First released in 1991, the Game Genie let players enter special codes that made video games simpler or unlock other features. Nintendo didn̵
genie in a bottle
Game Genie is the brand name for a line of video game enhancement devices developed by Codemasters and sold by Galoob in the US. The first Game Genie model operated with the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System and launched in the summer of 1991 for approximately $ 50. Game Genie devices for the Super NES, Game Boy, Sega Genesis and Game Gear followed.
As a genius of legend, the Game Genie made your wishes come true. To use one, you first connected a game cartridge to the Game Genie unit, then connected both devices to your console. At start-up, you saw a screen where you could enter a series of alphanumeric codes. These codes injected data between the game cartridge and the system, changing how the game worked and effectively reprogramming it in a small way.
Using those codes, you can add great new features to games (like invincibility or the ability to fly), or simply make them easier to play. Each Game Genie model came with a booklet full of codes for popular games, and Galoob released updates over time in magazine ads and paper flyers that could be taken into stores for free.
The gift that kept on giving
Video games were quite expensive in 1991 with the average selling price of NES games in the US being around $ 30- $ 50 which today is around $ 60-100 adjusted for inflation. Many gamers only bought (or got) a few games per year. When you spent that kind of money on a really difficult game, it often felt like a rip off when you couldn’t play most of it.
At the time, most of the new games were very difficult (by modern standards), with many borrowing the gameplay philosophy from arcade games designed to extract endless quarters. Players who didn’t want to spend endless time mastering a game often relied on cheat codes to access later levels they might not see otherwise.
In that environment, Game Genie felt like an unlimited fountain of cheat codes in a box. Using the Game Genie, you can give your in-game character the power to get past more difficult parts of a game or just automatically move to later stages. This gave your older games new value, making them fun to play even if you had previously played them without cheating. It was like a gift that kept on giving.
But the Game Genie was not seen as a gift by everyone. Just like today, there was a group of players playing competitively for high scores, and some of them looked down on the Game Genie as a hoax. Nintendo may have been that scared too, because it ran competitions in Nintendo Power magazine based on high scores submitted by the player.
“I think there is some truth to the fear that it would diminish the value of the games if you could cheat easily to the end, ”said Frank Cifaldi, founder and co-director of the Video Game History Foundation.
But in-game cheating wasn’t the only controversy surrounding the Game Genie. The product itself felt like an imposter to Nintendo, which was seeking legal action in court.
Problems with Nintendo
Galoob originally planned to launch the Game Genie in the summer of 1990, but Nintendo got wind of it first and took Galoob to court for copyright infringement, alleging that the Game Genie had created unauthorized derivative works of its games.
Perhaps more annoying to Nintendo was the fact that the Game Genie was an unlicensed device, not endorsed by Nintendo, and that Galoob planned to end Nintendo’s strict NES licensing scheme.
Nintendo managed to get a court order to prevent Galoob from marketing the Game Genie for about a year, until a US district court in San Francisco ruled in favor of Galoob. (It ruled that the Game Genie did not, in fact, create derivative works.) The NES Game Genie finally hit the market in the summer of 1991, selling well enough to inspire similar products for other consoles, such as the Super NES, Genesis , Game Boy and Game Gear. The Game Genie never became a licensed device for Nintendo consoles, but it did receive approval from Sega for its consoles.
One of the nicest things you could have with a Game Genie back in the day was trying to come up with your own codes for your games. If you were persistent enough, you could find ways to tweak your games in bizarre and funny new ways, like having Mario ‘skate’ everywhere or use a fire flower while still staying small in Super Mario Bros.
In the mid to late 1990s, players started sharing their own homebrew game codes online, and even today you can still find websites like GameGenie.com with thousands of Game Genie codes.
Ultimately, Galoob never released Game Genies for consoles beyond the 16-bit era, but in later years, devices like the Pro Action Replay and the GameShark picked up where the Game Genie left off, allowing players to continue to breathe new life into newer consoles. of their existing games.
Today, most games are much easier and more forgiving than they were in the Game Genie era, so the need for cheat codes isn’t that urgent. But the Game Genie paved the way to empower the players.