The 16 Rarest SNES Games (And How Much They’re Worth In 2023)
Nintendo has always been a company that is willing to experiment. Whether it’s creating consoles with strange controllers or innovating with new technology such as touch screens and motion controls, the Japanese corporation never stands still or comes out with a system that is like what came before. You just have to look at the likes of the Switch and Wii for good examples of that philosophy. But, Nintendo’s penchant for constantly pushing forward first became clear back in 1991 when it released the SNES.
Known as the Super Famicom in Japan, this 16-bit console was the successor to the NES and was home to dozens of hugely popular games. Hit titles like "Super Mario World," "The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past," and "Donkey Kong Country" all sold millions of copies and have gone down in gaming history as important and influential releases. Yet, that wasn’t the case for every single SNES game — and if you happen to have any of these rare cartridges in your possession, then you might well be sitting on a small fortune without realizing it.
Batman Forever (Woolworths Set)
"Batman Forever" was one of the biggest films of 1995, so it makes sense that there would be a tie-in game to try and take advantage of the popularity of the movie franchise. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment teamed up with Probe Entertainment for the game, which was released for a number of different platforms. These included the Sega Genesis, Game Gear, and Game Boy. Of course, the title also came to the SNES as a co-op game that allowed players to team up as Batman and Robin as they battled against a series of DC villains.
The standard edition of "Batman Forever" is not remarkable in any way but there is a copy that is not only very rare but also quite expensive. The PAL-exclusive Woolworths Set is a limited edition box set that included a number of special items, including a VHS with a behind-the-scenes look at the developers making the game, a diary, and stickers. With this version of the release coming in such a large box with so many additional pieces of merchandise, finding a complete set is difficult and sealed boxes can fetch prices of $1,000 on the market.
"Chrono Trigger" is a 1995 RPG developed by Square and led by many of the same designers behind the "Final Fantasy" series, such as Hironobu Sakaguchi. Widely considered one of the best games of all time, it sees a group of protagonists who travel throughout different time periods as they attempt to prevent the future destruction of civilization by a mysterious creature called Lavos after they mistakenly travel hundreds of years forward in time.
Unlike many of the other titles in this list, "Chrono Trigger" was not particularly rare when it was first released. In fact, there are still many copies of the game in circulation as it sold more than two million copies. The high cost of the cartridges is primarily a result of the fact that "Chrono Trigger" is often in demand as a high-quality and sought-after game. Only a few hundred thousand U.S. copies of the game were manufactured, making this version rarer than in other regions.
As a loose cartridge, "Chrono Trigger" can be bought for as little as $200. However, boxed and sealed editions can set buyers back as much as $2,000.
Castlevania: Dracula X
Konami’s "Castlevania: Dracula X" was the second game entry in the franchise released on the SNES. Largely based on the Japan-exclusive title "Castlevania: Rondo of Blood," it reuses many of the graphics and story elements of that title. Its late release date, 1995 in Japan and 1996 in the rest of the world, meant that it came near the end of the life of the SNES when the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were on the way. This limited its sales and ensured that the publisher manufactured it in fewer numbers than it might otherwise have done.
Another factor affecting its rarity was a negative reception and a belief that it was inferior compared to other "Castlevania" games. According to Price Charting, the game will cost anywhere between $250 and $2,800 depending on its condition and whether it is sealed or loose. Fortunately, those who want to experience "Castlevania: Dracula X" without shelling out all that money can purchase one of the many re-releases on modern platforms such as the Nintendo Switch and PC.
The predecessor to farming simulation games such as "Animal Crossing" and "Stardew Valley," "Harvest Moon" was originally released for the SNES back in 1996. That means it came out right around the time people were starting to switch over from the older SNES console to the Nintendo 64. This typically limits the number of sales a game will manage to achieve and so publishers are more likely to manufacture fewer copies of a game, especially an expensive cartridge, to limit its potential losses. There were also some issues with part shortages, further limiting how many units could be produced.
That didn’t stop "Harvest Moon" from becoming something of a cult classic and it has become one of the most in-demand games from the SNES era. So while it is not as rare as many other titles, it has become an expensive game simply because more people want to add it to their collection. If you are one of those people then you can expect to pay anywhere between $400 and $3,200, with sealed copies attracting the highest prices.
"Aero Fighters" was originally an arcade game that was ported to the SNES in 1993. Although not a direct sequel, it acts as a spiritual successor to the earlier "Turbo Force" series and has many of the same gameplay elements. An early SHMUP game, the action scrolls vertically as players take charge of multiple pairs of fighters from different nations as they carry out a random series of missions. Unfortunately, the SNES port wasn’t received as well as the initial arcade release, with critics reporting that it suffered from performance issues and didn’t look as good as many other titles on the platform.
These types of vertical shooters were often not as popular in the U.S. as in Japan, so publishers would generally not commit to manufacturing large numbers unless they knew it would be a hit. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that "Aero Fighters" is a relatively rare game, even if it isn’t the most uncommon or desirable release. Loose copies can go for as much as $1,000 while new sealed listings sell for almost $5,000.
Rendering Ranger: R2
Virgin Interactive Entertainment
"Rendering Ranger: R2" is a side-scrolling action game that was developed by Rainbow Arts and Virgin Interactive. Due to a combination of factors, it has become one of the rarest SNES games ever made. Despite being made in Germany, the game was released exclusively in Japan and was not ported to any other region. In the game, players control a special forces trooper defending Earth from an alien invasion using a variety of weapons.
According to Niche Gamer, "Rendering Ranger: R2" was produced in exceptionally low numbers. In fact, just 10,000 copies may have been manufactured and sold. This has obviously limited just how many cartridges of the game are available in the wild and has made it famous as a collector’s item. Prices have dropped in recent years but a new sealed copy can sell for more than $5,700, with loose versions attracting prices of $200.
For those who want to experience "Rendering Ranger: R2" without putting down all that cash, a digital port is coming to Nintendo Switch, PC, and PlayStation, with a new version being manufactured for the SNES.
Mega Man X3
Part of the hugely popular "Mega Man" series that found plenty of success on Nintendo’s early consoles, "Mega Man X3" is also one of the rarest SNES games. It was released in 1995 and follows the story of the previous "Mega Man X" titles, where futuristic humans live in a world alongside sapient robots. As part of the plot, X and Zero battle against a scientist creating an army of evil robots to put a stop to his plans.
Like its immediate predecessor, "Mega Man X3" utilizes the graphic enhancement chip known as the Cx4 chip. Similar to the Super FX chip used in "Star Fox," this allowed for 3D graphics on the SNES and was built directly into the cartridge. This made manufacturing the game more expensive than a typical SNES title and so Capcom only made it in small numbers to make sure that none of the cost went to waste.
The Cx4 chip does give "Mega Man X3" some of the best graphics on the console but it has also led to an increased price. Even loose copies of the game can cost more than $700, with new sealed versions selling for $8,400.
The "Earthbound" series, known as "Mother" in Japan, has had something of a complicated history with the rest of the world outside of Japan. The first game in the series was only released in the Asian country, while the sequel to "Earthbound" was also exclusive to Japan. That makes the 1995 game the only entry to be officially available in the West with an English translation. Becoming a cult classic and firm fan-favorite, the eccentric RPG was created by Ape and HAL Laboratory. The story sees players take control of Ness and a group of his friends as they travel across the world fighting enemies with everyday items.
It is only in the last few years that "Earthbound" has become such a valuable game. The somewhat limited number of copies manufactured by Nintendo for Western markets and the fact that it is a sought-after game have made it rarer than it perhaps should be. Price Charting suggests loose copies of the games now sell for around $300 while new sealed copies can reach almost $8,000.
Hagane: The Final Conflict
"Hagane: The Final Conflict" is a side-scrolling action game where players take on the role of a futuristic ninja cyborg who can switch between four different weapons as he battles various enemies as they protect the Holy Grail. It won widespread praise for its gameplay and story, although some reviews did note that its presentation was something of a letdown compared to other games that were released for the SNES in 1995.
Like many other games of the 1990s, the reason that "Hagane: The Final Conflict" is so rare is that it wasn’t released at retail in a traditional manner. Instead, the game was exclusive to Blockbuster and was only available to rent from the stores rather than bought. The downside to this is the publisher manufactured far fewer cartridges than it ever would if the game was going to be sold. The price of the game demonstrates just how rare it is, with loose copies commanding figures of $1,000 and sealed units reaching heights of $8,000 or more.
Exertainment Mountain Bike Rally/Speed Racer
This ultra-rare cartridge is actually a double collection that combines two games together into one package. The first is "Mountain Bike Rally," a cycling simulation game that could be played with a peripheral developed by Life Fitness to make the gameplay more realistic. Known as "Cannondale Cup" in the U.S., the two versions feature the same gameplay but different names for the competitors and stages. As a rather unique experience, it drew praise from the majority of critics at the time.
Meanwhile, the second game in the bundle is "Speed Racer." This is a car racing game where the goal is to win a Grand Prix in each location. Based on the Japanese anime of the same name, it received a mixed reception.
The rarity of this double pack comes from the fact that it is not even clear that it ever made it to retail, with many copies coming directly from Nintendo’s own warehouse facilities. For those wanting to grab it, a loose cartridge will cost in the region of $1,300, with sealed copies reaching highs of $16,000.
Mortal Kombat II [Not for Resale]
A sequel to the highly acclaimed fighting game, "Mortal Kombat II" began life as an arcade game before being ported to a wide variety of other platforms. The SNES version is often considered to be the best home console release of the game and it sold well thanks, in part, to the fact that Nintendo did not enforce strict censorship as it did with its predecessor. Featuring many of the same characters as the first game, "Mortal Kombat II" continued the story in a variety of new locations and also introduced new fatalities and fighters. Selling millions of copies around the world, many people view it as not only one of the best fighting games in history but also one of the best games ever released.
Obviously, the base version of this game is not rare at all. In fact, it is incredibly easy to find copies of it for just a few dollars. However, a special "Not for Resale" edition has become a huge collector’s item. This game may not reach the heights of many other games but that is simply because it can’t come in a sealed box because it was meant to be sent to retailers as a promotional item to give customers the chance to see the game in action before buying it. Still, the loose cartridge can sell for more than $1,300.
M.A.C.S. Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator
"M.A.C.S. Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator" is something of a standout in terms of SNES games as this was neither a retail release, a competition cartridge, or a promotional copy. Instead, it was developed directly for the United States Army. According to SNES Central, the purpose of the game, which used a light gun designed to look like an M16 rifle, was to help train soldiers in shooting in a simple and cheap manner. Developed by Sculptured Software, users would be rated at the end of each level to determine how accurate they were during the round.
There has never been any official information to determine how many copies of "M.A.C.S. Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator" were produced, although it is likely to be a small number and possibly just in the hundreds. The cartridges that have appeared for sale have all been loose and feature no artwork but instead, have a white sticker detailing the game title and version number. Expect to pay upwards of $3,500 to grab a copy of this rare SNES game.
Donkey Kong Country Competition
"Donkey Kong Country Competition" is another SNES cartridge that wasn’t released to retail and was exclusive to Blockbuster. However, this particular game was not even meant to be rented by customers and was instead used for tournaments within the stores as part of the Blockbuster World Video Game Championships II. It includes a small number of levels from "Donkey Kong Country," with players trying to gain as many points as possible to climb the leaderboard.
Once the competition was over, some of the cartridges were given away in Nintendo Power to readers, while a few were also reportedly sold or given away to Blockbuster customers. With just 2,500 copies of the game created, it has become one of the rarest SNES games in existence and often costs a small fortune to get hold of. Complete copies of the competition cartridge have been known to sell for as much as $4,500.
Star Fox Super Weekend Competition
Very similar to the "Donkey Kong Country Competition" cartridge, this "Star Fox Super Weekend Competition" SNES game was never intended to be released to the public in the same way as standard games. It was manufactured and sent to Blockbuster for another gaming competition, with players competing to try and win the most points in select levels of the original "Star Fox" game.
Although this particular cartridge was never meant to be sold, copies did make it into the wild following the end of the Blockbuster competition. With fewer copies available than the "Donkey Kong Country" tournament competition, it is a rarer game and also one that doesn’t have any box or case. This obviously has an effect on the overall price of the game, as there are no complete editions available as is usually the case. Yet, the game can still attract prices in excess of $3,000 and some have even sold for upwards of $3,600 on eBay.
Nintendo Campus Challenge 1992
The rarest SNES games are all cartridges that were created specially for competitions or events. The "Nintendo Campus Challenge 1992" is another example of that, with Nintendo manufacturing cartridges that had three games on them. These included "Super Mario World," "F-Zero," and "Pilotwings," with only certain parts of each of those titles being available to play. Players would be awarded scores based on how quickly they could complete certain objectives within the three games.
Nintendo only created a very limited number of these special cartridges, which had a distinctive shape and size compared to standard SNES games. Sent to around 35 college campuses, they were mostly returned to the company upon completion of the tournament. Kotaku suggests that three of the "Nintendo Campus Challenge 1992" copies are still available, making them exceptionally rare. The only copy that is known to have been sold went for $4,000 in 2006 for the loose game without any packaging or manual.
Nintendo Powerfest 1994
Like the "Nintendo Campus Challenge 1992" cartridge or the "1990 World Championship," Nintendo created another game for a tournament it hosted in 1994. The "Nintendo Powerfest 1994" included three separate ROMs of SNES games, including "Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels," "Super Mario Kart," and "Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball." The goal for those taking part was to complete three tasks as fast as possible to score the most points.
Regional competitions took place outside of department stores around the United States, with those gaining the top scores invited to take part in the national contest. According to Engadget, only 32 copies of the game were produced and most were returned to Nintendo following the end of the tournament, with the company then destroying the cartridges to reuse the parts for other projects. Only two are known to exist, with one copy being bought in 2012 for $12,000 and then later sold the next year for $23,100.