Is This Super Mario 3 GBA Fake?

I recently got this old GBA cartridge from a thrift-store, and not only does it not work, but it looks super suspicious. After closer investigation, I see it has every hallmark of a bad bootleg.

  • Missing Nintendo copyright visible above the pins.
  • Game doesn't work after battery dies.
  • The label doesn't resemble known retail cartridge labels.
  • Tri-Wing screw is short, cartridge fit is much too tight.
  • Unexpected Epoxy Blob.
  • Soldering looks amateurish.
  • Chips look ugly / recycled / un-readable.
  • Incredibly inexpensive.

So what is this? The two large center chips look like Mitsubishi M6MGB SRAM memory. I'm guessing there's a storage controller under that epoxy blob, and various J & R pins are used to write/erase the thing. It looks more like a USB drive than a Nintendo game.

Will it work if I replace the battery? I think maybe not - SRAM data is eventually lost if the memory is not powered for a long time, sayeth the wikipedia. I might try replacing it anyhow.

The good news is the FBI goes after counterfeit goods everyday, however plenty of pirate flotsam remains long after a manufacturer is convicted. Estimates are that sales of fakes has increased to nearly $900B in 2018, and perhaps as many as one-quarter of people now admit to knowingly buy knockoffs (which is illegal btw).

I hope companies like Nintendo continue the fight to produce physical games that can be authenticated. As game buyers we want to trust what we're really getting, but this problem also extends to food and medicine where these trust issues become deadly serious.

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