Is it at all possible to save a state in a game for older consoles? I'm talking about old school game consoles like NES, SNES and Sega MegaDrive.

I know it's not built in, so maybe somebody knows of some kind of add-box, or something to put between the cartridge and the console to record the game progress or something like that..?

It would really help me finish certain older games.

  • why was this flagged down..? Do you think I didn't put in enough effort doing research..? :s I did already look for an answer to this, but never found one. I know of ways to put roms on custom cartridges, but that'd cost me a lot and is not the way I want it to work. I want it to work with the games I have here on my shelves..
    – dreagan
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 7:52
  • Emulators, emulators, emulators, emulators.
    – kotekzot
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 12:35
  • 2
    @kotekzot, emulators are actually on-topic here, even though this question is specifically asking about game hardware.
    – agent86
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 13:29

3 Answers 3


Forgive my bluntness but Agent86 is not entirely correct.

Both the SNES and NES actually do have hardware devices that can save and restore state with off the shelf cartridges. As an added bonus both offer true slow motion capabilities (not the pause button hack commonly implemented by some controllers). These are perfect for games like Mortal Kombat and Battletoads.

For SNES you are looking for the Nakitek Game Saver Plus available at www.stoneagegamer.com for about 20 bucks.

A Genesis version was mentioned in a Game Pro magazine back in the day http://www.digitpress.com/forum/showthread.php?91593-naki-game-saver

But the Genesis version they talked about never saw the light of day.

For NES you want the much more rare and elusive Game Action Replay (not to be confused with the Pro Action Replay, a game genie like device.) these are very hard to find and typically go for 80-100 dollars on ebay.

I own both and they work mostly as advertised with a few quirks. Because of the lack of accurate information and abundance of misinformation on these devices I am in the process of putting together a complete review.

I should be done with it sometime in February and I'll post a follow up comment with a link once it's up.

In the meantime order it now if you want it because once I clear up the confusion that's currently making people overlook these devices they are going to become very hard to find!

  • 1
    The first result I got from Google about Game Action Replay was this. From a quick read it seems marginally possible, but with some heavy modifications to the console. Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 1:32
  • 1
    The only modification to the nes is to remove the metal bar that would get in the way of piggy backing the second nes cartridge onto the GAR. There is no hardware circuitry modification necessary. Also since the GAR can work just fine as a pass through if you wanted to simply ignore it's added functionality you could. There really is no reason to remove the GAR or the Game Saver Plus once plugged in.
    – DashV
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 3:18
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    thank you for your input, it's very much appreciated ^^. Do you know if any of these are supported on PAL consoles?
    – dreagan
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 16:33
  • 1
    The Game Saver Plus should work in both PAL and US consoles. You can also use it to play cartridges from any region. The only problem you will have is the pass through power cable will not work on the PAL console. So you either need to get a seperate power adapter to power the GSP or use AA batteries (not recommended).
    – DashV
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 8:12
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    I honestly don't know if the GAR works with the PAL NES. I only have the US version of that console.
    – DashV
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 8:22

There's not a hardware device that would sit between a console and it's cartridge to record the game's state, and that's because it wouldn't be able to do this task.

The cartridges hold the game's code, commonly burned into memory chips called ROMs. Cheat devices like the Game Genie or Action Replay sit between the console and these chips, and replace or patch the code on the chip as the console requests it. Therefore, it's possible to change the way the game executes in real time.

For example, when you get hit in The Legend of Zelda, there's a bit of code that executes which takes your current life (stored in a memory cell) and subtracts one from it. Instead of subtracting one heart, the cheat device might change the code so that the "subtract one from life" instruction is never executed. This would make you effectively invincible.

Saving state is done by copying the current contents of memory/registers into a file, and then loading that file again later. The console's memory is not part of the cartridge. Therefore, this can't be done by capturing the data coming off the cartridge - you'd have to open the case, and solder down something that is capable of reading the contents of the console's memory, and allow it to be restored later. This is a complicated process, and would likely be hard to get right.

Saving state is a common feature of emulators, however. Emulators set up an environment inside your PC where the entire CPU, memory, audio/video chips, etc are all simulated. Since they're simulated, capturing data at any point in the process is fairly simple. Older generation consoles had a tiny amount of memory compared to your PC, so saving and loading many different iterations of the current game state is simple and not very taxing.

  • too bad, will have to keep trying then I guess.. Thanks for the explanation!
    – dreagan
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 13:44

Actually, the PowerPak -- basically a flash cart for the NES -- does have the ability to take savestates, with a certain set of mappers: http://kkfos.aspekt.fi/projects/nes/powerpak/save-state-mappers/

It is not currently possible for the other ones, that I know of, however.

  • 1
    expensive, but spot on.
    – dreagan
    Commented May 31, 2012 at 6:23

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