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Restoring and Cleaning Your Classic Nintendo Games

The members of the original Nintendo generation have begun to enter their 20s and 30s. Many of them even have children of their own. For many, the onset of adult life comes with an occasional desire to revisit some of the simple pleasures of youth, and there can hardly be a better way to do this than by replaying some of the classic console games that gave us so much pleasure in childhood.

Unfortunately, classic Nintendo and Super Nintendo games were cartridge-based and extremely sensitive to dust and corrosion, and when the delicate metal contacts on these cartridges were dirty, the games would often refuse to function at all. When buying a classic Nintendo game on the secondary market today, this problem is even more likely to occur as the vast majority of used cartridges that are available have been improperly stored for two decades or more. Thankfully, with just a few household items, it is possible to restore these games to their original operation while avoiding the inflated prices that are charged by game retailers for cartridge refurbishment.

Getting Started

Before you begin restoring your classic Nintendo games, you will need a fully-functioning and clean Nintendo console. Nintendo games are equally as susceptible to blinking and non-playability if the console is dirty as they are if the games themselves need to be cleaned, and it is far more difficult to clean the inside of a console, which was never meant to be opened by the end user. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you purchase a refurbished Nintendo console to enjoy your games with a minimum of hassle.

Alternatively, several clone consoles are currently available which emulate the original hardware to near perfection. The SNES/NES FC Twin Video Game System is a popular example of this; it is able to play both Nintendo and Super Nintendo games, and generally costs under $50.

Supplies Required

Before you begin cleaning your classic Nintendo games, ensure that all of your supplies are laid out in front of you in a manner that is accessible. You will need some isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, a large supply of cotton swabs, a small dish or cup, and a place to dispose of your dirty cotton swabs. Because alcohol is a highly flammable substance, do not smoke or leave an open flame in the area where you will be working.

Cleaning Your Games

Pour some of the alcohol into your dish. Alcohol evaporates quickly, so using a separate dish will allow you to close your bottle while you work. Wet a cotton swab with a generous amount of alcohol, and rub it across the contacts of your cartridge. Work in an up-down motion, rubbing with the direction of the cartridge’s contacts rather than against it.  This will prevent the fibers of the cotton swab from becoming lodged underneath the contacts. When you remove the cotton swab, you will find that it is dark with grime. Dip the other side of the cotton swab into the alcohol, and repeat. Do this only once for each side of the cotton swab; this will avoid recontamination of the alcohol and prevent dirt from being re-deposited onto the cartridge’s contacts. Once both sides of the cotton swab are dirty, discard it and begin cleaning with another one. Ensure that you are cleaning both sides of the cartridge’s contacts, and continue this process until your cotton swabs no longer pick up any dirt.

Once your Nintendo games are clean, leave them out and allow them to air dry for at least 3-4 hours. If you wish, you may use a fan to aid in the drying process, but do not blow into your cartridges. The saliva in your mouth could trigger corrosion, eventually rendering the game unplayable. After the cartridges are completely dry, you should be pleasantly surprised to find that they play exactly as they did when they were new.

NOTE: To extend the life of your classic Nintendo games, always remove them from the console when you are done playing with them, and place them into dust covers. Dust covers are available online and in retail game stores for pennies each, and can help to prevent grime from re-accumulating inside your cartridges and avoid more time-consuming cleaning projects.

Although the graphics and sound of modern console games greatly outclass the technical capabilities of the games that were made decades ago, restoring and playing classic Nintendo games proves that great gameplay is timeless.  The simple steps that have been outlined in this article will restore your cartridges to pristine working condition, enabling you to continue enjoying them for many years to come.

By Gabriel Morgan

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