Author: Zachary Latour
As collectors continue to buy games for their collections, they will eventually have all of the common stuff that they want. Then it's time to find the rarer, and thus more expensive, stuff. If you are going to buy more expensive games, you need to be sure that what you’re getting isn’t fake.
The circuit board and inside of the cartridge is the most definitive way to tell if the game is legitimate or fake.
The Tools Every Game Collector NeedsThe first thing I want to talk about is getting yourself the correct tools for game collecting. In order to open most of the games that you are going to find, you’re going to need some different screwdrivers: 3.8mm security bit, 4.5mm security bit, tri-wing head, small Philips head, and a small flat head screwdriver. These will allow you to open almost any old video game cartridge, console, or controller that you’ll run into. All of the tools I use to are shown in the picture below.
All of these screwdrivers can be bought online for under $9 (3.8mm and 4.5mm set, Triwing, Precision Screwdriver Set).
There are videos online on how to make your own security bit screwdrivers at home, but I don’t recommend doing so. Instead, if you’re serious about collecting, just pay the couple dollars and get a set of screwdrivers that will last you forever, if you use them correctly.
Tools, Batteries, & Circuit Boards for Every Cartridge Video GameThe pictures below display many different types of opened video game cartridges. They show:
- Type of cartridge
- Which screwdriver opens the cart
- Locations of the screws
- Printed circuit board (PCB)
- Save battery the cartridge uses
Please note that some games have batteries and some do not. Also, note that some games have different chip numbers that are still legitimate PCBs. I live in North America so this reference picture reflects North American (NTSC) games.
NES Cartridge (Type A)
NES Cartridge (Type B)
NES Cartridge (5 Screw)
Super Nintendo Cartridge
Nintendo 64 Cartridge
Gameboy Color Cartridge
Gameboy Advance Cartridge
Virtual Boy Cartridge
Sega Genesis Cartridge
Sega 32X Cartridge
Sega Game Gear Cartridge
Sega Master System Cartridge
Every collector should get comfortable opening game cartridges. Opening games will allow you to not only verify legitimacy, but it will also allow you to clean up your games. You can change dead batteries, completely clean game boards, remove loose pieces bouncing around inside of the cartridge, and swap out backs of games to make games look better. Doing any of the above practices can only make your game collection more reliable, better looking, and more enjoyable.
What to Look for on The Circuit Board
Look for any soldered wires on the PCB. Official boards do not use wires to bridge different parts of the chips on them. This is an immediate indication of a hack job and a pirated game. The game might look official from the outside, but as soon as you disassemble it you will immediately notice that it’s a fake.
Look for stamps on the PCBs. Brand names like ‘Nintendo’ or ‘Sega’ printed directly onto the board will always help with confirming authenticity. This is not 100% though, as some bootlegs now have the company stamp on the boards.
If you buy a rare or expensive game online be cautious. There are scams selling fake games that many collectors have fallen for. If someone sends you pictures of the board before you meet up with them always double check it in person. Take the cart apart and look at it for yourself before handing over any money. There is nothing stopping the seller from sending you pictures of a legit board and then switching it out with a common game, a pirated PCB, a blank PCB, or even a broken PCB for the actual transaction. There are good deals to be had online, but keep in mind that sometimes it might be too good to be true.
Reproduction Labels on CartridgesSome games will have reproduction labels. A collector might have replaced a damaged label with a new one. This is not fraudulent. Usually it is done to improve the appearance of a game. Reproduction labels can be a sign of a bootlegged game too. Be more cautious of games with bootlegged labels.
Most reputable reproduction label manufacturers will have ‘REPRODUCTION’ written somewhere on the label. I know that sounds like an IT guy asking you if your computer is plugged in when it won’t turn on, but most people bootlegging games don’t even notice any details on the label. Below are pictures of some reproduction labels.