Video games are getting pretty expensive. The average price of a new release for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Sony Playstation is around $60. Throw in some in-game microtransaction purchases and you could be looking at a whole lot more.
But, how much is too much? Say, $114,000?
Well, not for someone, apparently. And they spent that money on Super Mario Bros. for the original Nintendo Entertainment System.
The game, originally released in 1985, was sold on Friday in held by major international auction house Heritage Auctions. The winning bid was first noticed by video game journalist and highlighted by . The winner of the auction is currently unknown.
At $114,000, this copy of Super Marios Bros. will take the title of the highest price ever paid on record for a video game. Just to give you a sense of how much money that is, gamers, you could purchase around 440 Nintendo Switch consoles (if you could find them right now, of course) at retail price, including tax.
That kind of money might make you want to rummage through those old boxes in your closet to find your worn-out old copy of the game. But there’s a reason this particular copy went for as much as it did.
The $114,000 copy of Super Mario Bros. has never been taken out of the box — the cartridge has never been played with. According to the Heritage Auctions listing, it’s been professionally graded by experts as a 9.4 out of 10, meaning the unopened box is in near-perfect shape. It still looks exactly like it did back when you could buy it from retail stores in the 1980s.
The original Super Mario Bros. has sold 40 million copies throughout its long history. The previous highest price paid for a video game was $100,000 just for … a copy of the same in-box Super Mario Bros. game. So, why did this one go for $14,000 more?
During its reign, there have been many different retail versions of the same exact game. This particular copy has a rare feature added to its retail packaging that could really only excite the most hardcore gamer: cardboard hangtabs.
I’ll let Heritage Auctions explain:
What’s the deal with cardboard hangtabs? one may, understandably, wonder. Cardboard hangtabs were originally used on the U.S. test market copies of black box games, back before plastic was used to seal each game. As Nintendo began to further establish their company in the U.S., their packaging was updated almost continuously. Strangely, the addition of the plastic wrap came before the box cutting die was altered to remove the cardboard hangtab. This rendered the functionality of the cardboard hangtab completely useless, since it was under the plastic seal. There are four sub-variants of the plastic sealed cardboard hangtab box (this particular copy of Super Mario Bros. being the “3 Code” variant) that were produced within the span of one year. Each sub-variant of the cardboard hangtab black box, produced within that timeframe, had a production period of just a few months; a drop in the bucket compared to the title’s overall production run. In short, a cardboard hangtab copy of any early Nintendo Entertainment System game brings a certain air of “vintage” unrivaled by its successors.
Heritage Auctions goes on to share that this isn’t the first rare cardboard hangtab video game box it has encountered.
Black box aficionados are often captivated by the appeal of the elusive sealed with hangtab variants. From what we witnessed in our May Signature Auction just a few months ago, Super Mario Bros. is no exception. A Wata 8.0 A Sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. with a cardboard hangtab sold for a record-breaking $40,200. Considering the grade of this copy, we can only imagine the kind of competitive frenzy it will spark amongst bidders.
One interesting observation from the sale of this game is just how much the video game collectors market has changed in recent years. Before rare versions of a game almost every gamer on the planet probably has or has had at one point became the , collectors sought out rare games — titles that many people didn’t know existed or, if they did, they knew how elusive the game was.
For example, a rare Nintendo game called Nintendo World Championships in 2014 after selling for $100,088 in an auction on eBay. Only 116 copies of that game were ever made. That title held the record the highest price paid for a video game until that 2019 Super Mario Bros. auction came along.
All that said, congratulations to the anonymous person who just spent $114,000 for a rare piece of video game history. The assumption is that this copy of Super Mario Bros. will sit in a private collection or be put up for display, but who knows? Maybe this person is a masochist who just really wants to rip into what’s essentially a $114,000 box in order to play a 35 year old game he can download online for free.