Brennan Bova | Fulcrum Staff
A LITTLE MORE than a year ago, I started collecting old Game Boy games, almost obsessively. I bought Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance titles; I wanted the rarest, greatest games. I’ve always liked the idea of collecting vintage video games (how cool were the golden Nintendo cartridges back in the day?) but acquiring the necessary systems just wasn’t something I could do. But then, delivered to me as Excalibur was to Arthur, I found it. In a dusty display case at a used video store, a Game Boy Advance SP. Capable of playing original Game Boy games as well as Color and Advance, it was the first handheld that had an internal battery and a backlit screen.
I remembered all of the great games I rented throughout my childhood, the great games I’d never owned or managed to beat. Just like that, I found my little niche in the world of vintage game collectors. After a while, it wasn’t enough for me just to have the ones from my childhood. I already had them! I wanted more. So rather than looking up specific games, I went on Google and searched “rare Game Boy games.” That’s how I found the hit lists. One list: the best Game Boy games. The other: the rarest and most valuable. The crown jewels of handheld gaming. The quest began.
The “best” games were simple. They were easy to find; they were cheap. They were all beloved and millions of copies were made. Games like Super Metroid and Mario Tetris are not hard to come by. That list is all but finished. The other list, the rare and valuable, is one that I never really thought about. Some of the games on that list are super expensive. Others, frankly, just aren’t that good. One, though, the rarest Game Boy game of all, the most expensive and coveted, the only one that appears on both lists is my Holy Grail: Shantae.
Shantae is a simple enough game. Released for the Game Boy Color, it is a platforming title about a female genie. It’s simple; it’s fun. But what made it into what it is? Why is it, a Game Boy Color game, rarer and more valuable than any of the original Game Boy games which have age on their side? The answer is simply an unfortunate circumstance.
Shantae was developed by Wayforward Technologies, a company that made many Game Boy games. They knew what they were doing with that system and Shantae was their magnum opus for the Game Boy Colour. They pushed the Game Boy Color to its limits and created the best looking game to ever come out for the system. Unfortunately, the Game Boy Advance had already been released a year prior to Shantae’s release and the Game Boy Color was dead in the water. No one was buying games for it, so no one bought Shantae. Very few copies of the ultimate Game Boy Color game were ever made. The result is a two inch cartridge worth $130, $400-500 if it’s in its sealed, original box.
I can’t imagine ever having enough money to justify spending that much on a Game Boy game, but I just want it. It’s become more of a mission than anything. Scouring pawn shops to see if one’s been carelessly chucked into a three dollar bin, or looking on Kijiji and Craigslist, praying for the off chance that someone has put one up for sale without realizing just what it is they have. I don’t go to those extremes any more, but every now and then I open up an eBay window and I have a look…Just in case.
To wrap things up, I thought it would be fun to throw together a list of some other ”Holy Grails” of gaming. The rare and valuable games for some of the popular game consoles of the past.
Nintendo Entertainment System– The 1990 Nintendo World Championships: Gold Edition. Worth between $15,000 and $21,000 dollars, this was given away in a Nintendo Power Magazine contest. According to myth, only 26 copies ever existed.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System– Earthbound. Worth between $90 and $334, depending on condition, this was the second game in a trilogy, originally released in Japan under the title Mother 2. It was the only game of the trilogy to be released in English.
Sony Playstation (1)– Final Fantasy VII. Worth between $47 and $350, this is the seventh game in the famed Final Fantasy franchise and is considered by many fans to be the best instalment.
Nintendo 64– Starcraft 64. Worth between $40 and $168, Starcraft 64 managed to popularize real-time strategy games despite its low print run.
Sony Playstation 2– Final Fantasy X. Worth anywhere between $12 and $385 (for a sealed copy) this is the tenth instalment in the Final Fantasy franchise.
Microsoft Xbox– Steel Battalion. Worth between $80 and $300, this is a mech game produced by Capcom. It had rave reviews but few sales due to its high price point (it originally sold for $150 new due to the enormous custom controller required to play it). I actually own this one!
Nintendo Gamecube– Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix. Worth between $56 and $140, this is a standard DDR game only with Mario characters and music. It was the only Dance Dance Revolution to be released for the Gamecube in North America.