The recent controversy surrounding EA and their insane monetization schemes in Battlefront 2 has drawn the battle lines once again with angry consumers and gamers on one side, while developers and gamers (but not THOSE kind of gamers) making impassioned pleas for understanding. Somehow, after years of feature creep (loaned heavily from exploitative pioneers like free-to-play mobile games and MMOs) the camel's back has broken now that you have to earn credits and craft cards just to play a Star Wars character in a dang ole' Star Wars game.



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But after reading so many pleas from industry professionals about the difficulty of financial sustainability, and so many tirades over the value of an individual's hard-earned $60 I began to wonder, "how much did the games of my childhood ACTUALLY cost?" So utilizing some old toy catalog scans, a currency inflation calculator, and random online databases, I did a cursory glance at some of the games my friends and I begged and pleaded for back in the day and the results were kind of surprising...




cartridge games





HERE'S SOME CAVEATS, PLEASE DO NOT GET TOO ANGRY:

  1. Back in this era, a retail cartridge game's price had as much to do with the cost of memory and microcontrollers as it did with actual development costs, so the move to optical media was a huge change in videogame profitability.


  2. The prices were grabbed from the same year as the games' releases, so these were cherry picked for maximum effect and not in any way a comprehensive survey.


  3. Not defending any major publisher and/or their cries of poverty (especially in an era where they are making record profits in the most explosively growing medium in human history). 




     

1. Battletoads for the Nintendo Entertainment System - 1991

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Immortalized in memes and Let's Plays, Rare's 8-bit beat-em-up was chock full of graphical tricks and varied gameplay that makes it a standout title in the NES library. With a massive marketing budget and a special AxROM chip in the cartridge gave it a hefty asking price, though depending on whether or not you could actually beat the jetski level, you'd at least have infinite hours of playtime before seeing the end screen.

 


2. Street Fighter II for Super Nintendo - 1992

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For some reason, arcade ports seemed to be the most expensive goods I could find, with Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat,  costing 10 dollars more than the average game at the time. Perhaps it was the companies covering potential losses, since every sale would cut into their (extremely lucrative) arcade business at the time. But for whatever reason, if you had either of these titles for your 16-bit system, now might be a good time to text your parents and see how they're doing.




3. Mortal Kombat for Super Nintendo - 1993

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Mortal Kombat was an extremely controversial and influential game that fundamentally changed the medium as we know it. The mix of gory violence and (at the time) "photo-realistic" graphics nearly brought the hammer of government censorship down on the entire industry (thanks in no small part to expensive lobbying efforts from Nintendo). While the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive version outsold the SNES version (with its comically palette swapped blood), the cleaner edition cost just as much.

 


4. Riven: The Sequel to Myst (PC) - 1997

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Let's not leave out the PC master race in all this, while most CD-ROM titles were priced competitively with their console counterparts, there were still some prestige releases that cost as much as a modern "digital deluxe season pass" homunculus. This title was a big deal at the time, with a massive staff and some of the lushest visuals ever seen before. 



 

5. Golden Axe for Sega Genesis - 1990

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Who would ever actually pay this much for a side scrolling SEGA beat-em-up? LOL.




6. Streets of Rage for Sega Genesis - 1991

streets of rage

YO FORGET THAT LAST PART THE MUSIC IN THIS ONE IS THE DOPEST THING EVER PRODUCED ON SILICON TRANSISTORS. WORTH EVERY PENNY. IT IS BY FAR THE BEST GAME ABOUT PUNCHING EVERY SINGLE CRIMINAL IN NEW YORK CITY.

 



7. Super Mario Bros. 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System - 1990

super mario bros 3

Arguably the best game of the 8-bit era, Super Mario Bros. 3 was brought to America on a tidal wave of hype with movie tie-ins, Happy Meal Toys, and animated shows frothing children into a frenzy. With the nation's parents held hostage and a beefy cartridge loaded with extra memory, Nintendo was free to charge an arm and a leg for this legendary entry in the series.

 

8. Shaq Fu for Super Nintendo - 1994

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This one was incredible to behold, and the fact that it was published by EA is icing on the cake. Just to set the scene, there was a funny thing that happened in sports games where individual players could sell exclusive rights to their likeness, thus ensuring that they would be cut out of competing games, this resulted in baseball games missing Ken Griffey Jr., or basketball games missing Michael Jordan. By far the most bizarre manifestation of these endorsements was when Shaquille O'Neal decided to make a lushly animated fighting game where he travels to another dimension to beat up a mummy. Universally panned, borderline unplayable, and significantly mishandled by the same French studio that had previously worked on art-house darlings like Flashback and Another World, it's bonkers to see that this game (which has been seen left in urinals at gaming conventions) cost significant bank.




Turns out, as the first generation of gamers has grown up, we're getting more invested now that it's not our PARENTS money is being wasted.