Long the holy grail of many a collector, the Nintendo World Championships cart has been floating in the NES world's dreams for many a year. And now, the first few carts are finally beginning to fall into our hands!

There are a total of 116 NWC cartridges out there in circulation. Ninety grey carts were given to World Championships finalists, and twenty-six Zelda-style golden carts were given out in a Nintendo Power contest (25 second prizes and one grand prize, which also featured a trip to Nintendo HQ). This grey cart I've got here is ripped, unfortunately, but it would have a plain label with a line-drawn logo. Gold carts are even plainer, with a NWC decal for a label. Both have the dipswitch box cutout in the upper left. The correct setting - number 3 down, all the others up - gives the seven-minute game used for most of the championships.


The title screen
NWC 90 is the game cartridge used for the contests put on during the Nintendo World Championships USA tour in 1990. Thousands of kids played this cart in the video tournament, and some even have the prize T-shirts, college scholarships and cars to prove it. There were three age groups and three winners, one of which became a spokesman for Camerica a year later.

The game itself is a combination of three of Nintendo's most popular games at the time - Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer and Tetris. The contestant plays the games in order after finishing a certain objective in each game, and there is an overall time limit of six minutes. The ultimate object, of course, is to score as much as possible and beat the other three kids playing at the same time onstage.

Hit Start on the second controller to begin the game and you enter SMB. Get 50 coins and you move on to the Rad Racer section where your next object is to finish the first level as quickly as possible. Finally you get to Tetris, which you play until your
six minutes are up; this is the section where the big points are scored as scores in Tetris are multiplied by 25 for your final score.

Further hampering you in your quest for points are the screens in between games, which flash for 20 seconds and tell you (oh so helpfully) what game you're about to play.

The three games are the exact same as the regular home versions, with a couple of important exceptions for the contest: You have infinite lives in SMB, and infinite time in Rad Racer.

The only real contest "rule" was that all three games on the cart must be "played" in order to count for the contest; although most contestants played as normal and aimed to make their major scoring on the Tetris section, some smarter players (not to mention Howard Phillips) realized that better scores can be made by hanging out in Super Mario Bros., warping to 3-2 and using a turtle-stomp trick to get more points, barely making it to the Tetris section before time ran out.

The final score
Once your six minutes are up, your score from all three sections is multiplied and added up and the final score is given. The average player can get around 3-500,000 points easily enough, and indeed that was the average score among players during the NWC tour. People got higher scores using the above SMB trick, but in the end the champions were Tetris masters who shot straight to the final game and concentrated on hard scoring there. Current NWC players have gotten as much as 2.8 million points in time trials.

What are you chances of getting a cart like this? This cart was given to national NWC finalists and contest winners, and I doubt many have let go of their carts (and don't bother trying to track down the contest winners from Nintendo Power's list - it's been done). The above grey cartridge went for over $400 in private auction, and I can't see this price going anywhere but up in the future. As a hard-to-find cart, and as a piece of the NES's history and legacy in America, it's definitely unparalleled... and even now, it's not a bad scale to see how good you really are.

Thanks to Thomas for the pictures used here.