Many gamers have heard of it, but only a select few can claim ownership of the highly coveted Nintendo World Championship 1990 competition cartridge. One such gamer, Ed Fleming, was on hand at the East Coast Video Game Expo to proudly display what is commonly known as the “Holy Grail of NES collecting.”
Fleming prominently displays the cartridge while promoting America’s Video Game Expo, which he founded. However, what may be the best part of the display for gamers is the chance to actually play the cart.
Used only in the Nintendo World Championship tour in 1990, the cartridge is a special challenge combination of Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer and Tetris. When a judge starts the competition with the second controller, gamers are then cued to get ready and prepare for about five minutes (depending on the dip switch setting) of high-pressure gaming.
While anyone can just play the games as intended, the addition of scoring as high as you possibly can in just a few minutes in multiple games adds quite an edge for gamers looking to test their mettle. Challenge one requires players to tally 50 coins as fast as they can in Super Mario Bros., then challenge two pits them against stage two of Rad Racer. Once the exhaust settles from Rad Racer, the competitor uses any time left over to score as high as they can in standard type-A Tetris.
Once the time is up, the game tallies your total score, which was used as the competition scores during the time of the 1990 tour. A total of 116 cartridges were printed during the tour – 90 were given away to the NWC finalists and 26 special gold-version cartridges were awarded as Nintendo Power prizes. Given the extremely limited print run, it’s no surprise the cart sells for thousands of dollars.
“On Ebay it currently goes for about $9,000,” said Fleming. “I’ve even been offered $9,000 today (at the East Coast Gaming Expo). It’s said in about 15 years the value will rise to about $100,000. It’s like the Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle rookie card for (video game) collectors.”
Fortunately for Fleming, his price tag was a lot lower – free.
“I received it from a friend who worked at Tengen at the time,” he said. “He was a finalist in the competition.”
Fleming told him about another competition in China which he could not attend and his friend gave him the cart. Even though Fleming keeps an eye on what value the game carries, money is no object to him.
“I always get offers,” he said, “but I just can’t sell it. I love this stuff. We go out (to events) and try to evangelize it and just let people know that it does exist. I hope when kids see this they get interested in collecting as well and it lets them know that someday they too could have something like this. It’s a great initiative to grow the industry.”