Over the decades, before discs were common, cartridges were used instead. What's different from a CD and a cartridge is that cartridges were usually plastic. Unfortunately cartridges weren't cheap to produce compared to CDs hence why many companies uses CD to sell their games today, thus many companies moved away from cartridges when producing a video game.

What worth knowing about Cartridges was they were usually standardized which allowed publishers to easily produce and even reproduce titles that were programmed, which was ideal for customers to purchased titles at the retailers or mail order however there was this little trend of companies whom produced cartridges and modified them to change the way we play our games or they found other ways of getting their games out onto the market.

What makes the entries on this list, interesting from those standard cartridges is that each entity on this list have something physically unique and design from a standard cartridge and they're usually a reason behind it's design, which allows them to make them to be a lot more novel compared to a standard cartridge. Some entries try to be innovative and different while other do it for a reason to stay in the business competition and they do have an interesting story to tell. This list selects the best ten cartridges designs draw across different video game devices and portable devices.

It's worth noting that the first cartridges built for game consoles were a pioneered by Jerry Lawson when he released the Fairchild Channel F in 1976, which was a year before the release of the Atari's VCS. Jerry Lawson is considered the father of cartridges due to the release of the Fairchild thus breaking the trend of consoles with pre-installed video games within them.

This list includes and credits user contributions on some entries on the list.

The T-Handle cartridge has a handle in a form of a 'T' on top of the cartridge to help you pull the cartridge out when someone wanted exchange the cartridge on the Atari 2600 and that was it's only function. It may of been really appealing at the time of the Atari 2600, when players had dreams of consoles to do anything it wanted it to do. What weird about this design makes some of the titles that used this cartridge design are questionable.

Ultravision's Karate and Smurf Rescue used this design. I don't fully understand why a karate theme game needs a handle. I'm sure anyone who has the grip can handle a boxed cartridge as well as karate students and sensei's who have grips which is ten times stronger then your average gamer and why do Smurfs fan need a game cartridge with an handle? What are they trying to say, that all smurf players lack grip or something and can't handle a cartridge? Maybe it was a way to grab a sale on a game.

Thankfully a good use for a game to use it for it's appeal, is Air Raid. Air Raid just happens to be the most rarest Atari 2600 cartridge in existence as it was created by a company who only produced this one game in it's entire lifetime and produced it in extremely limited quantities which has allowed it to become rare. The T-Handle design seems to fit the feel of this game. It looks like a handle that a pilot would use in an airplane. More of these cartridges would be nice and I would wish they weren't so rare and more games should of had them!

This cartridge is a translucent plastic NES cartridge which shows LED lights blinking inside during gameplay. This allows the LED to light up giving off a Christmas lights effect and decoration. The kind of effect that you'll normally put on your Christmas tree or at the front of your house. It's not really a license cartridge considering that it's been released decades ahead of the dead down popularity for the first Nintendo console however when it down to the homebrew scene even in this day of age, this cartridge stands out for it's used of LED lights.

While it has lights that blink along side to music from the game being run. It's a nice way to make this cartridge stand out as someone is playing the game, making it feel like a Christmas decoration. The homebrew community created this cartridge but only doing so in extremely limited ordered under a small time frame around the Christmas period. It helps to make that feeling of purchasing the title very special. They began to produce these cartridges and it's games yearly, making each cartridge is different, maybe an effort to make each project worth while and have a different game on each years installments making them more unique. This game started out as a message on the NES cart for the 2008 edition. For the following year, a game was create for the 2009 installment and continued every other year with a game on each cartridge.

It may be abit unpractical thou on some systems. The game cartridge is best effective on the NES top loader version of the console, as the first generation Nintendo's console stored the cart in a closed compartment during gameplay whereas the later NES toploader allowed the cartridge to be displayed fully and not stored anywhere else on the device.

I do like the fact that this cartridge is a Homebrew title and created by a bunch of talent programmers and electricians. It allowed them to make something unique, different and interesting for consoles from the past and may even pave way to inspire new ideas on cartridge design that can only be done by the homebrew community and give more life to someone console. I could hope that the cartridge with light inside had a gameplay method breaking the fourth wall as playing a video game and mix the two together ideas together, which is why I don't want to place it higher on this list.

The EA Cartridges on the Sega Genesis trimmed down the side and groove on the cartridges, was a bit taller then a licensed Sega Genesis cartridge and had a yellow tab on one of the sides. This allowed EA to produce games on these different variation of cartridges then an ordinary Sega Genesis cartridge

When the Sega Genesis was designed, like all other console manufacturers, Sega aimed to design the console that allowed third party companies approach them for rights and a license for them to produce games on cartridges for the Genesis. Sega designed the shape of the slot in a way that aimed to make it tough for developers to create cartridge in any shape to be inserted into the console. It was a design that tried to prevent anything else by putting anything else in but it didn't stop EA from discovering that they could possibly be a cheaper way to produce these cartridges and to print their titles on them.

EA developed a cartridge that was different, that could still be inserted onto the system and for it to worked on the Genesis. The designs removed the side groove, slimming it down and it turns out it was the most simplest way to modify the cartridge. They also placed a yellow tab which the company logo on it which was published by EA. Slimming down the side and removing the grooves was so easy that it made the Mega Drive designers look silly. So silly that rumor had it that Sega tried to sue EA for this case but lost allowing EA to continue with their operations.

It may of looked like the cartridges weren't intended for the the system when it was inserted because gaps exposing the system were seen slightly on the side but that didn't stop EA from getting there games out there to be played. If you think you haven't seen anything yet on the Sega Genesis other then Sonic, violent video games (a big deal at the time) and blast processing, I recommend you playing Rolo to the Recuse made by EA. It's about a bubbly little Elephant that runs around at really fast speeds, recusing his friends.

Other titles printed were Fifa, Madden and NFL Live. Even Shaq Fu was produced and released on the EA designed cartridges. EA must really got the message out that they succeeding in making their own cartridges which Sega didn't approve off! These bunch of electronic artists clearly didn't want to pay Sega for licensing fee's with this cartridge design and may of been cheaper for the company to produce as these games came out across these cartridges!

Guitar Hero On Tour is an entirely different experience from the console counter parts. Instead of five buttons mounted on a guitar control of mapped on an regular game controller, the game sold provided an add on pack with only four. Also the game come with a guitar pick which is used on strum across the touch screen. This is another add on the Guitar Hero series has to offer and executed differently.

Guitar Hero took advantage of the DS hardware at the time and really put a lot out making Guitar Hero On Tour. The game comes with an add-on which takes advantage of the Gameboy Advance slots for it's Gameboy Advance games, that the first generation DS's had offered. This allowed you to insert the pack called an 'Hand Grip', which is a device strap onto your hand connected to an cartridge rigged at the end of this object. It allows the grip to be attached thru the GBA cartridge slot and it was essential to playing Guitar Hero on the DS.

This changes the way you hold your DS entirely and allowed you to hold the buttons down and using the pick to touch the screen, making up for an entirely different Guitar Hero experience. It lives up to the name of the package, by going on your own tour!

What also interesting and what Activision found and included in their design is that you can change the height of the cartridge slot, which can be changed, adjusting according to the of the players hands length. This comes with the package and can be adjusted yourself, so the package as everything to help you help you pull together on your DS.

The GBA cartridge add on doesn't have a game on it. If it did, it would be a plus and would make a nice Gameboy Advance game experience. The DS registers the cartridge add on as a 'pack' when inserted into the DS.

There loads that goes into this pack however I do think it's a bit overwhelming that there a lot in this pack in an effort to play the game on a DS, such as the pick and other attachments despite the huge change in gameplay for a DS title. I'm surprised some people keep their stuff well packaged because I bought this package for less then $10, had the complete package on it. It goes to show how much people take care of this package.

When the DSi handheld got released, it removed the GBA slot, which couldn't have the Hand Grip inserted in the handheld device. Making this game very pointless to play. Activision did a good job presenting this game and it's add-on at the time when the DS was around.

Super Noah Ark 3D was developed and released by Wisdom Tree for the Super Nintendo. It was printed and produced on a cartridge that is normally used by third party with software to help aid you play video games with cheat codes and playing imports, however Super Noah Ark 3D is on the list because there an actual game printed on the cartridge. This cartridge alone has created alot of rumor in itself to why this cartridge existed with a game to begin with, considering that the game takes elements from Wolfenstein 3D.

To run the game, you inserted the Super Noah Ark 3D cartridge into the Super Nintendo and inserted an officially licensed Super Nintendo game on the top of the Super Noah Ark 3D cartridge this allowing you to run the game. This is because the Super Nintendo had a chip which locked out games that weren't officially licensed by Nintendo, thus rendering them unplayable. The method which this cartridge provided when inserted, told the chip that it's an official game enabling you to run Super Noah Ark 3D.

Regarding the rumors. The most common rumor is that Nintendo didn't approve to publishing Wolfenstein 3D with it's Nazi themes on the home console, so Id Software asked Wisdom Tree to make the game with lesser and more mild themed content and printed it on an unlicensed cartridge in revenge against Nintendo. This rumors was proven to be not true as Id Software and Nintendo did license and officially published Wolfestein 3D on the Super Nintendo.

What really happened? My best guess is that at the time, it was much easy to take other people's code and change them. Id software's games were considered to be highly polished and Wolfenstein 3D itself is said to push FPS's into the mainstream of video games. Wisdom Tree may of taken noticed and used and modified the code for Wolfestein 3D and produced Super Noah Ark 3D. Id software did take notice of this kind of behavior where companies did take the code from other games, modded them to give an different experience (Chex Quest). It was a time that many people wanted to make FPS as computers were slowing appearing into people's households. This practice is still common today as some mods do get picked by companies to make them.

This is the only un-licensed cartridge for the Super Nintendo and was only released in the US. It's generally accepted by the community as a game in term of it's high production values which a few games lack at the time. The cartridge has given me a good idea on what effort a game developer did in order to get a game onto the market and this cartridge proves that.

Creditability for Dartpaw86 and countless others for letting me know of company that developed this title the first time.

This cartridge is somewhat similar to the previous entry however it was more focused on the previous Sonic 3 game and it's development. This cartridge also had a top loader however it was only designed for Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 to be inserted. I've put Sonic and Knuckles as number 5 because despite not being produced as intended, both cartridges have different games on them and when combined, allowed you to play an entirely different game experience within the Sonic universe.

This cartridge represents a time when developers wanted to expanded on Sonic's already successful series and wanted to put more into the next installment. Sonic's popularity at the time was one growing franchise that Sega really wanted to give players to show off what the Genesis could do. During the development of Sonic 3, the designer wanted to make the biggest Sonic game yet, a lot bigger then what Sonic 2 did.

Yuji Naka and Hirokazu Yasuhara wanted to make the Sonic 3 game to include has many stages as it possibly can and with the introduction of the new character, Knuckles and a lot more elements, it was one game that they were looking forward too. However due to the cart size, resources and the release date of Sonic 3, only half of a intended game was completed and released in the form of Sonic 3. Unfortunately the designers wanted to complete what they started so they went and continued completing the other half of Sonic 3. How did they manage to complete the other half and to attach to Sonic 3?

Having tried putting an entire load onto one cartridge with was impossible due to data limitations, they had no choice but to develop a way to have the first part of their intended game, Sonic 3 to be joined to the second and final part of the game, which could be played in it entirety.

What they came up with was a lock on cartridge. It featured a top slot for an cartridge to be placed on top of the other cartridge, like the cheat devices would use. fixing Sonic 3 in the Sonic & Knuckles, allowed you to play the rest of the game with Sonic 3 as the designers intended giving you the entire experience and a bunch of new features, like collecting the other set of emeralds and having Sonic and Knuckles turn into Hyper form, the next level up from the super form. Adding more depth into the gameplay and as the designers intended of the game.

It also allowed players to lock on Sonic 2 into the cartridge, which give an entirely different experience called 'Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2' , which may of never been intended but had the time, it was really amazing just seeing cartridges do such a thing and for Sega to produce such a title.

During the beginning of the 90s, Nintendo started a competition where it wanted to find the best player, so they've set up the Nintendo World Championship, an event in an effort to help the search for the best player in America. While it was for a bit of fun and helped Nintendo get their name out on their Entertainment System. They managed to produce cartridges which were used at the tournaments. This was a huge event, so huge that many Nintendo gamers considered it part of Nintendo history.

The event was featured in their magazine, Nintendo Power and with this, Nintendo decided to give away gold cartridges in another contest in the Magazine. There are 26 of these cartridges which were given away, which contributed to their rarity.

This is something people still talk about, which helped the effort in exposing the existence of these cartridges. The only difference on this cartridge is there a DIP switch visible on the cartridge, which set the rules of the cartridge when player participated in the game. This cartridge makes the list due to it's effort of the color adding value of the cartridge and the events regarding the cartridge itself allowing it to be the most sought after item by collectors, let alone being the most talked about cartridge.

It's worth nothing that Nintendo did a Campus edition of the tournament and created a cartridge for that but it wasn't sold at the retailers or given away and all copies of this cartridge were destroyed expect one, which was secretly kept and sold for really high price into $20,000. The cart itself looks more like a lab prototype, having holes in the cartridge with bits of a microchip sticking out of the side of the cart then a cartridge thou. The Legend of Zelda 2 for the Nintendo Entertainment System was also release in a form of a gold cartridge, as Nintendo wanted to make an effort to sell the Zelda game in America but the cartridge doesn't include the DIP Switch. (Well spot by LeetCheet) and continued this on the Nintendo 64 game Zelda Ocarina of Time as their was a gold edition release as well and continued as a few other Zelda cartridges and even products being released on gold.

This cartridge has a black and white camera head mounted on a cartridge which can be used on a Gameboy. It can take pictures and offers few minigames which makes use of the camera. The camera helped create content for the the games itself which is included in the cartridge.

The hardware design is excellent for it's time, it's a camera built into the cartridge and has a few elements that makes it portable. It's almost three times longer then other Gameboy cartridges and came with various colors for it's cartridge. It was also programmed to be used for the Gameboy Printer aswell.

It's was big deal having a portable camera if you ever wanted to run around town with the really nice green and black screen to take photo as portable cameras with digital displays weren't around at the time until a decade later. At the time, it was alot of fun seeing people running around with a gameboy with camera mounted onto it.

It feels more like piece of art then a product or maybe Nintendo just wanted a camera in their line-up to see what will happen and how people liked it. It's also works really well on future generations of Gameboy's however it was only in black and white. There were talks of a color camera for the Gameboy Color being released however this never was produced.

It actually really easy to maintenance this cart. The lens would sometimes be dirty but it was very easy to clean it. The cartridge handles the photo diode for the head casing and electronics inside very well and can be moved around and adjusted. It's make this a really dynamic cartridge and what is unique on it's own which is why I placed this at number three.

A J Cart has two Sega Genesis controller ports built into the cartridge. A few games that used the 'J Cart' were Pete Sampras Tennis, Micro Machines 2 Turbo Tournament and Super Skidmarks. They're called J-Carts because 'J' is short for Joypads hence the J within the term. The term Joypad was popularized in the mid 90s because of the growing trend of video games controllers for the home and players were enjoying video games by using the controllers, since the term 'Joypads' instead. Having more controllers in a cartridge was a cheaper way of playing a game between four people which was amazing at the time.

What makes this cartridge interesting is the fact that there are two controller ports built within the cartridge and this allows you to play four player matches in the game. This alone makes the cartridge is a collectors item, which is actually very rare to find. Codemasters sold most of the games in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Some games allowed you to plug in a multitap in each of the ports when the cartridge and in the original console, thus bringing the total of players to eight and this allowed programmers to programmed eight players to play their games. This furthered the amazement what consoles did at the time and could only be done with this cartridge.

My best guess is that if Codemaster noticed that players were grouping up and being invited in the home when home consoles were being popular and were playing video games and people were taking turns while playing matches or races however it means people were left out not playing games, so they found that they can mount controllers ports into cartridges so it allowed more players to play there games at the same time. It was a cheaper, more time effective way for people to experience video games at the time.

It's interesting to note that after a heated match up or race and if someone got annoyed, they could of used the cord to pull the cartridge, thus causing errors to the game by pulling their cartridge out thru the cord, thus disrupting the game. It wasn't nice as it was a strange way to find out who was an angry person whom didn't like losing and we wouldn't invite that person around the household again.

Thanks for Karyu for explaining what the J in the term 'J Cart' meant.

After alot of feedback from the community and contributions, I've decided to group these together the cartridges into a single entry. It's because that even thou each cartridge is different from each other, not many of them make a big deal on each cartridge compared to all the other entities on the list however has it turns out, there little to no mystery behind each cartridge and some owners may have been really quiet about because they are fun games.

One company has been making using the method of cartridge to put new components and allowing it to change the way we play our games is Nintendo. Nintendo just happen to have an R&D center and have discovered and released games which have different controls and features on cartridges, these cartridge are noticeable and offer the player a different type of gameplay in their games and they just all happen to be on the portable Gameboy and Gameboy Advanced.

Japan usually has a strong fanbase when it comes to entertainment and video games. The more you'll look into Japan and it's titles, the more you'll find and it just happens that Nintendo has an Here's a list of titles and the parts they have which makes them change the gameplay of their titles entirely.

Kirby's Tilt n Tumble (mentioned by Radar) - As a accelerometer built into a Gameboy Color cartridge to control Kirby allowing him to move around by tilting the Gameboy around. The player has to guide him to the goal towards of end of the stage. It's one of the first game to use the technology, which started to slowly pave the way of many more to come.

Yoshi Topsy Turvy (mentioned by Dartpaw86) - Known as Yoshi's Universal Gravitation in Europe, it also has the tilt sensor. It allows the player to tilt the Gameboy side to side which moved which allowed the world to rotate, having enemies and objects bounce around as the play tilts the device. It was a much shorter game then people hoped.

Pokemon Pinball (mentioned by Dartpaw86) - For the Gameboy and Color Gameboy. The cartridge was packed with a rumble feature! This was a time when force feedback was becoming a big deal in video games and put in console controllers and arcade machine, this cartridge rumble pack reacted to the game. Not many people liked that Nintendo used Pokemon to sell the game and some called it a shameless way to cash in the pokemon craze. This cartiridge rumble feature required an extra AAA battery for it to work.

WarioWare: Twisted (mentioned by CaioNV) has a gyro sensor and a rumble pack packed together in the cartridge. The rumble pack was used while it reacted to the gyro movement. WarioWare being known for it's minigames. The game features loads of mini games which uses of the gyro sensor for it's gameplay to complete the collection of minigames.

Koro Koro Puzzle Happy Panechu! is a Gameboy Advanced title released only in Japan in 2002 and has a game tilt sensor in it's cartridge. The game is a puzzle game where you have to move the device around which moves the objects on the screen, joining rows of colors and scoring points for it. Like many other puzzle games on the market that allows you to group objects together for points. The movement is done though tilting the cartridge making this different from other puzzle games.

Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand was created by Konami's Hideo Kojima, whom has taken the time to design and produce a cartridge for the Gameboy Advance maybe inspired by Nintendo's effort to do something different for handhelds. Hideo Kojima was well known for breaking the forth wall in the Metal Gear Solid series and decided to produce Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand in 2003. It featured a UV Light Sensor, which detects sunlight. This encourages players to find sunlight to gather energy for the heroes sword in the game. The cartridge to those were similar shape to many of the games in this entity. This game is actually alot longer due to it being an adverture game compared to many other games on this entry alone.

Maintenace was an issue with these cartridges becauase if something failed, like the UV light sensor in Boktai, which can burn out due to over exposed sunlight, the player would had to put the effort into replace such parts. The Nintendo cartridges itself even had a special screw which needed a screwdriver. The Tri Wing screwdriver was needed to disassemble the casing alone!

What's interesting is that Nintendo were the only company whom are were still producing games on cartridges even around last decade when discs were popular and they managed to make something new for the fans of Nintendo and Gameboy and the Gameboy Advance. Most of this tilting technology was later introduced in smart devices like the iPhone which allowed game developers to make the most of it in gameplay by tilting the device.

Will there ever be more cartridges like these from Nintendo or any reproductions of it's time? I don't know however Nintendo as a whole, pioneered these cartridges and release them over the years, which is why I believe they deserve the first place spot for their production in these unique cartridges, keeping the cartridge format alive on their portable games and adding something new within those cartridges.

Overall, I think it proves that cartridges really do have something about them that makes them and each novel cartridge has a unique story to tell. Where there a will, there's a way and each entities on the list proves that in the past companies will design a cartridge format for us gamers and taken advantage of the medium to create something exciting at a really low cost, not just in game but also breaking the fourth wall as much as possible for the consoles and handhelds to try an entirely different experience.

How long will it last thou? Nintendo are pretty much the only company right now that are still making games on cartridges This is because other console manufacturers have turned to other ways to make better games without the use of a cartridge such as using the disc format which provides a lot more space.

The iPhone accelerometer is using used which has paved away to developers taking advantage of the iPhone to make the games like the games found on Nintendo. Downloading titles onto the devices is common in this day of age thus giving another reason why cartridges aren't being produced!

Will there ever be new releases of cartridges with really special functions, who knows? The fact remains that unique and special cartridge do exist and it adds to another strange phenomenon video games consoles have in the gaming industry.


List by 91210user
(06/06/2013)

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