Why Are SNES Games So Expensive?

If you are a retro gamer, you’ve probably noticed that some of the best games of the 16-bit era are ridiculously expensive, and you’re not the only one thinking that. While NES and N64 games have a similar problem, this issue is most prominent with SNES titles. There are a few reasons for this which we’ll discuss below.

90’s Kids

First, the kids who were playing the SNES when it was new are all adults now, and most of them have a stable income. This means that they are able to buy the games that their parents wouldn’t or couldn’t get them. As a result, over the last five or so years, demand for games of this era has exploded and resulted in increased prices.

The eBay Standard

Just like how currency used to operate on the gold standard, retro games operate on the eBay standard. Over the last few years, retro game resellers have created fierce competition to resell these games and make some money doing it.

Many of these resellers will buy up available copies of an individual game in order to have the only listing of the game, and thus control the price. This increases the profit for the reseller by artificially restricting the supply of the game.

As a result, other vendors use eBay as a gauge to determine the value of a retro game, and sell it for a similar price. The game may not be worth that much, but the eBay sellers have set the standard that others then follow.

Cardboard Money

Prices can fluctuate for these titles. Just like any other collectible item, there are a few modifiers that can affect prices for games on online marketplaces and in retro game stores.

Obviously, if the game does not play, it won’t be worth much. Some collectors may swoop up some nonfunctional copies of classic games as decoration or for other projects, but it won’t fetch much of a price.

The condition of the cartridge will 100% affect the price of your game. This isn’t as big as the next modifier, but if your game cartridge is shabby, discolored, or missing a label, it will not sell for the full price.

Finally, the easiest way to bump up your SNES game’s price tag is to have the original box. Most kids who received a Nintendo game between the NES and the GameBoy Advance probably threw away the cardboard box the cartridge came in. There is really no reason to keep it since, at the time, that box was worthless. Fast forward 20 years and those pieces of cardboard are insanely rare. For instance, eBay has listings for Wario’s Woods for the SNES that average out to be about $12 for just the cartridge. Another listing for the game, which includes the original box and manual, is about $50. This obviously will depend on the rarity/popularity of the game, but there is a significant price increase.

Nintendo, at War

Retro gamers’ number one tool is the emulator. It’s an easy way to play games on your computer when they are no longer available or very expensive. Now, this may not be the most legal way to play your favorite SNES title, but that has not stopped many gamers from resorting to emulators rather than break the bank on original hardware. Emulators are also a great way to preserve the classics since many of these games are not legally playable anymore.

Over the last couple of years, Nintendo has been on the warpath, fighting those who host ROMs and emulators in order to get their games taken down. Nintendo is not the only company that is doing this either. A major ROM site called EmuParadise had to remove all of the content from their site due to these lawsuits.

This makes playing classic games surprisingly tricky. If you want to play some of the best games of the last twenty years, you must either buy the original copy of the game along with the original hardware to play it, or choose from a small library of games that have been released on services like Nintendo’s Virtual Console.

These events have definitely contributed to the price hike in Nintendo classics online. Gamers’ options are now limited due to Nintendo’s crusade against emulation, meaning that original hardware is the safest bet in preserving and enjoying the classics.

YouTube Trendsetting

Some retro gamers online have also suspected that SNES games have gotten trendier over the last few years due to their high production value and awesome replayability. They don’t have the same basic mechanics, glitches, and crunchy graphics as arcadey NES titles, meaning modern gamers will have an easier time playing SNES games than those of earlier generations.

This trend has definitely received more popularity as YouTube gaming channels got really popular in the 2010s. The kids who played these games when they were young could now make a living revisiting these classics and sharing them with a new audience.

This increased demand as those who had never played these games wanted to get a copy. SNES games started selling faster, increasing the price on sites like eBay and at retro game stores.

The Most Expensive SNES Games

SNES cartridges can range wildly in price, with some even selling for thousands. These are usually restricted to limited run games or competition cartridges that collectors have gotten their hands on. Here is a list of some of these exceedingly rare titles, along with their price tag.

1.     Exertainment Mountain Bike Rally/Speed Racer Combo

This title may have never been released to the public. While both of these games on their own are relatively common, this version of the game only saw around 2,000 cartridges produced, making it exceedingly rare and desirable among collectors. A recent purchase of this cartridge cost the buyer $1,662.40, not including shipping. In box, this game can almost double in price.

2.     NTF 2.5 Test Cartridge

For most SNES fans, this cartridge probably doesn’t seem like anything special. It never saw a public release due to it being an in-house test cartridge to test the functionality of the Super Nintendo’s peripherals, such as the Super Scope and SNES Mouse. This is an insanely rare collector’s item though, with a listing on eBay for around $2,500. This is just the cartridge too, no box or manual included.

3.     Nintendo Powerfest 1994 Cartridge

Nintendo loves holding competitions for dedicated fans to show off their skill on the world stage, and maybe even win some awesome prizes while they’re at it. This cartridge, which sold on eBay for $23,100 in 2013, was only used during the Nintendo Powerfest in 1994, held in different stores across the country. There were only 33 cartridges made, and only two of them have ever resurfaced. This is one of the ultimate collector’s items when it comes to retro gaming.

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  • October 7, 2020
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