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How Much Did the NES & Its Games Cost When Originally Released?

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) holds a special place in the hearts of many who grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s. Its games, characterized by their simple graphics and engaging gameplay, were a significant departure from what was available at the time.

For today’s gamers and those who didn’t experience the NES era firsthand, there might be curiosity about the original cost of the NES and its games. How did the prices back then compare to the value of modern consoles and games? Let’s delve into the history and find out the original prices of the NES and its iconic game titles.

Original Prices of NES & Its Games: Cost at Launch Revealed

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was launched in North America in 1985. At its release, there were different packages and sets available, each with its own pricing:

  • Basic NES Console (No game included): $89.99

Inflation-Adjusted Price for today’s market: Approx. $224.98

Contents: This was the most basic version of the NES available. The package came with the main console and two controllers, allowing two players to engage in gameplay simultaneously. No games were included in this set, making it an affordable entry point for those who might have already owned game cartridges or wished to purchase them separately.

  • NES Package with Super Mario Bros.: $99.99

Inflation-Adjusted Price for today’s market: Approx. $249.98

Contents: Along with the main console and two controllers, this package featured one of the most iconic games of its time, Super Mario Bros. This bundle offered a combination of basic hardware and groundbreaking gameplay, encapsulating the NES experience.

  • Action Set: $149.99

Inflation-Adjusted Price for today’s market: Approx. $374.98

Contents: A more comprehensive package for the ardent gamer. This set came equipped with the Control Deck, two game controllers, the NES Zapper (a light gun), and two classic games: Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. This was for those ready to dive into a more immersive NES experience right out of the box.

  • Deluxe Edition: $179.99

Inflation-Adjusted Price for today’s market: Approx. $449.98

Contents: The crème de la crème of NES packages. This edition boasted the inclusion of R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy), the NES Zapper, two controllers, and two distinctive games: Gyromite and Duck Hunt. It catered to those seeking the full, enriched NES experience.

It’s essential to emphasize that these prices reflect the mid-1980s market and have not been adjusted for inflation. When you account for inflation, these numbers would certainly be higher in today’s market. Nonetheless, even at the time, the NES represented a significant investment for many families, illustrating the faith consumers had in Nintendo’s gaming experience and the booming popularity of home video gaming.

As for individual NES game cartridges:

Prices varied based on the title and game complexity. On average, NES games were sold for:

  • Low-end: About $30
  • High-end: Up to $50
  • Special or sought-after titles: These could be even more expensive.
Game TitleOriginal PriceOverview
Super Mario Bros.Approximately $34.99Arguably the most iconic game of the NES era, it introduced players to Mario’s platforming adventures as he attempted to save Princess Peach from the nefarious Bowser.
The Legend of ZeldaAround $39.99An action-adventure title that provided gamers with a rich world. The game’s gold cartridge added a unique touch to its presentation.
MetroidAbout $34.99Groundbreaking for its non-linear gameplay and atmospheric world-building; players navigated an alien world as the bounty hunter, Samus Aran.
Mega ManRoughly $30-$35The Blue Bomber’s debut on the NES was known for its demanding platforming and boss battles, yet was immensely rewarding.
Final FantasyApproximately $39.99As one of the pioneers of the RPG genre, it offered a deep storyline and turn-based combat that set the foundation for many subsequent RPGs.
CastlevaniaAround $34.99An action-platformer where players traversed Dracula’s castle, battling creatures of the night with the iconic whip and various secondary weapons.

Remember, these are mid-1980s prices, and they haven’t been adjusted for inflation. Today’s values would be considerably higher when accounting for that inflation.

Economic Factors Affecting Original Pricing

When the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was initially released, several economic factors influenced its pricing and that of its games. One of the primary factors was the recession of the early 1980s. During this time, the video game industry suffered from a market crash, which led to a decline in consumer confidence in video games. As a result, Nintendo had to price the NES and its games competitively to attract customers and revive the industry.

Another factor that played a role in determining the cost of the NES and its games was the production expenses. Manufacturing the hardware and producing the game cartridges was expensive, especially with then-cutting-edge technology. Additionally, the high licensing fees imposed by Nintendo on third-party developers also contributed to the original prices of the games.

Inflation rates at the time also had an impact on the pricing of the NES and its games. The Nintendo Entertainment System Deluxe Edition was released at a price of $179.99 when it first came out. However, adjusted for inflation, the cost would amount to around $449 in today’s money.

Comparison to Contemporary Consoles

In the 1980s, the video game market was beginning to recover from the crash of 1983. The NES played a pivotal role in revitalizing the industry. But while the NES was a force to be reckoned with, other consoles were vying for attention in the same era. Here’s a comparison of the NES with its contemporary competitors, based on pricing, features, and game libraries:

  1. Atari 7800:
    • Price: Approximately $140
    • Overview: Launched in 1986, the Atari 7800 was Atari’s attempt to reclaim its dominance after the video game crash. It boasted backward compatibility with the vast Atari 2600 game library. However, in terms of graphical capabilities and game diversity, it was generally perceived as inferior to the NES.
  2. SEGA Master System:
    • Price: Around $200
    • Overview: Sega’s answer to the NES, the Master System was technically superior in some ways, offering sharper graphics and colors. However, it struggled in the North American market due to a less robust game library and Nintendo’s strong third-party exclusivity contracts.
  3. Commodore 64 (as a gaming platform):
    • Price: Initially around $595, but it saw significant price drops as years went on.
    • Overview: While primarily a home computer, the Commodore 64 was a beloved gaming platform known for its vast game library and superior sound capabilities. Its price was steep at first, but it provided multifunctionality as both a computer and a gaming device.
  4. Intellivision II:
    • Price: Initially sold for about $150 in the early 1980s.
    • Overview: Mattel’s Intellivision II was a redesign of the original Intellivision. While its unique controller and games appealed to some, by the mid-80s, it struggled to compete with the NES’s more advanced graphics and expansive game catalog.
  5. ColecoVision:
    • Price: About $175
    • Overview: Launched before the NES, in 1982, the ColecoVision was renowned for its close-to-arcade-quality games, especially its port of “Donkey Kong.” However, its lifespan was cut short by the video game crash, and by the time the NES gained traction, ColecoVision had faded from prominence.

When evaluating the NES in the context of its contemporaries, it’s clear that while other systems had their strengths, none could match the NES’s combination of a strong, diverse game library, smart marketing, and competitive pricing. Nintendo’s strategies, such as sealing exclusive third-party game deals, also gave it a leg up in the competition, solidifying its dominant position in the 8-bit era.

Rare NES Collectibles Today

Over the decades, certain NES games and items have transcended their original status as mere entertainment products, evolving into sought-after collectibles with significant value.

The rarity of these items, combined with their historical importance and nostalgia, has contributed to their elevated status in the collectors’ market. Here’s a snapshot of some of the most prized NES collectibles as of today:

1. Stadium Events:

  • Overview: Originally released by Bandai in 1987, ‘Stadium Events‘ is often touted as the rarest NES cartridge available to the public. Shortly after its initial release, Nintendo purchased the rights and re-released it as ‘World Class Track Meet’. Almost all copies of ‘Stadium Events’ were pulled from shelves, making it a holy grail for collectors.
  • Estimated Value: Depending on condition, copies have sold for anywhere from $10,000 to over $40,000.

2. Nintendo World Championships (Gold and Gray Cartridges):

  • Overview: These cartridges were produced for the 1990 Nintendo World Championships. The gray cartridges were given to finalists, while the gold versions were prizes from Nintendo Power magazine.
  • Estimated Value: Gray cartridges can fetch $10,000 to $20,000, while the rarer gold cartridges have sold for up to $100,000.

3. Bubble Bobble Part 2:

  • Overview: Released late in the NES’s life cycle, ‘Bubble Bobble Part 2’ had a limited print run, making it rare and highly sought after by collectors.
  • Estimated Value: In mint condition, it can sell for over $1,000.

4. The Cheetahmen II:

  • Overview: This unfinished sequel to ‘Action 52’ never officially released, but some cartridges found their way to the market, making them extremely rare.
  • Estimated Value: Ranges between $1,000 to $3,000, depending on condition.

5. Boxed and Sealed Games:

6. Accessories and Peripherals:

  • Overview: Items like the NES R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy), in mint condition or boxed, can be rare finds today. While not as pricey as the rarest games, they still hold significant value for collectors.
  • Estimated Value: Prices vary, but a boxed R.O.B. can fetch several hundred dollars.

As with all collectibles, the value of these NES items fluctuates based on market demand, condition, provenance, and other factors. For those with an interest in video game history or collectors looking to complete their collections, these items represent the intersection of nostalgia, artistry, and commerce in the gaming world.

Alex Henderson

Alex Henderson, known to the online gaming community as "GameMaster", brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to the world of video games. With over 15 years of experience, Alex has worked as a game tester, programmer, and designer for several top gaming companies before deciding to share his insights and reviews with the gaming community. He specializes in RPGs and adventure games, but his love for gaming knows no genre boundaries. Alex's goal is to help gamers of all levels navigate the exciting and ever-evolving world of gaming.

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