Sealed Super Mario 64 Game Sells For Record-Breaking $1.5 Million 

Even though Super Mario 64 is not one of the rarest or oldest video games on the market, it does hold a certain level of icon status. So much so that a factory-sealed copy of the 1996 Super Mario 64 game recently sold for $1.5 million at an auction over the weekend. While vintage video game collecting has certainly been on the rise in recent years, this marks the highest amount of money paid for a single video game in auction history. 

The factory-sealed copy received a condition grading of 9.8 out of 10, which means the game was practically undamaged. In total, it sold for $1,560,000 at the Heritage Auctions House, breaking the record for highest-selling video game at an auction. 

Embed from Getty Images

Again, Super Mario 64 is not that rare when compared to other vintage video games that have sold for high prices in the past, however, experts claim that collectors are more focused on getting their hands on collectables, rather than the rarest game or piece of memorabilia. 

Editorial director at Digital Eclipse, Chris Hohler, recently discussed this auction and the overall rise in vintage video game/science fiction collection.

“Well, I figured the first million dollar game was imminent, but I didn’t think it was gonna be today…or Super Mario 64.”

Video game rarity has many different forms in the eyes of a collector. Super Mario 64, for example, sold close to 12 million copies when it first dropped, however, the packaging was extremely prone to damage. So a pristine copy of the game in its original packaging is almost unheard of, hence its rarity and high price. 

“There are discussions of how many first-print sealed Mario 64’s may exist, but no matter what the number is, there are certainly only a tiny fraction with a 9.8 rating,” Deniz Kahn, the CEO of Wata Games, which rated this particular copy of Mario 64, said in a statement

Embed from Getty Images

“We often receive factory ‘case-packs’ of N64 games where all six copies included have not been circulated. Even in these undistributed ‘case-fresh’ copies, most often the results end up with two or fewer 9.8s, and oftentimes none.”

Experts still think the $1.5 million price point is almost unheard of. Heritage Auctions recently sold a multitude of other vintage video games, all with a quality rating of 9 or above, and the highest that someone paid for them was $38,000.  Preservationist and director of the Video Game History Foundation, Frank Cifaldi, explained in a statement that the game sold barely hit five figures outside of Heritage: “I 100% agree it being a 9.8 puts it at a completely different level but a sudden jump from $30k to $1.5M feels wrong.”

“In other spaces such as Comics, Coins, or sports cards, the difference between the second highest grade and the highest grade can be a 2x+ multiple in value and sometimes much more,” Kahn explained. 

“Attaining the finest known example from a condition standpoint drives a certain type of collector’s behavior, specifically the collector who wants the absolute best.”

“All that being said, this price is still shocking but shows the level of emotion involved in how prices are realized in an auction scenario,” he said. “This was a case of several collectors, at least two, who fit the profile of wanting the absolute best of an iconic relic of pop culture that exists. This is the economics of a collectible market at play, and we get to see some incredible things happen,” Kahn said.

Super Mario

Super Mario 64 Land Reimagines a 23-year-old Classic

Millennials who grew up playing video games likely have fond memories of their favorite classics from the 90’s, particularly the groundbreaking and wildly successful early 3D titles such as Super Mario 64. This nostalgia is so widespread that it’s led enterprising fans to create their own reimaginings of classic games, using emulators and clever programming tricks to modify the original code. These fan-made projects have become so ambitious in scope that they can rival and even exceed the quality of the games they’re based on, replacing nearly every element of the original titles with custom content. This is perhaps best exemplified by the recent Super Mario 64 Land, a total conversion mod of Super Mario 64 that introduces unique art, level design, and gameplay mechanics to the game engine of the celebrated Nintendo 64 launch title.

Embed from Getty Images

Despite legal challenges from Nintendo concerning the redistribution of their intellectual property, the emulation and modding community for classic Nintendo platforms including the Nintendo 64 has perhaps never been more active, as talented programmers and artists donate their time to create free, fan-made works inspired by their favorite titles. Due to its status as a best-selling classic and the litany of modding tools that have been developed for the title, Super Mario 64, released in 1996 to widespread critical acclaim, is the most popular N64 game to modify. Many of these mods exhibit impressive feats of programming and reverse-engineering, as in the cases of a mod that adds a 24-person online multiplayer feature to the game, a mod that lets you play the entire game from a first-person perspective, and even a custom level editor inspired by the recent Nintendo hits Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Maker 2.

The more inventive and creative mods, however, are those that replace existing game content with custom assets, including levels, character models, gameplay features, and music, to create an entirely new experience. Many such total conversion mods have been released over the past several years, including the popular Super Mario Star Road, released in 2011, and the cleverly-themed Super Mario 64: Halloween Edition. But the most recent release, created by a developer with years of experience creating custom content for Super Mario 64, aims to replicate the style and level of polish Nintendo is known for, and draws inspiration from the celebrated 3DS title Super Mario 3D Land. 

Super Mario 64 Land is, of course, of dubious legality, as the mod directly incorporates and redistributes Nintendo’s intellectual property

Super Mario 64 is not the only classic Nintendo title that has received attention from the modding community. Ocarina of Time: Four Swords Arena Edition allows you to play the critically-acclaimed N64 Zelda title with three friends, and another mod adds custom stages to the classic fighting game Super Smash Brothers. Perhaps the most impressive fan-made Nintendo project from recent years was the remake called AM2R, a total re-imagining of the Game Boy title Metroid II: Return of Samus for PC. While the developer was ultimately forced to remove access to the fangame by Nintendo’s legal team, the project ultimately allowed the developer to teach himself game design and programming, leading him to be hired by a professional game studio.

Embed from Getty Images

Super Mario 64 Land is, of course, of dubious legality, as the mod directly incorporates and redistributes Nintendo’s intellectual property, borrowing concepts from newer Mario titles such as their power ups and enemies. The Japanese company is notorious for issuing takedown notices to developers who modify their games, who generally capitulate to the entertainment giant by deleting links to their creations under threat of legal action. As such, the future availability of Super Mario 64 Land on the internet is uncertain, so if you’re interested in playing it, it’s a good idea to download the mod to your computer ASAP. Links to the mod, which is free but requires a ROM image of Super Mario 64 and a Nintendo 64 emulator, can be found in the description for the mod’s YouTube trailer