There are two main reasons that Game Boy games are ‘faked’. Reason 1 is the classic problem with all digital media; Piracy! The second is for reproduction purposes, this includes things like fan translated games that never got a release outside of Japan, Rom hacks & Unreleased games and prototypes.
Personally, I can understand, and I am grateful that there is a thriving scene in reproduction games as some of the more obscure titles are being sold for some serious money (The fantastic Shantae for example released for the Game Boy Color with a supposed 20,000 copies produced only have made the game worth between £200 – £600!). For the casual collector who just wants to play a game but cannot due to low manufacturing run or the game not available in their area, I have no problem with them purchasing a reproduction cart.
Almost all fake Game Boy games are made in China and are readily available at cheap prices, but if you don’t want to be duped on eBay you need to be careful!
So, how do you spot fake Game Boy games? The short answer is If it is not obvious from the cartridge sticker or game shell, then the best way to check for fake games is to open them with a gamebit screwdriver and check the PCB for anything out of the ordinary.
Let’s have a more in-depth look on how to spot these counterfeit games: –
Check the top of the cart
All Game Boy games have a distinct ‘Nintendo GAME BOY TM’ at the top of the cartridge. This stays the same in whatever region your game is from. Bootlegs and reproduction will Usually have ‘GAME’ or just be blank.
I have come across a few in my time that does have the correct Nintendo logo so do be careful!
The feel of the cartridge
If you are buying your games in person, then simply holding the game in your hand can be a giveaway. In my experience most, fake games have a slightly rougher texture, this is most likely due to the game cart being made from a mould of an original cart and amplifying the texture. Sometimes the tiny details are the biggest giveaway. If possible, take a real cart with you to compare!
The weight of cartridge can be an indication of the game’s authenticity but, this varies from game to game. Some older fakes use lightly larger EPROM chips inside them which make the game weight slightly more, once again, the best way to tell here would be having an identical genuine copy of the game with you.
Sometimes, a fake game will have too big a battery compartment like this copy of Shantae below. As you can see the game is slightly bulging and also, they seem to have cut away part of the cart inside. Nintendo carts are all sealed to stop dirt etc.
Check the colour of the game
Games released slightly later in the lifespan contained code to work both on Game Boy and Game Boy Color. These games were released on colour cartridges and would display in full colour on the Game Boy Color and black & white (Or green and darker green) on the original Game Boy.
Now, In the past I ended up with a copy of Pokémon Blue in a standard grey cartridge, this was a fake and I had no idea at the time. You can read more about there here!
Look up what your game cart should look like before you buy it. Most original Game Boy games are on the standard grey carts, Game Boy Colour enhanced games are coloured (Donkey land, Pokémon, Wario land 3 etc) and Game Boy Colour games are transparent with a convex area with ‘Game Boy Color’ instead of ‘Nintendo GAME BOY TM’.
Wrong Artwork on the sticker
To me, this is one of the biggest tells that a game is either a reproduction or counterfeit. Often box art will be used rather than the official cartridge art, this is also sometimes done really poorly with pixelated and stretched images (I tend to see this more on GBA games probably due to the carts unique sticker size).
Label quality is another thing to be aware of, Game Boy games are printed on a satin finish paper, Somewhere between Gloss and matte. The label will also have rounded edges in each corner.
This is a counterfeit copy of Fire Emblem for the GBA & is a great example of a very poorly done label.
Real Nintendo games tend to have an indent of two numbers pressed into the label. Fake games don’t generally have these.
Rating systems used
Know your game’s region! Although the Game Boy is region free, most fake games have an ESRB rating due to the United States being the bigger market. This is a big tell in the UK especially as our games are not rated by ESRB.
Likewise, In America, if you see the CE marking (Conformité Européenne French for European Conformity) then the game is either an import or a fake!
Nintendo Seal of Quality
Every licensed Nintendo Game will bear the Nintendo Seal of Quality which was first created by Nintendo of America and later adopted by Nintendo of Europe. If the game does not have this seal shown on the cart, then it is a fake (Unless it’s a Japanese game where no seals are used at all!).
Another thing to note is that the seal of quality here in Europe is a circle in shape whereas the US version in an oval shape. If you see a game with an ESRB rating and a circular seal of quality that is a sure sign that the game is a fake!
Nintendo Patent on back
On the back of an official Nintendo Game, there will be a rectangular area that says Made in Japan with Pat. Pending underneath. A lot of fake games will not have this. They will usually have pat. Pending but the box will be empty. This is probably due to them getting in serious trouble with authorities by misrepresenting where the Item was made. For this same reason you might also see some Game Boy Advance games come with a ‘Nintondo’ logo on the back. I am guessing this is because if the counterfeiters get caught they will have one less copyright charge against them.
Type of screw used
Nintendo games use propriety screws. If your game has a Philips head screw holding it together then it is a fake! Nintendo uses 3.8mm Gamebit screws or Triwing screws. Nintendo doesn’t want people snooping around in their hardware!
Also, be aware of the position of the screw, Most Game Boy games will have the screw at the bottom of the cartridge like the pictures above.
Does the game look too new?
This might sound a little odd but, you must remember these games can be up to 30 years old! Some wear and tear should be expected. Labels will be ripped, sharpies will be used and general dirt and grim should be expected but, the cost of purchase should reflect that. A genuine game that has been really well looked after by a collector will, unfortunately, cost more!
If the game is too ‘fresh’ looking do be careful, However, I must mention that I picked up quite a few Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games while in Tokyo and I have to say, the Japanese really do know how to look after their games. All of them I got are immaculate.
Code on the side of the label
If you look on the side of Game Boy games labels you will see a product code. You can google this code to make sure it matches up with the game. If you look above at the Resident Evil cartridge you will notice that the game code ends in ‘USA’ which would be an American release yet the game has a CE mark!
Open up the cart & check the PCB
The sure-fire way of spotting fake and reproduction Game Boy games. Open up the cart. You will need a 3.8mm Gamebit screwdriver these can be picked up very cheap over at Amazon or eBay. Most reputable sellers will let you open the game and inspect the PCB.
Often, modern fakes will have half the size PCB board. Originals will usually have a Nintendo logo somewhere on the PCB.
Fakes Game Boy games will often have black blobs of epoxy like substance over some of their chips. Nintendo never uses epoxy or hot glue. All soldered joints on official cartridges will be of high quality and will not require any additional adhesive to hold them in place.
Nintendo PCB’s will usually have rounded edges and nice bright gold coloured contacts. A lot of fakes and reproductions use the cheaper and slightly less conductive tin instead of copper like Nintendo would use. Have a good look at the pins on the PCB and if they appear more silver in colour they will most likely be made from tin and therefore fake.
If your game does not save you either have a dead battery or no battery at all! Once again, the best way to check is to open the cart up. If the battery is dead, you can find out how to replace it here.
Some fakes (especially early fakes) do not come with batteries soldered to the board. I got caught out with this before and its an annoyance. I believe this is done as a cost-saving method and you may be able to tell from the slight discrepancy in weight.
There’s a lot of different methods to determine whether a game is genuine or fake. A good rule of thumb to follow is if the games you are buying seem too good to be true, then it probably is. This holds true especially on eBay where fakes are rampant. eBay, however, has people who are not trying to scam you also and is a great place to pick up bargains.