It’s looking increasingly like next-generation game prices will max out at $70 for a blockbuster AAA title. That’s a lot for a game, but at least you get to play it. Someone just spent $156,000 on a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES that they’ll probably never take out of the box. That makes it the most expensive video game ever sold at auction, surpassing a copy of the original Super Mario Bros. that sold for $114,000 a few months ago.
In the world of collectible video games, tiny variations in the packaging or printing can make all the difference. A sealed copy of widely available games like Super Mario Bros. might fetch a few hundred dollars today, but some copies have rare features like different seals, alternative box art, and integrated box hangers that were phased out for wide releases. If one of these rare copies is also in good shape, you’re no longer talking about a few hundred dollars; that game is worth tens of thousands at least.
This copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 ticks all the boxes. It’s one of only a few copies with an early box design that was tweaked early in the game’s life. The “Bros.” part of the title is off to the left on this box, overlapping partially with Mario’s hand. In later printings, that text was moved just right of center in an open area where it didn’t cover any part of Mario. You can see the “regular” box art below.
That change and the lack of a slight 3D effect to the font is all it takes to make this copy of the game incredibly valuable. Another game from this same printing run sold for $38,400 a few months ago. That’s impressive, sure, but it’s not a record. The other thing that affects the price of collectible games is the condition. The record-setting copy of SMB3 had a Wata 9.2 A quality rating, which means the packaging and seal were like new. The copy from earlier this year only had a 9.0 A rating, which is why it didn’t cross into six figures.
Heritage Auctions sold the game, having previously made news selling a few other record-setting video games. It opened bidding on the rare copy of SMB3 at $62,500. A total of 20 bidders tried to get their hands on the game (but not literally because it lives in a protective case). In the end, an unnamed buyer snagged it for $156,000. At this rate, it will probably only be a few months until another video game breaks this record.