18 years ago I met Shigeru Miyamoto.
If this happened today people would have started camping outside the week before, but in those days these things were not so common. In fact, Nintendo was so nervous nobody would turn up, that it recruited people to sit in the queue to make it look busier and left it open-ended about how many things attendees could bring to get signed.
I brought along ten games. These included copies of NES games The Legend of Zelda and The Legend of Zelda: Adventure of Link. I bought both of them at a car boot sale a few years before. They weren’t sealed, but they were in good condition with all the maps and booklets.
When we got there, it was clear (as it would be to anyone today) that Nintendo had significantly underestimated the popularity of its event. My friend Ian and I popped into Virgin Megastores three hours before Miyamoto was expected to arrive, and there was already a massive queue. So we joined it immediately. Nintendo had also changed the rules. You could now just get one item signed.
I obviously picked The Legend of Zelda and I asked Ian – who hadn’t brought along anything – to get Link’s Adventure signed. Four hours later, we had met the gaming icon and were clutching our signed games. However Ian, who had either forgotten what I said or didn’t hear me, picked Super Mario Sunshine to get signed instead. A game that had only been released a few months before (and I think cost me just over £30).
I remember feeling disappointed, but I shrugged it off. I couldn’t complain. Ian had willingly queued with me for four hours, and who else could say they got two things signed?
Over the years, my copy of The Legend of Zelda has been on constant display in my room. Super Mario Sunshine, however, has lived in the bookcase along with all the other GameCube games.
I’ve been thinking about my copy of The Legend of Zelda quite a bit lately, what with stories of Nintendo games going at auction for over $1m, which has seen the price of retro games increase across the board.
I am, like most in video games, extremely sceptical of these stories. Although I can fully understand why a rare Nintendo item might go for thousands of pounds, the idea of a copy of Mario 64 selling for over $1.5m feels ludicrous.
There were 11 million units of that game shipped worldwide. There’s almost certainly a box of sealed, unopened copies in a warehouse somewhere. If someone isn’t trying to artificially raise the price of retro games, then there’s a buyer somewhere who has been seriously ripped off.
“I am, like most in video games, extremely sceptical of these stories. Although I can fully understand why a rare Nintendo item might go for thousands of pounds, the idea of a copy of Mario 64 selling for over $1.5m feels ludicrous.”
I’ve looked into how much someone might buy my Zelda game for. It’s hard to tell. Real collectors, the ones with the deep pockets, value condition over who scribbled on it. My copy of Zelda is in good nick, but it’s been opened, the manual has a crease in it and there’s a bit of wear in one corner. It’s probably worth something, but I’m not about to start investing in football clubs.
In truth, I’m not very good at buying things with the idea of selling them one day. I bought Twilight Princess on GameCube six months after buying the Wii version, because I figured that version might prove hard-to-find one day.
I did the same with Metroid Prime Trilogy on Wii, and I never did trade in Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes for the same reason. All of those games go for more than I bought them for, but by tens of pounds, not hundreds or thousands.
And I would sell them. All of them. I love Twilight Princess, but I played the Wii version. I never enjoyed Metroid games back then (I’ve since changed my opinion, and I hope the Prime Trilogy does come to Switch), and I didn’t get past the first hour of Twin Snakes.
As for The Legend of Zelda… I’ve never even owned a NES. All of those games mean nothing to me on a personal level.
I do have another video game that’s gone up a bit since I bought it. Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the N64. It’s in great condition and I could comfortably get £300+ for that game. But here’s the kicker – I wouldn’t sell that one.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day means a lot to me. It’s aged poorly, and some of the humour is… problematic, to say the least. But 15-year-old me loved it. I started a fan website on the back of it, and my journey into games journalism can be traced back to there. I have countless memories of playing the game’s various multiplayer modes with my friends. I can quote you half the game, and the ending still hurts.
I’m not selling it. In fact, over the years I’ve amassed quite a Conker collection. I have the original plush toy, the original soundtrack, I saved up and bought that really expensive First4Figures statue, I’ve got a vinyl signed by the composer and I’ve even got unique items that almost nobody else owns.
I didn’t build that collection to sell (not that anyone is retiring on that). I built that collection because that game means a lot to me. The value of Conker – to me – will always be higher than my signed Zelda game.
That’s the thing with value. The actual cost of these goods are just a few quid, where the high prices come from is based on external factors – demand, rarity, the work that went into them, the people or person behind it, and so on. It’s all about perception, and therefore it’s all subjective.
“The actual cost of these goods are just a few quid, where the high prices come from is based on external factors – demand, rarity, the work that went into them, the people or person behind it, and so on. It’s all about perception, and therefore it’s all subjective.”
To me, Mario 64 is worth a lot of money. But not the one sold by Heritage Auctions to some chump for $1.5 million. But rather, the copy that sits in my drawer in my office, which I once sat on and had to tape one of the ends together.
I go back to that day when I met Miyamoto. I had never played The Legend of Zelda, but I had completed Super Mario Sunshine. It was one of my very favourite games at that time. Even today, despite the fact that everyone legitimately tells me how wrong I am, it ranks as one of my favourite Mario games. I even completed it again recently on Switch, and I still hold the same opinion.
I’ve come to the realisation that the game with Miyamoto’s scribble on it that is worth the most may be the Zelda one, but the one that’s worth the most to me is the Mario game. In hindsight, I’m grateful to Ian for not following my instructions. Super Mario Sunshine is now on display, where it should have been from the beginning, in a little cabinet besides my desk.
As millionaires fight over that old Nintendo game with a rare barcode, raising the prices and making it even less likely that I’ll ever be able to afford a Majora’s Mask Adventure Set or Panasonic Q, I’ve come to appreciate what really matters with my gaming collection.
It’s not about buying the things that will one day fund my future, but collecting the trinkets that represent the things I genuinely love.