If you’re a fan of the NES and SNES eras of gaming, we’re living in a New Golden Age. Not only do we have the ability to get any games we may have wanted back in the day, but there are new games being made on a regular basis. As if that weren’t enough, prototypes of previously unreleased games are now circulating, so you can play games that might have been best-sellers, but were almost lost to the pages of history. And the best part of all of this is, you can take these games and play them on your original system, just like you always have.
The problem is, when fans put games into actual cartridges, it has usually meant destroying an existing game that had a compatible board. Sometimes the donor game is an incredibly common title, on occasion it has to be a rarer game. It’s unfortunate, but it’s been seen as a necessary evil if you want to play something like Earthbound or Legend of Zelda: Outlands on your NES.
I own a few of these games, and I’m glad that I do, as I’ve had hours of fun with them. However, I think it’s time to say this: we need to stop destroying old games to make new ones. What we gain is no longer outweighed by what we lose.
The following video, from the #CUPodcast, sums up my feelings nicely:
In short, cutting up old games to make new ones was reasonable when that was the only way to do the job. However, in 2016, we now have flashcarts and reproduction NES boards and cartridge shells. It’s now entirely possible to get that ROM onto your NES without ever harming an old game, so let’s stop doing it.
Why, you ask? What’s the harm? Aren’t there a bajillion NES carts out there, and lots of them made in the hundreds of thousands? Well, yes, there were. However, the number may be large, but it’s still finite, and lots of these have already found their way into landfills. Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt might be an insanely common game, but taking care of the existing supply will keep it that way, to say nothing of genuinely rare games like Batman: Return of the Joker, another commonly used donor cartridge.
It just boils down to an issue of waste, in my mind. If you have the ability to play a new game, without destroying an old one, why wouldn’t you? Isn’t it better to buy an Everdrive than to slice up a rare game? And if you’re a homebrew developer, wouldn’t it be better to use factory-fresh virginal boards than to re-solder EPROMs onto old carts? We need to protect the hobby from ourselves. Gutting donor carts might seem harmless now, but 60 years ago, so did sticking a baseball card into your bike spokes. Nowadays, lots of enthusiasts mourn the loss of their extra 1955 Sandy Koufax. Don’t be that guy.