RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Dec 19th 2015 at 08:00:00 AM by (singlebanana)
Posted under Region locked, Region Free, Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft

Sorry guys, you won't be getting a Top Games of 2015 list from me.  For one, I don't own a current generation console to play games released this year on, and secondly, my list of my favorite games I played it 2015 will be available early next year when you listen to the RF Generation Playcast (http://rfgenplaycast.podbean.com/) .....shameless plug!!  Instead, I'll be focusing on a topic that has baffled and frustrated me (and probably you) for years and that is, "What import games can I play on my North American consoles without having to import systems?" I certainly won't be able to cover every system, but I'll try to cover the more well-known and most-owned consoles.  I understand that some imported games can be burned or pirated for play on North American systems; however, since this method is frowned upon by a large majority of the community, I will not be covering or suggesting this method for any system here.  I hope many of you will find this article useful and please think of it and my research as my holiday gift to you!

**DISCLAIMER: Please be advised that I have not tried several of these methods myself and that the great majority of the information that I have assembled here has been compiled through research. I have verified as much of the information as possible, but some of it may be incorrect. If you find that something is incorrect, please send me a PM and I can verify and edit this post. Thank you!**

ATARI 2600

The 2600 does not have a lockout chip, but playing imported PAL games doesn't always work out.  Most PAL games will load on a North American console, but many times, you may have issues with the game's vertical hold, the color palate may be off, or the game may run much faster than was originally intended.  The good news is that some PAL games, that were not released in North Ameriacn, were released in South American (mainly Brazil) in NTSC format, and are of course compatible on North American 2600s.


The Nintendo Entertainment System has the distinct pleasure of being the first console to introduce the lockout chip (the 10NES authentication chip).  This chip was coded for three different regions in which it was released: (1) NTSC (North America), (2) PAL-A (United Kingdom and Italy), and (3) PAL-B (other European countries).  As a result, games cannot be played across these regions.......well, unless you perform a rather soft mod to your system.

**video courtesy of Thomas Hansen**

The system's Japanese big brother, the Famicom, does not have the 10NES lockout chip, but due to smaller cartridges sizes and fewer pins, these games will not play on the NES. However, adapters to alleviate this pin issue are readily available and can even be found inside of a few black box, 5-screw NES carts (see my earlier article on these adapters here: http://www.rfgeneration.c...-Love-of-Famicom-1876.php)     

It's further important to note that the NES top-loader (the NES2) does not have a lock-out chip and will play any compatible game.


The only issue with playing Japanese Super Famicom carts in your SNES is getting them to fit inside of your system.  However, this is a super easy mod and simply involves breaking a few tabs inside of your SNES cartridge slot.

**video courtesy of MakeUseOf**

PAL SNES carts can be fully inserted in both Japanese and American consoles, but a chip similar to the 10NES, the CIC, prevents PAL games from being played on a North American console. To play PAL games, a hardware modification is also needed or region locks can be bypassed by using cartridge adapters such as a Game Genie.

Nintendo 64

The N64 has a similar lockout method to SNES. The cart and slot were shaped differently based on region, but this can be physically modded on a North American N64 (though it involves purchasing a Japanese N64 or related tray parts, good article here on Racketboy: http://www.racketboy.com/...o-play-imports-region-mod). Other options include purchasing a third-party adapter, or taking off the back of your Japanese cart and replacing only the back with a cheap, cannibalized North American N64 title. One thing to note for PAL owners is that playing an NTSC game on a PAL system isn't simply an issue of region-locking so much as it is them being designed for different TVs; a PAL TV has a different resolution and aspect than an NTSC TV. Even if you get it to fit, it may not play correctly.

GameCube/Wii/Wii U

All three systems are region-locked to the following four regions: NTSC-U (North America, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines), PAL (Europe and Oceania), NTSC-J (Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan), and NTSC-K (South Korea).

Nintendo Handhelds

The Game Boy and Nintendo DS product lines do not use region locks for physical games; however, software specific to the Nintendo DSi is region-locked.  Cartridges released by iQue (China) can only be played on DS models produced by iQue, though they remain compatible with other DS cartridges. The Nintendo 3DS line enforces region locking for 3DS-specific software, with the exception of Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre.

Sega Master System

The North American Master System is Region free between the US, Europe, and Brazil, but NOT region-free with Japan's Mark 3. Like the Famicom, the Japanese cartridges are a different shape and require a "homebrew" adapter to play on a North American console. It's also kind of cool to note that the SMS is actually fully backwards compatible with Sega's first console, the SG-1000, which was only released in Japan and parts of Europe. However, these carts are shaped like Japanese Mark 3 carts and will need the same adapter. Almost all European games will work fine in the US, with the exception of only a few, and there are a lot more European games available.

Sega Genesis

Though some believe that Genesis consoles are the reason for the lock out, the TMSS has nothing to do with region locking. The region-lock is in the individual cartridges and actually did not appear until 1993. (Important note: no EA games, games with the yellow tab are region locked). As a result, carts made early in 1993 and prior to that date, will play on your Genesis. The only thing that may prevent you from using a foreign cart is the shape of the Japanese cart (though like the SNES, you can mod your system to make it fit). However, the model 3 Genesis will accommodate a Japanese cart without any mods and you can also play Japanese MegaDrive games a U.S. Genesis model 1 or 2 by using a Game Genie. You just plug in the cart without entering any codes. 

Sega CD

All Sega CD games are region-locked. The region can be changed when making CD-R copies (which for legal purposes we do not condone) but it's not always possible (i.e. Sengoku Denshou in American consoles will hang in the Sega license screen with a region-changed CD-R copy). However, if you would like to play import Sega CD games on your system, there are third party accessories that allow booting any regional Sega CD BIOS off a flashcart adapter in the main console's cartridge slot.

Sega Saturn

Most North American Sega Saturn games will work in Japanese consoles. The bad news is that most Japanese games will not work on North American and European consoles. The use of certain unlicensed backup/RAM cartridges will allow a console to play games from different regions, except for games that use proprietary ROM-RAM carts. However, it is important to note that you may experience graphical issues with games from different television systems.

Be careful, some RAM cards will not work. This is what I use with my Saturn and I have had great success.

Sega Dreamcast
GD-ROM discs were region-locked, and unless you are willing to open up and hard mod your system, there is only one solution: buy or create a boot disc. To use a boot disc, you simply place it in the drive, start up your Dreamcast, and swap in the Dreamcast import when instructed. 

PlayStation (PSX)

The PSX is region locked, but there are a few methods to get around this barrier. One is to use a gameshark lite (CD-Based, aqua blue cover) and boot the gameshark using the disc, select start game with no cheat code, and swap the game with the one you want when prompted to. This method is not always successful in that games may still not display because of the PAL signal being 50Hz. The best method is to obtain a first model PSX unit, which can apparently boot any region. To do this you go into the CD player, insert a disc from your region and use something to push down the CD door button to make it think the lid is closed. Once it reads that disc, remove the disc, insert your import disc, and exit the CD player; the game will then load.

Playstation 2 (PS3)

The North American Playstation 2 is also region-locked. If you'd like to play a game, you'll have to match the system's region to the game's region.....

PlayStation 3 (PS3)/PlayStation 4 (PS4)

All PlayStation 3 & 4 games are region-free with the only exception being Persona 4 Arena for the PS3. Yah, finally some good news!!  However, PS3, PS4, and Vita titles can be region locked at the publisher's discretion, but this is not the norm.

Sony Handhelds

Although PlayStation Portable has no region locking for UMD games; however, Sony has confirmed that it is possible to implement region-locking on the PSP, and the firmware will disable features based on region. For example, Asian region PSPs will not display the "Extras" option on the XMB despite having been upgraded to the US version of Firmware 6.20, preventing owners of such PSPs from installing the Comic Book Viewer and the TV Streaming applications.

The PlayStation Vita and PlayStation Vita TV have no region-locked games at this time. However, Sony has confirmed that it is possible for developers to do so.


The original Xbox as well as the Xbox 360 are region-locked; however, it was up to the publisher if a game is region-free or not. A number of games are region-free and will play on a unit from any region.

Xbox One

The Xbox One was initially planned to have a region blocking policy that would have prevented its use outside its region in an effort to curb parallel importing. However, Microsoft later reversed the policy and the final retail version of the console was not region-locked.


North American TurboGrafix-16 consoles are region locked and will not play PC Engine Hu cards. However, there are two options: (1) a very invasive and from what I understand, complicated modding procedure, and (2) purchasing a Hu card adapter.  It definitely seems like both of these options have their issues; with the first option you risk damaging your console if you don't know what you are doing and from what I understand, the Hu card adapters are around $100 at the time of this article. 

TurboGrafix CD

Though imported Hu cards will not play on a North Amercian console, PC Engine CDs actually work; however, you have to have an appropriate CD-card version and the later versions didn't come out in the U.S. Ultimately, CD games aren't region-locked, but that the CD software versions can get confusing and expensive, and the fail rate of the TurboGrafix CD can be rather high and off-putting. Though it's also not the cheapest option, one might be happier saving up for a TurboDuo to play PC Engine Hu cards and CD games.

Panasonic 3DO and Philips CD-i

Good news you nutty collectors, both North American consoles are region-free!   Smiley

Footnote: I would like to thank Duke.Togo for looking over this article and helping me correct some of my blunders. I understand that this information is sort of "bare bones," but I hope that many of you will find it as a useful starting reference.

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Great article Rich. Also, region locking makes absolutely no sense to me.
This is an awesome article.  I will definitely be referencing this article.
Nice to see all this info in one place. 
One note though: The PS2 can be used to play other region games if you have a swap disc like SwapMagic.
Excellent info. Was just wondering about some of these. Thanks for posting!
Fun article you have hear, Banana.  I haven't thought the ol' PSX swap trick in years.  I remember using Tomb Raider 2 because it had the most tracks.  Great stuff.

That Action Replay is pretty much a must for the Capcom/SNK Saturn importers.  I can't think of a single RAM cart game that the AR 4M isn't compatible with.  Like G_G said, SwapMagic works well for the PS2, though it isn't perfect.  I ended up using a Mem card/disc swap software hack to play NeoWave and Battle Colosseum.  Such a pain in the butt however totally worth it in the end.
A few things about SMS/Mark III compatibility; non-Japanese systems will actually refuse to play SG-1000 games and some Japanese games unless you swap out the BIOS, either with Bock's Boot Loader or the BIOS used in the Japanese SMS (which is different than the Mark III). Just putting together a cartridge adapter isn't enough. However, Japanese consoles will play American and European games without an issue so long as you have a cartridge adapter, of which there are a few available. Also keep in mind that the Mark III and Japanese SMS are incompatible with the Light Phaser so no light gun games for those unfortunately.

Also, the TurboDuo will not play PC Engine HuCards without a region switch mod or adapter, just like with the TG-16. All PC Engine consoles also require an additional mod to play TG-16 HuCards in addition to a region switch or adapter.
Thanks to those of you who have provided feedback in this post! Cheesy
@bombatomba: I haven't verified this yet, though I have the games to test with, but I've read/heard that King of Fighters '95 and King of Fighters '96 won't work w/o their specific RAM carts.  Again, I have not personally verified this, but heard from a rather rabid KoF collector/fan that this was the case.

Great article, Rich!  I was aware of a number of these things, but not all of them, so it's good to know some of this info! Since you didn't mention it, I should also add that, like the Game Boy, Sega's Game Gear is region-free.

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