A brief history of colored game cartridges

If you weren’t around for those days, this entire feature probably seems a bit silly. But for those of us who remember seeing a gold Zelda or a red Doom, there was a special, intangible moment of joy in seeing something stick out from all the other games. Collected here are all the specially colored carts I could recall, beginning with the Atari 2600 and ending with today’s DVD case equivalents.

Above: Boy, they really know how to sell it

Standard color: Almost 100% of the machine’s carts were black, and are perhaps better known for their all-or-nothing cover art. Sometimes they were elaborate pieces of art, others a simple bit of text printed on a plain label.

Special color: Nintendo’s two Donkey Kong games took the opposite path and went for white instead of standard black, though to be fair all of Coleco’s Atari games were white. So it’s only sort of special, as that means there are several white carts instead of just one or two.

Standard color: That wonderful, wonderful grey. If you were age 5-20 in the ‘80s or early ‘90s, you handled countless carts that looked exactly like this.

Above: How you make something matter

Special color: A dazzling gold Legend of Zelda immediately set it apart from every other game on the market, let alone the NES. When struck by sunlight it seemed to radiate energy like the Triforce itself, a feat that managed to make the lifeless plastic feel as integral to the Zelda experience as the groundbreaking gameplay.

Oh yeah, there were plenty of unlicensed, unofficial NES games that snuck out to the market inside of ugly and/or oddly colored carts. Color Dreams favored a pale blue, Camerica attempted to ape Zelda with its gold and silver carts while the oh-so-popular American Video Entertainment stuck with black.

Next page: Sega Genesis, Game Boy, Super NES and more!

Brett Elston

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.