Video game collecting is a big deal these days. As the youth of the ’80s and ’90s approaches their 30s, many of us who grew up on the playground arguing between Sega and Nintendo are now grown-ass adults with jobs and expendable income. And so it goes that, much like the Gen-Xers who collected comic books and toys, we millenials are wasting our precious, hard-earned money by collecting ancient silicon chips ensconced in plastic cartridges. But video game collecting is an especially expensive hobby, and its popularity has skyrocketed the price of many games that were produced in very limited numbers.
However, a lot of those very expensive games are also complete shit! Here are 10 of the crappiest, most expensive video games of all time!
10) Cheetahmen II
This putrid ripoff of Battletoads and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got its start as one of 52 games released on an Action 52 cartridge. Any of you old enough to have subscribed to GamePro or Electronic Gaming Monthly in the early ’90s probably know what I’m talking about; a cartridge of 52 garbage games, completely unlicensed by Nintendo, that they sold through direct-order only for one-hundred dollars. The idea being, “WHY would you spend FIFTY DOLLARS for just ONE game?!? Wouldn’t you rather spend ONE-HUNDRED DOLLARS and get FIFTY-TWO games?!! That’s like getting FIFTY-ONE MORE GAMES for just double the price!!!”
Sure, the math checks out; because as we all know, the quantifiable “value” of a video game is strictly monetary, and has little or anything to do with objective “quality.” Hence this entire list.
The Action 52 games were all terrible, buggy crap – one of them being the titular Cheetahmen, an unplayable side-scrolling action game starring MSPaint furry DeviantArt avatars with body dysmorphia. Because these Action 52 cartridges weren’t licensed by Nintendo and never sold in stores, these days they are quite rare in and of themselves. This one sold for about 250 bucks about a month ago.
But the real money is on the unreleased Cheetahmen II: somewhat developed and never released, some 1,600 Cheetahmen II cartridges were found in an abandoned warehouse and sold away, piece by crappy piece. Copies of the game sold for a ludicrous amount of money – up to a cool grand or so – and so fascinated retro game collectors that in 2012 a Kickstarter campaign was started in order to produce a patched, “working” copy of the game. For whatever reason, most likely schadenfreude, the Kickstarter was a success.
Now, even the reprinted versions of the game still sell for about 400 bucks. Totally radical.
9) The Panesian Trilogy: Bubble Bath Babes, Peek-a-Boo Poker, and Hot Slots
While we’re on the subject of unlicensed Nintendo games, let’s get into the seedy world of 8-bit porn!
These games are a weird lot. Originally developed in Taiwan at the behest of a Japanese software collective known as Hacker International, they were essentially the work of bored otaku who were messing around with developing unlicensed games for the Japanese Famicom, the tools of which were made available by the enterprising work of Hacker International. (All of this, of course, without Nintendo’s consent; Nintendo took Hacker International to court, and they were forced to settle.) Then another company in Taiwan bought the rights to these 8-bit porno games, made them compatible with the American NES, and sold them via mail-order to those desperate enough to jerk it with the aid of blurry sprites that are supposed to look like boobs.
These games are exceptionally rare, especially in their original boxes; a loose copy of each game sets you back around 700 dollars, with a boxed copy costing you a cool grand. But be warned! There are a lot of “reproduction” carts floating around, which aren’t the real deal; if you feel the compulsion to spend a ton of money on antiquated spank material, make sure to track down the legit copies, which came on garishly oversized black cartridges.
8) Super 3D Noah’s Ark
As the legend goes, or so it was printed in the book Masters of Doom, John Carmack was incensed with Nintendo. He was furious that the port of Wolfenstein 3D to the Super Nintendo was a heavily censored mess; violent German shepherds were turned into mutated rats, every swastika became an ominous plus-sign, and, of course, there was zero Hitler. In revenge, Carmack gave the engine to his prized first-person shooter to Wisdom Tree, the software house that incensed Nintendo’s stringent policy of producing officially-licensed games by producing their own cartridges that worked around the Super Nintendo’s “Lockout chip.”
The truth of it is, Wisdom Tree actually just bought the software engine from id Software themselves, and Super 3D Noah’s Ark is not an ironically religious game to come forth from corporate spite. Nope! It’s just a crappy clone of Wolfenstein 3D where you play Noah and shoot animals with slingshots. To put them to “sleep.” Oh, and ostriches can open doors, and appear to shoot little pellets at you.
Much like the other unlicensed games, this one used to sell for several hundred dollars – until, out of the damn blue, Wisdom Tree announced last January that you could, via email, order a reprinted copy! Hooray!
Perhaps it was a strange tie-in to Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.
7) Vajra and Vajra 2 for LaserActive
When it comes to obscure ’90s videogame consoles, what sets the men apart from the boys is the Holy Grail of absurdly expensive and utterly useless multimedia systems; the Pioneer LaserActive.
The LaserActive was, essentially, just your garden-variety Laserdisc player, albeit one that cost 700 dollars. The difference being that you could then upgrade your LaserActive to purchase add-ons – called “PACs,” perhaps in a sly reference to the cost of the system being similar to the amount of money being donated to political campaigns – that would allow you to play Sega Genesis and/or Turbografx-16 games. There were even a few games that worked in conjunction with the LaserActive *and* these console add-ons; the most sought-after one of these is Vajra and its sequel.
Now then: what the hell is Vajra? It’s nothing more than a cardboard-thin on-rails shooter that uses the Laserdisc to superimpose incredibly crude, laughably-dated CGI backgrounds below a layer of crummy sprites rendered by the LaserActive’s Turbografx-16 add-on. It is barely a game, only slightly more interactive than other Laserdisc games like Dragon’s Lair. It is also, as befitting this list, bafflingly expensive.
Either of the games themselves cost well over 100 dollars. The sequel, Vajra 2, never officially made it out of Japan, so good luck finding a copy. The sequel also supported a 3D mode, utilizing then-cutting-edge shutter-based 3D glasses.
Let’s break this down by cost: Vajra and Vajra 2 both cost upwards of 100 to 200 dollars. Buying a working LaserActive system in 2014 costs a little over a grand. The Turbografx-16 “PAC” to make this game work is usually sold separately, at a cool cost of about 400 dollars or more. And, what the hell, let’s go nuts and also throw the 3D glasses in there – I’ve never seen one pair for sale publicly, but I’m going to assume they sell for several hundred dollars or more.
Roughly estimating things, you’ll be spending around $2,500, plus or minus your eternal soul for spending so much money on a pretty crummy on-rails shooter.
6) Radical Rex for Sega CD
Remember the ’90s? Remember Nicktoons and school and bicycles and crappy 2D platformers featuring characters with ‘tude desperate to ride the coattails of Sonic the Hedgehog, except these characters have all the personality of a wet fart? That is Radical Rex.
Radical Rex wasn’t exclusive to the Sega CD; in fact, if you’re desperate to relive mind-numbing video gaming mediocrity, there are much cheaper versions available for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. But the Sega CD version is exceptionally rare. It uses the extra storage capacity of the CD-ROM format to provide players with CD-quality audio, which includes this wonderful rap song.
According to this highly informative rap, Rex is “so rad, so rad” and he “kicks derriere.” This game will cost you over 100 dollars if it’s in the original box.
5) Spider-Man: Web of Fire
While we’re on the Sega tip, here’s a piece of licensed-gaming hell that was exclusive to Sega’s infamously disastrous 32X add-on for the Genesis. Spider-Man: Web of Fire was the final game released for the 32X before Sega threw up their hands in desperation, wondering why nobody was eager to spend 150 bucks to make their Genesis look like a mutated monster that used up more power than a Hadron Collider.
Web of Fire is terrible in ways that all shitty licensed games are terrible. The controls are floaty and unresponsive, the graphics look like a 1995 SGI Workstation went through a garden mulcher, and it’s buggy as hell. Except the developers took the extra step of shittiness, delivering to the moribund 32X a game that was obviously unfinished. Not only does Web of Fire suck, it’s also incredibly short, and poking around in the games’ code shows that there were more than a few levels and bosses that were scrapped in favor of shitting out one last cartridge for Sega’s Failure Machine.
Because the game sucked and was the last game made for a system that sucked and nobody wanted, Web of Fire was rumored to have a very low print-run of about 1,500 units or so. Whenever a copy pops up on eBay, they sell for over 200 bucks. Have fun!
4) Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties and Super Models Go Wild
This entry combines several defining elements of this article thus far – unlicensed pseudo-pornography, crappy FMV-type games, and absurdly expensive “multimedia” systems that were rendered almost instantly obsolete by the Sony Playstation!
These two hardly-interactive “adult” “games” were developed for the 3DO. You remember, that 700 dollar monstrosity whose ads promised such IMMENSE TECHNICAL INNOVATION that you’ll never have sex or masturbate until your death.
In any case, the 3DO was the home to a number of inane FMV games in the vein of Night Trap and others, but Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties and Super Models Go Wild really take the proverbial cake.
Ostensibly a way for 13-year olds to view nude woman-flesh on their expensive game systems donated by their grandparents’ trust fund, these games are supposed to be “adult-oriented” “entertainment” but fail in ways that even Bubble Bath Babes couldn’t accomplish. There’s nothing, *nothing* sexy about severely .JPEG-ed artifacts in the form of MPEG-1 video with horrible mid-90’s hair.
And speaking of masturbation, it would take the most devoted, boner-deprived man to derive any sort of sexual gratification from either of these games; Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties promotes itself as an “FMV Adventure,” but really, only the opening has any sort of FMV, while the rest of the game is nothing but still photographs of mid-’90s amateur models in various poses of unsexy fun. While Super Models Go Wild is about as titillating as a flickering light bulb.
Either way, these horrible non-game, non-sexy sex games will cost you over 100 bucks each.
3) Zelda’s Adventure and Zelda: The Faces of Evil
And speaking of awful multimedia systems! Just in case you missed your video game history books, in the early ’90s, Sony, who had devised the wonderful sound chip for the Super Nintendo, had made a deal with Nintendo to devise a CD-based add-on for the Super Nintendo called the “Play Station.” it seemed like a wonderfully symbiotic relationship; Nintendo could extend the life of their Super NES, while Sony could make their first foray into the lucrative console market. But things quickly went sour; once stingy Nintendo head honcho Hiroshi Yamauchi looked over the details of the contract, which dictated that Sony would receive a small pittance of the profits from each of the “Play Station” games sold, Yamauchi threw a fit and ordered his company to quickly backtrack on the deal. In secret, Nintendo was also meeting with Sony’s competitor Philips for the possibility of developing a CD-ROM add-on for the Super Nintendo. Neither of these machines made it to market, but Philips’ contract with Nintendo stuck, which meant that the fallout of these negotiations – the Philips CD-i – meant that Philips could access Nintendo’s library of Intellectual Property for some quick, dirty cash-ins.
Chief among them being the three awful Legend of Zelda games. Part of Nintendo’s contract with Philips was allowing them to access some of Nintendo’s deep library of Intellectual Property, so Philips outsourced three different (and yet equally terrible) Legend of Zelda games. The two rarest are Zelda’s Adventure, wherein Zelda herself stops the evil forces of Ganon, and Zelda: The Faces of Evil, which features Link in an awful 2D adventure with awful animation created by poorly-paid Russian animators attempting to create something as emotionally resonant as DiC’s Legend of Zelda TV series.
2) Ewok Adventures, the prototype
There are no shortage of abandoned prototypes for the Atari 2600, but one of them stands head-and-shoulders above the rest; Ewok Adventures.
By now everybody’s heard of the story about the E.T. the Extra Terrestrial game being so bad that they buried it in a landfill, but think about this: if the E.T. game actually made it to market, how bad are the games that never even made it past the prototype phase?
The answer is: pretty awful. Especially a game based upon a TV special that in itself is based upon one of the most annoying aspect of the Star Wars universe. Ewok Adventures was one of those games that was tested before a bunch of confused kids behind a one-sided mirror, all of whom probably found the game “crappy,” so Ewok Adventures was cancelled.
And yet, the game was leaked by one of the developers to the general public via eBay. A legit copy of the prototype is effectively priceless, since having access to such a rare piece of video game ephemera is difficult to quantify. And yet, I can say with utter certainty: this game sucks. Sucks about as much as the Ewok Adventures TV movies.
1) Speed Racer on Super Nintendo, With the Stupid Exercise Bike
Taking the cake out of all these crappy games is this, the Ark of the Covenant of shitty game collectors.This is the awful Speed Racer game for Super Nintendo that supported one of the most expensive and unnecessary peripherals ever devised for gaming: an exercise bike.
Yessir, this game made use of a fucking exercise bike to control the famous Mach 5 as it drove through throngs of badly-designed levels. This game will cost you almost over 3 thousand dollars.
Just something to think about the next time you consider a brand-new, 60-dollar game “too expensive.”
More from Brian Hanson:
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