A brief history of colored game cartridges


Standard color: As with Atari, most of the Genesis’ carts were black. Notice though the shift from black label/old logo to red label/new logo, displayed here with Sonic 2 (black) and then Sonic 3 (red). In some circles (i.e. mine), the red label is associated with the beginning of Sega’s perpetual mishandling of its hardware, ultimately leading to the company exiting the hardware race altogether in 2002.

Special color: I searched far and wide for deviant Genesis carts and all I could find was this red cart for Maximum Carnage, a Spider-Man beat ‘em up based on the gratuitous comic book miniseries.

Funny how few colored carts there were when EA was allowed to publish its games in these strange cases with giant yellow plugs in the side. Why were they huge and unshapely? Because Sega never gave EA a proper development kit, forcing the formerly underdog EA to build one itself.


Standard color: That same NES grey we lusted over in the ‘80s.

Special colors: Obviously we all know Pokemon shipped on game-specific carts (Red, Blue, Gold, Silver and so on) but don’t forget 1994’s Donkey Kong Land. Oh, you did forget it? That’s OK.

The launch of the Game Boy Color in 1998 required two new types of Game Boy carts – solid black for games that play in both Game Boy and Game Boy Color, and clear for Color-exclusive games. Man, you’re learning so much today.


Standard color: Again, grey is Nintendo’s color of choice.

Special colors: Red and black. Both Doom and the aforementioned Maximum Carnage were the former, while arcade darling Killer Instinct arrived draped in black. Even with all the SNES games released, only these three were deemed special enough for a colored cartridge. Restraint made them matter. The next console took the opposite approach, nearly sapping the importance right out.

Next page: Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance and modern-day equivalents!


  • shane-meece - September 27, 2012 9:15 a.m.

    Here's a question for ya. I have a black cartridge for Final Fantasy 2 that i acquired 14 years ago yet there is NO info anywhere on the net. WTF does this mean?!
  • jerilyn-nighy - June 6, 2012 11:48 p.m.

    You neglected "Air Raid" for Atari, which had both a unique color AND shape. And is one of the rarest carts out there.
  • Colicub - March 21, 2011 1:35 p.m.

    Actually.......there's another few that you missed. The Japanese version of Virtua Racing on the Mega Drive came in a weird grey cart that was a different shape than any other to make space for the SVP chip. Also, the bitGenerations games on the GBA come on proper black carts, and Drill Dozer had the funny brown rumble cart. In the UK Micro Machines came on a cart that looked like a Game Genie, and also a lot of pirate and homebrew carts are differently coloured, especially for handhelds.
  • kangaroocory - November 20, 2010 3:05 a.m.

    "Gre… hey, they’re almost black! Let’s go with 'darker grey.'" Hahahahaha i nearly died over that one. Also, whenever my local Gamestop closes, my re-play is still open, so when igo to "classics" section i see N64 game Jeopardy, yes like the game show, in shiny blue likethe pokemon silver and pokemon blue mixed.
  • whitesall - September 1, 2010 2:07 p.m.

    loved the 64 entris played the magority of all those games was hopping to see pokemon stadium 2 but i would always want to play the donkey kong game on the 64 mostly because in a box of grey it was freakin yellow!!!!
  • bhamjustin - May 31, 2010 3:55 p.m.

    Loved this article. It took me back to getting a new game & the sheer joy you felt when you opened the game box and it was a special color. Great stuff.
  • Marvelfan13 - May 31, 2010 2:42 a.m.

    Hey, I own that Super Mario Bros. Deluxe game!
  • lovinmyps3 - May 30, 2010 7:08 p.m.

    "You just spent five minutes reading about plastic." Holy shit, I did! Damn you GamesRadar!
  • super0sonic - May 30, 2010 9:39 a.m.

    i like this alot.
  • Mechamorbo - May 30, 2010 3:48 a.m.

    Weird! I thought The Haunting was in a bigger case because a normal cartridge couldn't contain it's shear graphical power!
  • ChiChiRocket - May 30, 2010 3:42 a.m.

    I was pretty disappointed the day that I opened my Pokemon Pearl box to find a black cartridge staring back at me. Having played since Red and Blue, I just assumed they'd keep going with the colored cartridge theme. How wrong I was...
  • linkganon - May 29, 2010 7:49 a.m.

    @QWERTYCommander tony hawk pro skater 3 was black, i know because i own the game.
  • Silentcapt2 - May 29, 2010 2:55 a.m.

    Hmm, I wonder how many minutes you spent writing about plastic? xD
  • screwball08247 - May 28, 2010 5:58 p.m.

    I'll never look at colored plastic the same way again. Thank you, Brett Elston.
  • NanoElite666 - May 28, 2010 5:43 p.m.

    So THAT'S why that old NHL game I had for Genesis way back when had a huge cart with a funny yellow thing on it.
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - May 28, 2010 3:11 p.m.

    Damn, getting that gold Zelda N64 cartridge for christmas. Nothing can bring that feeling back, not even fantastic articles such as this!
  • Geminiman82 - May 28, 2010 3:06 p.m.

    It's not a certainty but many games with a special color have been pretty good!
  • rockstarsean - May 28, 2010 2:59 p.m.

    Micro Machines 2 was the greatest cartridge ever!!! 2 extra controller ports!!!!
  • VirAetas - May 28, 2010 2:48 p.m.

    There really nothing more magical than that golden Zelda cartridge. Then Ocarina came and was gold. Then Majora's Mask upped the ante by being gold and HOLOGRAPHIC ZOMGSOCOOL. Oh Zelda, how I love thee. Then the uber badass Turok 3 (guilty pleasure...) black cartridge with everyone screaming on the cover. Ahhh 90's.
  • Baron164 - May 28, 2010 1:47 p.m.

    I just spent 5 minutes reading about plastic. Wow it's really a slow day.

Showing 1-20 of 69 comments

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