Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Preserving Your Classic Video Games With Universal Game Cases.

A selection of favorite video games from my personal collection.

It's very important for a Nintendo and Sega collector to maintain their classic video game cartridge collection. Game cartridges are highly susceptible to dust, grime, wear and tear after many years of misuse. For example, the first Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridges will be turning thirty years old in 2015. In the span of three decades, much can happen to degrade a game cartridge beyond repair. When I find old cartridges today, many are covered in a layer of dirt and dust. In the 1980's and 1990's, children would often handle their games roughly with filthy hands. Since then, games have often been stored in less than optimal conditions -- dirty basements, grimy garages and dusty attics being the chief offenders. Safeguarding your cartridges now for future use is critical. At the same time, you can handsomely display your game cartridges and take pride in your collection.

If you collect game cartridges for:
  • Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Super Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Nintendo 64
  • Sega Genesis (aka Mega Drive)
...then here's how to preserve your collection in two steps.


Part 1 - Cleaning Your Games.

The first step in maintaining your video game cartridges is to give them a thorough cleaning. Clean game cartridges not only look better, but they also perform better. When first evaluating a game cartridge, study the outside casing. If there's noticeable dirt in the corners or along any edges, then the game has been previously handled without care. It's not too late to fix this! Here's what you'll need:
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Two Dry Cloths
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Clean, Well Lit Work Area
A Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridge -- 'Crystalis'. I've owned this exact cartridge since 1990 and it still works great.

Using one of your dry cloths, give your game cartridge a general wipe-down. Remove any debris or clumps of dirt from the casing. Then, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol. Shake off any excess alcohol before proceeding. Gently wipe the plastic game cartridge casing back and forth with the wet swab. Depending on the size of the game cartridge, you may need to repeat this process more than once to fully remove the dirt on the outer casing. Take notice of how dirty your cotton swab becomes. That's years of grime build-up you're removing. When cleaning your game cartridge, be careful not to dampen the label. Alcohol can cause the color on a game label to bleed or fade. Once you're satisfied with the outside appearance of your game cartridge, wipe it down with the other dry cloth to remove any extra dirt or alcohol.

The metal edge connector.

The next step is to clean the metal edge connector. This is the section of the game cartridge that directly connects to a gaming console. If the edge connector is dirty, then the game may not load properly when inserted into its respective game console. Keeping the edge connector clean is vital to the long-term performance of a game cartridge. Place your game cartridge on a flat surface. Using another cotton swab, lightly dampen it with rubbing alcohol. Carefully rest the cotton swab tip on the edge connector region and wipe from one side to the other. Do not use an excess of rubbing alcohol or physical force. Too much alcohol can damage the game. Pushing too hard can break the edge connector. Once again, take note of the dirt you're removing from the metal pins with your cotton swab. Repeat this process until you can produce a clean cotton swab tip. Flip the game cartridge over and repeat the cleaning process for the opposite side of the edge connector. Your game cartridge cleaning is now complete.

Part 2 - Storing and Displaying Your Games. 

It's imperative that you store your game cartridges in a clean and safe environment. You've just finished cleaning your game cartridge. There's no reason for your effort to go to waste. For that reason, I recommend using a plastic Universal Game Case for storage. Bundles of Universal Game Cases are available for purchase from many online retailers:
A blank Universal Game Case.

A Universal Game Case is a plastic storage device that will hold the following game cartridges without any modification:
  • Super Nintendo
  • Nintendo 64
  • Sega Genesis (aka Mega Drive)
To store a Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridge, you will need to slightly modify the Universal Game Case. I'll get to that step in a moment.

A Super Nintendo Game Cartridge inside a Universal Game Case.

Storing your games is very easy with Universal Game Cases. Insert your Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 or Sega Genesis cartridge into the Universal Game Case. There are various slots inside that will align your game either vertically or horizontally, depending on the cartridge. Your game cartridge will be protected against dust and dirt for many years to come.

The advantage of using a Universal Game Case is that you can print a custom cover insert for it. This works much like the paper cover on the outside of a DVD case. The wonderful gaming community at TheCoverProject.net has developed a series of cover inserts that fit the Universal Game Case. The cover inserts will typically mirror the original retail box for a game. Some of the more popular game titles even have custom designed covers. To print these cover inserts, you'll need:
  • Legal Size Paper (8"x14")
  • Color Printer
  • Paper Edge Trimmer
A cover insert slides easily behind the clear plastic window on the Universal Game Case.

Game covers are easy to find at The Cover Project. A link to the various consoles and their games is located on the left side of their website. Scan through the list for the correct game console, then click the link. The games for that particular console are organized alphabetically. Find the game you want to print a cover insert for and download the image file. Open that file in a program like Paint or Photoshop. Set the image properties within the program to Landscape and adjust the paper type to Legal Size. Print the image on Legal Size paper. Do not use Letter Size (8.5"x11") paper -- it is not long enough to handle the length of the cover you'll be printing. You can use regular Legal Size paper for a matte finish. If you prefer a glossy look, use Legal Size photo paper. I recommend printing your cover on the standard or high quality setting. Once your image has finished printing, use an edge trimmer to cut off the excess blank border surrounding the cover insert. Using scissors for this process is not recommended. Carefully insert your new cover behind the plastic window on a Universal Game Case. With that, your game is now protected and has a professional cover to display it with.

As mentioned above, the Universal Game Case does require some simple modification before it can store a Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridge. This is due to the various tab slots built into the case itself. To remove these tab slots, you'll need:
  • Rotary Dremel Tool
  • Cutting Bit
  • Eye Mask Protection
  • Protective Gloves
  • Clean Work Space
Here is where you should and should not cut.

Take all safety precautions when using a power tool. Wear eye protection and gloves to prevent bits of free plastic from hurting you. With a cutting bit capable of slicing through plastic, carefully use your rotary Dremel tool to remove the four inner-most plastic tab slots. Do not rush through this process. Cut the tab slots off in an even manner. Do not remove the top and bottom horizontal tabs, as these help to hold the Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge in the correct position. Upon removing the four inner-most tab slots, your Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridge will fit correctly.

A Universal Game Case with the proper tab slots removed for a Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge. As you can see, the top and bottom horizontal tab slots remain. A sheet of foam can be added for extra security.


Your mission is now complete! In just two steps, you can clean and permanently store your classic video game cartridges for many more years of enjoyment. At the same time, you'll be able to display your games in a manner befitting of a classic video game collector.

Universal Game Cases will rest on a shelf much like books, with the game's respective console and title easily readable on the spine.

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