Photo: Future Publishing (Getty)
I don’t know how us children of the ’80s figured out all those bizarre and unorthodox methods to getting an NES cartridge to work properly, but it was truly amazing. We didn’t have the internet to walk us through it. We operated on pure determination to play “Super Mario Bros. 3” by any means necessary. While your exact method may vary in places here and there, this could easily be your definitive guide to making a Nintendo game work.
1. Put the game into the Nintendo console and press power
By modern standards, this is all you need to do. The only way this won’t work currently is if a cord came loose. For the NES, this was a fool’s dream. If your game worked on the first try, you are a wizard practicing the dark arts.
2. Press reset a few times.
At this point, you knew a simple reset probably wasn’t going to work, but you figured, why not give it a shot? It’s like bidding $1 on “The Price Is Right.” You know the odds are against you, but if it actually works, everyone is going to go completely nuts. Plus Bob Barker will show up, for some reason.
3. Turn it off and push the cartridge to the right.
I have no idea how this makes a difference, but so many times it actually worked. Is it not troubling to anyone else that there was enough room in the console for the games to shift around?
4. Now push the cartridge to the left and try it again.
At this point you were basically acting out the steps of the Cupid Shuffle with your Nintendo. If the shift to the right didn’t work, you would shift it to the left and see if that does the trick. You also tried popping the game up and down like Xzibit put hydraulics on it as well. That worked from time to time.
5. Take it out and blow in the bottom of the cartridge.
This is the classic move. Why on earth is this actually effective? Were you storing your games in an old barn for 60 years as they collected dust like an ancient artifact? Some people prefer a gentle breeze, but others tried the Big Bad Wolf method where you blow into the bottom of the cartridge with such velocity you nearly pass out.
6. Put it back in and try again.
At this point, you either got a solid gray screen or the power button was flashing on and off. You felt so close, yet so far away. Just like Frodo, your journey will been a difficult one, and it is just beginning.
7. Take it back out, flip it around and blow the other way.
This makes no sense whatsoever and yet somehow it makes a difference. You blew into the cartridge in one direction and that didn’t work, so why not flip it and blow the other way? It’s like if you tried a food you didn’t like and thought it would make a difference to try it using a different spoon.
8. This is where amateurs would give up and move onto another game.
You tried every method at your immediate disposal and nothing worked. The coward would look at this as a lost cause and move onto a different game, but not you. You were a seasoned 8-bit veteran and you knew this battle is just beginning. You did not go quietly into the night.
9. Get a Q-tip and rub it on the bottom of the cartridge.
Pop on your Heisenberg hat, because it’s time to go to work. For this attempt, you took a dry Q-tip and rubbed it along the bottom of the cartridge. Somehow it was always dirty. It’s not like you stored your games in a sandbox. If you really wanted to get serious about it, you dipped the Q-tips in a little alcohol first to give it that chemical smell, so it seems more like you were starting a meth lab than trying to play “Metroid.”
10. The Nintendo game will start but it will be distorted.
You were almost there, at this point. The game loaded up, but it was all pixelated and distorted. Every word on the screen was blurry and Mario will looked like he had a chimney growing out of his back.
11. Rapid fire steps 1-10 and it will start to work.
This is where you would apply all the skills you’ve acquired previously and start trying all of them in rapid succession. All your hard work finally paid off! “Mega Man 2” is fully loaded and ready to go! You did it, you sweet prince.
12. Realize you don’t really want to play that game after all and start the whole process over with a new game.
After a few minutes, you would realize this isn’t really the game you want to play, so you had to choose between playing a game you don’t enjoy or starting the entire process over. This is the life you chose. Another 15-20 minutes later, you might’ve been able to play “Mega Man 3” instead!