From rags to riches (and back to rags)
As PBS series Antiques Roadshow has taught me, the world of collectibles is a volatile one. You may have a priceless, one-of-kind game sitting on your shelf right now. Then again, its just as likely something you think is rare has become all too common in this increasingly digital world. In my many years as a gamer, Ive seen a number of titles go from hard-to-find to ubiquitous.
GamesRadar has already explored the world of valuable limited edition consoles (opens in new tab), Wii games (opens in new tab), and amiibo (opens in new tab). Nows the time to explore what happens when a previously unavailable game go back on sale. Did their prices drop on eBay? Did the public give these rare games a new chance? Read on...
Back in the mid-90s, owning Chrono Trigger was your key to instant gamer cred. The SNES time travelling RPG was an early darling of the online gaming press, but its late release on the console was overshadowed by the PlayStation and Saturn. Though easy to find at launch, the limited number of copies meant that a couple years later it was fetching at least $80 for the cartridge on eBay, and the cultish popularity seemed to doom it to never see rerelease.
Collectible prices on an English language version kept increasing until 2001, when North America finally got the PSone remake. Some shabby load times and other tech hiccups kept it from being perfect, which still kept the SNES version in demand. The DS remake finally did the port job correctly, even if the sales werent the best (opens in new tab). Currently, the DS version is pretty easy to come by, while a boxed SNES edition can go for up to $200 on eBay. Much like a classic car, it seems people want to stick with the original.
Earthbound (Mother 2 in Japan) has a similar case to Chrono Trigger, only its publisher let it grow even more obscure. After the prequel almost saw release stateside, EarthBound got a massive promotional push from Nintendo back in 1995. The games massive box, odd advertising, and off kilter writing and visuals made it stand out from the pack, but also virtually guaranteed it to fail commercially. Despite the hard work of Nintendo of America, the sales were poor, meaning a relatively small number of copies were available from resellers.
Earthbound received both a remake and a sequel in Japan, and its characters have made multiple appearances in the Smash Bros. series, but the game itself remained hard to get ahold of. The prices for the SNES version climbed and climbed on eBay as the Wiis Virtual Console made a habit of selling seemingly every classic Nintendo game except for EarthBound. In 2013, nearly 20 years after its initial release, Nintendo FINALLY put EarthBound on the Wii Us eShop, to the pleasure of a very vocal minority. Now millions can legitimately experience the game, though that hasnt hurt the price of the original cart, which, even without the box, sells for at least $150.
Metroid Prime Trilogy
Metroid Prime does the impossible by artfully translating the series iconic exploration into a first-person adventure game. The series of games are some of the best stuff the GameCube ever saw, and the third entry works amazingly with the Wiis motion controls. Remaking the first two releases for said waggly inputs and packaging them as a trilogy sounds like goldmine, but Metroid Prime Trilogy instead became one of the Wiis most elusive titles.
Within months of the 2009 launch, Metroid Prime Trilogy became hard to find, often fetching close to $100 second-hand. Some conspiracy theorists believed Nintendo wanted Prime off the market to put the spotlight on Metroid: Other M, but whatever the reason, the trilogy became the most desired Wii game around. More than five years later, Nintendo pleasantly surprised fans by putting the trilogy on the Wii U eShop, even charging as low as $10 for it in the first week. Though the physical release still has some value, I feel bad for anyone who splurged on getting the original edition a month earlier.
Based on this list youd think Nintendo has a thing for making some of its games really hard to find. Xenoblade is an extra-strange case, because it seemed like it would never come to the United States, even though it should have. After critical success in Japan, Xenoblade got a full localization by Nintendo of Europe, while the US branch seemingly ignored the JRPG. When it finally came to the US a year after its EU launch, Xenoblade arrived in limited quantities that were sold exclusively at GameStop. Obviously it soon became a real collectors item.
Though remarkably common in Europe and Japan, American Wii owners were paying a pretty penny for the RPG to resellers, GameStop included. The game became available once again in the US, when GameStop suddenly had an influx of used Xenoblade copies it sold for $90. Some cried foul (opens in new tab), saying Stop received new copies and instead chose to mark them up as used, and the outcry pretty much calmed down once that limited stock vanished. Now the game will see a full remake on the New 3DS, and most shocking of all, its coming out at basically the same time worldwide.
This game was once the perfect recipe for an expensive collectible. Radiant Silvergun is a Japan-only release that had critical acclaim as the best Saturn game youd never be able to play, which made Sega fans more rabid than ever. Plus, the title was developed by Treasure, a company known for avoiding sequels and remakes, and its for Saturn, a system that was once notoriously difficult to port from. No wonder the game went for more than $300 on eBay at the time.
The 2000s saw Treasure not only relax its stance on never wanting to do remakes, as Saturn ports became increasingly common on the 360 and PS3. Still, Radiant Silvergun was a holdout on the list of remakes until 2011. When it finally arrived, players worldwide could finally get a taste of its particular brand of bullet hell, perhaps coming to the same con conclusion I did: Ikaruga did it better. Regardless, the import version of the Saturn original still commands $200 on eBay, though maybe thatll go up if Radiant Silverguns digital version never shows up as a current generation download.
Final Fantasy 7
Fans have been begging for an HD remake of Final Fantasy 7 for years, and it wasnt that long ago those same people had trouble getting their hands on any version of the game. FF7 was a major early hit for the PSone, and the first Japanese RPG to truly go mainstream with western gamers. Despite sales in the millions and multiple print runs, Final Fantasy 7 was actually a difficult game to find during the PS2 era.
Whether you blame Square-Enix not keeping the game in-print, or collectors not parting with their copies, FF7 commanded a fairly high price once - especially if the game wasnt in Greatest Hits packaging. By 2009, after a handful of FF7 spin-offs suggested the first game was left in the past, the original version of the three-disc adventure came to PSN, making the game finally playable on PS3 and PSP. An HD-ish port is planned for the PS4 soon, and in the meantime, the PSone retail copies are now in the $60 range. Imagine what those would go for if an actual remake happened?
Super Noah's Ark 3D
Every other game on this list has its share of fans, whether those diehards number in the thousands or even just the hundreds. Meanwhile, this 1994 biblical tribute is more of an infamous industry footnote. Super Noahs Ark 3D reskins Wolfenstein 3D - seriously, even the map is the same - making the Nazi shooter into a game about tranquilizing goats. And its the only unauthorized game that legally works on the SNES, thanks to the odd bypass of plugging another SNES cart on top of Noah. How in the heck (dont want to offend Noah) does this game even exist?
Like most of publisher Wisdom Trees games, Super Noahs Ark 3D didnt reach a large audience, but it later on became a prize for collectors of sheer oddities. Then, in 2014, the game resurfaced, not just as a legitimate PC download, but in a brand new run of SNES compatible cartridges (opens in new tab) that are still available for purchase. This new lease on life is just the type of miraculous resurrection one expects from the creators of Jesus in Space (a very real game, honest).
Arc the Lad Collection
Monkey Paw Games is the MVP of this list, because giving new life to forgotten PSone games is pretty much why the company was founded. This small-scale publisher has been banging out PSN ports of games no one else cares to make available, re-furnishing the world with the likes of Tomba!, Alundra, and Vanguard Bandits along the way. But getting Arc the Lad out digitally may be the group's greatest triumph.
The Arc the Lad games began in 1995 in Japan, but didnt see release in the US until all the games were bundled together as a collection in 2002. The series wasnt only among the last major PSone titles, but also one of the final releases of niche publisher Working Designs. All those factors meant the game would be in short supply and high demand, so the collections rare, fancy box set and extras still command a high price on eBay. Fortunately for those of us on a budget, Monkey Paw finally expanded Arcs potential audience by porting all three games to PSN in 2011.
Keep on speculating
Those are some previously super rare games that the less dedicated, more thrifty can finally get their hands on, but Im sure you gentle readers can think of a few I forgot. If so, please tell me all about them in the comments!
Want some more rarities? Check out the rarest and most valuable limited edition consoles (opens in new tab) and the most valuable amiibo (opens in new tab).