are worth more than NBA Live ’95. All of them. Any game you can possibly think of that doesn’t involve putting an inflated ball through a hoop or into a net is worth more than this game. Every. Single. One.
See why I hate sports games now?
But how does that match up to the rarest and most valuable games ever? Just how many copies of this crappy basketball game would it take to equal the value of just one copy (and in many cases the only copy) of the most sought after games out there? Let’s find out.
The first game in our list isn’t actually a game at all but a programming tool for the Atari 2600. Magicard is one of the few titles produced by the company CommaVid, an Atari 2600 developer that specialized in making their games needlessly difficult to obtain. Magicard, for example, was only available through a special mail order form direct from CommaVid and another one of their games (Video Life) was available only to people who purchased Magicard. Marketing was not their strong point. Technically, then, Video Life is more rare than Magicard but the value of this particular cartridge reaches “Jesus Christ” proportions when you have it complete with its 100+ page manual and keyboard controller overlays. Magicard lets you create simple programs using your Atari (since Atari’s in-house game Basic Programming was a load of crock) via an assembly language. Needless to say with its incredibly boring and hard to understand premise plus a manual that’s about the length of a short novel Magicard is one of those titles whose playability caters only to the incredibly technologically savvy among us; to everybody else Magicard is just an inconveniently-sized blank check waiting for someone to cash it in at the National Bank of Game Collectors. Even if you find a copy loose (that is, without its manual, overlays, and sample programs) the game will still fetch enough to help extinguish the credit card debt incurred from buying this thing.
Magicard is worth 338,334 copies of NBA Live ’95. This many copies of NBA Live ’95 is equivalent to the weight of seven fully grown African elephants.
Before the death of VHS and the advent of Netflix, Redbox, and rampant DVD piracy there was actually a point in time when Blockbuster Video was sitting pretty and raking in the super big bucks. At one point in time they were acquired by Viacom… but ultimately when profits began to falter Viacom had the smarts to throw Blockbuster out into the deep end and let them struggle for a while presumably while the Viacom CEO relaxed in a hot tub of liquid money and watched. This game is a relic of Blockbuter’s better times.
Blockbuster World Championships II is a special promotional cartridge that was utilized in various Blockbuster stores during a contest they held to see who could get the most points in their two challenge games. The games included on the cartridge are truncated versions of NBA Jam and Judge Dredd. Judge Dredd was such an awful movie that if you stare at the theatrical poster and say “Sylvester Stallone” three times it will come to life and kill you in your sleep. Despite what I previously said about basketball and sports games, however, NBA Jam is one of those few sports titles that are genuinely fun to play. Why? Because it’s full of wacky twists, flaming slam dunks, the phrase “BOOMSHAKALAKA”, and a huge assortment of hidden characters ranging from The Beastie Boys to President Bill Clinton. I hate sports games but I love NBA Jam. Everybody does.
Unlike Blockbuster’s previous “championship” games (such as Donkey Kong Competition Cartridge and StarFox Super Weekend, which sounds more like a furry porn marathon than a contest game) BBWC2 has a minimalist and ugly label; it’s just boilerplate copyright text about the cartridge contents. This label, ugly as it is, actually helps determine the value of each copy of this game. Remember those silver “VOID IF REMOVED” stickers that Blockbuster used to place on their games? Sometimes when new games came in you’d have an incompetent bastard behind the counter who would place the void sticker directly over the front of the label making it so if you tried to remove the sticker it would destroy the label of the game. If your copy of BBWC2 is one of these then sadly your game won’t fetch the mythical 8G’s but it’s still a valuable game; however if you have a pristine copy (with its original box) cash that sucker in and pay off that junker of a used car you’re driving around.
Blockbuster World Championships II is worth 400,000 copies of NBA Live ’95. This is enough copies to give one to every US soldier wounded or killed in the Vietnam War.
Gammation is one of those independent Atari developers who came and went relatively fast in the marketplace, the kind who don’t stick around long enough to produce a full library of games or products. Gammation’s only real claim to vintage gaming fame was a device called the Fire Power 100 which can arguably be hailed as the first controller mod ever offered in the gaming market. The FP-100 required you to plug your joystick into a device that would then let you customize a rapid fire option to a speed that suited your preferences. Gammation was also rumored to have at least one game in development, Gamma-Attack, that never saw the light of day for almost thirty years. Until now.
“Phantom”, as he likes to be called, is a member of the Atari Age community who enjoys the sport of hunting for rare games in the wild at flea markets and garage sales. On a whim one day he purchased a large box of Atari 2600 stuff which he almost didn’t buy because he thought he was overpaying (according to an interview). What he didn’t know, though, is that he just made a purchase that would forever alter the history of classic video games. Amidst a bunch of crap sat a solitary black cartridge stamped only with a “Gammation” label and no other means to identify the game as the famed Gamma-Attack. Phantom seriously took one look at the game and almost wrote it off as a worthless homebrew. I’d like to imagine that he shit his pants the second he punched “Gammation” into Bing and was greeted with the prospect of having found what is now considered to be the rarest Atari 2600 game in existence. Phantom had, in his possession, the only known copy of this game to ever exist.
So he listed it on eBay for $500,000. It didn’t sell. A man can dream, though, right?
The eBay listing, according to Phantom, was just a gag because he literally had no other way to get the news out there that he had found this game. Where do you go to release this kind of news? Sure, channels like Fox News air stories on bears stuck in trees when it’s a slow news day but not even they would care about the impact this find would have on the gaming community. Using eBay as his platform Phantom was also able to get some feedback and serious offers from other serious collectors inquiring about his copy of Gamma-Attack. The end result is a value estimated to be around $9,000.00 for this one-of-a-kind game, the release of which led to a series of faithful reproductions offered to the collecting community.
Gamma-Attack is worth approximately 450,000 copies of NBA Live ’95. This is enough copies that when stacked on top of each other (standing up like it was in the system) the tower of games will be as tall as the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 2,717 feet… if the building was stacked on top of itself forty-eight times.
Yes, that’s an actual game in the picture there even though it looks like the aftermath of someone disassembling their console and thinking they could put some sw33t haxOr modz in it. Nintendo Powerfest 1994 is the rarest of all competition cartridges for the Super NES outranking the likes of the previously mentioned Donkey Kong Competition Cartridge and StarFox Super Weekend. Blockbuster Video was pretty careless about how they handled their contest merchandise but the ones coming straight from Nintendo were watched by the company a little more closely; 33 copies of this “cartridge” were created and all but one were returned to Nintendo to be “recycled”. The lone competition board, the last of its kind, has been valued at approximately $10,000.00.
The reason why the cartridge looks like a busted up piece of crap is because the board itself appears to have sockets for EPROMs that can be switched out to change the order of the games included or the actual games themselves. If there was ever a decorative top for it the piece has long since been lost or destroyed; the only pictures available of Nintendo Powerfest 1994 show it without a top. The entire array itself sits on top of the Super NES console like a serving tray for robot overlords or a piece of decorative nerd art. The games included in this competition cartridge are Super Mario: Lost Levels (from Super Mario All Stars), Super Mario Kart, and Ken Griffey Jr Basebell. Why they shoved Griffey in there and not another Mario game is beyond me but I guess having a shitty sports game on a competition cartridge is the only way to really separate the casual “good at Mario” gamers and those who really do master every single game out there.
Nintendo Powerfest 1994 is worth 500,000 copies of NBA Live ’95. If each cartridge were a brick this is enough of them to build almost twenty-eight average American homes.
Something I’ve realized while doing my research for this article is that the rarest games in the world really don’t have much in the way of labels. Those that do have labels either have a cheap typewriter sticker or just have something that identifies the company who produced it. Tetris for the Sega MegaDrive (the name of the Genesis in international markets) is the only game in this list that has a proper label, box, and manual. If you manage to have all three of them you’re well on your way to an estimated $16,000.00.
Tetris is a game that is more common than anything else on the planet. It has been released for every single console ranging from the Atari 2600 to the Xbox 360 and never once has the formula for the tetrominos changed. If the game is so painfully common, then, what makes this the Holy Grail of Russian block stacking? Take a look at the header graphic; this game was never released. Sega was producing this game along with Tengen, a company notorious for causing all sorts of legal shitstorms with the developers of the platforms they released their games on. It seems that every time Tengen touches the Tetris franchise there is money to be had. The officially licensed version of the game for the NES is common and mostly worthless but Tengen’s unlicensed version of the same exact game is worth boatloads more (maybe because it has two player simultaneous Tetris, who knows). In the midst of creating their games Tengen lost the publishing rights to Tetris likely because when they weren’t creating unlicensed titles Tengen was busy falsifying documents to receive patent details on Nintendo’s “NES10” lockout technology so they could reverse engineer it. They were basically expert trolls.
When Sega lost the publishing rights to the Russian puzzle game they were ordered to destroy their stock of it which they sadly did. Somewhere along the line, however, a single box of cartridges made it through the destruction. Inside this box were the last ten copies of this game in existence. Whether or not these games were intentionally saved by an employee we may never know but one thing is for certain: Tengen are a bunch of dicks.
Tetris is worth 800,000 copies of NBA Live ’95. This is enough cartridges to create 15,120,000 square inches of real estate, either the equivalent of 2.4 acres of land or enough room to play 105,000 simultaneous games of chess on an average-sized board.
This is it, the most valuable game of all time, and yes it’s another competition cartridge. Not only is this the most valuable game in the world, having a recorded sale price of over twenty thousand dollars, but its origin story is one for everybody who dreams of someday coming across that big haul in the simplest of places: NES Campus Challenge ’91 was found at a garage sale in New York.
Rob Walters is a video game collector just like you and me but when he stumbled upon a seller asking $40 for an assortment of sealed and rare Nintendo products, a seller who also said “I have more stuff that I’m not selling”, Walters found the strange occurrence far too surreal to pass up. He bought the $40 lot, netting him five copies of StarFox Super Weekend in the process (because fuck you everybody who gets hyped about finding one “in the wild”), and later paid the man a visit to find out more about this “more stuff”. The man showed him all sorts of one-of-a-kind rare items ranging from other competition cartridges to this very game. The seller was an ex-employee of Nintendo who had personally saved these relics from destruction; he said “I’m not allowed to sell them”. Walters offered the man $1,000 cash.
A transaction was made.
NES Campus Challenge ’91 is worth over one million copies of NBA Live ’95. If you lined these games end to end they would stretch for 85.6 miles (137.7km). If you took this road of games and pointed it straight up it would extend into the Thermosphere and there’s a chance you might knock the goddamn International Space Station out of orbit.
One thing I’ve learned from writing this article is that the rarest games out there look like utter garbage. Some of them look like broken and dismantled products inadvertently created from the accidents of people tinkering with things they know nothing about but that appearance is just a fallacy, they are worth thousands of dollars. NES Campus Challenge ’91 looks like a busted up jury-rigged cartridge that wouldn’t work in a million years. It’s so big that to play it you have to remove the top half of the NES and its loading deck. It’s such a bizarrely sized and shaped cartridge that it doesn’t even work like the rest of the NES games out there but that’s to be expected considering that Nintendo Powerfest 1994 was a giant tray that sat on top of the Super NES. Rob Walters’ story is truly one of the greatest finds in collecting history and the sheer fact that this game was obtained because of a visit to a mere garage sale is enough to spark the inspiration and dreams of everyone around the world. This wasn’t a game recovered from an inner-company filing cabinet, this was one collector meeting an ex-employee who had the smarts to hold on to these important relics of history.