Without getting too deep into it, repros, or reproductions, are physical video game cartridges of rare or unreleased games that are being made by hobbyists for enthusiast collectors who want to enjoy these previously unavailable games on their original game consoles. Usually they’re prototypes, cancelled games, translations (fan or unreleased) of games that never came out in certain regions, or very hard-to-find titles that are otherwise cost-prohibitive for the average gamer to obtain.
Okay, actually, I guess that’s about as in-depth as it needs to get.
Anyway, I’m a big fan of the repro scene, as I do love playing games on original hardware as opposed to on a PC or mobile emulator. And as as collector, I love having unique, unusual pieces that many (if not most) collectors won’t have.
In addition to those who actually make the cartridges, there are those who also create custom packaging, labels, and manuals to complete your set. Uncle Tusk and Fishy Face are a couple names that you can search for such items. You can often buy repros CIB (complete in box), or you can piece together your own set – or opt to design and create your own packaging, and since these are not official releases, nobody can tell you it’s incorrect. Some games are even limited, high-end, hand-crafted releases, such as those from a studio called Rose Colored Gaming (their release of the SNES action-RPG Marvelous — a first-party Nintendo title directed by Eiji Aonuma and released in Japan near the end of the Super Famicom’s life cycle but never officially brought to the US — was one hell of an impressive piece).
I have a few repros in my own collection. My personal criteria for deciding to add a repro to my library is that the game must be something that I wouldn’t buy as an import because it’s either too expensive (e.g. Recca) or unplayable due to the language barrier (e.g. Mother 3), or a prototype or unreleased title (e.g. Earthbound).
That said, I love the repros that I do have, and I’m proud of having had the experience of playing through all three Mother/Earthbound games on their native consoles. And nothing beats playing Recca with a NES Advantage.
Quite honestly, in the record collecting world, we would refer to products like these as bootlegs or even counterfeits, depending on the content of the item. I won’t get into the legal or ethical ramifications of videogame repros – choose for yourself whether to support this part of the retro gaming scene. If you do, however, it’s a pretty fascinating rabbit hole to dive into.