Why are NES Black Box Games So Popular?

All 30 black box NES games get plenty of bidder interest in our auctions, but some on this list, such as Soccer and Stack-Up, are tough to find factory sealed. And don’t get us started on early production examples of Super Mario Bros.—there are far more collectors who want one than there are copies to go around!

Regardless, you can bet your bottom dollar that black box titles will continue to resonate with collectors and gamers for many years to come and perhaps indefinitely. And you can be equally sure we will continue offering the titles on a regular basis. Not only do they exude nostalgia and gaming history, but most of them are also fun to play. And they all look fantastic on display!

22. NES Slalom

One of just two skiing games for the NES (the other is Ski or Die), Slalom was the first console game developed by Rare, the company that would go on to create such popular titles as Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo and Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64. It was also the first NES title developed outside of Japan. The game eschews the distant viewpoint of most previous skiing games (such as Skiing for the Atari 2600 and Skiing for the Intellivision) in favor of a behind-the-skier perspective. You can ski down three different mountains, each containing several courses: Snowy Hill (beginner), Steep Peak (intermediate), and Mt. Nasty (expert). As you race down the slopes, you should dodge the trees, drone skiers, snowmen, and sledders you’ll encounter. There are flags on the courses as well. Missing these flags causes you to snowplow and slow down while hitting them will make you tumble but not fall. You should ski around the proper side of them to continue uninterrupted. To score bonus points, you can ski over moguls (bumps) in order to perform freestyle tricks. Winter is still a few weeks away, but it’s never too early to hit the snowy slopes in Slalom.

slalom

How much is a Slalom Wata 7.0 CIB [Hangtab, 2 Code, First Production] for NES Nintendo 1987 USA worth? Browse our Video Game auction archives.

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23. Soccer

Soccer is a slow, six-on-six version of the popular sport, played on a horizontally scrolling field that is viewed from an angled/overhead perspective. A number over the head indicates which soccer player you are controlling. You can dribble and pass, and when you are shooting for a goal, you can aim using an onscreen arrow. You can also control your goalie to make saves and switch control to the player closest to the ball in order to kick it away from an opponent. As you might suspect, this was the first soccer game for the NES, and it has a sufficient array of standard features, including kickoffs, throw-ins, corner kicks, penalty kicks (there’s a penalty kick session if a game ends in a tie), indirect free kicks (when the other team commits an offsides penalty), and a half-time show, complete with dancing cheerleaders. You can select from five difficulty levels, three game lengths, and seven international teams: Brazil, Germany, Spain, France, England, Japan, and The United States. Factory-sealed copies of this game are very hard to find. In fact, there are only two examples in Wata’s August 2022 pop report.

soccer game

Soccer – Wata 6.0 CIB [Matte Sticker, First Production], NES Nintendo 1985 USA. Make Offer to Owner of $330 or more.

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24. Stack-Up

One of two games designed specifically to work with Nintendo’s R.O.B. peripheral (the other being Gyromite), Stack-Up originally came packaged with five trays and five round colored blocks (red, white, blue, yellow, and green), but these days a complete copy is very hard to find. Fortunately, we are lucky enough to offer sealed copies from time to time. In this game, you use the control pad to guide Professor Hector as he jumps on top of the command keys depicted onscreen. This prompts the Robotic Operating Buddy to pick up and move the physical soft plastic blocks to five pedestals. The objective is to transport the blocks from a starting configuration to a final configuration. There are three modes of play. Direct has you trying to stack certain blocks in as few moves as possible. In the Memory game, you program R.O.B. so he will arrange blocks in a specific order. As you guide Hector in the Bingo option, two onscreen aliens called Flipper and Spike attempt to disrupt your commands as you try to move blocks from one location to another to complete a pattern. You receive a score at the end of each game, with bonuses awarded for how quickly you complete the puzzle.

STACK UP GAME

How much is a Stack-Up – VGA 80 NM Sealed [Matte Sticker, First Production], NES Nintendo 1985 USA worth? View actual auction prices.

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25. Super Mario Bros.

A perennial favorite among gamers and collectors, Super Mario Bros. did nothing less than invent what we know as the 2D side-scrolling platformer. Games like Pitfall! and Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle proceeded it, but those games, great as they are, were mere stepping stones toward the genre. As most of you reading this will know, players control Nintendo mascot Mario as he runs, jumps, swims, and otherwise makes his way through eight cartoon-like worlds of the Mushroom Kingdom. His goal, of course, is to rescue the daughter of the Mushroom King, Princess Toadstool (later known by her original Japanese name, Princess Peach).

The action in Super Mario Bros. is remarkably varied as Mario collects coins, grabs 1up mushrooms for extra lives, hops on enemies to defeat them, shatters bricks by jumping up into them to uncover secrets, goes down pipes to discover hidden areas, kicks turtle shells to knock down enemies, jumps higher via jumping boards, and warps to other worlds. He can also power up into special characters by grabbing one of three different items: magic mushroom (Super Mario, who can duck, shatter bricks, and take a hit from an enemy); fire flower (Fiery Mario, who can throw fireballs and take a hit from an enemy); and Starman (Invincible Mario, who can destroy enemies by simply touching them). In two-player (alternating) mode, the second gamer controls Mario’s brother, Luigi.

Numerous attributes made Super Mario Bros. stand out from all previous games, including gorgeous graphics, unparalleled freedom of movement (the NES d-pad was a nice upgrade over previous controllers), vast side-scrolling worlds filled with secrets and surprises, and a colorful assortment of quirky enemies, including the now-iconic Bullet Bill, Little Goomba (a mushroom), Koopa Troopa (a soldier of the Turtle Empire), The Hammer Brothers (twin turtles who throw hammers), Pirana plants, Lakitu (a turtle who controls the clouds), Cheep-Cheep (who swims and can sprout wings and flies), and, of course, Mario’s fire-spitting, princess-stealing arch-nemesis Bowser, who is the King of the Koopa. One of the best, most influential, most iconic video games of all time, Super Mario Bros. changed the home console industry forever and helped restore the U.S. market after The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. And it’s still a lot of fun to play today!

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Auction Preview: Super Mario Bros. – Wata 9.0 B Sealed [Oval SOQ R, Last Production], NES Nintendo 1985 USA

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26. Tennis

An NES launch title, Tennis was a nice upgrade from tennis games for previous consoles (such as the Atari 2600 and Intellivision), giving players a cartoonish, but relatively authentic version of the popular sport. Viewed from behind (and a little above) the end of the court, the game offers the basic rules of standard tennis and two game modes: Singles and Doubles. Types of hits you can perform include serve, smash, forehand, backhand, forehand volley, backhand volley, forehand lob, and backhand lob. The first to win six games wins the set while winning two out of three sets wins the match. The court is small, the players move quickly, and you can select your computer opponent’s skill level: beginner, intermediate, or champion. It’s cool that Mario sits perched atop the official’s chair, turning his head back and forth, calling the game via word balloons. It’s not so cool that the two-player mode is only co-op against the computer—you can’t challenge a human opponent. Regardless, collectors are always looking out for high-grade copies of this game.

TENNIS GAME

Make Offer to Owner of $1,800 or more. Tennis – Wata 7.0 CIB [Matte Sticker, First Production], NES Nintendo 1985 USA.

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27. Urban Champion

Originally released in the arcades by Nintendo in 1985 as Vs. Urban Champion, this game puts you in the role of a blue- or green-haired street brawler. Each character is capable of unleashing two fighting moves: a fast, soft punch and a slow, hard punch. They can block punches thrown to their body and face as well. The objective is to pummel the opposing fighter until his stamina reaches zero or he’s backed into a manhole. Citizens drop flower pots out of windows, so of course, you should dodge them. If a fight lasts too long, a patrol car will come along and take away whoever is losing the round, which is the fighter who has been pushed back farthest toward the edge of the playfield. Background graphics largely consist of generic-looking buildings, such as a bookstore, a snack bar, a barber shop, and a discount shop. Further in the background are skyscrapers with lighted windows. The NES has very few fighting games, and Urban Champion is an early entry in the genre, so this is an important title to be sure.

URBAN GAME

Browse or place your bid. Urban Champion – Wata 8.5 A Sealed [Rev-A Round SOQ, Last Production] (The Plattsburgh Collection), NES Nintendo 1986 USA.

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28. NES Volleyball

Featuring six-on-six action, this indoor volleyball game lets players compete as the men’s or women’s U.S. team (they only vary in appearance, not playability) against seven different countries: Russia, China, Cuba, Japan, Brazil, Korea, and Tunisia. The Training mode is for practice while the Game mode presents a tougher challenge. There is no tournament option. Players can block spikes, vary the strength and direction of serves, and set the ball high or low. They can also spike right or left, feint (put across a soft drop shot), and spike the ball hard enough to knock an opponent down. As in actual volleyball, to play the game well, you’ll want to get into the habit of bumping the ball, setting it, and then spiking it. Also authentic is that the ball can deflect off the net. The elevated view of the game is from the side, and the screen scrolls horizontally to show the entire court. Like a lot of black box titles, Volleyball is very hard to find factory sealed. We’ve only offered one sealed copy, and there are just five on Wata’s August 2022 pop report.

VOLLEYBALL

Make Offer to Owner of $510 or more. Volleyball – Wata 6.5 CIB [No Rev-A, Round SOQ], NES Nintendo 1987 USA

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29. NES Wild Gunman

Wild Gunman stands out as one of the relatively few video games set in the Old West. It’s a classic shootout as gamers arm themselves with the Zapper light gun and fire at characters on the screen. In the first mode of play, you face a single gunman, who draws his gun and says fire.” To honor the code of the Wild West, you must wait until the gunman draws before you fire your gun. The second mode is similar to the first, but with two onscreen gunmen, and you should only shoot the one that says “fire.” The third and final mode is similar to Hogan’s Alley, with you firing away at outlaws that pop up in windows and in the doorways of buildings. In this mode, you have 15 bullets and must beat 10 gunmen to clear a wave. It was inspired by Nintendo’s 1974 electromechanical arcade game of the same name, which was created by the legendary Gunpei Yokoi, the mastermind behind the Game Boy.

Browse or Bid Wild Gunman – Wata 9.0 B+ Sealed [Hangtab, 2 Code, Mid-Production] (The Hawaii Collection), NES Nintendo 1985 USA

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30. NES Wrecking Crew

An NES launch title, Wrecking Crew has you, as Mario, running and climbing in the interiors of buildings that are viewed from the side. Each level of the game is a vertical scrolling playfield outfitted with walls that can be destroyed with your hammer. When all the walls are destroyed, the level is complete. If you spend too much time on the same floor, a fireball will come flying out. If Mario walks to the end of one side of the screen, he’ll appear on the opposite side. As he works, Mario should avoid such enemies as Eggplant Man, Gotchawrench, and Foreman Spike who has a tendency to hit Mario from behind and make him fall. Mario can’t jump, but he can trap enemies. He can also use dynamite to open doors, escape to a lower area, and destroy several walls in a row. Mario typically dodges and traps enemies, but he can also use a whopper punch to attack an enemy on the other side of a wall. Since some platforms above Mario can’t be gone back to once he has dropped off of them, it’s easy for him to get trapped. It’s also easy to get stuck between drums, so you must think your way through each level strategically. A second player can join in as Luigi. The game features 100 puzzle-like screens, along with an edit mode where you can design (but not save) your own levels.

wrecking crew

Make Offer to Owner of $2,160 or more on Wrecking Crew – Wata 8.0 CIB [Matte Sticker, First Production], NES Nintendo 1985 USA.

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Thanks for journeying with us through our look at the legendary black box titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Please let us know in the comments what groupings of games for various consoles you’d like us to cover in future posts. And while you’re at it, feel free to check out all of the NES offerings and beyond in our upcoming signature sale—it’s never “game over” with Heritage Auctions!

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The world’s largest collectibles auctioneer, Heritage Auctions was founded in 1976. Early in 2019, they began auctioning video games, everything from Atari to Xbox. While most of the games the company sells are factory sealed and/or graded, they also offer group lots of ungraded games and consoles. Heritage hosts weekly “Mini-Boss” auctions as well as themed Showcase and high-end Signature sales. You can check them out at HA.com.