RetroVision – Are Retro Games Really Worth More Today?

Talk to any retro gaming collector like myself, and they’ll more than likely tell you the same thing, namely that it’s expensive. Or at least it’s more expensive than if you’d have bought them back in the 80’s and 90’s. In fact, many gamers will still to this day purchase a game on release, simply because they believe it’ll be worth something in years to come.

In fact, I’m just as guilty of this as any gamer. For example, take my Wii U collection where I have now bought a copy of each and every Nintendo game, because just like the GameCube, I don’t fancy paying a higher price and fighting for these games at a later date. However despite this belief, do the value of our consoles and games actually go up in price as time goes on?

Now the main reason I pose this question, is because we are all forgetting one vital thing, inflation. Yes that price tag on some of the most loved consoles of all time may have gone up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re worth more. As such, in order to investigate this further, I’ve updated all of the major 8 and 16-bit console and game prices taking into account the rate of inflation.

Now, before we get into what is some quite astonishing reading, their are a few things I want to clarify. Firstly for ease of understanding I have based all of these calculations on the United States market and the Dollar. What’s more, I’ve also taken an average cost when it comes the the price of each console’s games. Again this was for ease of understanding, as whilst some games were very expensive, the rate of inflation was exactly the same.

Console Cost Inflation

Nevertheless, what do the numbers tell us? Well one thing is certainly clear, gaming was a hell of a lot more expensive back in the 80s, unless you’re looking at the Game Boy. For example, a brand new PlayStation 4 is actually cheaper than a brand new NES was back in 1984. Hell, the same was also true of the Mega CD, which much like the upcoming PSVR, still requires the SEGA Genesis.

Moving onto the 16-bit era though, and you can see that consoles had actually come down in price making them slightly cheaper than the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Although what this does mean, is that in comparison to the average second hand price, it’s certainly cheaper to buy your classic console today than it was back in the 80s and 90s, albeit second hand.

Game Cost Inflation

On top of this, the same is also true when it comes to the games. With average prices topping $100 when inflation is taken into account, it’s easy to see how much more accessible gaming has become over the last 30 years. What’s more, just like with the consoles, it also shows that most retro games are still cheaper to buy second hand today than they would have been back at launch.

Of course, there will always be anomalies. These include those games that become extremely rare such as Earthbound, or limited quantity collector’s editions. As such, regardless of the cost, there are some games that you’d be wise to grab on launch, mainly because you won’t be able to get them easily in the future, no matter the price.

Neo Geo & Games
Just a single game for the Neo Geo could cost as much as the price of the average 16-bit console.

There is one other life lesson to come from this investigation though, and that is no matter how much you thought the Neo Geo was a good investment, it really wasn’t. Yes, the console brought the true power of the Arcade to the small screen, and yes it was a magnificent console, but was it worth $1,131.57? Well it certainly wasn’t in comparison to how much it’ll cost you today. What’s more, at a staggering $348.16 for a game back in the 90s, you could actually grab a SNES or Genesis for that price, whether inflation is taken into account or not.

So all in all, what does this tell us? Well in my opinion, what this tells us is that it’s never too late to get into collecting retro consoles and cartridges. Yes one or two games may cost you more than their original MSRP, but generally you’ll more than likely be paying less for a second hand copy of Castlevania or Punch-Out!! than you would have back in the mid 80s.

Ultimately, there’s never been a better time to get into collecting, and more importantly playing, retro games. Especially as whilst the price may have changed, the quality certainly hasn’t.

Sophia Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that she's written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DivaXChill or @RingsandCoins.

One thought on “RetroVision – Are Retro Games Really Worth More Today?

  • 04/04/2016 at 20:10

    Interesting numbers. I’ve always thought that in retrospect, gaming back in the day was expensive. Good to see the evidence to back that up.
    Not to mention that many of the old school games that you may end up paying more for are well established.
    Am I going to pay £50 for a copy of the new Teenage Turtles game that has been announced on PS4? Probably not because it may be awful.
    But I’d easily drop £50 for a copy of Zelda III.


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