Why are NES Black Box games so collectible? A four-part series that reviews all 30 original Black Box games for NES. In part one, Brett Weiss introduces the Black Box games, and reviews six games in the series.

Why Are NES Black Box Games So Collectible?

If you follow our video game auctions on a regular basis, you know our bidders love NES “black box” games, which are early first-party titles for the system.

AUCTION PREVIEW: Check the schedule of Video Games auctions, preview the lots, and track items that interest you.

A big reason for this is that the Nintendo Entertainment System revived the home console industry in North America after The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. These classics were on the front line of the hobby’s big comeback. In short, they are historically important!

Another reason for the popularity of these games is sheer nostalgia. For many gamers too young to have experienced the Atari 2600 or Intellivision, it was their first experience playing video versions of such popular pastimes as baseball, golf, pinball, and tennis.

Why Are the Original NES Video Games Called Black Box?

Further, the boxes themselves are super cool. We love the uniformity of the black box design with the 8-bit style art. This was a huge departure from the elaborate paintings on so many games for the Atari 2600 and Intellivision. Both styles have merit, of course, but the black box games were strikingly original and stood out on the shelves when they made their debut. And they’re certainly fun to collect now!

What Were the Original NES Black Box Games?

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Among the 30 black box titles are some true gems, such as Donkey Kong, Duck Hunt, Popeye, Pro Wrestling, and a little game you may have heard of called Super Mario Bros.

How Many Variants of the NES Black Box Games Are There?

One interesting thing about the black box titles is the fact that they have so many variants, as many of you have likely noticed in our auction listings: hang tab, gloss seal, no code, 1 code, 2 code, first production, mid-production—the list goes on. These aspects are important to our bidders and consigners, but for this post—and the follow-up posts in this series over the next few weeks—I’m going to focus on the games themselves, not the variants. Because, after all, if these games weren’t beloved to begin with, collectors likely wouldn’t care nearly as much about the variants. Not all of these games have aged well, but the nostalgia is thick with all of them.

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NES Black Box Game Reviews

Without further ado, let’s begin our look at the 30 NES black box titles. I’ll start with six, then cover eight more in each of the three follow-up posts.

1. 10-Yard Fight

Viewed from overhead, 10-Yard Fight is based on the 1984 Taito arcade game, but here you can play on offense and defense (as opposed to just offense in the coin-op game). The quarterback appears in shotgun formation and can run, pass, or toss the ball to one of two running backs. Be careful as passes are easily intercepted. Shaking off would-be tacklers is a big part of the game. On defense, gamers control a single player (a safety, linebacker, or corner) that can pull off a flying tackle maneuver. Five difficulty levels are available, and there are no penalties. Tecmo Bowl is the go-to game for most NES gridiron fans, but there’s certainly plenty of nostalgia for 10-Yard Fight among many of our bidders.

10 yard fight game

How Much is NES 10-Yard Fight Worth?

Heritage Auctions has sold graded copies of the original NES 10-Yard Fight Game from  $114 to  $12,000. Browse 10-Yard Fight values from past sales.

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2. NES Baseball

Baseball lacks a season mode, but it does include stealing, hit-and-run plays, bunts, and tag-ups for a relatively realistic experience. The computer controls fielding, meaning the defense only has to worry about pitching and throwing the ball to the proper base. Batting and pitching require the simple press of a button, but the control pad can be used to vary the speed and direction of pitches, which include fast, regular, curve, slow, and screwball. You view the action from overhead, and when the ball is hit into the outfield, the camera draws back so you can see the entire field. I played a LOT of Odyssey 2 Baseball with my cousin Marti when I was a kid, and this NES launch title—despite its imperfections (it’s a bit sluggish, for example)—was certainly a nice step up from that relic.

nes baseball game

How Much is NES Baseball Worth?

In January 2022 Heritage Auctions sold a Wata-graded 9.6 copy NES Baseball (1985) for $144,000.00. (this won’t let me edit for some reason, but put “of” between “copy” and “NES”)

How to value your copy of NES Baseball

Read our guide: How to Value Rare and Collectible Video Games in 3 Easy Steps.

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3. Clu Clu Land

A fun, challenging, highly original take on the maze genre, Clu Clu Land has players guiding a cute, round, fish-like creature named Bubbles around a series of mazes marked with turn posts. The only way to make turns in each maze is by bouncing off walls or by hooking a hand around said posts. Each maze contains a pattern of hidden gold bars. When Bubbles passes above a hidden bar, it will appear onscreen. The objective is to uncover all the hidden gold bars (forming an outline of a picture, such as a face or a house) in order to progress to the next maze. Deadly sea urchins prowl the maze, but they can be warded off with electric shocks. Black holes, rubber traps, timers (for freezing the clock, the sea urchin, and the opposing player), and money sacks and fruit (for extra points) add to the fun. Make no mistake, this is anything but a Pac-Man clone.

How Much is a Sealed Clu Clu Land Worth?

Wata only has four sealed copies of Clu Clu Land listed on their March 2022 population report, and none are graded as high as this Clu Clu Land 9.4 A+ copy that sold for $156,000.00.

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4. Duck Hunt

This iconic game is a key title in the NES library. Not only was it a system launch title, but it was also a pack-in cartridge with the NES Deluxe Set. And it’s one of the most fondly remembered games for the console. Using a Nintendo Zapper gun, players take aim and fire away at flying ducks or clay pigeons, depending on the option selected. Backgrounds consist of storybook-style grass, hills, and trees—a simple aesthetic, but very pleasant to look at. A second player can use the control pad to guide the ducks vertically and horizontally, but, unfortunately, they can’t shoot the famously annoying dog, who laughs at the player. Fun fact: in the original 1984 arcade game, which is part of Nintendo’s Vs. series, the player can shoot the dog.

duck hunt game

AUCTION PREVIEW: Browse this auction for Duck Hunt – Wata 7.5 CIB [Gloss Sticker, Second Production], NES Nintendo 1985 USA

5. Excitebike

A favorite among many longtime NES fans (despite the exclusion of the bonus rounds from Nintendo’s 1984 arcade original), Excitebike is a side-scrolling motocross game in which players race their motorcycle against the clock over tracks containing hills, ramps, obstacles, and mud pits. Keys to success in the game include using the turbo button judiciously (without overheating the bike) and, during jumps (which are wildly enjoyable to execute), positioning the bike at the most effective angles for distance and smooth landings. A special Design Mode lets gamers create their own courses. Excitebike 64 followed on the Nintendo 64, and it’s also great.

excitebike game

AUCTION PREVIEW: Browse this auction for Excitebike – Wata 9.0 A Sealed [Gloss Sticker, Second Production], NES Nintendo 1985 USA

How Much is Excitebike Worth?

Heritage Auctions has sold Wata-graded sealed Excitebike games from $1,680.00 $960.00 to $43,200.00.

How much is your Excitebike worth?

Read our guide: How to Value Rare and Collectible Video Games in 3 Easy Steps.

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6. Golf

Golf serves up one well-designed 18-hole course and three enjoyable modes of play: 1-Player Stroke, 2-Player Stroke, and 2-Player Match. Gamers can choose their own clubs, alter their stance and the power of their swings (via a meter), and select the angle of impact on the ball for a straight, a slice, or a hook. If they time their shot properly when using a #1 wood, players can pull off a 306-yard super shot. Trees are out of bounds, and players should take into account water hazard placement (including rivers, ponds, and the ocean), the direction and velocity of the wind, and the condition of the putting greens. Overhead and behind-the-golfer viewpoints are included. We know a lot of gamers who don’t care for real golf, but love video golf, and this NES launch title certainly makes for an enjoyable afternoon at the virtual links.

nes golf game

AUCTION PREVIEWGolf – Wata 6.0 B+ Sealed [Rev-A, Round SOQ, Mid-Production], NES Nintendo 1985 USA. One of only twelve sealed copies!

How Much is a Sealed NES Golf Game Worth?

View actual past auction prices of NES Golf. How much is your sealed copy of Golf worth? Read our guide: How to Value Rare and Collectible Video Games in 3 Easy Steps.

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