Nintendo delivered on its promise to fill the Wii’s Virtual Console with a plethora of retro games, and the publisher continued this on Wii U with such classics as Super Mario World, Super Metroid and most recently Earthbound.  Players no longer need a box filled with cartridges.  Instead they can download their favorites to a single device.

This is somewhat lost on collectors.  While higher resolution graphics and the convenience of playing F-Zero on a Wii U GamePad has its perks, longtime fans will always want the original console and games, Super Nintendo in particular.  Nintendo’s 16-bit console played host to scores of cherished titles, from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past to Donkey Kong Country and its sequels.  

That said, the SNES has seen a huge resurgence of late for a variety of reasons, perhaps the biggest of which are third party knock-off consoles people can buy on the cheap, including the portable SNES, otherwise known as the SupaBoy.  

Plenty of collectors want the genuine article. There’s only one problem: prices for the Super Nintendo system and its games have skyrocketed.  Although you can still get lucky at flea markets and yard sales (“This thing’s been collecting dust in my attic for years.  Take it.”), the sudden interest in all things SNES inspired sellers to list their collections for much higher prices.

Games like Star Fox, Super Mario World and Street Fighter II are affordable. Earthbound, on the other hand, commonly sells for $150, while something as insignificant as Final Fight 3 (yes, Capcom made a third one) goes for $50 and up. In fact, the same holds true for Chrono Trigger and Castlevania: Dracula X, the latter of which easily sells for $100.

Naturally, there are plenty of people hoping to cash in on eBay, and you should always remember there’s a huge difference between a person’s selling price and the amount you’re willing to pay. 

On that note, this Super Nintendo beginner’s guide will help you start/continue your collection in no time.

SNES Consoles- First Party

As much as we appreciate low cost alternatives, nothing beats owning the authentic Super Nintendo.  As it turns out, the company released two top-loading models in the U.S.  

Super Nintendo- 1991 Model

The first commonly sells in the range of $60-90 (used) by itself, depending on condition and whether it comes inside the original box and/or with the proper pack-in game; be it Super Mario World, Killer Instinct, etc.  With earlier models, the plastic had a tendency to turn yellowish over time, ruining the system’s signature gray.  The color may affect the price, though we strongly suggest holding out for a gray system. 

Examine the machine thoroughly around the controller ports and underneath. It’s somewhat of a pain (so many turned yellow), but as the cliché goes, patience is indeed a virtue. 

Super Nintendo- 1997 Model (AKA SNES Mini)

Nintendo eventually redesigned the machine, and the result was a more space friendly and cute system with sleek curves and the Power/Select buttons on the left. A used SNES Mini is a bit less expensive than its counterpart ($10 less), though it lacks the original vibe.  Still, it’s a first party Super Nintendo and reliable to boot.  Most importantly, the system wasn’t prone to turning yellow like its counterpart. 

Cheaper Alternatives- Third Party

You can also find third party systems that’ll do the job. If the concept of a portable SNES sounds appealing, the SupaBoy can be yours for around $80 or less.  There’s also the Retro-Bit Duo Twin and FC Twin Video Game System that sell for $44.99 on Amazon; they not only run SNES titles, but NES games as well. Just keep in mind that a small number of games may not work properly, and there’s no telling how long these systems will last quality wise.  

Super Nintendo Games

Here’s where things get crazy.  SNES game prices are all over the place, and with more people educating themselves, the odds of scoring a great deal are dwindling.   Sure, you can pick up a boxed copy of NBA Live 95 for a few bucks, but most sports games have little to no value.  Bottom line, you probably won’t run into someone who says, “Sure, take this copy of Turtles in Time off my hands. How does $3 sound?”

Quality SNES games usually start at $10 a piece without box and/or manual.  You can also forget about the protective plastic dust covers unless you specifically search for them.

Thankfully, there’s good news.  You can still grab plenty of quality games for less than $20 each, titles like Super Mario World, Killer Instinct and StarFox. Just consider the following questions:

-Am I OK with yellowish cartridges? Yes, a small number of the gray cartridges yellowed.  

-Taking this a step further, am I OK with smudges and/or damaged labels? Let’s face it, people abuse their games.

-Do I need to spend $150 on a copy of Earthbound or can I settle for the $9.99 Wii U version? Because sometimes, we all need to calm the heck down.

-How important is it to have first party Nintendo controllers? You can buy third party ones for $4.99-$9.99 and they work just as good.

-Do I just want the game? What about the box and manual, and what condition should those be in?

Finally, here are some tips to get you started.

-Start out small with relatively inexpensive games. As we said, you can still buy plenty of classics at decent prices.

-Wait until you get the product you want at the price you’re willing to pay.  

-Flea markets and garage sales are still your best bet.  They lack the instant gratification of buying online, but they represent the cheapest alternative. 

-Consider buying a bundle online. Sellers will often put up their SNES consoles and games in one shot, and you may get a great deal.

-Look up prices before buying anything to avoid getting ripped off.

-Make sure the SNES console comes with the necessary cables: Multi Out and AC Adapter.