Legend of Zelda sealed NES cartridge sells at auction for $870,000

A front and back shot of the rare sealed game cartridge carefully displayed in a clear plastic box for safe keeping
(Image credit: Heritage Auctions)

Update: The auction has been completed, and this copy of The Legend of Zelda sold for a record-breaking $870,000.

At the time, that price made it the most expensive video game ever, beating the previous record of $660,000, set in April by a copy of the original Super Mario Bros. The new record didn't stand for long, however, as a version of Super Mario 64 has just sold for $1.5 million, significantly more than this Zelda game's total. 

Original story: A rare – and sealed – copy of Nintendo's original 1987 The Legend of Zelda is up for sale via auction.

Right now, with four days left to go, the lot – allegedly considered a "grail" given its rarity and 9.0 wata rating – is sitting on a bid of $110,000 (£72.3k). 

The auction house running the auction states this version of the NES original is particularly significant given production of this variant only ran "for a few months in late 1987", with only the "NES TM" version – the first production run – thought to be more valuable.

"Truly, the term "grail" only begins to scratch the surface of describing this game," auctioneer Heritage Auctions says in a flowery statement. "Of all of the games we've offered in our auctions, this sealed, early production copy of the first game in the groundbreaking Legend of Zelda series is no doubt the apotheosis of rarity, cultural significance, and collection centerpieces. A proverbial trifecta of collector perfection that only one will receive the honor of calling their own.

"None of the copies we've offered of this title previously could even attempt to hold a candle to this one due to its incredibly rare variant that holds early production status," the item description on the auction listing explains (thanks, Eurogamer). "This matter is completely inarguable. This is the only copy from one of the earliest production runs that we've ever had the opportunity to offer, and, possibly will have the opportunity to offer, for many years to come."

It remains to be seen if this will become the most expensive game ever sold, however; a sealed NES cartridge of Super Mario Bros. sold for an astonishing – and record-breaking – $660,000 (£477,000) back in April 2021.

Before that, a rare copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 had set the record for being the most expensive video game ever sold. A sealed copy of the game was sold at auction for the hefty price of $156,000 (£117,000). 

The Super Mario Bros. auction, however, smashed that record. The game – which comes from the game's fourth printing run and does not have the trademark symbol next to the console's name or the Game-Pak NES-GP code on the box – ranked a 9.6 on the wata scale.

Meanwhile, a 1985 cartridge of Super Mario Bros. – which has been sealed and unplayed for 35 years – was sold in 2020 for $114,000 (£90,300). So if you have any old, unopened games kicking about the place, now might be the time to dust them off...

Looking for something a little more affordable? Check out these Nintendo Switch bundles and our list of the best Nintendo Switch accessories.

Vikki Blake
Weekend Reporter, GamesRadar+

Vikki Blake is GamesRadar+'s Weekend Reporter. Vikki works tirelessly to ensure that you have something to read on the days of the week beginning with 'S', and can also be found contributing to outlets including the BBC, Eurogamer, and GameIndustry.biz. Vikki also runs a weekly games column at NME, and can be frequently found talking about Destiny 2 and Silent Hill on Twitter.