This is just a quick FAQ file to answer the questions I get extremely often in the mail, and also to serve as an introduction to those just getting into the NES (again or otherwise). If you think something should be covered here that isn't, send me some mail.

Some required files

If you're new to NES collecting, I think you should check out a couple of nice resources:

  1. The NES Rarity List by Mike Etler, a complete listing of all known released NES games along with their relative rarity (note: the rarities aren't etched in stone, so your mileage may vary).
  2. reading the rest of this FAQ (which should answer most of the more common questions)
  3. And finally, checking out the rest of this site ^_^ (especially the museum

Q: What can you tell me about Nintendo as a company?
A: Ok, Nintendo Co. Ltd (or, if you insist, Nintendo Kabushikigaisha) was formed around 1889 as a maker of Japanese playing cards (they still sell them, by the way). From the beginning it was owned and ran by the Yamauchi family, and is currently headed by Hiroshi Yamauchi, a really hard-line dude who's been running the joint since 1949 and whose "vision" and stuff is mostly responsible for Nintendo's position today.

Under Hiroshi, Nintendo started doing all kinds of shit, including selling instant rice and running love hotels. In 1970 they released the Ultra Hand (one of those funny hand-extension-things) as their first toy. After that they once again made all kinds of toy-related shit, including an indoor shooting-range game, wacky-ass "Laser Clay Ranges", and so on. In 1977 it started selling Pong consoles, and a couple years later the first Game and Watches were released.

To make a long story short, the Family Computer was released in 1983, and it was a huge hit and gave Nintendo a mega huge strangle hold on the video game industry, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Q: But, Nintendo's got the N64 and stuff! the NES is a relic! Why do you still play it?
A: Because..

  1. NES games are really cheap. It's not hard to find them for $5, at least. You can amass a very large amount of carts very quickly (I have over 300, and I know people with around 600). At these prices, you can laugh at the stupid games and not feel like you've been ripped off, unlike paying $70 for a 32-bit game or whatever and finding out how bad it is.
  2. The games are not lame because they're old. Anyone can tell you that games like The Legend of Zelda and Ninja Gaiden are classics in their own right, but there are hundreds of fun, playable NES games out there.
  3. The NES's graphics and sound capabilities are worse than newer systems. This is good since the NES was the first system where the console's capabilities were good enough to showcase some really good graphics and music, but not so good that a game could ride things out just because of graphics. Lots of NES games have great graphics and music, and there are very few "all graphics - no gameplay" NES games. How many of those sort of games can you name that were released on Playstation?
  4. It's fun to go out and find games, it's fun to play them, and it's fun to be officially out of the loop of the modern gaming culture :)

Q: Hey, do you know where I can find (insert a NES game here)?
A: I get many requests for certain carts, and as a result I really can't spend my time acting as a cart locator. However, there are lots of ways to get whatever NES game you want for very cheap prices.

    1) Used games shops
    Places like these are popping up all over the country, spearheaded by Funcoland, a company that went retail after doing mail order only for several years. I don't like Funcoland. The ones near me have zero NES games, and the shipping is murder if you go the mailorder route. If you try to buy a NES there, the slopehead at the other side of the counter tries to sell you a $15-20 cleaning kit ($2 of which, btw, goes to the employee himself). I once had a guy try to sell me one of those.. when I had just gotten a NEW-STYLE NES from him. Duh. However, I will say that if you are looking for one particular common game (TMNT, or Ninja Gaiden, for example), then Funcoland et al may be the most convenient place to go.

    Also worth noting is that Funcoland currently has most of their NES games at total blowout prices (except for the ones they actually can sell, like the Dragon Warriors, Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man and so on). The headquarters are already out of most of the games I actually want, so it'd pay to clean out the Funcoland nearest you before the NES games disappear totally.

    Other places exist too (VGE, which closed down around here within two months of opening; a lot of non-national places); it pays to visit as many as you can to find what you're looking for.

    2) WWW-based places
    I link to several WWW-based used game dealers on my links page. Some of these places are ok, but again, they have a tendency to kill you with their goofy shipping rates, and just because they list a game doesn't at all mean that they actually have that game in stock.

    3) Game Time Inc. / Game Trader Inc.
    Who is this? This is a company that (a) buys used NES, Genesis, SNES, etc. games from video game shops across the country, (b) reshrinkwraps 'em with a slip of paper containing quick dox and a warranty and (c) resells them to places like K-Mart and Babbages. The NES games usually go for $10, and I see them in every K-Mart I've been to from Pennsylvania to Illinois. Occaisonally you see great stuff (like tengen tetris) but usually the games are not at all worth $10 loose. Once you get used to paying $2 or $3 a game you'll never come back...

    4) Garage sales, flea markets, thrift shoppes, pawn shoppes, etc
    I like going to these places a lot, not just for NES games but for whatever cool stuff I can find there.. videos, books, and so on.. plus, if you do find NES stuff, it's usually extremely cheap. Right now most of what you'll find here are even older game stuff (atari 2600, intellivision, and so on) but as time goes on, NES stuff will become more and more common. Pawn shoppes seem to have NES stuff pretty often, as a matter of fact.

    5) Emulation
    In the last year or so, emulators have been released for most all computers. These programs imitate the inner hardware of a NES, allowing you to play the games on your PC without needing carts or hardware. Playing games that you don't own is software piracy and therefore illegal, but most people don't let that stop them and emulation is one of the more exciting things happening in the underground scene these days. One of the places to catch up on the latest emulation events is Zophar's Domain.

Q: I need to get this one game manual...
A: If it isn't on my page, then I don't have it, sorry. Bug me enough and I'll make up a request list :)

Q: I just got an "old" (toaster-style) NES at a garage sale, and when I try it out, all I get is a flashing on-and-off screen, and the power light flashes on and off as well. Any suggestions?
A: This is an extremely common problem with old NESes you find at garage sales and stuff. It's caused by dirty contacts on the unit and/or bent contacts.

A bit of history: Before the NES got released in the USA, the videogame industry in the US was in a shambles. Atari, the leader during the early 80's, was in serious financial trouble, along with Coleco and Mattel's game division, both of which left the business. When NOA was selling the NES concept to toy stores, the buyers didn't want to buy any video game system at all, since they thought video games were permanently dead. As a result, NOA designed the NES to be as far disassociated from previous game consoles as possible. It's not a video game system, it's an "entertainment system". It uses "game paks," not carts, and the NES was designed so that you couldn't actually see the cart while you were playing.

Unfortunately, this design doesn't really hold up to the ravages of use over a long period of time. If you have a NES that you can't get to work, here's a list of things you should try in order, along with the relative price of each:

  1. ($2 or so) Grab some Q-tips and some isopropyl alcohol. Dip a Q-tip in the alcohol, and clean your NES cart's edge connectors with it by running the alcohol-enriched Q-tip across both sides of it. After that, turn the Q-tip around and run the other end of it (the one you didn't dip in alcohol) across both sides of the connectors. Marvel at how dirty your Q-tip looks now. Plug in the game and see if it works. If it doesn't..
  2. ($.99 at Toys R Us) Go down to Funcoland or TRU or wherever and get a NES cleaning kit. These kits are basically nothing more than (a) a really small amount of isopropyl alcohol, (b) some razor-shaped thingy that does the same thing that Q-tips do (as in the above step), and (c) a NES-cart-shaped thingy that you're supposed to put into the NES and move it all around, or something. This should help in cleaning the contacts on the NES, and, coupled with cleaning your carts when needed, should be all you need to keep your old-style NES clean. If, however, it still doesn't work...
  3. ($8) it means your cart connector is shitted since the connectors on it have been bent out of shape by all the carts you've put inside of it. Fortunately, you can get a new cart connector from several places, including MCM Electronics (1-800-543-4330). Here are the part numbers you need if you call MCM (thx Nathan Nunn):

     83-3785    NES 72-pin Connector     7.99
     83-3150    SNES 62-pin Connector    9.59
     83-2285    Gameboy 32-pin Connector 3.59

    Putting it on isn't hard. It involves taking off the NES case, but since the warranty on the NES is probably expired by now, I wouldn't worry about it. If this strikes you as too much work..

  4. ($50) .. then get a new-style, top-loading NES (which is/was sold at Toys'R'Us these days). These systems are smaller than the old NES, and uses a much better cart loading system that ensures you will never have a problem with not getting games to work again. I think everyone should have one! :)

Q: How can I get stickers, grease pen, etc. off of my carts?
A: Many NES games, especially if they are retired video store rentals, are (a) extremely dirty and (b) have stickers, video store security seals, tape, etc. covering the game label. These can be quite a bitch to get off if you use the infamous "pick at it with your fingernail" method, but there is fortunately a much better method:


Goo Gone is a product you can buy at drugstores and hardware stores for two or three bucks. It was made for just this sort of problem - getting stickers, magic marker, crayon, tape, and so on off of surfaces. As an added extra, it smells very strongly of oranges!

First off, do NOT use Goo Gone on your carts like this; you'll put too much on and it'll get all over the label and probably stain the edges. Just squirt some Goo Gone on a paper towel and scrub the offending area. Repeat as desired and suddenly all of your NES carts will look brand new! Citrus Power!

Q: Do you have any technical info on the NES?
A: Here are the basics:

    Bits (CPU): 8
    Bits (Gfx): 8
    CPU : motorola 6502 running at 1.8mHz
    Graphics : 256x240
    Colors : 16 out of a palette of 52
    Sprites : 8 (8x8 each)
    RAM : 2k + 2k video RAM

I can't help you with particulars since I'm not a tech dood :) If you haven't done so you should really check Marat Fayzullin's NES tech file.

Back to start.