Remember rifling through the old FuncoLand guide, checking the prices of used video games, and Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System was always right around 19 cents? That’s probably because, even decades after its release, the 1985 classic was the most readily available – and best-selling – video game in history, one included with each system that helped launch arguably the biggest franchise in entertainment. And now, the game is the most expensive ever.
Late last week, a sealed copy of the Super Mario Bros. became the highest-selling video game ever, when it was purchased for a whopping $114,000 by an anonymous bidder at a Heritage Auctions event. The previous record was set last year, when another copy of the title sold for $100,150 at auction. There’s tons of copies of the game, almost all of which are open, still floating around in basements and attics, so what was it about this copy of Super Mario Bros. that made it so valuable?
Graded as A+ condition, this unopened version of the title featured rare “hangtabs” which was a short-lived version of the original Super Mario Bros. packaging. This short production run had a cardboard hangtab underneath the plastic, one of the first after Nintendo began to shrink-wrap to seal the titles, rather than using a sticker. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make it desirable – well, that and the importance of the game, which was also the first time players were introduced to Bowser, the infamous villain.
“The demand for this game was extremely high and if any lot in the sale could hit a number like that, it was going to be this one,” Heritage Auctions Video Games Director Valarie McLeckie said in a statement. “We knew this would be a strong live session, but I don’t think anybody could have anticipated how much bidding action there was on Heritage Live! and the phones.”
The auction featured several other sealed Nintendo classics, such as Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out and a rare first-pressing of Super Mario Bros. 3, with the entire lot bringing in $690,000. To put it into perspective, the batch of E.T. Atari games recently excavated from that New Mexico landfill brought $108,000 at a 2015 auction. The moral of the story here is make sure you double-check the packaging and quality of the game before getting rid of it, because it could be worth quite a bit of cash.