Nintendo Region Locks

Area codes and region locks confuse both console and game module buyers. How does one know if the game module will work on this particular console?

Region locking was first invented to prevent (or at least slow down) selling pirated modules. Sometimes the approach worked, but usually it’s just a nuisance to regular gamer. The idea was originally that American consoles could only play modules intended for American markets, European consoles play European modules – and not copies produced in the far east. The world is usually divided to three regions – America, Europe and Japan. There are also own regions for “high risk” countries such as China. Below a short story when the region codes affect – and when not – when purchasing games or consoles.

Consoles, which are NOT region locked

The following consoles don’t use region locking, which means that you can buy any console, and any module, and it will always work:

  • Original Gameboy
  • Gameboy Pocket
  • Gameboy Color
  • Gameboy Advance
  • Gameboy Advance SP
  • Gameboy Micro
  • Nintendo DS
  • Nintendo DS Lite

Console model plate usually contains info about the region where the console was originally marketed and sold. The letter combination USA-EUR-JPN reveals the region. Diffrent region consoles are identical – the only difference is the model plate.

Every game module works on every console – USA console can play EUR modules, JPN console plays USA modules – all combinations work.


Image: Console originally sold on Japan market. Other options are EUR and USA. JPN console can play any region games. Most gameboy model plates contain this mark of origin.

Please note though…

The language of the game is not guaranteed to be english!

Even if any module technically works on any console, the game itself may not contain english texts! Gameboys have modules that contain only certain language texts. Examples below:

  • Japan/JPN modules usually – but not always – contain Japanese texts only. Japan modules are easy to spot from the module label, so this is not a problem.
  • Some (but not all) German modules/NOE contain only German lanugage texts. Especially Pokémons, but this can also be spotted from module label – Pokémon Gelb, Silber, Feuerrote, Blattegrün etc.
  • Some (but not all) France modules / FAH contain only France texts.

On newer DS and 3DS games usually (but not always) contain texts on multiple languages, and player can choose the one he/she likes to use. Check your favorite language availability before buying.

All games sold on Retrocket have english language available by default, unless otherwise noted in the product description.

Retrocket has games with only Japanese texts for hardcore collectors (jProducts – tag), but this is always noted in the product description.



Img: Japanese only Pokémon Yellow, easy to spot from the label. German only original and genuine Nintendo FireRed (NOE-version).

Consoles, which are Region Locked

Nintendo started using region locks with Nitendo DSi, and all DSi’s and newer consoles are region locked:

  • Nintendo DSi (all versions)
  • Nintendo 3DS (all versions)
  • Nintendo 2DS (all versions)

For 3DS and 2DS console region lock is very clear: EUR consoles play only EUR modules, USA consoles USA modules, JPN consoles play only JPN modules. There are no exceptions on this.

(Tip by risjarv – thank you!) Region lock on 3DS can be apparently bypassed by installing a Custom Firmware (CFW). More info can be found here, here, and here. You install CFW at your own risk, and any install attempt will immediately void any warranty. You also risk locking up the device for good. Retrocket does not recommend installing CFWs.

Difficult exceptions: DS modules on DSi and 3DS/2DS consoles

This is unfortunately not quite simple and clear. The official story goes like this: New DS games, which utilize the DSi new features work only on same region DSi, 3DS and 2DS consoles. Typical examples are Pokémon Black, White, Black2, White2, which only work on same region DSi, 3DS and 2DS consoles. To make this difficult to understand: Region locked DSi enhanced games (like the newer pokemons) work on any region DS and DS lite consoles, as the consoles don’t have region locks. The newer features just not work on older consoles.

How can you tell which is a region locked DS game, and which is not? Sometimes (but not always) the region locked DS-games have “DSi-Enhanced” label on the game covers, but this is not always the case. The label tells that this game uses the new features available only on DSi. Otherwise; There is no list available, which would explicitly tell that this DS-game is region locked. Rule of the thumb – if the DS game is older than Pokemon Black or White, it’s not region locked. Remember that this limitation is only for DSi, 3DS and 2DS consoles, and does not affect DSLite or older consoles in any way. For DSi and 2DS/3DS owners – I would recommend sticking to same region modules as the console, just to be sure and to avoid disappointments.

If you buy a module from Retrocket, and it doesn’t work because of the region lock, use the 14 day return option. I don’t want anybody to feel bad because if the module doesn’t work on your console.

Further reading:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *