Come with me on a journey into the deepest, darkest, forgotten realms of video gaming history. Hidden within these wire-strewn ancient temples of button bashing and joystick twisting are some exceedingly rare and priceless pixelated relics. They are pieces of hardware and software that have taken on almost legendary and mythical status among collectors and video-game store raiders. No-one knows what they were or what they were doing, but their legacy remains hewn into the living plastic... of video games!
OK, that last bit isn't true, I just added it for dramatic effect. But video gaming artifacts do really exist and there's a chance you might have one of these monolithic tomes of gaming hidden somewhere in your basement.
Hardware might look good placed in a museum, but in reality the real gaming relics are the video games themselves. Also, many of the games that now sell for hundreds and thousands of dollars might be ones you've actually owned. Take a look below:
'Luigi's Mansion' — Nintendo GameCube
Luigi's Mansion was actually a major title for the Nintendo GameCube, so it is surprising to know it is actually a sought-after gaming relic.
This is primarily to do with the cult following the game has garnered since its released in 2001. Luigi's Mansion is the first game to be headlined by the often overlooked Mario Brother and it's actually kind of fun — although perhaps not as good as the similar and more mainstream Super Mario Sunshine.
However, if you have an original black label copy (and not the Player's Choice version), you could make a pretty penny on Luigi's Mansion. The price seems to be steadily rising, with sealed selling prices ranging between $900 and even $1,500.
'Pokémon Red' And 'Blue' — Game Boy
Now this is a video game you must almost surely own.
1998 signified the start of Pokémania and millions of copies of Pokémon Red and Blue (the original and, in my opinion, best Pokémon games) were produced. So although it's not exactly rare, they could still be sold for a lot of cash.
The classic games' value is mostly in their symbolic and nostalgic status, and pristine original boxed copies of Pokémon Red can be sold for around $550. Pokémon Blue sells for slightly less, despite actually being rarer.
Personally, I'm not sure what kind of sadist would buy a Pokémon game and then never actually play it. That would take some kind of superhuman self-control.
Remind yourself of the game's legendary introduction below:
'Superman' — Atari 2600
If you had an Atari 2600, there's also a pretty good chance you've got the Superman game from 1979. If this is the case, you could be sitting on a gold mine.
It seems three versions of the game were released. A standard text-label version, a rarer red text-label version and a super-rare yellow text-picture-label version. According to WhatCulture, if you happen to have your hands on the yellow version, you could sell the cartridge for up to $30,000, while the red text version will still net you $200.
Maybe it's time to go searching through that attic.
'The Flintstones: Surprise At Dinosaur Peak' — NES
No-one is entirely sure why Flintstones: Surprise At Dinosaur Peak is so rare, but rest assured, it is. Local legend tells that it was only available as a rental through Blockbuster Video, although some dispute this claim.
In any case, Flintstones: Surprise At Dinosaur Peak is one of the rarest commercially released games for the Nintendo Entertainment System and if you manage to find a sealed one, you could make as such as $2,025.
'Super Mario Bros.' — NES
This is another surprising relic, considering it is one of the best-selling games of all time.
Released in 1985 for the NES, Super Mario Bros. is the game that launched Nintendo as a major player in the video game market and created Super Mario — one of the most recognizable characters on Earth. Furthermore, it is simply also a masterpiece of level, sound and artistic design, which is even more impressive considering the technological limitations at the time.
Once again, which version you have will dictate the price. A standard sealed box version could sell for $600, while an unsealed or worn version can still get $200. However, one version, which featured a rare Asian artwork on the box, made a staggering $25,000.
'Uncharted 2: Fortune Hunter Collector's Edition' — PlayStation 3
It's not just titles from video games' prehistoric past that can make big money. Some recent major blockbuster games can still pull thousands at auction.
Take, for example, the Fortune Hunter Edition of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. This extremely rare edition comes with the game, an art book and an intricately modeled dagger unique to the Fortune Hunter Edition. The box set was not available for sale, and could only be obtained through entering a Sony competition. All told, only 200 of these were made.
Sealed versions have sold for up to $11,000 online, while even opened and used copies have made more than $9,000.
'World Of Warcraft Collector's Edition' — PC
World of Warcraft is (or, more accurately, "was") a cultural phenomenon, which at its peak was played by 12 million fans worldwide. This Collector's Edition earns itself a place in video game history primarily because it comes with a special keyCode that allows for an extremely rare in-game pet.
The code for the pets, which cannot be attained by any other means, can be sold on its own for $1,800, while a complete boxed version will fetch $2,600.
'Birthday Mania' — Atari 2600
As a game, Birthday Mania was pretty terrible. As a collector's piece, it could be worth a fortune. The game, which involves nothing more than the player blowing out birthday candles, sold terribly upon its release in 1984. However, it has adhered itself to collectors primarily because it featured a box and cartridge that could be personalized with the owner's/recipient's name.
The game sold so poorly, only two copies of Birthday Mania have been accounted for since, making it one of the rarest games in the world. On the antique gamers' market, Birthday Mania is likely to make more than $30,000.
'Air Raid' — Atari 2600
This Atari 2600 game from 1982 is the only title ever made by game developers Men-A-Vision and its incredible rarity gives it an impressive price tag. The value of Air Raid mostly comes from the actual cartridge's odd design, as it features an unusual bright-blue color and weird handle thingy.
This cartridge alone was sold for 2011 for $3,575, while a complete boxed game managed to make $33,433.30 at auction. This is the highest amount ever paid for an Atari 2600 game.
Check out the harrowing killing fields of Air Raid below:
'Nintendo World Championship'
And now, to the Holy Grail of video gaming relics, the 1990 Nintendo World Championship game.
The legendary 1990 Nintendo World Championship tournament (the first of its kind) involved players competing in three games: Super Mario Bros., Tetris and Rad Racer. However, to make things more streamlined, Nintendo created special tournament cartridges that featured modified timed versions of all three games.
Around 90 gray and 26 gold cartridges were produced and given to tournament attendees and competition winners after the event, although many have since been misplaced. The cartridges can often sell for more than $15,000, although Nintendo World Championship became the most valuable game cartridge ever, after a golden edition was sold on eBay in 2014 for $100,088.
This followed on from a gray copy of the game — which featured a torn label merely saying "Mario" — that reached $99,902 at auction. However, the top bidder apparently retracted his bid, claiming it was a mistake. It's unknown how much this cartridge eventually went for.
We like to think of video gaming as now dominated by the big three: Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. However, back in the early years of video gaming, dozens of different companies tried to market their own consoles, with various levels of un-success. Some tried to go for a strange gimmick, some just had terrible games, and some simply didn't work very well.
Many of these devices have been long forgotten, but if you manage to find one, you could make a nice little stash.
What do you get if you cross a Luger pistol with a Scientology E-meter? Well, it might look a little something like the Adman Grandstand.
Developed in 1976 by Grandstand Leisure Products, the Adman is an old relic from the days of British imperialism. The console, which is based on the Fairchild Channel F chipset, was only really sold in New Zealand, Australia and the UK, making it exceedingly rare in the US.
If you do happen to have one of these, don't expect to get too much cash for it, but there are collectors out there itching to get their hands on its vintage 1970s style.
Sega Mega Jet
Let's leave the British and Antipodean climes and head to that most mysterious of destinations: Japan.
The Sega Mega Jet was a scaled-down, handheld Sega Mega Drive that was designed to be used exclusively with airplane armrest monitors. You could insert your own games and then use the actual console as the controller pad.
Despite making it out of Japan, the Mega Jet literally never sold anywhere else in the world, making it an incredibly rarity. However, legend has it that a batch of Mega Jets was hijacked by Indonesian pirates, allowing a few to make it onto collectors' markets.
The Action Max, developed by Worlds of Wonder in 1987, is a relic primarily because of the oddity of its operation. Instead of using cassettes or cartridges, the Action Max used VHS tapes that contained real-life video footage — meaning it technically had photorealistic graphics.
In order to work it, you connected it to your VCR and inserted a tape. The console then used a basic sensor to detect the timing and accuracy of the player's shots. The console quickly fell into obscurity primarily because the games played exactly the same way every time, regardless of how the player performed.
You can check out the thrilling action for the Action Max's flagship title, .38 Ambush Alley, in the video below:
Nintendo's disastrous Virtual Boy is one of the better known relics of video gaming. The device, which was a kind of low-tech, vomit-inducing Oculus Rift, was a massive commercial failure and didn't even survive a year on the market.
It was marketed as a portable games console that provided real "3D graphics." Instead, it merely trapped the user in some kind of hellish, Terminator-esque nightmare zone.
Its short lifespan on the market, plus high price point and general poor reception, means few Virtual Boys exist for collectors to get their hands on.
Pokémon Champions 2009 DSi
Nintendo has been running World Championships based around its games since its early years and often the prize is a unique, or extremely limited, gaming console.
Take for example this Nintendo DSi, which is emblazoned with Pikachu and a whole bunch of other Pokémon critters. Unfortunately, if you wanted to add this to your collection, you're probably out of luck since they were only made available to the top ranking Pokémon Masters at the 2009 competition. This means there are only a handful of these consoles in the world.
Russell Crowe XBox 360
If you thought the Pokemon Champions 2009 DSi was rare, how about we check out a console that is truly unique and one of a kind. As far as we know, this XBox 360 is the only one in the UNIVERSE to have a dodgy signed picture of Russell Crowe airbrushed on the side.
This Xbox is a one of a collection of custom-painted Xboxes featuring Australian celebrities that were auctioned off to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2007. Although 31 were produced, the most sought-after 360 was clearly this one featuring Gladiator star Russell Crowe. Eventually it sold for $1,005.
What made it even more special was that every time you turned it off, it played Crowe's famous "Are you not entertained?" line! OK, I made that up, but wouldn't it have been awesome?