10 of the internet’s dodgiest fake videogame cartridges

Fake retro videogame cartridges are a common sight on the net, and some of them are really, really strange. Take a look at these...

If you’re a keen collector of old videogames, you’ll probably spend a fair bit of your spare time trawling through certain well-known online auction sites. In the process, you may have noticed, from time to time, the occasional fake cartridge – and in most cases, they’re easy to spot. There are numerous ‘100 games-in-one’ carts that appear to have tumbled out of Asia over the past few years, usually with poorly-designed labels that haven’t even been stuck on the case properly.

In other instances, you’ll find knock-off reproductions of games that are prized by collectors. The Mega Drive shooter Twinkle Tale, for example, can go for around £100 in an auction, but potential buyers should be wary of copies of the game that lack a manual, or have a strange-looking US version of the cover – the original game was only released in Japan.

Occasionally, though, we’ve stumbled on the odd cartridge that isn’t just obviously fake, but also weird enough to give us a moment’s pause. Some of them are for games that shouldn’t belong on a particular system, or claim to be sequels to popular videogame series. Still others have extremely strange artwork on the label.

Here’s a brief look at some of the stuff we’ve stumbled on over the past few months.

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Angry Birds (Nintendo Famicom)

Let’s start with a recent one – a mysterious port of Angry Birds, along with several sequels, for the Nintendo Famicom. While the label might make the cartridge look as though it’s from the 1980s, the game’s obviously been knocked together within the past year or two.

It’s a sign of just how phenomenally successful the Angry Birds games are that a port should appear for a 30-year-old system, but clones of Nintendo’s console are still readily available in various parts of Asia – and just for owners of those Famiclones, here’s the unofficial port of Rovio’s hit.

Considering the limitations of the 8-bit system, it’s not a bad port, either, if this YouTube video’s anything to go by:

It’s probably fair to say that it handles a bit differently without the touchscreen controls, though – and the less said about that music, the better.

Harry Potter (Sega Mega Drive)

Games based on the Harry Potter franchise do exist, of course, but not for Sega’s now ancient Mega Drive. Fortunately, some enterprising programmers have stepped in, and the result is an isometric 3D maze game that makes heavy use of pre-rendered graphics and digitised stills from the movies.

Looking at the video below doesn’t exactly fill us with a sense of JK Rowling magic, and is it just us, or is Harry wearing an eye patch?

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We have to say, though, we’d have loved to have seen a Harry Potter movie that contained an Egyptian pharaoh and the grim reaper.

Lethal Weapon (Nintendo Famicom)

In the 80s and early 90s, Ocean Software were famous for producing tie-ins based on hit movies, with games such as Batman, RoboCop and The Untouchables taking scenes from the films and turning them into little side-scrolling platformers with added mini-games.

Oddly, the NES version of Lethal Weapon – which Ocean farmed out to developer Eurocom – had almost nothing to do with the movie at all. It saw Riggs (well, we think he’s meant to be Riggs – he looks more like Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page in tight-fitting jeans than Mel Gibson) wandering around in the jungle and shooting soldiers. Did the developer take an existing game in their archives and just slap the Lethal Weapon name on the front? Stranger things have happened.

At any rate, a number of fake versions of Lethal Weapon have turned up online of late, each with different, badly-designed labels. The one above is our favourite – mainly because it has, apropos of nothing, a picture of James Dean from Rebel Without A Cause on it. And who’s the chap with the gorgeous hair and moustache? He looks a bit like Franco Nero in his prime, but we’re not 100 per cent sure who he is, really.

Mortal Kombat II (Nintendo Famicom)

Here’s another brilliantly weird one. Although its massive popularity saw Mortal Kombat II ported to all sorts of systems in the 90s, it never appeared on the humble NES – at least, not officially. In fact, several Mortal Kombat games have been sneaked onto the system, and while they’re not brilliant, they’re at least playable. In the video below, you can see a rather bleepy rendition of Mortal Kombat III play out in all its 8-bit glory.

So while the games on these carts aren’t necessarily terrible, the people who’ve manufactured them haven’t necessarily gone to the same effort when it comes to designing the labels. The one pictured above uses the poster artwork from the 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Cyborg. We’ve no idea why.

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Super Bubble Bobble MD (Sega Mega Drive)

It’s a bit of a mystery why Taito never bothered to port a version of Bubble Bobble to the Sega Mega Drive, since ports existed for both the Sega Master System and Sega Game Gear during the height of the game’s popularity. Instead, a gang of pirates filled the void with Super Bubble Bobble MD, an approximation of the platform classic which, for no discernible reason, features Doraemon and the little kid out of Crayon Shin Chan as playable characters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBzK5i9X9X4

The game manages to retain some of the old Bubble Bobble charm – along with a remixed version of the original’s soundtrack – but the controls are a bit stiff, and the monster designs look as though they’ve been borrowed from another game, which they probably were.

RoboCop 4 (Nintendo Famicom)

Yes, even though there were only three movies in the original trilogy, that hasn’t stopped bootleggers from making a tie-in for the non-existent RoboCop 4. The game appears to originate from Russia, where there’s a clone of the Famicom for sale called the Dendy. As side-scrolling platformers go, it looks like undemanding, respectable stuff – though the bad guys do seem to take an awful lot of hits to kill:

There even appears to be an interesting bit where you can upgrade and repair RoboCop’s armour, which is nice.

9999999 in 1

Now, this is just cheeky. The multi-cart contains bootleg versions of numerous old NES games, including some that were never officially programmed for the system – including Street Fighter II, as illustrated in the middle – but unsurprisingly, it doesn’t contain quite as many games as its title claims. What it actually does is give you multiple versions of around a dozen games, each with a different number added to the end. Depending on which number you choose, you’ll be taken to a different level. Oh, and just to make things even more fun, some of the games don’t match the titles on the list.

Fun fact: when you plug the game into your system, you’ll be greeted by a beach scene with flapping seagulls, and an 8-bit rendition of Unchained Melody:

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Why? Because as we all know, a touching ballad’s just what you need to get you in the mood for a bit of retro gaming. And isn’t that Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore snogging down at the bottom of the screen there?

Golden Axe IV (Nintendo Famicom)

Here’s another non-existent sequel – and a game that would never have officially appeared on a Nintendo system to boot. True to form, the cartridge doesn’t have any Golden Axe graphics on the label, and instead sports a characters from the Final Fantasy series [edit: they’re Cloud and Barret from Final Fantasy VII, as was kindly pointed out in the comments.]

Fittingly, the game itself has nothing to do with Golden Axe, either:

Eagle-eyed readers will probably have noted that this is actually the old game Astyanax, cheekily altered so the opening screen displays the Golden Axe IV title instead. The rest of the game remains completely unchanged.

Ninja Gaiden MD (Sega Mega Drive)

Here’s a rare example of bootleggers actually providing a bit of a service for retro collectors. Unlike a lot of the other games on this list, which are either hurriedly made or re-skinned versions of other games, Ninja Gaiden MD is one title that was officially intended for release. Tecmo were working on a version of its hit coin-op Ninja Gaiden for the Mega Drive, but for reasons unclear, it never made it onto shelves.

The makers of this cartridge have managed to get their hands on the unfinished beta code, which as you can see from the video below, was almost finished – and for better or worse, it’s a more accurate port of the arcade brawler than the 2D platformers which graced other systems at the time.

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That music really is hideous, though.

Zelda (Nintendo Famicom)

While cloned carts are common, it’s relatively unusual to see one in a box with instructions. This bootleg production’s a bit more lavish than most, and although it’s not openly advertised on the label – its makers have called it Triforce Of The Gods – it’s actually an 8-bit port of A Link To The Past.

The port was done by a Chinese company called Waxing, and it’s a pretty passable one, with the environments from the Super Famicom version simplified to fit in the humble 8-bit system:

The music’s very different, though – for whatever reason, the makers haven’t bothered to carry over the original game’s unforgettable theme music. And once again, the artwork on the box has absolutely nothing to do with the game itself. You can probably see a pattern forming here.