How can I tell if used GBA/DS games are pirated?

  • GBA = Game Boy Advanced. What is "/Ds"?
    – Lazer
    Jul 11, 2010 at 17:28
  • 1
    @Lazer Ds = Nintendo DS.
    – Macha
    Jul 11, 2010 at 20:11
  • Legal advice, shoudl be closed ?
    – Mushu
    Jul 14, 2010 at 15:31
  • 22
    @MarmouCorp-I think it is important for gamers to know how to spot a counterfeit game, but I don't see how that qualifies as legal advice?
    – averyzoe
    Jul 15, 2010 at 4:20

5 Answers 5

  • The cartridges fail to fit smoothly in the slot.
  • You are getting a non-official box.
  • The manual is usually home-printed (as well as the sticker on the cartridge).
  • They sometimes fail to work on new versions of the console (DSi).

(I used to buy a lot on second hand, and unfortunately I got 2-3 fake games like that)

  • Do you have any sources aside from personal experience?
    – Batophobia
    Jul 11, 2013 at 21:07
  • @DavidStarkey - not really, no.
    – Gnoupi
    Jul 15, 2013 at 8:39
  • More than one game in a cartridge is a dead give away.
  • Some games have identifying features. E.g. Pokemon games for GBA are transparent and coloured, while the DS games HeartGold/SoulSilver are black instead of grey, to allow for the Pokewalker's IR receiver.
  • What is HG/SS?
    – Lazer
    Jul 11, 2010 at 17:28
  • 1
    – Macha
    Jul 11, 2010 at 20:10

Ways are:

  1. There are far more games contained in that cartridge. (1 game vs. 25-in-one cartridge)
  2. The cartridge back-side screw is not the same as the original screw
  3. There is another splash screen that loads prior to the official Nintendo screen.
  4. There is no official box, or the box received is different than the official box.
  5. The cartridge is bigger than normal, or odd-sized, or is different grey colour than normal cartridges.
  6. The seal 'Nintendo seal of quality' is faded or not present.
  7. The game responds more sluggish than normal.

Cartridge Examples are:

  • You buy a 2nd hand game, the cartridge received looks bigger or different shade of grey than the normal grey colour.

Gameplay Examples are:

  • The gameplay responds much slower than a normal game would. Playing Super Mario Boss GB, you keep falling down instead of jumping.

  • The game keeps saying 'Battery or CMOS corrupt'. Your Zelda save-game keeps getting reset, or corrupted.

  • There is a loader (e.g., Hacked by XXXX team) that occurs before the official Nintendo screen.

If you are buying used GBA or DS cartridges, safe and advisable way is to:

1) Ask the person to take a high-resolution screenshot of the cartridge against a background you specify, example, 'YourName', 'YourAddress', so that you know what you are buying is what you are getting.

2) You might want to ask him to take a video of:

putting the game in and out of the box take a 360 degrees pan and zoom on the box, take a pan and zoom the cartridge, take a pan and zoom near the screws, move the camera around the seal of quality, take the into his/her GameBoy and the first 30 seconds of himself playing the game.

Pay careful attention to the box, the cartridge size, the unique background you have pre-agreed to and action putting in and out of the GB device.

  • I like this answer, but you might want to list a couple more physical problems that are really common, like these with GBA and these with DS. Mar 27, 2014 at 1:37
  • 1
    The problem with this is not are these indicators of only piracy but also 3rd party, unlicensed or home brew games. Which aren't piracy. Also knockoffs aren't technically always piracy either.
    – ydobonebi
    Feb 5, 2016 at 17:51

On the Nintendo DS carts, I believe there's a series of numbers and letters printed on the green part of the contacts. Also, the Nintendo logo is on the back (you can only view it at certain angles), and something like a serial number is stamped on the back.

For official GBA carts, the Game Boy Advance logo is faintly visible above the sticker, and the Nintendo logo and model number are on the back.

I can't confirm that pirated games won't have these features, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't.


Another way to tell is that they do not in fact contain the full game.

  • 1
    How common is this?
    – Macha
    Jul 11, 2010 at 14:31
  • 2
    Quite. I've seen people who picked up games on a market for example, like a Mario game missing half the levels.
    – user56
    Jul 11, 2010 at 15:44
  • 12
    My little bro once bought a pokemon game in india that turned out to just display a flashing pikachu when turned on. Mar 29, 2011 at 16:31

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