Given the recent release of SNES Classic, today I decided to go back to a series I started when this blog was in its infancy. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (abbreviated SNES and also known as the Super Famicon) was Nintendo’s early 90s release to follow-up the infamous NES.
The system sold as many as 50 million units worldwide at an introductory price of $199 USD (1991 dollars), competing with Sega for dominance. It was also during the SNES era that the ESRB was formed to “deal” with violent video games, with Nintendo having self-censored prior to the ratings board.
The SNES is fondly remembered for its great leap forward in graphics, sound, and gameplay. Moving away from the near arcade ports of its predecessor, SNES introduced the world to Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, and Street Fighter II.
While those games sold millions of units, today we will take a look at some of the rarest and most expensive SNES games. I’ve included links to price charts since the number of sales for these items is sparse, so prices correct (up and down) with each unit sale.
I wanted to break out the special category of limited edition or competition cartridges as these entries are incredibly rare, but were never in true retail production.
Nintendo Powerfest 1994 ($10,988): This competition cartridge had Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, and Ken Griffey Jr Baseball. It was a specially designed cartridge that only had the first level of SMW, the first track of Kart, and set-up for most home runs in Ken Griffey. Supposedly, only two known copies exist — and the saga of the last known purchaser can be followed here.
Nintendo Campus Challenge 1992 ($4,000): Another one-of-kind special cartridge, this game consisted of Super Mario World, F-Zero, and Pilotwings. Like other competition carts, each game was actually a mini-game, where upon completion it was pooled into a total of points to be compared against others. One went up on eBay most recently 6 years ago.
Donkey Kong Country Competition / Star Fox Super Weekend Competition ($1,100-$1,800): Both of these games were similar to one another, as well as the previous two entries. These special cartridges were made by Nintendo to serve as competition carts, with only a few levels and a special scoring system. Availability for both was low (2,000 – 2,500 units each) and each was only available in special Nintendo Power bundles or through Blockbuster.
#5 Earthbound (Used: $157 New: $4,000)
Earthbound has found a strong following since its release in 94/95. Known as Mother 2 in Japan, this strange Japanese take on American culture was not initially met with much praise. After Ness was featured in HAL’s Super Smash Brothers, the game was rediscovered and is now considered a classic. Despite the game’s wide print, as well as its availability on the new SNES Classic, the original SNES cartridge still holds value.
#4 Harvest Moon (Used: $177 New: $1,400)
The first entry in the series, the original Harvest Moon released alongside the debut of the N64. The combination of a farming game involving planting tulips and herding livestock did not catch much initial interest for those clamoring for a new system. Despite it being overlooked (and therefore less copies), Harvest Moon has gone on to become a rare SNES title, but also a successful series spawning many variants of the simple day to day farming life gameplay.
#3 EVO the Search for Eden (Used: $185 New: $2,049)
Released in 1993, EVO did not initially win critics hearts. EVO is side-scrolling action game with RPG elements, namely the player choosing how to “evolve” their custom creature as they advance through different eras of Earth’s history. While the gameplay itself was deemed very mediocre, the game did receive high marks for originality. Given its uniqueness, as well as its complete lack of reprint and accessibility elsewhere, copies of EVO are quite pricey (especially new).
#2 Hagane: The Final Conflict (Used: $625 New: $3,650)
Hagane involves ninjas and samurai in a futuristic setting attempting to defend The Holy Grail. While the premise is strange, the game was very similar to Ninja Gaiden and Shinobi. Considered at the time to be a “classic” side-scrolling action game, the game released to solid reviews and has retained fans despite a lack of a reprint or digital release. It was rumored to be a Blockbuster exclusive, but that still remains to be verified. It’s more recent rise in value means its new to the list.
#1 Aero Fighters (Used: $710 New: $7,000)
Aero Fighters has also recently shot up the rarity list, and is likely the rarest SNES game at the time of this writing. Originally an arcade game, Aero Fighters was a strong port onto the SNES. The gameplay was pretty straightforward shoot em up as was common in arcades at the time. Despite the praise of the port, the game itself released with a limited print run as it had many existing arcade cabinets. Its Neo Geo sequel is also quite valuable, unlike its more recent sequels.
Feel free to check out the excellent price and transactions tracker over at Price Charting. Do you own any of these rare titles? Have you played them? Comment below!