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9 Very Rare (and Very Expensive) Video Game Cartridges

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If you've ever collected baseball cards, comic books, stamps, or maybe those limited edition commemorative plates, you understand the concept of the "Holy Grail" item. It's that last, hard-to-find, incredibly rare, usually expensive piece that you have to have before you can officially say your collection is complete. If you're a collector of vintage home video game cartridges (or "carts"), sometimes that can mean paying a pretty penny for the pièce de résistance.

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Back in the day, everyone had a Nintendo. Due to the console's popularity, there are a large number of collectors willing to pay the equivalent of a new car for some of the systems' very rare carts.

1. Stadium Events

NES-Stadium-EventsPrice Range: $13,000 - $41,300; $10,000 for the box alone
Why So Expensive?: Stadium Events was released by Bandai in 1987 as one of the few games available in America that was made for the company's Family Fun Fitness mat, a soft, plastic controller you walked, ran, and jumped on to make the characters move. Nintendo bought the rights to the game and the Fitness mat in 1988 and re-released them as World Class Track Meet and the Power Pad controller. To avoid consumer confusion, Nintendo pulled all copies of Stadium Events from shelves and had them destroyed, but not before approximately 200 carts had already been sold. Of those 200, collectors believe that only 10 to 20 complete copies of the game exist today, making them a real rarity.

Stadium Events recently made headlines with two high-profile eBay sales. A North Carolina woman was cleaning out her garage and found an old Nintendo and a handful of games, including Stadium Events. She put them up on eBay without high expectations and was amazed to see the bids steadily climb up to $13,105 by the time the auction ended on February 13, 2010. While the game itself is valuable, the winning bidder was most interested in the cardboard box it came in. Since most kids threw the box away after tearing open a new game, intact boxes for any game are really hard to come by, but especially so for Stadium Events. Empty Stadium Event boxes have been known to sell for $10,000 alone.

After hearing of the success of this eBay seller, a man in Kansas dug up a factory-sealed copy of the game that he was just about to donate to Goodwill because he thought it was pretty much worthless. However, his game became only the second known sealed copy in existence. He'd purchased the game in 1987, but could never find the Fitness mat to go with it. It was still sealed because he'd meant to return it. When his eBay auction ended on February 26, 2010, the game sold for an amazing $41,300.

The same game repackaged by Nintendo, World Class Track Meet, generally sells for less than $3 on eBay.

2. 1990 Nintendo World Championships (Gray and Gold Editions)

Price Range: Gray: $4,000 - $6,100; Gold: $15,000 - $21,000
Why So Expensive?: In 1990, Nintendo held a 30-city gaming tournament to find the best player in the world. Players had to get the best score in demo versions of three games "“ Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris—all within a six-minute time limit.

NES-World-Championships

At the end of each city's tournament, the winners of each of three age groups were given special gray Championship cartridges exactly like those used in the competition, which means only 90 of these cartridges were distributed. The gold version was sent out to those who won a promotional contest in the pages of Nintendo Power magazine. Only 26 gold games were produced, so they're especially hard to find and command a higher price today.

3. Nintendo Campus Challenge

1991-nintendo-campus-challengePrice Range: $14,000 - 20,100
Why So Expensive?: In the early 1990s, Nintendo held competitions on college campuses and at popular Spring Break destinations. Like the World Championships, players had six minutes to play for high scores on demo versions of Super Mario Bros. 3, PinBot, and Dr. Mario.

Most copies of the game were destroyed after the competition ended, but one Nintendo employee kept his cart and sold it to Rob Walters at a garage sale in 2006. This garage sale is legendary among retrogamers, as Rob bought all kinds of NES Holy Grails for only $1,000. By the time he re-sold everything, he'd made 50 times that. Part of that $50,000 was the Campus Challenge cartridge, which went for $14,000. Shortly after, the buyer of the cart turned around and sold it on eBay for $20,100. As far as anyone knows, it's the only copy of the game in the world.

ATARI 2600

atari-2600

The wood-grained grandpappy of home video game systems still has a rabid fanbase. And those Atari enthusiasts wish to recapture the days of playing these simple games while drinking Pepsi from glass bottles and listening to Foghat.

4. Atlantis II

atari-atlantisPrice Range: $5,000 - $6,000
Why So Expensive?: It's never mentioned in the same breath as Pac-Man or Donkey Kong, but Atlantis was a pretty popular game in 1982. The gameplay was similar to Missile Command, with players defending their base from overhead attack by enemy ships. The developer held a tournament called Destination Atlantis, where players were invited to send in photos of their TV screens displaying their high scores. The best players were then sent Atlantis II, a special edition of the game that featured faster enemy ships worth fewer points, making it harder to get a high score, but easier to determine the true champions.

Because this version was not mass produced, its pretty rare today. But if you find a copy of the original Atlantis at a garage sale, it might be a good idea to pick it up anyway. The competition cart had the exact same colorful label of the regular Atlantis, but had a small, white sticker slapped on the front that read "Atlantis II." The label was easily peeled off, so a quick Google search will show you how to determine if you bought a $3 Atari game or a $6,000 one.

5. Air Raid

atari-air-raidPrice Range: $1,000 - $3,000
Why So Expensive?: Air Raid is a bit of an enigma for Atari fans. Some say it was the one and only game produced by a company called "Menavision" (or perhaps "Menovision"). The game is so shrouded in mystery, it can't even be verified that "Air Raid" is its official title—there's no name on the label. The name has been given based on the gameplay, which is similar to Atlantis and Missile Command, and by the picture on the label of a city being attacked by flying saucers, jets, and helicopters. This strange cartridge appeared around 1984 in a bright blue "T-handle" casing that is very different from the standard, square, black Atari carts sold in North America, but is similar in style to those sold in Brazil. Furthermore, while a few second-hand copies have been sold, no one can ever say they were the original owner. The mystery, as well as the fact there are only 12 known copies, make it a must-have for serious Atari collectors.

6. Star Wars Ewok Adventure

ewok-adventurePrice: $1680
Why So Expensive?: Advertised in Parker Brothers' 1983 retail catalog as Revenge of the Jedi: Game I but affectionately known as Ewok Adventure, the cart became legendary for never being sold. In the game, players took control of an Ewok and flew a hang glider over the forest moon of Endor in an attempt to blow up an Imperial base. You could avoid or kill enemy Stormtroopers, Speeder Bikes, or Imperial AT-ST Walkers, or you could instead commandeer these vehicles to take out the base.

The game was shot down by Parker Brothers' marketing department, who felt the controls were too hard to master, so it was never produced. The game's designer, Larry Gelberg, gave the one and only known prototype copy to a friend's son, who later sold it for $1680.

Neo Geo

neo-geo

The Neo Geo, first released in 1990, was always a bit of a niche home video game console, mainly because of its price—the system was $649 and games started at $200. However, those who had a Neo Geo really loved it, so the collectors' market has remained strong.

7. Kizuna Encounter

kizuna_encounter
Price Range: $12,000 - $13,500

Why So Expensive?: One of the main games that all Neo Geo fanatics are looking for is a particular version of Kizuna Encounter, a 1996 fighting game similar to Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. The game itself has received solid reviews, but isn't groundbreaking by any means. However, it was produced in such small quantities for the European market that collectors speculate fewer than 15 copies were made. The Japanese version, which is exactly the same except for different packaging, is fairly common and sells for about $50.

8. Ultimate 11 (AKA Super Sidekicks 4)

ultimate-11-neo-geoPrice Range: $8,000 - $10,000
Why So Expensive?: Ultimate 11 was the final game in the Super Sidekicks series, a popular franchise of soccer games that sold very well. For some reason, though, Ultimate 11 was not produced in large quantities, and there are now fewer than 10 known copies in existence. That kind of rarity makes it a must-have for collectors.

In late 2009, a private sale was reportedly made between two members of the collectors' forums at neo-geo.com. The buyer paid an astonishing $55,000 to acquire both Kizuna Encounter and Ultimate 11. The original owner purchased the games around 10 years ago, when Kizuna was selling for $500 and Ultimate for $400. The new owner has said he will not sell them, even if he were offered $100,000.

9. Metal Slug

metal-slugGoing Rate: $2,000 - $2,850
Why So Expensive?: If you take the classic NES game Contra and turn it up to 11, you have Metal Slug, a "run-n-gun" game where explosions are the primary soundtrack. Since its introduction on the Neo Geo in 1996, the game has become a very popular franchise with seven games in the main series, plus a bunch of spin-offs. It has been ported to just about every popular game console you can think of. However, that original Neo Geo cart is pretty hard to come by due to a limited production run. So even though there are other ways to play the game, Neo Geo fanatics will pay a hefty sum to have it in the original format.
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These are just some of the Holy Grails of video gaming that collectors are clamoring for. To see if you might have a rare game in your basement, head over to racketboy.com, atariage.com, neo-geo.com and videogamepricecharts.com.

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Something Something Soup Something
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This Game About Soup Highlights How Tricky Language Is
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Something Something Soup Something

Soup, defined by Merriam-Webster as "a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food," is the ultimate simple comfort food. But if you look closer at the definition, you'll notice it's surprisingly vague. Is ramen soup? What about gumbo? Is a soy vanilla latte actually a type of three-bean soup? The subjectivity of language makes this simple food category a lot more complicated than it seems.

That’s the inspiration behind Something Something Soup Something, a new video game that has players label dishes as either soup or not soup. According to Waypoint, Italian philosopher, architect, and game designer Stefano Gualeni created the game after traveling the world asking people what constitutes soup. After interviewing candidates of 23 different nationalities, he concluded that the definition of soup "depends on the region, historical period, and the person with whom you're speaking."

Gualeni took this real-life confusion and applied it to a sci-fi setting. In Something Something Soup Something, you play as a low-wage extra-terrestrial worker in the year 2078 preparing meals for human clientele. Your job is to determine which dishes pass as "soup" and can be served to the hungry guests while avoiding any items that may end up poisoning them. Options might include "rocks with celery and batteries in a cup served with chopsticks" or a "foamy liquid with a candy cane and a cooked egg served in a bowl with a fork."

The five-minute game is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but Gualeni also hopes to get people thinking about real philosophical questions. According to its description page, the game is meant to reveal "that even a familiar, ordinary concept like 'soup' is vague, shifting, and impossible to define exhaustively."

You can try out Something Something Soup Something for free on your browser.

[h/t Waypoint]

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Pop Culture
15 Forgotten Video Game Mascots From the 1990s

With the growing popularity of Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog on home video game consoles in the 1990s, it seemed that almost every video game company was set on creating a lovable mascot to give their brand a unique identity. Sometimes these mascots were memorable and iconic, like Capcom’s Mega Man or Namco’s Pac-Man, but other times they failed to leave any lasting impression. Here are 15 forgotten video game mascots from the '90s.

1. ROCKY RODENT

In 1993, Japanese video game developers Irem Software Engineering created Rocky Rodent, an anthropomorphized rodent with a cool attitude and hair to match. This would-be mascot was tasked with rescuing the daughter of a restaurant owner named Pie Face Balboa from the mob. As a reward, Rocky Rodent would get an all-you-can-eat buffet. His bizarre weapon of choice was a can of hairspray, which he used to both defeat bad guys and style his hair.

2. AWESOME POSSUM

Tengen created a rival for Sonic when it released Awesome Possum... Kicks Dr. Machino's Butt for the Sega Genesis in 1993. The game featured the cool and badass Awesome Possum, who would collect empty bottles and cans instead of coins or gold rings, in an effort to clean up the forest. It was sold as an educational game for children with an environmental activist theme, but it never caught on with gamers, despite positive reviews. Maybe kids back in the '90s didn’t want to learn about recycling and Earth science while they were playing video games.

3. CROC

Originally developed for the SNES, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos was created as a 3D platformer starring Yoshi from Super Mario World. However, when Nintendo rejected the game, the developers at Argonaut Games changed Yoshi from a lovable dinosaur into a lovable crocodile named Croc, who tried to rescue furry creatures from the evil Baron Dante. Argonaut then pitched the mascot to Sony, who loved the gameplay and released it for the original PlayStation in 1997.

4. RISTAR

Released in 1995, Ristar was developed late in the Genesis's life cycle by Sonic Team, the same production company that created Sonic the Hedgehog. The mascot was a cute star who had the ability to stretch his arms in any direction to climb, swing, and grab enemies, as he explored a number of planets.

Since the character and game came out just before Sega released the 32-bit Saturn, the mascot never grew in popularity. Ristar managed to gather a cult following for its mechanics and strong gameplay, and the character has since made cameos in other Sega games, such as Shenmue, Segagaga, and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.

5. GEX

In 1994, the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer console was released with the promise of high-end 32-bit gaming. To compete with established consoles like the Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn, 3DO needed a cool mascot like Mario and Sonic to bring more attention to their video game system. Enter: Gex.

Released in 1995, Gex featured a wisecracking gecko (four years before the first appearance of the now iconic Geico Gecko) with a cool attitude and a penchant for watching TV. The game followed Gex as he tried to find remote controls hidden in TV show-themed levels to get home, but the evil Emperor Rez stood in his way.

While Gex received critical and fan acclaim, it wasn’t strong enough to bring the 3DO into the mainstream against tough competition. The 3DO was eventually discontinued two years after it was released, and Gex was then ported to the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn.

6. CONKER THE SQUIRREL

While he first appeared in Rareware’s Diddy Kong Racing (along with Banjo-Kazooie) for N64 in 1997, Conker the Squirrel received his own spinoff game for the Game Boy Color in 1999. Conker's Pocket Tales was a lighthearted game that followed the adventures of Conker, a cute squirrel who has to rescue his girlfriend Berri from the Evil Acorn. In 2001, Rare released Conker's Bad Fur Day, where the character went from a cute and cuddly mascot into a hard-drinking and foul-mouthed squirrel who would constantly break the fourth wall during gameplay. The game was remade in 2005 for the Xbox, under the name Conker: Live & Reloaded and later included in the Rare Replay compilation game for Xbox One in 2015.

7. BONK

While the NES and the Sega Genesis were the two systems at the center of the console wars of the late '80s and early '90s, NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 was a modest console from Japan, where it was known as the PC Engine before it was rebranded in America. The console’s mascot was Bonk, a prehistoric caveman kid whose main attack was a fierce headbutt. The mascot and game series—the first game was Bonk's Adventure released in 1990—were quite popular in Japan and Europe, but didn’t gain the same success in the U.S. due to the popularity of Mario and Sonic.

8. POCKY AND ROCKY

Released as a sequel to the 1986 Japanese arcade game KiKi KaiKai (it was called Knight Boy in limited release in the U.S.), Pocky & Rocky was developed by Natsume for the SNES in 1992. The sequel followed a young Shinto shrine princess named Pocky and her sidekick, Rocky the Tanuki, as they try to save small and cute creatures called Nopino Goblins in a top-down co-op adventure game. Pocky & Rocky received good reviews from critics and even got a sequel for the SNES in 1994, but the characters were never elevated to mascot status.

9. BATTLETOADS

Rare’s Tim and Chris Stamper created Battletoads, a co-op beat-'em-up game for the NES that featured three musclebound toads named Rash, Zitz, and Pimple as a rival to the widely popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video games of the early '90s. Battletoads was mostly known for its fun stage design and heart-stopping speed and difficulty level. The characters even crossed over with brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee from Double Dragon in an ultimate beat-'em-up action game.

While the games spawned a short-lived cartoon series and comic strip, Battletoads could never escape comparisons to TMNT. The warrior toads have not been featured in their own video game since 1994.

10. BUBSY

In 1993, a cocky bobcat with a cool attitude named Bubsy was positioned to usurp the video game mascot throne from Mario and Sonic. However, Bubsy's games didn't live up to the hype, despite being available for the Sega Genesis, SNES, PlayStation, and Atari Jaguar, where he eventually found a home as one of the console's short-lived mascots.

Bubsy in: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind followed the titular bobcat trying to get back the world’s largest yarn ball from a fabric-stealing race of aliens known as the “Woolies.” A sequel was released in 1994 with an exclusive follow-up for the Atari Jaguar called Bubsy in: Fractured Furry Tales released later in 1994. The game series lasted for one more game with the release of Bubsy 3D: Furbitten Planet for the Sony PlayStation in 1996.

11. GLOVER

In 1998, Interactive Studios and Hasbro Interactive released a platformer called Glover, which followed the adventures of a sentient four-fingered right-handed glove, for the N64. The object of the game was to get a ball to the end of each level, while trying to solve puzzles, dodge enemies, and find lost crystals to restore the Crystal Kingdom. Glover’s life was tied to the ball, so if it fell off the platform, the glove would also die.

The gameplay was a little ahead of its time and would probably do better with motion-control consoles like the Nintendo Wii or touchscreen Android or iOS devices. As a result, Glover had poor sales and low critic ratings, which led to the cancellation of its sequel.

12. ALEX KIDD

Before the advent of Sonic, Sega had a different mascot named Alex Kidd, a small boy with big ears and monkey-like features who lived on the planet Aries, which was also known as Miracle World. The games started out in the arcades, but made their way to the Sega Master System as a mix of platforming and puzzle solving games.

Alex Kidd was featured in six games throughout the late '80s and early '90s, but never rivaled Nintendo’s Mario in popularity. Sega needed a different mascot to represent the company, so video game designers Yuji Naka, Naoto Ohshima, and Hirokazu Yasuhara created Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991.

Sega stopped making Alex Kidd games and focused all of its resources into making Sonic more popular than Mario. However, Alex Kidd still made cameos in various Sega games, such as Altered Beast, Sega Superstars Tennis, and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.

13. TITUS THE FOX

Created by French video game developers Titus Interactive, Titus The Fox: To Marrakech and Back (Lagaf': Les Aventures de Moktar) was released for the Amiga and Atari ST personal computers in 1991. The video game followed the titular fox on a quest to rescue his girlfriend Suzy. He must complete 15 levels through the Sahara Desert while dodging dogs, construction workers, and giant bees to save her. It was also eventually ported to the Game Boy and Game Boy Color later in the '90s.

Unfortunately, Titus The Fox received poor ratings from critics and fans alike, and Titus Interactive ultimately filed for bankruptcy and folded in 2005.

14. BANJO-KAZOOIE

After the pair first appeared in Diddy Kong Racing for the N64 in 1997, Rare released a spin-off game starring a bear named Banjo and a bird named Kazooie in 1998. The puzzle-solving 3D platformer followed Banjo-Kazooie as they tried to stop the evil Gruntilda from stealing Banjo's sister's beauty. The game was praised for its non-linear level design, as well as its immersive graphics and deep sound design. A sequel called Banjo-Tooie was released for the N64 in 2000.

Fun Fact: The video game was originally developed as a role-playing game called Dream: Land of Giants for the SNES before it was re-developed.

15. ZERO THE KAMIKAZE SQUIRREL

In 1994, Iguana Entertainment and Sunsoft released Zero The Kamikaze Squirrel as a spin-off game of Aero the Acro-Bat, where he appeared as a sidekick. Zero’s mission was to stop an evil lumberjack named Jacques Le Sheets after he kidnapped Zero’s girlfriend (or should I say “squirrelfriend”) and started to tear down the forest to make counterfeit money.

While it received favorable reviews, Zero The Kamikaze Squirrel never caught on with gamers due to its sloppy controls, while the perception that the character was a blatant rip-off of Sonic the Hedgehog persisted.

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