Update Nov. 29, 2016: If you’re still waiting for the NES Classic price on the secondary market to go down, and haven’t followed our handy guide from below on other ways to play those games, ThinkGeek will soon have NES Classic systems in stock.
In the meantime, they let us know that they are giving away five units as part of a sweepstakes on their site. The content runs now through December 13. ThinkGeek guarantees winners will have the system in time for the holidays.
To enter, you simply need to provide your name and email address here. You can also earn additional entries by becoming a temporary shill for the company and interacting with their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.
The original story follows:
Considering spending hundreds of dollars on an NES Classic Console? You may want to consider history first. This is hardly the first time Nintendo has had hard to find products. Remember scouring every big box retailer and online shop to find a Wii? But the most recent example to take into consideration is amiibo, Nintendo’s toys-to-life figures.
The $100 amiibo
When they launched alongside Super Smash Bros. For Wii U, amiibo were the hottest things on the market. Fans were energized by the release of Smash Bros. and wanted to own the full set of dozens of amiibo. Just like with the NES Classic, demand was super high for amiibo -- and just like with the NES Classic, they sold out everywhere in late 2014.
Some amiibo were plentiful, as Nintendo seemed to overestimate demand for Mario, Pikachu, and select others. However, characters like Marth, Villager, and Wii Fit Trainer were nowhere to be seen. For months, each of their figures (MSRP $13) would cost as much as $100 on eBay.
Obviously, Nintendo underestimated demand on those amiibo, but only really in North America. Japan and Europe had all the Marths they could handle, with clever entrepreneurs exporting the figures at a high price to US residents. And this continued with each new wave of figures -- some amiibo would be everywhere and some were going for $80 online.
Play The Waiting Game
Eventually, Nintendo got its amiibo problem sorted out. By the end of 2015 amiibo were everywhere. Some were so plentiful that there were honestly too many of sets like Animal Crossing's, and they were marked down considerably. Meanwhile, the collectors sitting on a mountain of valuable amiibo are now left with many figures that are below market value.
The lesson? Nintendo will ultimately catch up to demand if you can wait. Sure, your itch to play a mini Nintendo Entertainment System might be massive at the moment, but what about in, say, two months? Will you see a mini NES on the shelf and regret that $500 you spent to have it right now? Many amiibo collectors were weighed down by similar financial regret.
There's Are Better Ways to Play With Power
At $60 the NES Classic is a phenomenal deal. If you can't wait for the price of the NES Classic to return to normal for some reason, spending a few hundred dollars on the secondary market isn't the way to go. But for the same few hundred dollars, you can get access to all of these games, plus a whole lot more. Here are a few ways how:
The Wii Virtual Console Method - $175
All but one of the games (Dr. Mario) is available via the Wii Virtual Console for $5 each. So for $145 you can get 29 of the 30 NES Classic games. Used Wii systems are a dime a dozen, and run $30 on the secondary market. $175 will get everything available on the NES Classic, plus a whole game system that also plays more modern Nintendo classics such as Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Mario Kart Wii, and more. The Wii also plays GameCube games, which leads to the next workaround...
The Wii Virtual Console + Animal Crossing Method - $170
The original Animal Crossing for the GameCube came with several classic NES games you could collect and play in the comfort of your virtual home. Three of these games (Balloon Fight, Donkey Kong, and Excitebike) are available from Redd, Nook's lottery, or buried throughout your village. You can nab a copy of Punch-Out!! by redeeming a promo code that's just a Google search away.
Used copies of Animal Crossing run around $15. So the total cost of buying a used Wii with the Virtual Console games and the Animal Crossing versions comes to $170. In addition to saving $5 over the previous method, you also get one of the most charming games ever made.
The 2DS / 3DS Method - $170 to $210
The 2Ds and 3DS also have Virtual Console versions of 22 of the 30 NES Classic games. So for between $170 and $210 you can get most of the games as well as a handheld system with tons of modern classics (including these 10). Why deal with a 3-foot NES Classic controller cable when you can take these games on the go?
The Wii U Virtual Console Method - $300
OK, at $300 for the price of the games and console, this is the most expensive alternative method of getting your hands on all the NES Classic games, but with good reason. The Wii U is only a few years old, but in that time has amassed an impressive library of first-party Nintendo titles. Settling for an NES Classic for $300 instead of a Wii U seems silly when you consider that for the same price you can have access to games like Super Mario 3D World, Splatoon, Bayonetta 2, and Pikmin 3.
You could always save yourself some money by choosing one of the above methods and only buying the Virtual Console games you actually want to play. (Ice Climbers may not hold up like you remember it.) Then again, that tiny NES is just so adorable. *Checks wallet for $400*
Note: A version of this article originally ran Nov. 19, 2016.