When one can't have everything, a strategy and some creativity are recommended...
NOTE: This article is subject to become outdated due to the burgeoning N64 collector's market, as of this article's initial uploading.
As our previous entries in the Buyer's Guide series, Hardware and Controllers, this part will line out the battlefield that is, the games market. There are several ways to go about collecting N64 games. Playability, collectability, popularity, obscurity, cheapest, most expensive, rarest... The possibilities to go one way exclusively, merge multiple paths and even go after all of 'em at once, are seemingly endless. However, like any good general knows, a battle cannot be won without strategy, and that's what is needed here. Not only can it be confusing to decide what end of the N64 game market to attack first, one also must keep in mind that as of this article's initial creation, the N64 market as a whole is on the verge of mass growth. The day will come when titles like Harvest Moon for $40 will be considered a bargain, sooner than one might think. This seemingly unrelated issue does in fact play a part in this article and one's strategy. It adds the question of whether to buy the pricier games now rather than later, among other things. Without further rambling though, let us start with the basics of the N64 game market.
NOTE: Just to clarify, all price examples are for loose, North American games, unless otherwise stated. No boxes or manuals are taken into account. Complete in Box games are usually very expensive and Japanese versions are typically less than their USA counterparts.
Surveying the Battlefield
When it comes to entering an unknown market, unless one wants to end up overpaying for everything, proper research and homework is necessary. The following sub-sections will go over the various groups and categories of the N64 games market. No, these aren't set in stone or decided by an official source, but even from a fan's perspective, there do exist things like "the populars" and "the rarities". It's very important to recognize these before building a strategy to begin buying N64 games.
NOTE: The following listed games are just examples. It would be rather pointless to list ever N64 game here, that's what a price guide is for.
Also known as The Moneymakers, games that congregate here are ones from well known franchises that any N64 beginners or returning veterans will most likely try to buy first. They almost always hold steady value, even as a market enters the collector age. Here's an example list:
- Banjo-Kazooie ($10 - $15)
- F-Zero X ($10 - $15)
- GoldenEye 007 ($12 - $17)
- Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time ($15 - $20)
- Mario Kart 64 ($15 - $20)
- Starfox 64 ($10 - $15)
- Super Mario 64 ($15 - $20)
- Super Smash Bros. ($20 - $30)
In a sort of indirect contrast to the "Expensive, but not Rare" category, comes the Obscure and the Underrated. Much like those inexplicably expensive titles, the games that propogate in the following list are also quite good in quality and availability, but for some weird reason they just don't hold much value. These games are:
- Rocket: Robot on Wheels ($13 - $16)
- Resident Evil 2 ($10 - $15)
- Gex 64: Enter the Gecko ($5 - $10)
- Bust-A-Move 2: Arcade Edition ($5 - $10)
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six ($3 - $6)
- 007: The World is Not Enough ($3 - $6)
- Lego Racers ($3 - $6)
- Toy Story 2 ($3 - $6)
- Tetrisphere ($3 - $6)
- Winback ($3 - $6)
The Expensive, but not Rare
Among many collectors, this section is sometimes jokingly referred to as "wannabe-rares". This term stems from the fact many uneducated people buying these sorts of games think they are rare... But they're not. They just hold value really well, even though they can be found easily enough, sometimes for less. It can be hard to gauge exactly why these games become expensive, but due to their usual rock-steadiness in the market, there exists this section.
- Worms: Armaggedeon ($40 - $60)
- Bomberman: The Second Attack ($40 - $60)
- Conker's Bad Fur Day ($35 - $45)
- Harvest Moon 64 ($25 - $50)
- Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Calibur ($25 - $40)
- Goemon's Great Adventure ($20 - $40)
- Snowboard Kids 2 ($20 - $30)
The Rare, but not Expensive
For one reason or another, unlike the rarities which end up commanding hundreds of rupees, there are games that slip from the "mainstream" retro market and stay in low prices. Like the underrated category, it's not well understood why this happens.
- Hydro Thunder ($15 - $30)
- Carmageddon 64 ($20 - $25)
- ClayFighter: 63 1/3 ($10 - $15)
- Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine ($15 - $25)
- Duck Dodgers Starring Daffy Duck ($15 - $25)
- Donald Duck: Goin' Quackers ($15 - $25)
- Batman Beyond ($15 - $20)
- Track and Field 2000 ($10 - $15)
- Scooby Doo: Classic Creep Capers ($5 - $10)
The Big Ones
In this category, reside games that for one reason or another, are currently in very short supply. Regardless of value, collectors will eventually all start hunting down these games, driving prices into the stratosphere and out of any casual gamer's hands. Most rare games aren't very good for playing, but on the N64, this is not the case. Several of the most rare can be considered quite good. Now, because there is a huge difference between cart only and CIB when it comes to rarities, both price estimates are being included per game in the following list:
- Clayfighter: Sculptor's Cut (Loose: $60 - $100) (Complete: $600 - $900)
- Stunt Racer 64 (Loose: $15 - $25) (Complete: $200 - $250)
- Transformers Beast Wars: Transmetals (Loose: $10 - $30) (Complete: $140 - $160)
- International Superstar Soccer 2000 (USA Version) (Loose: $40 - $60) (Complete: $100 - $150)
- Daikatana (Loose: $5 - $20) (Complete: $50 - $100)
- Super Bowling (Loose: $10 - $20) (Complete: $70 - $130)
Over in this often overlooked and underappreciated section of the N64 market, are games without a North American release. That leaves only two other major markets, Europe and Japan, as well as Australia which is an actual, individual N64 market. Not often does it get it's own specific releases, but in this case it does. The games that occupy this section consist of a mix of the previous market categories, but with the unifying theme of import. Notable games include:
- Bomberman 64 - "Arcade Edition" (JP: $50 - $70)
- Bakuretsu Muteki Bangai-O (JP: $30 - $40)
- Neon Genesis Evangelon (JP: $25 - $40)
- Custom Robo 2 (JP: $25 - $35)
- Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Earth (JP: $20 - $35)
- Rakuga Kids (EU: $10 - $20)
- Custom Robo (JP: $10 - $20)
- Doubutsu No Mori (JP: $5 - $10)
- Taz Express (EU: $5 - $10)
Charting a Course of Action
It may be one thing to know what the market's temperature is on games, but deciding how to attack the N64 library is another matter entirely. For some, the choice is simple. For others, like those reading this guide, don't really know which side to start from. There are actually many ways to go about it and there isn't really one perfect path. The shortest way to narrow down one's options is to ask oneself the following questions:
1) Are you a collector or a gamer?
2) Do you have time, or money, or both?
Yes, simple questions, but their answers can make all the difference. Below are various collecting suggestions based on those answers:
1A) I'm a collector with more money than time
In this situation, it's not a bad idea to go after the expensive rarities first while grabbing the occasional lower end titles.
1B) I'm a collector with more time than money
Build up some cash in reserve so you can catch deals when you can, buy in lots to build up your collection quickly early on. Remember, good things come to those who wait.
1C) I'm a collector with both time and money
If you wish to preserve your cash, go with the 1B method. If you're impatient, go with 1A.
2A) I'm a gamer with more money than time
Get all the popular games out of the way first, you'll get your money's worth better that way and start your collection with quality software.
2B) I'm a gamer with more time than money
Keep an eye out on new ebay listings and forums posts. There's deals out there; you just need to wait. Buying in lots and selling off the duplicates will also be useful to you.
2C) I'm a gamer with both time and money
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the N64 library. There's lots to play and technically every cart can be found on ebay. Having a local video game store will be a huge asset.
That about covers the basics of collecting for the N64. We hope this feature has given you enough starting information to get your foot in the N64 door. There's a whole world of great titles and hard-to-find rarities on the console, hopefully this article has given you the push to step into that world. Stay tuned for the next upcoming feature in the Buyer's Guide series.
Written by Aaron Wilcott
May 7 2012