Video game collectors often overlook the sports game genre and it is easy to understand why. First, the number of retro sports collectors and gamers is a small percentage of hobbyists. The ratio of memorable and re-playable retro sports titles is considerably smaller than that of classic role-playing games or platformers. While the laws of supply and demand can deflate the prices of even the most popular sports games, the marketplace is not void of games that are rare and valuable. The Nintendo Entertainment System is stocked with a large number of sports games thanks to the success of the system and growth of the industry overall. As you’re sorting through stacks of games at the next convention or flea market, these are the ten most valuable NES sports games to keep an eye out for.
In compiling this list, there are a couple of guidelines to keep in mind. First, the game had to be released, so titles like Hit the Ice and Mike Ditka Big Play Football are not included, even if the original source material was later made into reproduction carts (which is very cool). Second, the dollar amount referenced is an average price from Video Game Price Charting and recently completed eBay listings. These numbers represent an approximation of worth for just the stand-alone NES cart. When factoring in a complete-in-box copy, the value across all the titles increases exponentially.
Honorable Outliers to the Top Ten
Aussie Rules Footy – $25
Released by Beam Entertainment in 1991, Aussie Rules Footy was a licensed PAL Australia-only release. The game falls into my special honorable mention group because of the very limited geographic release and there was not much of a sales history to dig into as auctions only surface once or twice a year (the last of which is from April, 2012). An 8-bit rugby game, Aussie Rules Footy is surprisingly deep as it includes a good number of real teams (well, real as of 1991 at least) and game modes.
Punch-Out!! Special Edition – $150
This wouldn’t be a good retro collecting list if there wasn’t a super rare limited edition game to throw into the mix. This gold cartridge edition of Punch-Out!! for the Famicom predated the release of the more recognizable Mike Tyson version and only 10,000 copies of the game were produced. These copies were used exclusively as prizes for a Nintendo golf competition in Japan. The value here has dropped as late and I found copies at MAGFest 11 (2013) for $150.
Stadium Events – $3,000
The legend of this game has been told numerous times and the game remains one of the most valuable video games regardless of genre. Given its extreme rarity, we’ll spotlight it outside the main list. Used carts go into the thousands of dollars, just be careful that you are not bidding on a PAL version of the game which runs more in the $500 range.
10. Baseball Stars II – $10
This game always reminds me of the movie sequel that skips theaters and heads right to DVD. Until finding it at a local retro store years back, I didn’t even know it existed as Baseball Stars 2 for the Neo Geo is the more well-known sequel. The game still has a number of the beloved elements from the first Baseball Stars and is the rarer of the two games.
9. Blades of Steel (Red Label) – $12
The only variant on the list, this red label re-release is dubbed a part of the Konami Classic Series and came out in late ’92 or ’93. Oddly enough, this is the only reprint Konami labelled as such to my knowledge. A NES sports gaming classic, the regular Blades of Steel NES cart is worth about $2.00.
8. Bases Loaded 4 – $13
Nipping the R.B.I. Baseball games as the longest running sports series on the NES, the fourth installment of Bases Loaded was released in 1993 despite the Japanese version being out two years prior. The first three games in the Bases Loaded series are considerably more common than this one. Some of the most valuable NES games overall were late entries to the system when most gamers had moved to 16-bit and Bases Loaded 4 falls into this bucket.
7. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! – $15
An absolute iconic title on the NES, the fact that in 1987 you could fight Mike Tyson in a video game still blows my mind. There is no argument this game has the best sports star license on the NES and it also has one of my favorite rumors: If you plug the zapper into the second controller port you can shoot Mike Tyson in cold video game blood. Yes, we tried this repeatedly growing up. With its continued popularity with gamers and historical place in pop culture, the standalone cart routinely goes for double digits.
6. Tecmo Super Bowl – $17
Arguably the most popular sports game on the NES, this title is still played today across online leagues and in-person tournaments. In addition to being a great game overall, Tecmo Super Bowl also taught us for the first time what happened when individual players didn’t want their likeness used in a video game. We’ll always have QB Eagles (and QB Browns and QB Bills). While not rare, the game has held a decent value due to its popularity and has only spiked with the recent NFL Films feature on the culture around the game.
5. Jimmy Connors Tennis – $20
A sneaky late release to the system in 1993 by Ubisoft, Jimmy Connors Tennis is arguably the best tennis game on the NES and certainly adds to the diversity of sports covered on this list. The controls and feel are very good so despite a SNES version being released a year before, this game was not mailed in at all by the developers.
4. Rad Racket – Deluxe Tennis II – $25
Our only unlicensed NES game on the list, American Video Entertainment graces the sports gaming world with what is possibly the ugliest cover in sports video gaming history. There’s also the mystery around what exactly this is the sequel to. While the cart alone goes for less than other titles on this list, the box is considered unusually rare at reputable outlets like NintendoAge.
3. Tecmo Cup Soccer Game – $30
One of the most unusual sports games I have ever played, Tecmo Cup Soccer Game is a mix of real-time strategy and role-playing games. Instead of frantically pressing buttons to pass and shoot, you make decisions based on your placement on the field and watch the game play out like you are the head coach. There is an amazing amount of depth and strategy here for those that enjoy soccer. This title is also the biggest riser in value on the list. Just a couple of years ago the cart routinely sold for between $5-$10 but recently I’ve seen completed auctions go for upwards of $30.
2. Dusty Diamond’s All-Star Softball – $40
From the publisher (Broderbund) who brought you Where in the World is Carmen San Diego comes the only softball game on the NES and the only game where it can take ten minutes before both you and your buddy are ready to take the field with your customized teams. The instruction manual for Dusty Diamond is the most valuable sports manual on the NES. Without it, you run the risk of putting slugs with no throwing arms at key position on the field, greatly hurting your chances at advancing through the different backyard ballfields built into the game.
1. Pro Sport Hockey – $50
The only NHLPA licensed game on the NES, Pro Sport Hockey boasts real hockey players and the now familiar vertical viewing angle. The game is a step back from other hockey games on the system but was competing with a Super Nintendo version that would be released just a few months later. Jaleco released Pro Sport Hockey at the end of 1993 and while the cart will demand a decent price relative to other rare (non-sports) NES games, I have seen complete-in-box versions have heavy bidding go for upwards of $200.