Friday, November 17, 2017

5 Screw Nintendo NES Game Guide, List & History

5 Screw Nintendo Game
Some NES games have 5 screws on the back while most have only 3 screws. This article will explain the history behind this, list all the 5 screw variations, and compare 5 screw prices vs 3 screw prices.

5 Screw History

The 5 screw cartridges are sealed together using 5 screws. One in each corner and one in the middle (see the red circles in the photo above). The screws are standard, flathead screws.

By 1988 Nintendo decided to completely switch all cartridges to 3 screw versions instead. These have two screws in the bottom corners and one in the middle (see red circles above). They also have two notches at the top where the bottom half of the cartridge is inserted into the top half (see blue squares above).

At the same time, the screws were changed into proprietary versions that need special hex screwdriver bits to remove.

People speculate that Nintendo made this change to save money (two fewer screens spread out over millions and millions of cartridges adds up). Others think Nintendo made the change for security reasons, basically trying to make the cartridges harder to open and inspect. Tengen and other companies were making unlicensed games, so security screws might have been attempt to make unlicensed games a little harder.

Nintendo has never spoken publicly about the thought process behind the change so it is just speculation in the community.

The differences between 5 screw and 3 screw games are purely cosmetic. There is no game play difference.

5 Screw NES Game List

10-Yard Fight [5 Screw]
1942 [5 Screw]
3D WorldRunner [5 Screw]
Alpha Mission [5 Screw]
Arkanoid [5 Screw]
Athena [5 Screw]
Athletic World [5 Screw]
Balloon Fight [5 Screw]
Baseball [5 Screw]
Breakthru [5 Screw]
BurgerTime [5 Screw]
Castlevania [5 Screw]
Chubby Cherub [5 Screw] (only version)
Clu Clu Land [5 Screw] (only version)
Commando [5 Screw]
Deadly Towers [5 Screw]
Donkey Kong 3 [5 Screw]
Donkey Kong Jr Math [5 Screw]
Donkey Kong Jr [5 Screw]
Donkey Kong [5 Screw]
Double Dribble [5 Screw]
Duck Hunt [5 Screw]
Elevator Action [5 Screw]
Excitebike [5 Screw]
Ghosts 'n Goblins [5 Screw]
Golf [5 Screw]
Gotcha [5 Screw]
Gradius [5 Screw]
Gumshoe [5 Screw]
Gyromite [5 Screw]
Hogan's Alley [5 Screw]
Ice Climber [5 Screw]
Ikari Warriors [5 Screw]
Jaws [5 Screw]
Karate Champ [5 Screw]
Kid Icarus [5 Screw]
Kid Niki Radical Ninja [5 Screw]
Kung Fu [5 Screw]
Legend of Kage [5 Screw]
Legend of Zelda [5 Screw]
Lode Runner [5 Screw]
Lunar Pool [5 Screw]
MUSCLE [5 Screw] (only version)
Mach Rider [5 Screw]
Mario Bros [5 Screw]
Mega Man [5 Screw]
Metroid [5 Screw]
Mighty Bomb Jack [5 Screw]
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out [5 Screw]
Ninja Kid [5 Screw]
Pinball [5 Screw]
Popeye [5 Screw]
Pro Wrestling [5 Screw]
Rad Racer [5 Screw]
Raid on Bungeling Bay [5 Screw]
Ring King [5 Screw]
Rush'n Attack [5 Screw]
Rygar [5 Screw]
Section-Z [5 Screw]
Sky Kid [5 Screw]
Slalom [5 Screw]
Soccer [5 Screw]
Solomon's Key [5 Screw]
Spelunker [5 Screw]
Spy Hunter [5 Screw]
Sqoon [5 Screw] (only version)
Stack-Up [5 Screw] (only version)
Star Force [5 Screw]
Star Voyager [5 Screw]
Stinger [5 Screw] (only version)
Super Mario Bros [5 Screw]
Super Pitfall [5 Screw]
Tag Team Wrestling [5 Screw]
Tennis [5 Screw]
The Goonies II [5 Screw]
Tiger-Heli [5 Screw]
Top Gun [5 Screw]
Track and Field [5 Screw]
Trojan [5 Screw]
Urban Champion [5 Screw]
Volleyball [5 Screw]
Wild Gunman [5 Screw]
Winter Games [5 Screw]
Wizards and Warriors [5 Screw]
Wrecking Crew [5 Screw]
Zanac [5 Screw]

5 Screw Prices vs 3 Screw Prices

Some of the 5 screw versions are more rare than the 3 screw versions because 5 screw had a limited production run and the 3 screw versions could continue being made.

Other 5 screw games are more common because the game ended production soon after 1988 so not very many of the 3 screw version were made.

Unfortunately we don't know exact production numbers for each variation but we can compare the prices to see which ones collector's value more.

80% of 5 screw games are more expensive than their 3 screw counterparts and all the games that are less expensive are only slightly less expensive.

On average 5 screw games sell for 99% more than 3 screw ones, but the average is heavily skewed by a couple really big differences. The median premium is 14% for 5 screw games.

The versions with the biggest premiums are Gotcha and Alpha Mission both more than double in price with 5 screws.

The most rare 5 screw game is Mike Tyson's Punch Out. We don't have a market price for the game because we haven't seen on sell but one was recently listed for $2,000. Mike Tyson's Punch Out was released October 1987, very close to the complete discontinuation of 5 screw games. Very few 5 screw copies were released.

Why 5 Screws to Begin With?

Nintendo released the Nintendo NES in Japan in 1983 as the Famicom. The NES came out in the USA in 1985.

Famicom cartridges are shorter than NES cartridges and if you ever open up an NES cartridge you will notice lots of empty space.

This empty space is in there because some of the first Nintendo NES games (Gyromite and Excitebike for example) reused Famicom PCB (printed circuit boards) in order to save money on circuit boards they had already paid for and didn't use in Japan. The PCB's needed to be converted to fit the pin size and count on the NES console.

As you can see in the image below, the NES cartridges with 5 screws fit this design very well without much extra space. The middle screw fits perfectly into the middle screw slot on the Famicom PCB with plenty of room for all three pieces.

5 screw game with famicom adapter

After 1988 Nintendo decided they no longer needed the additional screws, but the shape of the cartridge couldn't be changed because the NES console required that shape.


Jonathan said...

I had no idea that the 5 screw games had a higher price tag than the 3 screw counterpart. I guess in end it makes sense, collector's can be very anal about what they collect.

Unknown said...

what about two screw I have one two screw and pat pending AGCI can't find anything label is almost gone don't know what my game it is

Anonymous said...

2 screw? sounds like some unlicensed design. Nintendo didn't use any thing but 5 screw and 3 screw 2 "clips".

Unknown said...

I know finding the 5 screw hang tab Castlevania box is pretty hard. Especially in nice shape. Also sometimes it goes the other way as the 3 screw Volleyball is much rarer then the 5 screw version.

Unknown said...

Does anybody know if a five screw game has any indication it belongs with a five screw box or manual. I've noticed that the five screw and the three screw cartridges are definitely able to be purchased the how do you know what game and manual go to what box is there an indication on that or is it just basically the cart itself is a 5 or 3 screw and the box and manual do not matter

Unknown said...

Great question... Please let us know if any information is gathered. I know (or heard) that there was a difference in some but not all boxes. But don't know if that correlates to the cartridge's.

FF303 said...

I know this reply is kinda late but to answer your question with games that have a 5 screw variant the back of the cartridge will have "REV-A" written on the back of the cartridge to the right of the caution and on the front of the box of the 3 screw/security bit variant. Certain information written in the manual or on the box may indicate which version game, box, manual, etc belong together. Example being The Legend of Zelda which has multiple variations of the box, manual, label, and cartridge.

TripleLSupreme said...

What about Track and Field II? I just picked a 5 screw copy up that probably sat in someone's attic for the last 15 years.

JJ said...

@unknown - I don't know of a Track and Field II 5 screw version. There is a Track and Field 5 screw version, but Track and Field II was released later and I don't think it would have a 5 screw version.

Please email pics of the front and back and circuit board though if you do have one. I'd love to see it.

Unknown said...

Being a cash strapped kid back in the day, I always thought that they changed the screws because of kids like me! Me and my friends would buy a game from Toys R Us, take out the PCB and return the game (without the PCB). We would use a shell game cartridge to play loose PCBs all the time. Eventually, Toys R Us employees got hip to the game and would check the cartridge if the PCB was missing, sooo what do smart kids do, we improvise. We simply "switch" the PCB with a crap/old game we weren't playing anymore for a new one! It was like renting when there were no renting shops!

giez said...

How can I recognize screw version
If my game is brand new in box?

SuperNostalgicGuy said...

The Goonies 2 also has a 5 screw variant as well that I don't see on your list.

Post a Comment



Login | Create Account