Geek Trivia

What Is The Most Expensive Video Game In The World?

Nintendo Campus Challenge
Stadium Events
Air Raid
NES World Championships
A Vexillologist Is A Person Who Studies?
Cover of the Stadium Events game
Bandai

Answer: Stadium Events

When it comes to extraordinarily expensive video games, the console is king. While old computer games have been known to fetch a penny or two by nostalgic gamers, when it comes to video game auctions with absurdly high bids, cartridge games from old consoles fetch astronomical prices.

Among the most notable of video game sales is the 2010 auction of a copy of Bandai’s Stadium Events game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in 1987 as one of the very few games available in America that took advantage of the Family Fun Fitness Mat. Nintendo quickly bought the rights to the game and the mat, then released the game under the name World Class Track Meet and the accompanying mat as the Power Pad. Only 200 copies were released in the US and collectors believe that only 10-20 complete cartridges exist. In 2010, a factory sealed copy appeared on eBay and sold for an astounding $41,300—by contrast, a copy of World Class Track Meet sells for a few dollars.

While Stadium Events is, by a wide margin, the most expensive video game, there are other games that command hefty auction prices. Another auction from 2010 turned an old Atari game into a pile of cash for a lucky Texan. After reading a CNN news article about rare video games, Tanner Sandlin, of Austin, Texas, recognized an old Atari title. He went home, dug out the game—Air Raid—and listed it on eBay. It turned out that he had the only known copy in existence that was both first-generation owned and had the box and accompanying artwork. His copy of Air Raid fetched $31,600. Previously, the game had never fetched more than $3,000 at auction. The news about the game sent people scrambling to look for copies, and while only a few more were uncovered, a pristine copy that included the user manual sold two years later for $33,433.

Two other notably expensive video games cartridges come to us courtesy of Nintendo contests. In 1990, Nintendo held the Nintendo World Championships, a 30-city gaming tournament designed to find the best players in the world—fans of geeky movies will recognize this as the plot of the Fred Savage movie The Wizard. The 90 finalists (from three separate age groups) each received a copy of the timed tournament game and then 26 lucky Nintendo Power magazine contest winners were sent a gold version of that game. The grey cartridges are routinely auctioned for at least $4,000 and the gold ones easily fetch at least $15,000.

After the promotional success of the Nintendo World Championships, Nintendo started hosting “challenges” on college campuses around the U.S. They had a special cartridge made for the events, but it was only for the event and never distributed as a prize. When the Campus Challenge ended, all the cartridges were destroyed. All that is, except for a single copy of the 1991 cartridge found at a garage sale by video game collector Rob Walters (three copies of the 1992 cartridge are reported to exist). He sold it on eBay—where it fetched $14,000—only to get flipped three months later by the purchaser for $20,100. The 1991 Campus Challenge cartridge is easily one of the rarest NES games in the world. As far as anyone knows, that single copy is the only one in existence.