Identifying fake games and consoles - Because nobody wants to spend top dollar on garbage.

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.

GBA
image
(Label sticker mis-aligned, blurry print, sticker small)

SNES
image
(Source)

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

8screw1

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.

NES


(Source)

SNES (NTSC-U)


(Source)

N64

GBA


(Left are fakes. Right are genuine. Source)

Sega Genesis (Mega Drive)


(Left is original. Right is fake. Source: @CyborgNumberBlue)

Useful links:-
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.

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I noticed in the last few months that GBA bootlegers have stepped up their game and the old trick of checking for holes on the pins no longer works.

Amazing thread, Chalmers! Buying fakes is always a huge bummer, and sometimes it can be really hard to tell. This is a great guide to keep handy. I agree, if you’re buying a rare game, a good rule of thumb is to always see the PCB first. 9 times out of 10 a fake can easily be spotted when looking at the PCB; don’t put up the money without it.

Also, for those of us who are collectors of old PC games, we’re not immune from fakes. I’ve seen repros / bootlegs of big box PC games before, particularly popular stuff like Sierra, Lucasarts and Infocom stuff.

I appreciate all the info. This is definitely something I think about when looking at Neo Geo AES games on eBay as buying local is often not an option. I’ve had good luck so far, but I’m sure a day will come when I get had.

Is this a problem with CD based games at all? It seems like that would be a lot harder for counterfeiters to pull off?

BTails, if you happen to have any images or examples of fake PC games then please post it in the thread :slight_smile: I personally didn’t even know they existed.

DaveLong, I’ve yet to come across any PS1, DC or PS2 clones/repros. Usually, copies of CD-based games were done quickly and cheaply because their buyers typically only cared if they worked. So you’ll find plenty of copied games with marker pen labels or cheap ink-jet printer covers. Plus, Playstation games had holograms on the disc which I believe is hard to replicate. However, it would not surprise me if there are rare CD-based games that come complete with box, inlays replicas etc.

Seriously. Thanks for this thread!

Also, there’s a phenomenon I wonder whether or not (or just how severely) will impact the whole ‘spotting the fake’ practice for us collectors, in the future. People selling - on eBay and other marketplaces - high quality ‘replacements’ for cartridge labels, box inlays and - in certain cases - even manuals. Sure, sometimes they look completely original, so no problem, but for the most part they seem to aim to provide an exact replica of the original part. Maybe I’m being too dramatic, but it kinda worries me to think I may end up buying a legit Vampire Killer, one day, only to find out the owner thought it was a good idea to replace the original, peeling label with a new one from Etsy.

I wish I had examples, there’s so little information about them out there. I personally had a “Codename: ICEMAN” that was fake, but extremely well done. The biggest tell was that the box underneath the slip cover was plain white and opened via a flap, vs the regular Sierra On Line “Beige” box that opened into two pieces. Otherwise everything was present in the box, though the manual was black and white vs colour.

Of all the things that people could counterfeit a copy of Codename Iceman doesn’t come to mind. That’s really odd.

Okay, so I found some more info: technically the’re not bootlegs/fakes, but instead budget releases sold with some pre-existing materials, or cheaper reprints. Online they’re known as “Slash” releases, names after the company that repackaged and reproduced them. This website has some great pictures/examples of original releases vs these re-releases.

http://www.vintage-sierra.net/slash.php

So, we’ll forget the fact that “Budget rereleases” is a whole other topic (Look at the Majesco Genesis releases, for example), and let’s get back to talking about them FAKES.

killer thread. There’s this guy on eBay that sells a lot of legit Neo carts at killer prices. Recently though he listed a Samurai Shodown V Special that is the most obvious boot ever. He didn’t specify that it was a boot, only that it had NO EEPROMS!!! Class act. Thankfully we have MVS Scans.

@Galdelico I wouldn’t mind that sort of thing as long as there is full disclosure. This happens with MVS a ton, as labels are usually subject to a beating.

Wow. I forgot about MVS Scans. Thanks for bringing that up!

I have a Neo Turf Masters AES that I was told is a conversion. I have never opened it up to see what the board looks like. I should do that one of these days. It’s pretty, though. Really well made. I wouldn’t really buy conversions of anything else but a friend ended up with it and when he was going to sell it, I thought for what he offered (I think I paid like $70?), it was totally worth keeping. It’s Neo Turf Masters. It plays fine on AES with zero issues. I feel bad, but not bad.

This is how I buy games on the internet. everdrive-gba-x5

Seriously, seen people get hosed so many times that I basically only by carts from people who have collections or in person. If I see X # sold of a particular game I don’t buy from them.

the sad part is checking the sold listings on ebay and seeing people paying silly money for fakes. Either they are simply unaware or they just love to pay silly money for worthless junk. It shows how scammers are taking advantage of retro video game collectors.

I have quite a few repros and one Korean bootleg MVS cart. I wouldn’t consider myself a collector, so as long as the game plays, I don’t really care if it isn’t an authentic copy. I have no ambitions of reselling my games, and wouldn’t even attempt to sell these ones as repros if I did. In any case, I don’t have a gamebit at the moment, but will get one and post pics of the boards so that people that are collecting can have a reference. My repros don’t disclose they are reproductions on the labels or cases, so I hope the board pics can help people who may be finding resellers passing these off as genuine.

This is a Korean bootleg Waku Waku 7.



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Great idea for a thread, thanks for posting! I hope it will help a lot of people.

I have a few more pics. All of my repros are from the same seller, just FYI.

I’m not including any games that would be an obvious reproduction for Genesis (Alien Soldier, Gleylancer, Super Fantasy Zone, etc.) but here is a unique board which is essentially the Mega Drive version of Hard Corps translated.

Just for reference, since these are mostly Genesis boards, here is a genuine board next to a repro.

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Might want to put some tape over those EPROM windows…

Cause of UV light? Not too worried about it, between the pitch blackness of the cart and the case and the low lighting of my room, I’m not concerned. I don’t think it’s a instantaneous sort of degradation, anyways.

Half Price books is starting to get bad with having bootlegs fall into their inventory…especially GBA. But then again, I guess thats to be expected with those being the majority of boots.

Thank you for sharing the photographs CybordNumberBlue! Im actually surprised with how clean the pcbs look. Never seen the exposed chips like that so that’s definitely another sign to look for. I’ll add your sega genesis photographs to the original post sometime.