NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There's a rumor going around that nobody's buying video games anymore. The truth is they're just not buying the new ones as much these days.

Sales of new video game hardware, software and accessories fell 24%, to $848 million, in September from $1.1 billion the same time a year earlier, according to NPD Group. That's 10 straight months of declines despite releases including

Electronic Arts'

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Madden NFL '13

and

Battlefield 3

and

2K Games'

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Borderlands 2

.

Sales of games alone, including computer games, fell 14%, to $547.3 million. Nobody's buying hardware such as

Microsoft's

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Xbox 360 or

Sony's

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PlayStation 3, which saw sales fall a whopping 39% last month. The gaming world is eagerly awaiting the release of

Nintendo

's Wii U console in November, but even that may not be enough to bring video games back to their pre-recession, pre-iPhone heights.

Even online gaming has taken a hit.

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blamed its slow revenue growth on users not playing as many games from FarmVille maker

Zynga

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as they used to. That downturn led Zynga to do away with 13 of its games and lay off 5% of its staff earlier this week.

Not that a small but well-funded niche of gamers cares. On full display at the Retro Gaming Expo in Portland, Ore., last month, the retro gaming community pores through bins of old Atari, Colecovision, Nintendo and Sega games searching for hidden gems and old childhood favorites. It pays more now for hard-to-find games such as

War of the Gems

or

X-Men: Children of the Atom

than it did when they were released.

It also still plugs away at vintage arcade machines such as Bally Midway's half video game/half pinball machine

Baby Pac-Man

or Atari's aging movie tie-in

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

. This mish-mash of late baby boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Y still loves these games and, thanks to their newfound adult income, still shells out to get their own copies.

With help from the folks at Denver-based vintage game dealership

J.J. Games

and its Price Charting blog, we've come up with 10 games still raking in the cash years after their initial release. Time will tell if old copies of

Guitar Hero

or

Just Dance

will do the same:

10. Atlantis II

Format:

Atari 2600

Highest price ever paid:

$5,000

It's not that hard to get a functioning Atari 2600 or any of the consoles or adapters that played its games. It's far more difficult to get your hands on this game, which was never sold commercially -- it was offered only as a prize to players who maxed out the high score on the original Atlantis shortly after its release in 1982.

Developer Imagic asked for players to send in photos of their high scores, but eventually grew tired of seeing America's youth blow through their prized product. They sent out

Atlantis II

to the kids with the best scores and defied them to do the same with this version, which had faster enemies. To save money, Imagic sent out game cartridges with the exact same casing and labels as the original. The only way to tell the difference is to turn on the game, look at the score font and clock the bad guys' speed. As one might imagine, this makes buying and selling the game a bit of a hassle, but given the cost involved, it's worth the legwork.

9. Mr. Boston Clean Sweep

Format:

Vectrex

Highest price ever paid:

$7,200

It takes a special kind of geek to shell out the value of a used car on an unpopular game sponsored by an unpopular liquor and played on an unpopular console.

The Vectrex was a "portable" game console introduced in 1982, just before the video game crash of 1983, that used a controller the size of a cable remote to play black-and-white games consisting mostly of opposing geometric shapes on a cathode-ray tube screen the size of a stack of iPads. It was crude, cumbersome and not much to look at, but defunct liquor company Mr. Boston saw fit to create custom versions of the game

Clean Sweep

with its logo on the front and the mascot's top hat replacing a vacuum as the game's main character.

Only about five of these games are known to exist today. The Vectrex, however, is much easier to find after its creators put the console and its software into the public domain in the mid-1990s. Anyone who buys a copy of this game will have no problem tracking down a homebrew version of Vectrex to play it on. We're just not sure why they'd want to.

8. Neo Turf Masters

Format:

SNK Neo Geo

Highest price ever paid:

$8,000

Again, if you want to sell to old-school game geeks, it pays to get esoteric.

The Neo-Geo was a high-powered, cartridge-based arcade game when it debuted in 1990. Its games, including

Fatal Fury

,

Metal Slug

and

Samurai Showdown

were fast, richly colored and far more dense than the 2-D games of its time. It was also a home console whose games were identical to the arcade versions and blew away competitors such as the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.

Unfortunately, its $400 to $650 price tag was prohibitive at best, while the $200 cost of each of its games was considered outlandish to folks paying $35 to $60 for SNES and Genesis games. Neo Turf Masters came along toward the end of the console's U.S. heyday in 1996 but has been a tough find in its console version for years. Gamers haven't exactly been denied a chance to play it, though, as a version was included in an SNK compilation for Sony's PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable and Nintendo's Wii, as well as in the Wii's Virtual Console.

The average player's not going to pay you a

Hyundai

Accent for this console game, but there are a bunch of retro game collectors out there who won't be as stingy.

7. Blockbuster World Video Game Championship II

Format:

Sega Genesis

Highest price ever paid:

$8,000

Hey, remember Blockbuster?

Time was, you'd go to the store with a $5 bill in your hand and come out with the game of your choice and a box of Mike and Ikes. Then you'd inevitably get charged $5 more when you couldn't beat the game in time and sneaked it back into the dropbox late.

Blockbuster loved this relationship with gamers and, in 1995, held in-store competitions where players could compete against each other on

Donkey Kong Country Competition

from Nintendo and

Blockbuster World Video Game Championship II

from Sega. Players could win the former, but Blockbuster was told to destroy all copies of the latter, which contained versions of the

NBA Jam Tournament Edition

and

Judge Dredd

games. The store managers were willing, but their disaffected, scantly paid '90s employees were totally weak and sneaked some copies out of the stores.

Years later, with Sega no longer making consoles and Blockbuster now just a costly branch of

Dish Network

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, the

Blockbuster World Video Game Championship II

cartridges can breathe free and sell to the highest bidder.

6. Kizuna Encounter

Format:

SNK Neo Geo

Highest price ever paid:

$10,000

See if you can follow this series of caveats to a big game payday.

SNK made a ton of fighting games, including

Samurai Showdown

and

King of Fighters

, but

Kizuna Encounter

was basically its

Mortal Kombat

or

Street Fighter I

when it was released in 1996: It was the sequel to a game called

Savage Reign

and players could tag characters in and out of a fight, similar to games in the popular

Marvel vs. Capcom

series.

It's brilliant, but it's not always worth much of anything. The arcade version is still widely available here in the U.S. and sells for about $50, or 75% less than its original price. The Japanese home version of the game is also pretty easy to come by and won't cost a buyer much.

The real money's in the European home version of

Kizuna Encounter

, which is absolutely identical to the Japanese version in every way except its packaging and instructions. That's right: You're paying thousands of dollars for English-language packaging on a game you can pick up without breaking a $100 bill here in the states.

Welcome to video game collecting, where minutiae pays big.

5. Super Sidekicks 4: Ultimate 11

Format:

SNK Neo Geo

Highest price ever paid:

$10,000

Generally speaking, sports games just don't increase in value.

That copy of

Madden NFL '13

gamers just shelled out $60 for last month will be worth a third of that or less by this time next year. Rules change, features change, players change, but the sports game maker's prime directive never changes: Squeeze 'em for every dime.

Super Sidekicks 4

broke that mold in 1996 not because it did anything particularly clever by letting players use one of 80 national teams to compete for the world title, but because it made the game in such limited supply. The console had a decade's worth of life left in it, but for reasons unknown SNK decided not to make too many versions of a game showcasing the world's most popular sport. As a result, this game is really hard to find and is valued at close to five digits whenever it appears.

4. Nintendo PowerFest 94

Format:

Super Nintendo

Highest price ever paid:

$12,000

Nintendo loved itself a game competition, and its super-sized PowerFest conventions were great places to hold them.

When it came time to hold its competition in 1994, Nintendo made 30 cartridges containing playable portions of

Super Mario: Lost Levels

,

Super Mario Kart

and

Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball

. Each player had six minutes to get a high score, and the top scores were invited to San Diego for the finals.

The cartridges weren't supposed to survive the festival, but two distinct copies did: one from the preliminaries and one from the finals. The last time a copy changed hands, back in July, it did so for $12,000. That's basically how much you can charge when there are no other options on the table.

3. Stadium Events

Format:

Nintendo Entertainment System

Highest price ever paid:

$14,890

Again, it's the little differences that make a big difference when game prices get up this high.

Bandai's

Stadium Events

was released in North America in 1987 and designed to go with Bandai's Family Fun Fitness mat peripheral for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Nintendo loved Bandai's idea so much that it bought the North American rights for the mat and renamed it the Power Pad.

The rebranding meant that all its

Stadium Events

games in North America with allusions to the Family Fun Fitness mat needed to get sent back and rereleased as Nintendo's

World Class Track Meet

. That didn't go as smoothly as Nintendo would have liked, and 200 copies of

Stadium Events

with the original branding made it to market. As many as 20 full, still-wrapped copies exist today, but buyer beware: European copies of the game are far less rare and look almost identical to the hard-to-find North American version.

2. Nintendo World Championships

Format:

Nintendo Entertainment System

Highest price ever paid:

$11,500 for the gray cartridge, $18,000 for the gold cartridge

How big a deal was Nintendo in 1990? Not only was it hosting its first video game competition ever, but it basically used a feature-length film called The Wizard as an infomercial for it a year earlier.

The artistic merit of Fred Savage, Christian Slater and future Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis shilling for a video game console is still debatable, but the value of the games left over from that first competition certainly isn't.

Nintendo loaded up 90 or so cartridges with playable snippets of

Super Mario Brothers

,

Rad Racer

and

Tetris

and gave players six minutes to rack up the highest score. After the competition ended, Nintendo fan magazine

Nintendo Power

gave away 26 gold-colored versions of the same cartridges as part of a promotion.

Nintendo gave away 90 gray versions of the cartridge, but collectors believe there may be more. The gold cartridges, however, dwindled from 26 to just the 13 known today. Were they thrown out by mean parents who just had to have that extra quarter-inch of space in their empty-nest attic? Were they abandoned in basements by uncaring kids who forgot all about them once puberty hit? Are they just being hoarded by that kid from grade school who never gave back any of the games you traded for, leaving you with oxidized versions of

Duck Hunt

and

Bubble Bobble

?

We don't know, but consider them 13 golden tickets every member of Gen X should search for when back at the folks' place this holiday season.

1. Nintendo Campus Challenge '91

Format:

Nintendo Entertainment System

Highest price ever paid:

$20,100

Before Sundays spent playing Madden in a suite's common room or reading days wasted picking off dorm mates in Goldeneye, there was Nintendo's Campus Challenge.

Back in 1991, Nintendo went to to college campuses across America with 30 special cartridges that gave players six minutes to rack up a high score on

Super Mario 3

,

Pin-Bot

and

Dr. Mario

. If students could fight through fatigue, hunger or ADD long enough to produce their school's best score, they moved on to a national competition.

Apparently, though, some notoriously sticky-fingered students came away with parting gifts. Nintendo supposedly destroyed all the competition's cartridges, but one was found at a garage sale in New York. It has been sold to several different collectors, with the highest recorded price being $20,100. If that cartridge survived, that means someone else's old roommate may have swiped one during a moment of clarity. Time to drop some queries to your old classmates on

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. Don't accept "Dave's not here, man" as an answer.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.