Topic: Ragfish's Definitive Guide to Fake GBA Games

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As many of you may know from personal experience or hearing stories from others, GBA games have a reputation for being counterfeited often. Nobody likes buying a game they've been super excited to play, only to get a counterfeit. As someone who can spot a fake game from a mile away and has bought 60+ games without being fooled once, I've decided to write a little guide.

This guide is geared mainly towards US games, as I don't own any PAL or Japanese games, but I'm sure many of the same things will apply (and the majority of fake carts I've seen are US anyway).

Simple things
These should be the first things to look for. If all these things look good, the game could still be fake, but many of the lower quality fakes will mess these up.

1. Make sure the label art isn't completely wrong. Such as here:
This is nothing like what the actual label looks like. You should spot this right away.

2. Look into the contacts inside the bottom of the cartridge and look past the pins. You should see "Nintendo" written in white.

3. Look at the right side of the label. There should be a couple of small letters imprinted into the label that can just barely be seen.

4. Gen III Pokemon games should have shinier labels than other games, and also be different color cartridges. Ruby Sapphire and Emerald are somewhat transparent, but Firered and Leafgreen are only barely transparent and in many photos will appear to just be a solid red/green cartridge.
Pictured is what the cartridges should look like.

Previously, these things were all you really needed to do to tell if a game is fake or not. However, the fakes are getting more clever. A more in depth analysis is required these days for certain games.

Advanced Tricks (no pun intended)

5. Look at the ESRB rating. Many fakes mess it up and make it the wrong size or thickness, as seen here.
Obviously this doesn't apply to games from other regions.

6. Look at the "GAMEBOY ADVANCE" text above the label. Many fakes have the text too thin.
The bottom one is the fake. This is perhaps the most important thing for spotting the trickiest of fakes! Not all fakes get this wrong, but many of the best do, so don't ignore this.

7. The official Nintendo seal at the bottom of the label should change color from dark gold to beige when pointed at a light. Do note that it is possible for the seal to fade even on legit cartridges with labels in otherwise good condition, so don't immediately declare it a fake if it fails this step.

8. The easiest way to tell is to just open the cartridge with a tri wing screwdriver and look at the circuit board. Below are some examples of what they should look like.
If the circuit board isn't as nice and clean as these, it is fake. If you see a weird black blob of something on the circuit board, it is fake. Fake GBA circuit boards are ugly, simple as that.

Tips for buying from eBay
-Don't buy it if it's just a stock image. The reason for this should be obvious.
-If a game is specifically listed as authentic and turns out to be fake, then eBay policy entitles you to a refund
-For some reason, the second of the pair of Pokemon games (such as Blue, Silver, Sapphire and Leafgreen) are pirated less often than the first (such as Red, Gold, Ruby, and Firered). If you're paranoid, you might want to go for them instead. That doesn't mean they're never pirated though!
-Don't buy games from Hong Kong or China. Take a wild guess as to why.
-Don't buy games from listings that show "121 sold" or something in red text. This likely means that they're mass producing fakes rather than just have hundreds of authentic copies of the same game
-Pokemon and Fire Emblem are probably the most pirated games. In second place are the more popular 1st party titles, or the Castlevania/Final Fantasy games. Most anything else is rarely faked, but still be alert
-If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. While occasionally a clueless mom will put up a legit copy of Fire Emblem for $5, these are usually snapped up within minutes of being listed. Good deals are definitely out there, but spectacular deals probably aren't.
-If the seller doesn't have a very good grasp on the English language, be suspicious
-Some sellers will post pictures of the circuit board. If they do, it's extremely easy to tell if it's authentic. However, most sellers won't, so you can't rely on this.

While GBA games have a reputation for being commonly faked, it's often not as bad as you may have been led to believe. Sure, I did just write a huge list on how to tell apart fakes, but trust me, the majority of games out there are authentic, and there's no need to be paranoid. There are many situations where there's much less chance of getting a fake (though do still stay alert).

Times When You Probably Don't Need to Worry Too Much About Fakes

-You're buying a game that isn't Fire Emblem, Pokemon, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, or any other of the A-List first party games (such as Metroid, Minish Cap, etc).
-You're buying games at a local game shop or something rather than online.
-You're buying a game that includes the box/manual. Few pirates bother to replicate these.

Of course, even if the game fulfills these criteria, it could still be fake. I've personally seen a fake copy of Little Einsteins in a retro game store, so that goes against two of them.

Something I hear from time to time is "Why should I care about fake GBA games? I only want to play the game, I don't really care if it's real or not." There are a few reasons why fakes should be avoided.

Why you should care

Fake games are just lower quality, for a number of reasons. Tons of them have issues saving. Oftentimes there will be glitches that are not present on an official cartridge. They might not fit into the cartridge slot as well. They may take multiple attempts for the game to boot. Some of them just might stop working altogether.

Hope you guys find this useful. If you have any questions or have a game you want me to inspect, feel free to drop me a line. This guide may make GBA game buying seem scary, but I assure you, this guide is way overkill. I'm just going into a much detail as possible for the worst case scenario.

Edited on by ReaderRagfish

Still waiting for Atlus to make Snowboard Kids 3


The fake Fire Emblem has a number etched into the sticker? That is a detail I would think pirated games would not bother to copy.

Another common thing to check is that the back of the cartridge is correct. They should have the "tri-wing" screws and also the label "(Nintendo logo) MODEL NO. AGB-002".
AGB-002 is the Nintendo part number for standard GBA cartridges. The only GBA games to be exempted from that are ones with special hardware requiring unusually-shaped carts (the Boktai solar sensor, the tilt/rumble games). Even the unusual color GBA games I have (the Pokemons, and a few Famicom Minis) are still AGB-002. One bootleg Pokemon I had once was a AGB-004. That is an incorrect ID, AGB-004 was some other small piece of hardware like the headphone adapter or maybe it was the link cable.
The Pokemon fake also wouldn't run in my GBA. One good sign of that it was fake was that it displayed a completely blank Nintendo logo on the GBA boot screen, and wouldn't start. A glitched logo suggests your cart is dirty but a completely blank space suggests the logo is missing completely from the game's ROM and is thus not a legitimate copy. (I recall that label on the fact was amazing in that it bothered to copy all the text and logos of a real label, but not put them in the correct spots)
That is not a coincidence. The GBA boot screen expects to find a bit-perfect copy of the Nintendo logo at the right spot in the code.

Another good sign of a fake was Nintendo-published games having "Licensed by Nintendo" printed on the label. Nintendo doesn't need to license themselves.
(though it can be tricky when Nintendo published third-party games in some regions. The Final Fantasy games for example. Square-Enix published them in Japan but Nintendo published them in other regions. So the Japanese version should "Licensed by (Nintendo logo)" but the western versions should NOT be, just "(Nintendo logo)".)

I know on DS games one tell for fakes was to check that first four characters of the manufacturing code on the back of the card matches the middle part of the game ID code on the front, but I heard at some point the pirates got smarter about faking that.
The DS fakes I have did include a box/manual. One was laughably obvious that it was a fake (it was copy-pasted text from the internet that did not explain at all how to actually play the game). The other (Tetris DS) manual was still obviously reprinted from the PDF version Nintendo used to have on its website but it was off. The cover art was only easy to notice it was fake when I got a genuine copy to compare it to.



@KingMike The wrong model number, screw, and incorrect licensing on the label would indeed give it away, though these are mistakes made only by the most amateur of pirates. Any cart that fails those two steps will probably fail most of the other steps as well.

Some people also cite batteries as a way to tell if your game is fake, as most pirates use batteries but only a handful of official carts do. However, I'm unable to find an accurate list of which games use batteries (no, the one on GBAtemp isn't accurate) and it's a redundant method anyway because if you've already opened the game, then it should be obvious just by looking at the circuit board whether it's legit.

KingMike wrote:

A glitched logo suggests your cart is dirty but a completely blank space suggests the logo is missing completely from the game's ROM and is thus not a legitimate copy.

This isn't quite true from my experience. Most of the time, a dirty GBA cartridge will just show a blank space where the Nintendo logo should be. Sometimes it'll be glitched instead, but it's rare for that to happen. For a dirty GB/GBC cartridge though, you usually get the glitched logo.

Still waiting for Atlus to make Snowboard Kids 3


Step 1: Are you buying it from China?
If yes, it is 100% fake.
The end.

The Shpydarloggery
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But those Chinese bootlegs get bought and resold by people outside China, infecting international markets.

I remember on another forum a guy telling about his friend reselling bootleg Pokemon carts and I just got to say is like "sorry but your friend is a bad person, now we have all these garbage copies going around."



As a new GBA SP owner, this is quite helpful! Thanks for making a new thread for this.

Nice >:]

I do stupid stuff on, so check it out if your bored or whatever.
Or don't, it's your time after all.


Added pictures of what the 5 Pokemon games should look like. Only the mainline games should be colored, the spin offs like Mystery Dungeon and Pinball should be the standard dark grey.

Still waiting for Atlus to make Snowboard Kids 3


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