Real or fake? Sometimes it is not that easy to spot fake GameBoy games.
This guide will help you to spot the differences, illustrated with many real examples.
It mainly focusses on EU/USA releases, with some exceptions where mentioned.
This guide contains around 130 images (divided into 20 sections), and some of them are zoomable,
you can hover over them if you want to inspect the details.
Game with code "DMG-RX-USA", which matches "Ren & Stimpy: Space Cadet Adventures."
Fake, as "DMG-BQ2E USA" does not exist. Dragon Ball Z was never released for the USA region. Also note the missing hyphen. (source)
Fake, nothing that looks like a valid code (source)
Homebrew: The code "CGB-FFLE-HOL" was never officially assigned, but it was used for a Homebrew release.
The two only official "X-in-1" sets: Original "4-in-1 Funpak" and "4-in-1 Funpak II" sets.
Bootleg "Super 120 in 1" and "18 in 1" sets. One of the most common fakes or bootlegs are sets.
2. Label - Number imprint
One of the most telling signs is the number imprint on the label, which should always be present.
This can be easy to check if you have access to the game but hard to tell on photos for example on ebay.
Original number inprint ("23")
No imprint at all.
Also no imprint.
Number imprint, but way too thick.
3. Label - Logos: Nintendo, Seal of Quality, GamePak, Rating system
There are multiple logos which should be present on a original label, which are an easy way to check the game's authenticity.
Nintendo Seal of Quality
One is the "Nintendo Seal of Quality" - it exists in different versions depending on the region:
Original Nintendo Seal of Quality, US version.
Original Nintendo Seal of Quality, EUR version.
Fake Seal, the quality is much worse, not even "Nintendo" is properly readable.
Fake Seal, only showing "Seal" as bottom text. This version was actually used later, see here.
Missing Seal of Quality. On an original cartridge from EUR or USA, there will always be a Seal present.
For Japan, there will be no Seal present.
Original Nintendo logo.
Fake Nintendo logo. Quality issues, visible artefacts.
GamePak refers to the physical form of multiple Nintendo games, for example also NES or SNES (source).
Most GameBoy games will have the GamePak logo on them you see below.
There are the following different versions:
Official GameBoy Game Pak
Official GameBoy Video Link Game Pak (enabling 2 player)
Super GameBoy Game Pak (enabling special SGB features)
Original GamePak logo.
GamePak logo, GameLink version.
GamePak logo, Super GameBoy version.
GamePak logo, alternative Super GameBoy version.
GamePak logo, probably photocopied. Quality not comparable to original.
Fake GamePak logo, indicating that it is a reproduction.
ESRB Rating ESRB, the rating board, also rated some US GameBoy titles.
Note that the first rating logos were introduced in 1994, so releases before that will not have a rating.
Also, only US releases will have a ESRB rating, not European or Japanese games.
The following categories appear on GameBoy cartridges:
Most of the time, the artwork on the label can be a good indicator if a game is original, especially quality-wise.
Many counterfeits will be either bad quality, from photocopies to bad redesigns. With the logos, fonts, colors and everything it is a lot to get right, and most of the time the errors are quite easy to spot.
Below are some direct 1:1 comparisons between original and fake labels. Hover over the images to zoom in!
Original "Hit The Ice".
Fake "Hit The Ice":
Blurry, the subtitle is not readable
Empty space on bottom (rendered black)
Bad logo quality
Label not cut straight
Original "Terminator 2"
Fake "Terminator 2":
Colors with bad quality
* The Seal of Quality has a different shape because of the region difference.
Original "Tiny Toon Adventures: Babs Big Break".
The text on the right and left are almost cut off
Blurry edge of black/silver print
Increasing distance from text to edge (from bottom up)
The colors are off, too much blue
Nintendo label: blurry, missing or unreadable "Licensed by"
Original "International Soccer".
Fake "International Soccer":
Label too big
Darker colors, blurry
Blurry logos, unreadable text
Grey part on bottom
Text & straight lines show artefacts
Original "Mega Man IV".
Fake "Mega Man IV":
Clear signals that this is a reproduction ("REP", "REPRO")
Grey (with printed grid) instead of plain silver
Wrong type of seal (see "Logos" section)
5. Plastic - Color, material, size
Most of the time, the color, material and texture of the plastic will be pretty telling on it's own.
Apparently it's pretty hard to get the exact color and feel right, and most fake games can be identified this way.
Note that most of the time, some kind of discoloring will be normal, especially with cartridges being exposed to sunlight.
This is usually the case and almost expected, if it looks pristine be sure to be extra cautious.
Note that most GameBoy games will be grey, but not all:
Pokémon and Donkey Kong Land games with special colored cartridges, an classic grey one.
These are all colors which exist for the classic GameBoy, all other cartridges are grey.
The last cartridge, a black one, is a hybrid (GB + GBC) cartridge. Most of the hybrid carts are black, there exist some exceptions like Pokémon silver and gold.
Fake "The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX" cart. The Deluxe (DX) version only exists as a hybrid cart and therefore it should be black.
GameBoy camera, one of the few exceptions of a different cart size.
Fake cartridges with different layouts
Most of the time, fake cartriges will also have different colors than original ones:
Original grey on the left, two fakes on the right.
One which has more red, another one which is brighter.
Most of the time, the difference is pretty obvious if you can feel the cartridge.
Many fake carts have a much smoother surface:
Slightly rough texture of an original cartridge.
Fake cartridge with a much smoother surface.
Rough texture on side of original cart.
Smooth surface on fake cartridge.
6. Plastic - Top logo
Many of the fake multicarts come with a telling header of just "GAME", which is very easy to spot.
However, there also exist fake games with the complete text, those are a bit harder to tell apart.
Text says "Nintendo GAME BOY™"
Text is completely missing
Only says "GAME"
Original text close up.
"™" is not aligned, different font
Minor errors: Cut in "t", "O" too flat, "™" too deep.
Minor errors: "G" too short, upper line of "E" too long, "™" not aligned.
7. Plastic - Back side: top logo
"Made in Japan" is missing
Missing punctuation, thicker font
8. Plastic - Closed inner part (bottom)
Original cartridge: Completely closed.
Fake, opening on left side.
Fake, two openings.
9. Plastic - Imprinted number (bottom)
"F-30" imprinted on bottom of cartridge opening.
Also missing number.
Carved rectangle, but empty, no number.
The only screw used for for GameBoy games is Gamebit, so you can be really sure if it is missing (or the wrong type) that it isn't an original game.
Original GameBit screw.
Wrong type of screw (Triwing). Also the position is way off as it is far to high.
Also the wrong type of screw.
No screw at all.
Screw decoy which looks real on the outside, but has no purpose.
11. PCB - Size and layout
Original PCB board.
Irregularly sized PCB.
Very short PCB.
12. PCB - Board quality & color, cut
Original edge. You can see the point of fracture and the high quality golden imprint and different green on the inside.
Original board with hole.
Fake board with straight edge (probably laser cut), no imprints, different colors.
Different fake board with edge and an imprinted number.
Board with small holes and golden color inside holes, but sloppy finish.
Fake board which is far too transparent, transistors on other side are clearly visible.
13. PCB - Nintendo-Print
Original Nintendo print. Also note the 4 golden rectangles.
No Nintendo print at all.
14. PCB - Valid board type, mapper
GameBoy PCB boards also have certain types, and they can be looked up.
For each game, you can check the Game Boy hardware database to see what board type and mapper it should have.
Original DMG-BEAN-02 board with mapper MBC1B
Original DMG-A01-01 board with mapper MBC5
No known board or mapper type.
15. PCB - Resistors, transistors, wiring, epoxy
Original, clean board.
Fake board with epoxy, which is never found on original boards. Also there is a button on the right (fake multicart).
Fake board featuring EPROM memory (M27C4001).
Original boards will never have an EPROM unit.
Fake board using a different EPROM, D27010-200V05.
Note that on an original board, there will be no such black parts with a "window" like this.
16. PCB - Battery
Original battery (Pokémon yellow), fixed with a simple clip.
Also note the "Batt CR1616" text, indicating the type of battery.
Battery with a large metal plate holder.
Different type of cheap, completely covering case.
Most of the fake cartridges don't have any box or manual, but there are copies of those too.
Original box of "Casper".
Fake box of "Judge Dredd". The blue color is quite alright, but the grey is too monotonous (no white lines), and the vertical placement is off.
Also, the letters of "GAME BOY" have some red "shadow" and are not as clear-cut as the original.
The grey is better here, but the text has too little space on both side, especially on the left.
Additionally there are artifacts on the line beween "GAME BOY" and the cover art.
Nintendo-logo on original "Casper" box.
Fake box with visible pixels on Nintendo logo.
Also here, pixel artifacts on both the upper and lower text.
Original Seal of Quality (EU version).
Pixelized yellow (not golden) imitation of Seal.
Seal with some missing parts / white spots.
Interesting Seal, you can see parts of the photocopied Seal behind it (especially on the (R)),
probably it was put just on top of it. Distances between letters and words seem off (especially between "Seal" and "of").
Original Nintendo logo.
Fake logo with different color, placement, line width, unreadable (R), pixelization.
Regular barcode on box.
Missing barcode. Maybe this was removed when copying but forgotten to be filled with an actual barcode to make it seem legit.
Original manual of "Kirby's Dream Land 2"
Layout is off, colors are too dark, circle artifacts and a red shadow on the right.
Pretty good copy, but the margins are off and the text edges are not clear enough.
Original Nintendo logo inside of a black-and-white manual.
Fake logo, probably photocopied from a color version with red outline.
Original Nintendo logo with sharp edges. Note the slight yellow shadow.
Pixelized logo, but including the shadow.
Blurry and pixelated logo.
Original Seal of Quality.
Fake Seal in grey. The original Seal will always be golden and shiny/reflecting, even if the manual is not in color.
Original manual page with layout fitting the page size.
White margin because of print offset.
Text only partially on manual (cut off).
Page number cut off.
White margin on left side.
White margin on top, but only on artwork, not on left "Game Boy" part.
19. Special case 1: Label replacement
Sometimes the front label is in bad shape (or missing at all), and replaced by a replacement (or "aftermarket") label.
The game is original, but the label is not, so this is kind of a special case.
Two examples of replacement labels.
20. Special case 2: China releases
Another special case are China releases. Many counterfeit games come from the asia market,
but there are also actual "official" releases for China.
As it turns out, a company called Wanxin Co. / Mani (万信) (source) was the official Nintendo distributor in China, starting from 1994.
There was even a Chinese GameBoy releases (source).
Only few games were released, and apparently much later than the original release (some sources cite around 5 years, see link above).
You can also find a list of valid China releases here.
Two examples of Chinese releases: Super Mario Land and Elevator Action.
Note the "MADE IN CHINA" on the back.
Custom layout, but valid board type and mapper (MBC1B). Note the bit of epoxy on the lower right,
which would normally be an indication of a counterfeit.
Close-up of the boards, we can see that they're DMG-BEAN-M01 and DMG-BEAN-M11.
Back of the PCB, including the 4 golden rectangles, and a 1994 and 1995 "MANI" imprint.
Sources & thanks
Many, many thanks to those who supported me with photos, cartridges, hints and knowledge about fake GameBoy game detection.
Without you, this wouldn't have been possible!
Jan von Classicgamestore.ch
Christopher von saturnia.ch
For any questions, remarks or contributions, please contact me at www.kleemans.ch.