These days, it’s becoming more and more popular to be a retro game collector. Whether you’re a hardcore hoarder, just somebody trying to relive your favourite childhood gaming memories, or somewhere in between like me, you’ll soon learn that it can be an extremely rewarding past time. Not only do you get to play some of the greatest games of all time, but it’s also a sound investment! The rarer and more sought after games retain their value, and, if anything, get more expensive with time. There’s also nothing cooler than having your gaming friends over and showing off your fat stacks of retro games and consoles. So with that in mind, I’d like to share with you some tips and help you avoid some pitfalls from my experience these past 12 months living the life of a retro looter!
This week, we’ll be looking at the mighty Super Nintendo, a console that’s relatively easy to find, eminently cool but also not super expensive either. Expect to pay around £50-100 for one, depending on condition and number of controllers, box and bundled games etc.
The system is blessed with arguably some of the best games in history, though sadly this is reflected in the price you pay, especially if like me, you’re after complete box copies with the manual. Expect to shave off over half the cost however if you’re just interested in picking up the cartridge. Take note that I’ve left out some notable titles like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI and Super Mario RPG due to their NTSC/Famicom-only releases. I’m based in London, so I’m only really interested in PAL games for the time being.
Before we talk games, let’s quickly discuss the best places to look and some things to watch out for. eBay is going to be your best friend, and it’s where I do the 75% of my searching. You might also strike it lucky on Etsy and other online stores. But the most satisfying thing for me to do is to find them in the real world. If you live in a big city, chances are there will be a few specialist retro gaming shops within travelling distance to you. Car boot sales are my personal favourite, because you never know what you will find, and it’s here that you might get a real bargain, especially if the seller doesn’t really know what they’re selling. For example, I recently picked up the original Paper Mario in on the N64 for a fiver, and found it was selling on eBay around £150-200. Score!
Watch out for sellers listing their games for way more than they are worth, though, as well as ones selling reproduction boxes, and, in the case of some rarer games, reproduction cartridges. It pays to do your research and use some common sense.
Anyway, let’s now look at some of the best and most desirable games you can buy for your SNES.
Super Mario All-Stars and Super Mario World
No question about this; the first game(s) you should go for. You can pick up Super Mario All Stars and Super Mario World individually for about £30 and £60 (assume from now any prices noted are for full boxed copies in reasonable condition), or you could try and snag the more expensive bundle that comes with both – though I’ve seen these go for upwards of £100. All of the games have aged wonderfully well, and in Super Mario World in particular, you’re still getting one of the greatest platformers ever made.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
For a lot of people from my generation, this was the game that first introduced us to the magical world of Link and co. A game I tragically didn’t appreciate as much as a kid, but have thankfully rectified since. The bad news, though, is that it’s a game that seems to go up and down in price; at the time of writing you’re looking upwards of £100, but I was lucky enough to get it at a charity gaming auction for half that. It tops many people’s best SNES games ever list though, mainly because it’s a fantastic game and it’s also not as hard to find as some of the other games on this list.
A game I’ve sadly never owned (yet) but have borrowed and completed more times than I remember. Despite not aging quite as well as some of the SNES’s best and brightest (all the backtracking!), you can’t have a discussion about the SNES and not talk about Super Metroid. It’s unfortunate then that this is one of the hardest games to get and the few that pop up on eBay once in a while sell for more than £150 a pop. It’s highly sought after, though, so if you see it at a reasonable price, bag it before someone else does.
Street Fighter II Turbo/Super Street Fighter II
I’m going to ignore the rarer and more expensive Street Fighter Alpha II because despite being a great game, the SNES struggles a bit with this port (get the PS1 version, it’s cheaper and runs way better). Instead pick up either of these. Street Fighter II Turbo is the quintessential Street Fighter experience, and Super is essentially the same game with more characters. You can pick up both for around the same price of around £50. They might lack the flashier combo systems of later games, but the ‘footsie’, reaction-based style of these earlier games still hold up well.
Super Mario Kart
Mario’s first foray into kart racing deserves its place in this list simply for pioneering one of the highest selling franchises of all time. It’s also relatively easy to pick it up for a reasonable price of around £40. Whilst future titles in the series are arguably better, the original Super Mario Kart is still insanely fun and shows us that the DNA of the kart racer hasn’t really changed all that much two decades later.
Secret of Mana
A game that needs no introduction, Secret of Mana is regarded by many as one of the greatest JRPGs ever made. The bad news for us retro collectors is that this is very much reflected in the price and availability. A few pop up on eBay once in a while, but people are reluctant to sell Secret of Mana. Even the cartridge alone isn’t an easy find. Expect to pay more than £100, but if you are lucky enough to get it, consider it a good investment.
At around £20, here’s a SNES game you can actually pick up for quite cheaply. Starwing was an important title because not only did it push the SNES’ hardware to its limits, but it was also an early pioneer for 3D gaming. You shouldn’t have any problem getting your hands on it as it is readily available almost everywhere I looked due to its popularity, so it’s an easy and wallet-friendly recommendation.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Despite the name, Yoshi’s Island is far from what you would call a direct sequel to Super Mario World. It throws in some new and interesting gameplay dynamics to create what is easily one of the most memorable platformers, and if you’re a fan of any of the Yoshi games, this is a must-own just to see where it all began. The good news is that it’s not difficult to track this game down, but the bad news is you’ll be paying around £75 for the privilege; but this is definitely one SNES title that will retain its value well.
Zombies Ate My Neighbours
A game that’s become something of a cult classic, Zombies Ate My Neighbours made zombies cool before zombies were even cool. It also sported a co-operative mode which made for one of the best co-op experiences to be found on the SNES. And despite being a desirable title to own, it’s somewhat cheaper than some of the other games on this list, going for around the £50 mark. Your only problem will be finding someone willing to part with it!
And there you have it! Before we part ways, it’s worth noting that a lot of these games are available for a fraction of the price on Nintendo’s Virtual Console (or via emulation) so if you’re short on cash or just don’t feel like shelling out the kind of money you have to to own the originals, that’s a perfectly viable option for you. For you fellow retro collectors out there, though, happy hunting and be sure to check out the next edition of Retro Looter!