While many of those who grew up with the Super Nintendo (arguably Nintendo’s greatest console) wouldn’t trade their memories of it away for anything, the 30 years since the console’s North American release have made it clear that the value of its incredible library of games goes well beyond nostalgia.
At a time when the market for collectible video games is going through an unbelievable boom period, retro gamers everywhere are taking mental and physical inventory of their classic game collections in the hopes (or horror) of discovering that one of the games they owned is secretly worth a fortune. At the risk of disappointing some, though, it turns out that many of the SNES’ most valuable games are only valuable because so few people owned them.
Yet, in the case of the SNES, we start to see the emergence of a few titles that may be considered all-time classics now but are actually somewhat rare and quite valuable simply because relatively fewer people gave them a chance at the time. Maybe there are some downsides to having one of the most diverse and incredible video game libraries in the history of the industry…
Before we dive into the list, though, here are a few points to consider regarding the selection process:
- This list primarily focuses on genuinely rare titles rather than pristine versions of common titles that are prized solely for their condition.
- There are many SNES games that sell for the same basic prices, so consider this a sampling of the most desirable and rare SNES games on the market in various price ranges.
- The two numbers next to each game represent their “loose” price (meaning “cartridge only” in pretty much any condition) and the highest price they currently sell for if they are in pristine condition.
15. Chrono Trigger – $200 to $1,300
This certainly isn’t the rarest or most valuable SNES game in the world (clearly), but what makes this game’s relatively high market value so fascinating is that much of its current value can be attributed to the fact that it’s arguably the greatest RPG ever made.
Chrono Trigger’s price has only gone up over the years as more people become aware of this RPG’s timeless quality. While fairly recent digital re-releases have reduced its market value somewhat, you’re still going to have to pay hundreds of dollars to get a boxed copy of this undeniable classic.
14. Mega Man X3 – $300 to $1,100
While this game’s initially surprising status as one of the rarest and most valuable SNES games can partially be attributed to the sustained popularity of the Mega Man franchise over the years, it turns out that this is actually just a genuinely rare cartridge.
See, Mega Man X3 utilized a special in-cartridge Cx4 graphics chip that made it much more visually impressive than many of the other games of its era but also reportedly made it more expensive/difficult to produce. While it’s true that X2 utilized similar technology, X3’s late release date (December 1995) is likely part of the reason why relatively few people owned it compared to previous franchise entries.
13. Earthbound – $350 to $3,500
I highly recommend reading the full story of Earthbound’s bizarre release and subsequent rarity, but the gist of it is that this game was poorly promoted, expensive, and downright weird. Not a lot of people actually owned it, and fewer people still bothered to preserve their copy of it during the many years that Earthbound was denied the recognition it deserved.
Put it all together, and you’ve got one of the most coveted SNES games among collectors. While you can occasionally find a good deal on a “loose” copy in decent condition, don’t even think of trying to snag a “big box” copy of this one unless you’re willing to spend nearly $1,000.
12. Castlevania: Dracula X – $350 to $1,900
This is kind of a weird title so far as rare retro games go. While Castlevania: Dracula X appeared to be widely available to anyone who wanted it, the issue seems to have been that not many people wanted to buy this game. Some reports suggest that Dracula X sold less than 100,000 copies, which makes it one of the worst-selling Castlevania games ever.
However, as the Castlevania franchise grew in popularity and people more people came to appreciate Dracula X’s brand of maddeningly difficult retro gameplay, prices for these cartridges rose appropriately.
11. Harvest Moon – $400 to $1,800
I remember reading about Harvest Moon in Nintendo Power and spending the next several months trying to find a copy of the game. I never did, and it seems a lot of other people never did either. A combination of low initial demand and eventual production shortages meant that Harvest Moon didn’t even find its way into the hands of those who actively looked for it.
Years later, the growing popularity of this franchise and the many titles it helped inspire (most notably Stardew Valley) made Harvest Moon a true collector’s item.
10. Rendering Ranger R2 – $600 to $4,000
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably never heard of this SNES game until roughly this very moment. Well, it turns out there are a couple of very good reasons why this game lingered in obscurity for many years. Not only was it a Japan-only release, but some reports suggest that as few as 10,000 copies of this game were ever in circulation.
While that’s enough to make copies of Rendering Ranger R2 incredibly valuable, it doesn’t hurt that it also turns out that its strange blend of R-Type and Contra gameplay makes it one of the best SNES action games you’ve (obviously) probably never played.
9. Batman Forever (Woolworth’s Box Set) – $600 to $4,200
I’m not sure why you would ever want to own Batman Forever for the SNES (even though I once did), but if you were a fan of the film and lived in the PAL region, then there’s a small chance you might have snagged a very special copy of this game from Woolworth’s that came with a VHS tape, stickers, diary, and an admittedly amazing box.
If you were one of the few who bought the special edition of this game from Woolworth’s, then I hope you’ve held on to it over the years. It wasn’t until recently that copies of this game sold for less than $1,000, though it seems you might be able to theoretically grab one for closer to $600.
8. Aero Fighters – $950 to $1,500
This is another strange case of an SNES game that’s actually very, very good but was so obscure and underproduced at the time of its release that few people ever even had the chance to buy and play it.
Honestly, it seems like you might not even be able to get a loose copy of this game for less than $1,000 these days. While I wouldn’t advise going quite that far to play this largely underrated SNES game, it is another fascinating case of a game that probably deserved more love that’s certainly getting it now from video game collectors.
7. Hagane: The Final Conflict – $1,000 to $2,000
Hagane remains a bit of a mystery among many video game collectors. While some say that this action title was only ever available via Blockbusters, others claim that it was actually sold elsewhere in incredibly small quantities.
Whatever the case, I can confidently say that this genuinely rare SNES title has certainly retained its value over the years. It certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s actually one of the most underrated action games of its era.
6. MACS Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator – $1,350 to $3,500
So, it turns out that the U.S. Army once developed a game (no, not that one) designed to help train soldiers shoot an M16. Strangely, they decided to make the game playable on the Super Nintendo and even designed a gun accessory that looked and felt like an M16 (and even weighed about the same), but was based on the same technology that powered the NES Zapper.
I’m not sure how effective that training technique actually was, but I can tell you that one of the very few copies of this game that were ever actually produced typically sells for well over $1,000. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find out who approved and developed this game and how many of those military-grade SNES consoles were just used to play Mario Kart.
5. Exertainment Mountain Bike Rally/Speed Racer – $1,350 to $4,000
Many of the games made exclusively for failed or generally unpopular accessories tend to be “rare,” but few tie-in games from this era are nearly as valuable as this double-feature exercise game bundle designed to work with Life Fitness bikes.
While both of the games in this package are individually valuable, it’s the full bundle that commands absurd prices. Some people say that this game was never actually released via traditional retail outlets, but what we know for sure is that you’re going to have to pay a lot to buy a copy of it now.
4. Star Fox Super Weekened Cartridge – $1,400 to $2,200
In the ‘90s, Nintendo and Blockbuster joined forces to host a series of gaming tournaments and competitions. For the purposes of these events, Blockbuster rolled out a series of special SNES cartridges that usually featured special labels that reflected their association with the event. Some were eventually given to winners, some were given away by Nintendo Power, and some found their way into the homes of Blockbuster employees.
The Star Fox Super Weekend cartridge isn’t the most valuable of its kind (more on that in a bit), but it is a genuinely rare game that commands incredibly high prices on the reseller market. It sounds like the only reason this one isn’t even more valuable is that Blockbuster/Nintendo never produced retail packaging for the special cartridge. However, that wasn’t always the case with these games…
3. Donkey Kong Country Competition Cartridge – $2,100 to $5,000
Much like the Star Fox cartridge, this special edition of Donkey Kong Country was used exclusively for Blockbuster competitions. However, it’s believed that even fewer copies of this game were ever produced, and, more importantly, Blockbuster and Nintendo made a special clamshell case for this game that is even rarer than the cartridge itself.
So while this cartridge is valuable on its own in pretty much any condition, the real prize is finding a copy of the game that’s still in that clamshell case. It’s not known how many authentic copies of this game are still in their original cases, but we may be talking about just a handful of genuine articles.
2. Nintendo Campus Challenge 1992 – $4,000 to $10,000
Yes, just as they did for the NES, Nintendo once held a series of Super Nintendo-based gaming competitions across various U.S. colleges. They also once again created a special series of cartridges for the purposes of these competitions which contained modified versions of popular SNES games (Super Mario World, F-Zero, and Pilotwings). Those cartridges were supposed to be destroyed after the competition.
However, it’s believed that at least three of the cartridges survived the hardware purge. This is one of those cases where the value of the game is probably being undersold for the simple fact that the few current owners haven’t decided to part with their copies in recent years, but this is undoubtedly one of the most valuable SNES cartridges in existence.
1. Nintendo Powerfest 1994 – $18,000 to ?
In 1994, Nintendo decided to host a special event called Powerfest that was essentially the SNES version of the old Nintendo World Championships. Just as they did with that event (and for the Campus Challenges), Nintendo designed a special cartridge designed to run “competition” versions of Super Mario Kart, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, and, strangely, Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball. Only about 30 of those cartridges were ever made, and the cartridge itself is more of a tech prototype than a “retail” SNES cartridge.
Powerfest 1994 couldn’t quite replicate the success of the Nintendo World Championships, and the special cartridge used for Powerfest was considered to be less valuable at the time largely didn’t look as cool as that amazing Nintendo World Championship cartridge. Interestingly, the Powerfest cartridge is generally still considered to be less valuable than its NES equivalent, though it’s obviously still worth a ton of money.
This is another one of those cases where it’s difficult to say just how valuable this “cartridge” really is because the game is so incredibly rare. It’s believed that there are only two left in the world, but their owners have had a tough time selling them in the past. Given shifts in this market, though, it’s honestly not unreasonable to suspect that they could attract a six-figure price.