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Top 10 Variations to Look Out For While Game Hunting

When you’re game chasing, it can often be tough to figure out which games are valuable and which aren’t.  Games like Walk It Out and Dokapon Kingdom wouldn’t normally strike you as valuable after all. To make things even trickier, sometimes subtle variations can turn a normally common item into a rare and valuable trophy.

Here are 10 variations to look out for while you’re out on the hunt:

10. The “NOT FOR RESALE” Games

For a variety of reasons, publishers will send free games to retailers to try out or demo in their stores.  Predictably, these games do bleed out into the retro community and they’ve become a fashionable mini-collection for many.  They’re generally denoted with a stark white rectangle saying “NOT FOR RESALE” in bold letters.

What makes these games desirable is that they’re much rarer than their retail counterparts.  Almost always, they are the same game, but the label variation is what gets these specialized collectors hot for em!

When you’re sifting through games, keep an eye out for these alternates.  They can go from $5-$50 more than their more widely-distributed equivalents.

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Don’t even think of re-selling this Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones.  That’s not what it’s for!

9. Famicom-Adapted NES Carts

In the earliest days of the NES, Nintendo became overwhelmed with the demand for their games.  Unlike CD’s or DVD’s, building cartridges took more time and Nintendo had to come up with a plan to satisfy North America’s overwhelming fervor.

Their solution was to take Japanese Famicom chips and use them in our Nintendo games.  Because the Famicom had some differences with the NES, they had to run these chips through an adapter.  The result is a limited set of original NES games that included this adapter in the cartridge plastic.  And when there’s something limited, there’s value, and so these games can go for a premium above the normal price of a game.

There are a few rules of thumb for identifying an adapter-enabled NES cart when you’re out looking in the wild.  The tell-tale signs are:

  1. The cart has 5 screws on the back instead of the usual 3. (None of the 3-screw cart had it.)
  2. The cart feels a little heavier than other carts. (Because of the added weight of the adapter itself.)
  3. The cart is one of the original Nintendo games. (No third-party games use it.)

The value certainly isn’t worth going out of your way to find these, but given a choice between a normal cart and an adapter-enabled cart, go with the latter.  It’ll be worth more over time.

An opened NES cart that includes the adapter. (Bottom portion.)

An opened NES cart that includes the black adapter. That plastic is heavy!

8. Gamecube Component Cables

In the latter days of the Gamecube, TV’s that supported 480p started to become prevalent and Nintendo was getting demand to support component video output.  They eventually satisfied the demand, but costs precluded them from bundling the extra component cable with the system so they instead made it available via their online store.

Ultimately, only the most hard-core fanboys bought these cables and, today, they are rare and fetch upwards of $200 on eBay!  So, while you’re looking through cables in boxes at the flea market, you may see many component cables and many Gamecube cables, but if you see these connectors on opposite sides of a single cable — grab it!

The elusive gamecube component cable.

The elusive gamecube component cable. One of the few unicorn cables known to our world.

7. International Superstar Soccer…2000!

With few exceptions, sports games are extremely cheap these days no matter how old they might be.  The reason is that retro collectors tend to be a little bit geeky, a tad bit nerdy, and quite technical-minded.  These personality types tend not to care much about sports.  Plus, most older sports games are generally outdone by newer sports games that have better graphics, realism, and updated player rosters.  This is why the typical picked-through game stock is full of sports games.

So, it’s easy to overlook one of the rarities on the Nintendo 64: International Superstar Soccer 2000.  It’s easy to miss because its predecessor, International Superstar Soccer is common and cheap.  But, that extra 2000 adds about $40 of value to just the cartridge alone!

There are a handful of valuable sports games and it pays to be aware of them.  Study up!

Memorize what ISS 2000 looks like.  Memorize it.

Memorize what ISS 2000 looks like. Memorize it. And don’t get too excited if you see the original version.

6. The Gamecube Broadband Adapter

Watch a serious game collector at a flea market when they come upon a Gamecube.  This system was a loser in the market, but there’s still tons of these systems in the wild and you’ll come across them frequently.  However, no matter how many times they come across them, the serious collector will do one thing the moment they get their hands on one.

They’ll turn it upside down.

As it turns out, very few system owners took advantage of this first generation of home consoles that attempted to tap into the online gaming market that was already thriving on the PC.  The Gamecube had a small handful of games that could use either the modem or broadband (ethernet) accessory.  Today, there’s a fairly limited set of Gamecubes which have these devices attached to their bottom.  With them hidden and out of the way, there’s a whole bunch of them getting passed around with their owners none the wiser.

Find one and you can sell it for between $60-$80.  No matter how may Gamecubes you might own, you have no reason not to check every Gamecube you find for this valuable attachment!

The broadband adapter replaces a color-matched bottom cover.  Look for this black gold at the bottom of every Gamecube you can get your hands on.  It's worth 3X the console itself!

The broadband adapter replaces a color-matched bottom cover. Look for this black gold at the bottom of every Gamecube you can get your hands on. It’s worth 3X the console itself!

5. Brighter Screen GBA SP

The Game Boy Advance was a huge seller for Nintendo and the first real technology upgrade for its portable line.  Following the original Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket, and Game Boy Color, the Game Boy Advance burst onto the scene in 2001.  Initially in a wide form factor, the system unfortunately suffered the same problem as all of its predecessors: it was hard to see the screen.

After 10 years of essentially requiring external light sources to see Game Boy screens, Nintendo finally resolved the problem by building a front-light into the next generation of the hardware: the Game Boy Advance SP.  The market responded by buying a boat-load of these devices and, personally, it’s still one of my favorite systems of all time!  A D-pad with two main buttons and two shoulder buttons, a clamshell design that folded down into a pretty little square, and conveniently small cartridges to play games that looked absolutely beautiful.  GBA graphics still hold up today, too!

You’ll find a lot of these GBA SP’s in the wild usually scratched up and bundled with boring kids games.  However, no matter how many you have, you should check for what was the next iteration of the Game Boy SP: the brighter screen model.  These devices look and play the same as their predecessor except they have a true, back-lit screen. For the first time ever, a Game Boy portable could be played with no external light accessory, and they look amazing!

You’ll find that many vendors sell these GBA’s without even knowing about the massive screen improvement.  You can identify them easily in one of two ways:

  1. If you’re holding it in your hand, you can flip the system over and read the model information on the bottom.  The brighter models are clearly marked as AGS-101.  The originals are AGS-001.
  2. If you’re looking at it from a distance or in a picture, the bright models have a much darker screen when the device is off.  The original SP’s have distinctly light gray screens when off.

Overall, these device go for $30-$40 more than the original models, but if you’re diligent you can buy them for the cheaper price when the seller isn’t aware.  At flea markets and swap meets, don’t just pass up on any SP you see.  Check the model number to see if you have the improved AGS-101 version in your hands!

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The screen quality is stark. No?

4. Unlicensed Tetris

If you owned a Nintendo, you no doubt came across the black Tengen cartridges a time or three.  Of all the unlicensed games available on the system at the time, these were by far the most common.  Not only were there so many of these games made available, many were quite good and carried well-known licenses with them such as Pac-Man and Indiana Jones.

In addition to the black cartridges, Tengen also release the standard gray carts, too.  Many people believe that Tengen didn’t become a licensed Nintendo publisher until later, but it’s actually the opposite: they stopped releasing licensed games due to Nintendo’s strict license restrictions.

Involved in this squabble was a disagreement over who owned the Tetris license in North America.  As a result, there’s a version of Tetris that was released by Nintendo and one released by Tengen.  Nintendo’s Tetris is super common and can often be purchased for just a buck or two.  The Tengen version on the other hand…is worth a lot more!

The carts are easy to differentiate, but if you’re searching on Craigslist and read that a Tetris game is part of an NES bundle and there’s no picture, be sure to find out which version it is.  The Tengen version is worth around $70 for the cart alone!

Of the two Tetris games available on the original Nintendo, this is the one you want!

Of the two Tetris games available on the original Nintendo, this is the one you want!

3. The Millenium 2000 N64 controller

In 2000, Nintendo Power magazine held a contest in their 128th issue for a Nintendo 64 controller dubbed the Millennium 2000. They were also given away as part of a subscription offer.  It’s believed that only 1,000 of these were ever made.

The aesthetics of this controller are quite nice, but it’s the fact that this controller was never publicly released, plus its limited quantity, that catapults it into the hundreds of dollars in terms of price.  While you’re wading through controllers that are purple, blue, spice, black, jungle green…keep an eye out for this silver wonder! (And don’t ever actually use it!)

There's a lot of N64 controller variations, but this one is the most valuable of them all!

There’s a lot of N64 controller variations, but this one is the most valuable of them all!

2. The Mysterious Turok: Rage Wars Gray Cart

The story of Turok: Rage Wars is a fascinating one.  While the N64 phased away in 2001 with the release of the Gamecube, only relatively recently was it discovered that the normally-black version of this game had a gray variant that was more than just a different color.  They were actually produced in response to reports that there was a show-stopping glitch that prevented players from beating the game in co-op mode. (QA, amirite?) Acclaim fixed the bug and prepared these special carts to give to customers who called in to complain.  Not many people ultimately did.

The Turok series got some decent reviews, and there were several games in the series for the N64.  They’re fairly common to find, but if you’re not paying attention you might miss this particular game, in this particular color, you’ll have lost out on a $150-$200 prize for your collection!

1. Atlantis II

Atlantis by Imagic is a game for the Atari 2600 that is incredibly common.  This space shooter was one of many released on the console so you shouldn’t get too excited if you come across one.  However, the Atlantis II variant is among the most fun to look for because it looks exactly the same as Atlantis.

In 1982, Imagic held a contest to see who could get the highest score in Atlantis by having players send pictures of their best scores.  As the story goes, four people reached the highest possible score in the game and Imagic was left with the conundrum of how to settle the tie.  They decided, quite surprisingly, to re-print four copies of the game that were harder including faster play and lower scoring.  These cartridges were sent to the four participants and they were again challenged to submit their best scores.

These game was dubbed Atlantis II and these four copies are all that are known to exist.  While the box they were sent in had “Atlantis II” added to the front via a sticker, the cartridges were simply recycled versions of the original game.  There were a few known variations of the game’s cartridge, but the ones they used for Atlantis II had a night scene picture on it. (See below.)

Next time you’re sifting through a box of Atari 2600 games for sale and find one of these, perhaps you should consider entering the Atlantis II lottery?

This cartridge is what the Atlantis II will look like.  Can you find one?

This cartridge is what the Atlantis II will look like. Can you find one?  The only way to differentiate them is that Atlantis II plays faster than the original.

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About John Blanco

John Blanco is an avid game collector and loves to write about his hobby as much as he participates in it. He run the Denver Retro Gamers Facebook group in Denver, Colorado, and coordinates swap-style meetups with dozens of other collectors every couple of months.

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