Given the rising popularity (and not to mention cost) of retro video games over the past couple of years, video game fakes and phonies are being passed around and sold. For a cheap $5 game, perhaps nobody will mind if they actually purchased a copy of “Super Nario Sisters” on the Mintendo Entertainment System. But imagine the disappointment of finding out your Little Samson cartridge that you splurged $1K on is actually a…GASP…fake! it is vital to make sure that you know how to identify and inspect expensive retro video games before you decide to hand over that money. This thread will be an information hub dedicated to identifying the tell-tale signs of forgeries and also raise awareness of any common fakes circulating the second hand market or announce any new fakes that crop up.
Please Note: Do not post or link to any online shops/sellers that are selling counterfeit goods. If you knowingly buy fake games as a way to avoid paying for high-priced games then please refrain from discussing it here. I understand Reproduction carts are a thing and people buy them but I’ve seen numerous overpriced “reproduction” carts that are sometimes passed off as originals. Piracy is piracy and the last thing we want is to encourage it on RGB. This is a thread dedicated to educating retro video game enthusiasts about avoiding fakes.
Feel free to post images of fake/counterfeit games you perhaps own, seen any unusual fakes that hasn’t been reported on and post any advice on how to spot them or tips on how to prevent yourself from being suckered into buying one. I’m hoping that this thread will be a “Go-to” for anyone unsure about counterfeits.
Remember, you have very limited buyer’s protection from scammers and counterfeiters when you buy second-hand goods from online shops and marketplaces. Even less protection if you buy from craigslist/gumtree using cash. Always be smart and triple make sure you know the signs. Always use a credit card for big purchases. Report fake goods to paypal. But avoid all the headache by simply knowing the signs. Don’t get suckered.
This thread might be a little Nintendo-centric given that’s what I know best but some info might apply to sega.
One last thing, a lot of information here should be common knowledge for everyone here. if I missed anything or I got things incorrect then let me know.
Tip 1: Do your homework and research the game
A simple Wikipedia search can easily tell you what’s the problem with the above image. For anyone that is unsure, Earthbound never released in PAL regions. The seller is not explicitly stating that this is a repro based on the title and the “Like New” condition…not to mention the $95 price tag. And lets not get started on why the boxart is designed in the North American format but the cart is clearly European. The wording used in the listing is not clear and to a clueless buyer this may come off as original.
Tip 2: Research and quiz the seller/ask for authenticity assurance
Whether online or in person. Asking simple questions like “How long have you had the game?”, “Why are you selling it?”, “What was your favourite level in the game?” can really help you with identifying any uncertainty you may have.
Don’t be afraid to ask the seller to see the PCB board or ask for a photograph name/date if its an online sale. Usually Retro video game stores and expo sellers are understanding and will do it if they wish to make a sale. Some sellers on ebay and elsewhere do it anyway.
Research the seller. Do they have over 50 copies of a rare game? Ask why. Check their sales history. Did they sell over 20 copies of a rare game? Sounds like he/she has either stumbled upon a massive crate of rare games or its being reproduced in the basement.
Tip 3: Buy from reputable sources.
Plenty of marketplaces that ship out from China tend to sell counterfeit games. Best to avoid if you are unsure about authenticity.
Tip 4: Check the price. If the price is too good to be true then either avoid or be extra vigilant
Kinda linked to Tip 3, if a valued game is significantly cheaper then chances are its a phony. Cross-check the price with sold listings, friends and experts to be sure.
Now that we got the common sense stuff out of the way, here’s some observant tips.
Tip 5: Check for glossy, unusual label stickers, mis-aligned label stickers, typos, unusual logos and other giveaways
Sadly, this tip is difficult to check nowadays since counterfeiters have the ability to use good templates thanks to the internet so studying the box art and label stickers requires a lot more attention than before.
Good news is that usually there are dead giveaway signs. Some will have typos, some will use alternate artwork that they stole from DeviantArt, some use company logos that are slightly off (different font, styling or letter border thickness).
Usually for me, one of the biggest alarm signals is the ESRB sign that’s used. I’ve seen fake Mario Vs Donkey Kong GBA box/cart that used the Rating Pending “RP” logo which is never ever used on boxed releases or any releases post-launch. Double check the official ESRB rating with the one on the game. Remember that older SNES and GB games used the defunct Kids to Adult “K-A” rating. See a SNES game with the E rating? Chances are its a phony unless it was a late release. Check to be sure. Be sure to also check the colouring used. Some counterfeits incorrectly use the wrong colouring for the ESRB logo. Always check online to be sure.
(Label sticker mis-aligned, blurry print, sticker small)
Tip 6: Buy a Gamebit screwdriver
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you get a Gamebit Screwdriver. Found for usually less than $10, it definitely comes in handy if you ever want to closely inspect a game during physical real-life friend/craigslist transactions, video game stores or at Expos. Don’t be afraid to ask permission (or get them to do it) in order to get that assurance. Personally, I feel real-life sellers should automatically be opening up their expensive titles to prove authenticity. If they don’t because of some “devaluing the product” BS excuse then they are either hiding something or just really uptight…either way they’ll struggle to sell it if they can’t prove its authentic. With ebay/online purchases its a lot more difficult. Some sellers photograph the PCB as proof which is great but most don’t. At least a gamebit screwdriver can help you check your games at home if bought online.
Tip 7: Check the screws
If you were able to open a cartridge using a generic micro-screwdriver set then that’s not a good sign. The majority of cartridges (aside from early NES carts) use gamebit screws that look like this
and can only be opened with gamebit screwdrivers
In today’s world, it is easy to acquire these types of screws and use them on your counterfeit carts but usually the first good tell-tale sign (before opening the cart) begins with the screws.
Tip 8: Open it up. Check the PCB
This is the most definite way to confirm if your game is legit or fake. Check for any Nintendo logos, serial numbers, copyright years. Check the chips used. Check the soldering and make sure its professionally done. Check the condition and size of the board. Make sure it looks professional and similar to other authentic boards. Check for any unusual modifications like wiring or lifted pins. In some circumstances, counterfeiters would use authentic boards from cheaper games and utilize them (flash the rom) to replicate an expensive game. To be 100% sure, Download an image of the game’s PCB board online and compare.
(Left are fakes. Right are genuine. Source)
Sega Genesis (Mega Drive)
(Left is original. Right is fake. Source: @CyborgNumberBlue)
N64 Cartridge Circuit Board Scans: http://s9.zetaboards.com/Nintendo_64_Forever/topic/7464768/1/
Neo Geo MVS Scans: http://www.mvs-scans.com/index.php/Main_Page
I’ll be adding more cart photographs and comparisons in the future.