A sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES has sold for $100,150, setting a new record for the video game-collecting market and perhaps ushering in a new era for the valuation of gaming rarities.
Before you go searching to see if that old cartridge in your attic might be your gateway to riches, note that this copy of the game is so valuable primarily because it’s one of the earliest known copies of the game, and in near-perfect condition. The box in question comes from Nintendo’s extremely limited “test market launch” for the NES in New York City and Los Angeles starting in late 1985 (no one actually knows the exact date). These copies didn’t come in the usual shrink wrap but were instead sealed with a small matte or glossy sticker (this handy guide outlines the many different Super Mario Bros. box variants released between 1985 and 1994).
Deniz Kahn—CEO and cofounder of game-grading service Wata Games, which evaluated this specimen—estimates that only 2,000 to 10,000 copies of each of the 27 test market games were ever made in this sticker-sealed style. That makes finding even an opened box decades later rare enough. Finding one with the sticker seal intact is even rarer; Kahn estimates only a few dozen exist across the whole test-market line.
Nintendo has released a new Switch bundle that pairs the popular game console with a $35 credit to its eShop digital store. The company announced the bundle last week, but the deal has now become available at various retailers, including Walmart (which lists it as being up for pre-order as of this writing), Amazon, GameStop, and Best Buy.
The bundle retails for $299.99, the Switch’s standard going rate, with the $35 credit available in the form of a download code packed with the console. Nintendo says the credit can be put toward any purchase in the eShop. The company has not provided a specific time frame for the new promotion, only saying that the bundle will be available while supplies last.
This isn’t the absolute best deal we’ve seen for the Switch—a handful of coupon codes and one-off promotions have dropped it as low as $225 in the past year. But those deals have typically been brief, and getting what effectively amounts to a $35 discount is still a pleasant bonus for those who have been interested in picking up the console. For reference, Nintendo’s primary Switch deal for Black Friday was simply bundling Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with the device.
An extra special copy of Super Mario for NES just sold for a mind-boggling $100,150.
Before you go digging through the attic to find your old copy to throw up for auction, you should know: the version in question here is super, super rare.
So what makes it special?
Super Mario has been released and re-released dozens of times in the past three decades. Even if we’re just talking about the original NES cartridge that came in a black box, there were eleven ever-so-slightly-different versions of the box shipped between 1985 and 1994. Some had tabs for hanging them from store shelves; some lacked a trademark symbol or two in the right spots; others had slightly tweaked graphics for the Nintendo “Seal of Quality” on the face.
The very first few runs, though, had a particularly obvious quirk: rather than being shrink-wrapped, they were sealed with just a little black “Nintendo” sticker at the top of the box. These early versions hit just a handful of test markets. Remember, Mario wasn’t a thing at this point — no one really had any idea what this game was about, much less the worldwide icon that Mario would become. So even amongst the super small number of copies that were distributed prior to the game’s wider launch in 1986, most people who got their hands on it wouldn’t think to keep it in pristine condition.
Wata Games, which certified this copy, pins the condition at around 9.4 out of 10. It also says that this copy is the only known “sticker sealed” one still in existence, and that even the sticker itself is somehow in tip-top shape. Wata has a breakdown of the many variations of Super Mario prints and reprints here.
$100,000 is a hefty chunk of change to drop on a game, and a press release from Heritage Auction house says the purchase was actually a joint effort between multiple buyers, including a coin dealer, multiple video game collectors and the founder of the auction house itself.
The afternoon brought an eventful series of announcements from Nintendo in one of its Direct video promos, and 2019 is looking to be a banner year for the Switch. Here’s everything the company announced, from Super Mario Maker 2 to the unexpected remake of Game Boy classic Link’s Awakening.
The stream cold opened with a look at the new Mario Maker, which would honestly be enough announcement for one day. But boy did they have more up their sleeves.
First the actually new stuff:
Shown last but likely to garner the bulk of the internet’s response is the remake of Link’s Awakening, which came out more than a quarter of a century ago on Game Boy. I admit to never finishing this, but I loved the feel of it, so I’m dying to play this new tilt-shifted, perspective-switching 3D version.
Platinum has an intriguing new game called Astral Chain, in which you appear to control two fighters at the same time in some crazy-looking robot(?)-on-robot action. Talent from The Wonderful 101, Bayonetta and Nier: Automata ensure this will be worth keeping an eye on.
The recent trend of battle royale and perhaps the best game ever made, Tetris, combine in Tetris 99, where 100 people simultaneously and competitively drop blocks. It looks bonkers, and it’s free on Switch starting right now.
And on the JRPG tip:
Fire Emblem: Three Houses got a long spot that introduced the main characters, whom you’ll no doubt ally with and/or be betrayed by. Romance is in the air! And arrows.
From the back-to-basics studio that put out I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear comes Oninaki, an action RPG that looks like a good well-crafted bit of fun, if not particularly original.
Dragon Quest 11 S — an enhanced version of the original hit — and DQ Builders 2 are on their way to Switch later this year, in Fall and July respectively.
Rune Factory 4 Special is another enhanced, remastered classic in a series that I adore (though I wish they’d remaster Frontier). It was also announced that RF5 is in development, so thank God for that.
Final Fantasy VII is coming at the end of March, and Final Fantasy IX is available now. I’m ashamed to say I never played the latter but this is a great opportunity to.
Sidescrollers new and old:
BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! is a new entry in a well-like puzzle platformer series that introduces some new characters and multiplayer. Coming in April.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night got a teaser, but we’ve heard a lot about this Castlevania spiritual sequel already. Just come out!
Yoshi’s Crafted World comes out March 29, but there’s a demo available today.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker gets an update adding multiplayer to its intricate levels, and soon, a paid pack for new ones. I might wait for a combined version but this should be fun.
Miscellaneous but still interesting:
The new Marvel Ultimate Alliance is coming this summer and I can’t wait. The second one was a blast but it came out way too long ago. A good co-op brawler is a natural fit for the Switch, plus being a superhero is fun.
Daemon X Machina, the striking-looking mech combat game, is getting a demo ahead of the summer release. They’re going to incorporate changes and advice from players so if you want to help shape the game, get to it.
Disney Tsum Tsum Festival… I don’t know what this is. But it looks wild.
Deltarune! It’s the sequel-ish to the beloved Undertale, and you can get the first chapter on Switch now. Play Undertale first, or you won’t get the dog jokes.
There were a few more little items here and there, but that’s the gist. Boy am I glad I have a Switch!
It came right in the middle of the Nintendo Direct announcement this afternoon: “99 players… but only one reigns supreme.”
It could be a tagline for just about any of the run-and-gun shoot ’em up battle royale games that are so popular right now, à la Fortnite or Apex. Instead, it’s the tagline for the new… Tetris?
Nintendo only touched on it for about 40 seconds (so details are a bit light), but the company says it’s releasing later today a free-to-play, 99-player version of Tetris called Tetris 99. It’ll be a free download for Nintendo Switch Online members.
It seems to mostly be the Tetris we all know, with a twist: performing particularly well will let you attack other players with garbage, filling their carefully curated rows with a bunch of junk.
Nintendo has ruined my life, and all our lives, by announcing Super Mario Maker 2, the sequel to the level-constructing game on Wii U that produced thousands of devious levels for those who think the “real” games aren’t hard enough. Gamers have been asking for this basically since the Switch was first rumored.
Mario Maker 2 looks like it’s been updated in a number of helpful ways apart from being on a console that will actually be supported long-term. The interface needed some sprucing up for the lower precision players, who will have to use their fingers instead of a stylus on the touchscreen.
No doubt this will be a huge draw for Nintendo’s Switch Online service, which will likely not only allow you to share your levels and try those of others, but — if Nintendo listened to its player base — compete with ghosts and other multiplayer features. Here’s hoping we can build whole worlds, but let’s not get greedy. But we definitely have slopes now!
Honestly, I could play NES and SNES-era Mario games forever on repeat, and the re-releases of other Marios on Switch has made the newer ones even more accessible. Probably between those and Mario Maker I’ll never leave the house again.
Details are truly scant for now except that the game will come out in June of this year, just in time for summer to arrive — and be shut out with blackout curtains so glare doesn’t get on my greasy Switch. I’ll update this post if any new information becomes available.
Further cementing its status as Nintendo’s most successful mobile game to date, Fire Emblem Heroes has officially crossed the half-a-billion-dollar revenue mark, which it hit just after the two-year anniversary of its launch in early February 2017. The game’s $500 million in player spending includes players on both iOS and Android (via Sensor Tower).
Fire Emblem Heroes is a free-to-play game that lets players spend real money inside the app once they download it. Most of Nintendo’s apps have followed this structure, except Super Mario Run, which requires players to pay $9.99 to see the full game. In total, Fire Emblem Heroes has brought in “more than seven times the revenue” of Super Mario Run, and grossed more than twice the combined earnings of all of Nintendo’s other mobile games, according to Sensor Tower.
To date these include Miitomo (now defunct), Super Mario Run, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, and Dragalia Lost. Released just last September, Dragalia Lost has already become Nintendo’s second most lucrative mobile game, surpassing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Super Mario Run.
In terms of platforms for Fire Emblem Heroes, players on Google Play/Android accounted for the majority of spending at 54 percent, while the iOS App Store made up 46 percent of player spending. Most players are located in Japan, which accounted for 56 percent of the game’s $500 million total, while the United States is the game’s second largest market at 31 percent of player spending.
Despite Super Mario Run performing poorly in comparison to the free-to-play games, Shigeru Miyamoto has stated that Nintendo will “continue pushing” for pay-once mobile games over freemium experiences. One senior official at Nintendo called the F2P structure of Fire Emblem Heroes as “an outlier” in the grand scheme of Nintendo’s mobile strategy, claiming that Nintendo “prefers” Super Mario Run‘s payment model.
Despite this, Nintendo’s next two mobile game releases will be free-to-play: Mario Kart Tour will launch this summer and Dr. Mario World is set to release later in 2019.
But 2018 might be seen as the year the market finally starting slipping away from the aging 3DS. Hardware sales for the 2018 calendar year were just 2.85 million, down over 57 percent from the year before. That’s a marked change from the 2016 to 2017 period, where 3DS sales worldwide fell just nine percent year-over-year (despite the intervening launch of the ultra-hot Switch in 2017).
Nintendo’s new president Shuntaro Furukawa admitted in a recent Q&A that “the Nintendo 3DS market has contracted faster than we anticipated.” But in practically the same breath, he once again committed to supporting the system alongside the Switch going forward.