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The Most Expensive Mario Game Isn't What You'd Expect

If you thought the first Mario game, Super Mario Bros. from 1985, was the best-selling and most valuable Mario game of all time, you'd be right. But you might be surprised by which version of the game outsold the others, and how much it sold for. Ultimately, it all comes down to one small hanging tab.


Regular copies of Super Mario Bros., and many Mario games, are not especially rare. After all, plenty of them were produced at a time when the market wasn't quite as fragmented as it is now: fan-collected stats say more than 40 million units were sold for Nintendo's original console.

If you check out PriceCharting.com, you'll see that people aren't necessarily selling their old copies of Super Mario Bros. for a lot of dough — you can get a used, open copy for under $20 on eBay, although prices do go up. Some versions will cost collectors much, much more.

Mint, in-box copies, cartridges in good condition, and rare variations of the original game for the NES remain coveted by collectors. Still, who would have thought one particular version of the game could be worth so much? Not only is this one cartridge the most valuable Mario game, it's actually the most valuable Nintendo game now.


Two copies have sold for over $100,000

In February 2019, a group of three buyers purchased an unopened, test market copy of Super Mario Bros. for $100,150. What made it so valuable? For one thing, this copy was not shrink-wrapped. This one was sealed with a glossy sticker.


Deniz Kahn of game-grading service Wata Games told Ars Technica that only 2,000-10,000 copies of 27 test market games were made with that sticker seal. Finding one intact narrows this copy of Super Mario Bros. down to one of just a few dozen in existence. Plus, this early copy was in perfect condition. You can definitely understand why this would be a rare find.

Another copy sold at Heritage Auctions in July 2020 for $114,000. Like the previous copy, it was in perfect condition. This game was also a specific edition of the U.S. version with a cardboard hangtab. Those hangtabs were used on test market copies, also before shrink-wrapping became the norm, and were eventually removed — but not before some were wrapped inside the plastic along with the game. Heritage Auctions explained that there were four sub-variants of hangtabs produced within a year, which means each was only in production for a few months. That makes these versions even rarer.


The 2020 buyer remains anonymous, but they own the most expensive Mario game in existence.