Now I watched JewWario’s You Can Play This, he did an episode about importing games for well known consoles. It was very interesting but here’s the problem, I live in the UK which is in Europe so I have PAL electronics (Thanks Germany!), US and Japan have NTSC. It confused me because some people said that this will work on this specific NTSC console but not for that specific PAL version, so after all my research, here is my simple guide to importing if you’re from Europe.
So what’s the difference between NTSC and PAL, well NTSC is a lot faster, the audio is correct and sometimes even the gameplay can be slow. PAL on the other hand is much slower in terms of audio and gameplay, we don’t have this problem now but back then, we didn’t know at that point.
Nintendo Entertainment System – Even if you have either an NTSC or PAL NES, you can’t play Famicom games instantly due to the number of pins, the Famicom games has 60 pins, whilst NES games have 72 pins.
You could buy a Famicom if you want but you will need a stepdown converter plug, especially if you live in Europe. Or if you still want to play Famicom games on an NES, then get an adapter, a well-known one is the HoneyBee but there should be others around. There are a number of first-run NES games that have Famicom games that have the chips taken out and inserted a special converter included inside the cartridges due to Nintendo realising that they were short on NES games at the time of the console’s release. To find these cartridges, find ones that have 5 pins at the back and make sure that the pins have an L shape instead of the usual T. Also you can’t play US games on a PAL console and vice versa, you will need an adapter for that.
UPDATE (as of 05/07/2017): You can use a Model 1 Sega Mega Drive AC Adapter for your Famicom, I have one and it works instantly. Though make sure you have a TV with an RF port, otherwise I recommend the AV version of the Famicom, as you can use the more common AV wires. In terms of importing US NES games, you can find an adaptor, or mod your NES, and it is really easy, find some instructions for more details.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System – Now for the NTSC consoles, they can play Super Famicom and PAL games instantly, but you will have to modify the console by simply pulling out the tabs inside with pliers but be very careful doing this. Whilst the PAL SNES is the same size as a Super Famicom, including the flap, cartridge and the fact that it doesn’t have any tabs either, but it cannot play Japanese or US imported games.
There are two ways though with one being the easiest, one way is to mod your SNES, find someone who can do this and you should have a PAL SNES that can play any SNES game. If you don’t want to do anything to your console, then you can get universal adaptors like the Game Genie or Game Shark Pro, it’s cheaper and you don’t have to mod the console.
Please Note: Whilst some games will work with the Game Genie, most won’t due to the specialised chips, check the list of SNES games with any specialised chips, if a game you wanted to get is on that list that wasn’t released in your country, chances are it won’t work on your system.
You can also just simply buy a Super Famicom like I did, if you only got a plug you can use a Model 1 Sega Mega Drive plug and you can use an AV cable used from PAL SNES, N64 or GameCube, but if you want to play European or US games on a Super Famicom, you need an adapter, especially European carts, US games will work but they won’t fit in the slot because the cartridges are different.
Nintendo 64 – You can’t play imported games willy nilly on a PAL but can on an NTSC. You can mod the console or get an Action Replay Professional, not only does it give you cheats, you can also play Nintendo 64 games from different countries. For a budget gamer it is pricey, I’ve seen some going from £14.99, so try to find it cheaper if possible, but there are other adapters in the market like the N64 Passport.
UPDATE (as of 05/07/2017): You can buy a Japanese or a US Nintendo 64, as it can use the PAL AC Adapter with no issues whatsoever.
Nintendo GameCube – Now the thing about the GameCube is that most Japanese games for the GameCube have been localised anyway and there aren’t a lot of Japanese imported games. But if you’re a budding game collector like me no matter what, then this should help you. Now all you have to do is to mod your GameCube like the Super Nintendo, switching it to US and Japanese and back to EU. But if you don’t want to mod it, you can get a Freeloader disc, just follow it’s instructions and you’ll be able to play imported games.
Wii – I got some bad news, even if you have an NTSC or PAL Wii, you cannot play any Japanese imported games and vice versa, you can’t even mod it. However you can hack into the system, mostly using homebrew but it’s a delicate process and I do not know how you actually do it and you’re responsible for what you do to your property.
(UPDATE (as of 23/09/2014): I had my Wii hacked thanks to my friend, so now I can do homebrew stuff, including importing region locked Wii games, I have yet to get one).
Wii U – Same goes for Wii U, region locked.
Game Boy – Region Free.
Game Boy Color – Also Region Free.
– Region Free.
Nintendo DS – Region Free once again.
Nintendo DSi – Region Locked (although there isn’t a lot of DSi games.
Nintendo 3DS – Region Locked.
Nintendo New 3DS – Also Region Locked.
But Nintendo DSi and 3DS can play imported DS games as normal.
Virtual Boy – This wasn’t released in Europe but there are going to be someone with an imported Virtual Boy in EU, I even saw one at Gamestation one (remember that shop? ah the memories), nevertheless this is region free, you can play Japanese games on the system.
Nintendo Switch – REGION FREE! HALLELUJAH!!!
Hopefully this should help you, but there are other consoles, so next time, Sega.
UPDATE (as of 05/07/2017): Thank you all for reading this. I say this because it’s my most popular and successful post I’ve made, I used to be the person who had to find advice about this and there was so little info about this kind of topic…well there is, but nothing much for people in the PAL region, I think this will help people who want to import if you live in the PAL regions.