The Atari 2600, released in September 1977, was the first console to popularize the use of microprocessor-based hardware and ROM cartridges. It was far more popular than the first machine to achieve this design, the Fairfield Channel F. They were among the first home video game systems and were capable of playing classic games like Pac-Man and Combat. The nostalgic vibe of the Atari 2600 has led them to be very popular among collectors, particularly those who are interested in vintage video game systems or 1970s artifacts.
Though the systems themselves don’t usually fetch too high of a price, the limited nature of some of the games released about 40 years ago means there are some expensive collector’s items available on the market. These antique video game cartridges can fetch thousands of dollars and represent some of the rarest bits of code in the world. Regardless of whether the gameplay was good or not, when there are very few copies of a game, it goes up in price. If you want to know more about these high-end collector video games, check out this article about the Ten Most Expensive Atari Games of All Time.
Out of Control – Price: $1400 (New in box)
This game was a space racing game from Avalon Hill. It was not super popular and had a small run. However, it was a pretty decent game that tasked the player with passing “Space Buoys” in a particular sequence. The goal of the game was to complete the course as fast as possible. The low number of available copies has driven up the price, leading a mint condition sealed copy to fetch over a thousand dollars.
Cakewalk – Price: $1500 (New)
This game was the most limited release from a very small company. The game was sold pretty much exclusively in the Midwest, and in very few stores. It was also pulled from the shelves after Commavid folded. Thus, it is incredibly rare. The gameplay is similar to the game Tapper on the surface but is markedly different. It tasks the player with keeping cakes from falling off of conveyor belts.
River Patrol – Price: $1535 (New)
This rare game puts the player in control of a river patrol ship. You must save people who fell into the river while avoiding boulders, floating logs, and crocodiles. Touching any of those will cause the ship to sink, as will running out of time. The original game was released as an arcade cabinet but was ported to Atari 2600 in 1984. The ported cartridge is incredibly rare, with as little as six copies still in existence today. It is notable for being among the first Atari games to offer music.
Eli’s Ladder – Price: $1600 (New)
Eli’s Ladder is an educational game that was intended to be played by children. It tasks the player with math problems. Solving them assists the main character Eli and his crew in climbing a ladder. When the player reaches the top, they are able to journey to the moon. It wasn’t super popular – video games as an educational tool was not widely accepted at this time. This had the side effect of making it very rare and thus, valuable.
Star Wars Ewok Adventure Prototype – Price: $1680
Only a single copy of this game is known to exist, and it first turned up when a collector was given the game by a friend. The friend’s father worked at Parker Brothers, where the game was made, but never released due to licensing concerns. It allowed you to take control of an Ewok glider, and tasked you with destroying a shield generator bunker. This could be done in a couple of ways, including with an AT-ST or a Speeder Bike.
Malagai – Price: $2150
This piece of software came from relatively unknown developer Answer Software. It did not have a high production run or an efficient chain of distribution. This means that surviving copies fetch a high price from collectors. This game put you in control of a starship commander who needs to catch creatures in a specific order to open up airlocks. You are only allowed a limited time out of your room. This is a great puzzle game – if you can afford it.
Condor Attack – Price: $2950 (New)
This rare game had a very limited production run from manufacturer Ultravision. It did not sell many copies due to being overshadowed by other, more-popular games. However, this game put you in control of a sophisticated weapon that you must use to fight a giant, prehistoric beast called the Condor. The ultra-rare cartridge that fetched the highest price was still sealed and new.
Pepsi Invaders – Price: $3500 (New)
This game was originally manufactured to be given as gifts to Coca-Cola executives at a convention in 1983. Only 125 copies of the game were ever made. Interestingly enough, this game was even burned onto a regular ROM chip. Pepsi Invaders is a direct hack of Space Invaders. The sprites that represent the enemy ship have just been changed to spell out ‘Pepsi’. Otherwise, gameplay is basically the same.
The Music Machine – Price: $5,250
The Music Machine is one of the hardest-to-obtain Atari games in the world. It was sold for a short time – and only in religious bookstores – and not many copies were sold. Thus, it fetches a very high price in the vintage game collector’s market. This game is based on a line of products that included LPs produced by the same company that made the game, known as Sparrow.
Red Sea Crossing – Price: $10,400
This game was not even known to exist until someone picked it up at a garage sale in 2007. The game itself is a religious one and was advertised in Christianity Today back in 1983. Few copies were ever sold – evidently – making Red Sea Crossing the rarest and most expensive Atari game ever created. It is based on the Biblical story of Noah. The only thing rarer would be if the original coloring book and audio cassette were found.