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A brief history of colored game cartridges

NINTENDO 64

Standard color: Fourth time’s the charm.

Special colors: Every color that came before, but in huge numbers. So many that the idea of a colored cart meant less and less as the years went on. We all know the N64 was getting trounced by the original PlayStation, so the only reason I can offer for the sudden surplus is a desperate attempt to make the games “feel” more fun by creating this rainbow of colors.

For the first time there are more colored carts than I care to show, but for the sake of “you forgot xxxx” comments, I know the following were either blue, black or red: Rally Challenge 2000, NBA Jam 2000, Tony Hawk 2, WWF No Mercy and Madden 2001. Odds are there are even more.


GAME BOY ADVANCE

Standard color: Gre… hey, they’re almost black! Let’s go with “darker grey.”

Special colors: The usual Pokemon colors (red, green, blue etc) plus a clear version for the sun-powered Boktai. I searched through a rather large list of GBA games and that’s all I could find, unless you want to count Nintendo’s “Classic NES Series,” which shipped in the standard grey cases.


Above: Back to square one 


TODAY’S EQUIVALENTS

Once games moved to discs (and therefore plastic jewel/DVD cases) there was no need for colored carts. The only available option was to change the color of the actual DVD case, a practice that Nintendo and Sony mostly ignored, but Microsoft embraced with its Platinum Hits line. Instead of the usual money-green case, those titles shipped in silver cases. This, along with the whole black/green label versions of PlayStation games has created a nitpicky collector subset that poo-poos any non-standard case colors.

Funny, how colored carts were beloved and colored cases were so strongly resisted. The reasoning, silly as it is, wasn’t about the color – it was the perceived lesser value of a “Greatest Hits” version as opposed to the “real” version. That’s why last year’s New Super Mario Bros Wii was met with praise instead of dread.

New SMB Wii shipped in a bright red case from day one. Not as a greatest hits line, but as its standard appearance. In a sea of Wii white, this red actually retains the cool factor of a colored cart, bringing us full circle.

You just spent five minutes reading about plastic.

May 27, 2010


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69 comments

  • 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! http://ka.paletteswap.com/genhauntingstarringpolterguy.jpg
  • 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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