Crazy NES Techniques

Remember the good old Nintendo (NES) days? Where you would insert the game cartridge press power button, only to get a blinking power light and a blinking TV screen? Now do you remember all the crazy techniques you would use in order to “fix” the problem, and get the game working?

This topic came up while driving back home with my cousin the other day. We were looking back at all the stuff we did back then to make the game works. Some of the techniques made some sense, and some of them were just ridiculous. But hey, they worked!

Cleaning the Cartridge

This was probably the first thing people did when their game system gave them the blinking power light. Done usually with a Q-tip and a but of rubbing alcohol. Usually does the trick, but if you were lazy like me, you resorted to other techniques.

Blowing into the Cartridge

This was the most common technique used by everyone who owned an NES that I have known. This technique was used to blow any dust that had build up inside the game cartridge. It kinda makes sense, and it worked half the time.

Breathing hot air into the Cartridge

If blowing into the cartridge didn’t work, then some people went with this approach. Looking back at it now, this wasn’t the best way to “fix” the problem. Breathing hot air into the cartridge probably built up a bit of condensation, which isn’t normally good for electronics. It worked for me back then though!

Blowing/Breathing into the Cartridge through a T-shirt

I remember watching my friend pull of this weird technique and being amazed that it actually worked. He took the game cartridge and covered the opening with bottom part of the T-shirt he was wearing. He then blew through the T-shirt into the cartridge and got the game to work. Still doesn’t make any sense to me.

Jamming the Cartridge into the System

There are some people insert the game cartridge all the way, then push down really hard to lock the game in place to make it work. There are also people who insert the game cartridge in just enough so that it gives some resistance when you push down the game cartridge.

Sliding the Cartridge Left and Right

After putting the game cartridge into the system and pushing it down, sliding the game cartridge left and right usually solves the problem for a lot of people. This technique usually takes a few tries, making small adjustments to the left or right at a time, but usually does the trick.

Insert Another Cartridge on top of the First

After putting the game cartridge into the system and pushing it down, some people would take another game cartridge, and insert it on top of the other game, making it so that the first game is held down lower into the system. Sounds bizarre, but it worked for me!

Hold down the Reset Button before pressing Power

After placing the game cartridge into the system, you hold down the reset button, press the power button to turn the system on. You wait a few and then release the reset button. Then voila! The game magically works sometimes!


At some point or another, I remember using all of these techniques in order to get my NES to play my games. I usually go with a combination of some of these techniques. This is the order that I normally use:

  • Step 1: Blow into the cartridge
  • Step 2: Jam the cartridge into the system
  • Step 3: Insert another cartridge on top of first one
  • Step 4: Hold down reset button and press power

Any techniques that I am missing? What do you remember doing in order to get your Super Mario on?



  1. roguedubb September 4, 2008 4:16 am 

    I still just blow into the cartridge, which has never failed me after a few tries. I have noticed though, that if we’ve been playing something for a while and switch games, the second game always works. Maybe it just needs to warm up?

  2. krizzlybear September 4, 2008 7:47 am 

    I don’t know how I ended up coming up with the method that I had, considering I was extremely young at the time, but here’s what I did.

    I didn’t blow into the cartridge.
    I didn’t jam the cartridge into the game.
    I didn’t even hold any buttons.

    I merely “slid” the cartridge into the slot, directly into the “down” position without pressing hard at all. Just enough so that it stays in “down” position. Press power once, and it worked like a charm. My Nintendo still works to this very day, but I use Virtual Console to play my games now anyways.

    krizzlybears last blog post..How Do You Expect Me to Follow THAT Up?

  3. Parise September 4, 2008 8:04 am 

    This is funny. I just had this conversations with some friends the other day.

    About 4 or 5 years back, I became friends with a Nintendo nut in one of the local Gamestops by me. Turns out, our constant blowing in the games as kids was one of the main reasons that the games messed up so much. When you blow into the cartridge, you get some spit on the chips. The spit the starts to corrode the chips and gets into the connector piece of the NES, corroding that as well. It makes sense why the T-Shirt trick worked good for your friend. Less spit = better working games.

    Another thing that Mr. NES taught me is that there is a way to get your old NES running in tip top condition. He told me to look for 128-pin (I’m pretty sure it was 128) gold connector piece on eBay. It cost me like 15 bucks with shipping. Came with instructions on how to replace your old piece in the Nintendo. After that, clean your games with just a Q-tip dipped in water. Let them dry for like 20 mins. After that, you don’t have to blow. I did attempt all this and it worked quite well.

    This also made me wonder something. Why didn’t we have this problem with SNES and Genesis games, too?


    Parises last blog post..I hate Twinks!

  4. Aurdon September 4, 2008 8:09 am 

    What I find fascinating is that people still produce the hardware to replace the faulty parts of NES systems…. just go to ebay and search “NES 72 pin connector” to see a whole bunch of gold plated cartridge receivers that should fix most of the above issues.

    I can recall
    1. Blowing on the cartridge
    2. Blowing in the NES
    3. Barely inserting the game and pushing it down as soon as it was in far enough
    4. Hammering the reset/power buttons on and off till I saw the game come up.

  5. Grainger September 4, 2008 8:53 am 

    This was my order:

    1) Blow into cartridge
    2) Insert as far as I could and then pull a little bit out
    3) Blow into cartridge again
    4) Insert and put 2nd cartridge on top

    Usually one of those would work. Also, since my brother and I were only a year apart, you need to mix in “yell/fight with brother” intermittently.

  6. WhoopinYe September 4, 2008 11:29 am 

    Blowing into the cartridge, and also blowing into the system was my go to move.

    If that didn’t work I usually jammed the cartridge into the systems, sometimes I would push it up and down a bunch of times, just to show the system who’s boss.

    At some point I also got a Game Genie and that made it work much better, plus I got to cheat.

    On a side note, after my original Playstation (before the Dual Shock version) stopped working consistently I turned it on its side and that magically fixed it somehow.

    WhoopinYes last blog post..Caught up

  7. Veresitha September 4, 2008 4:34 pm 

    What an awesome topic lol.

    My foolproof plan was Windex. Hold the cartridge sideways and spray (not stream) the Windex along the chip on the bottom and then press it all the way in to the NES. Do not dry it.

    I don’t care how dangerous it sounds or how dirty the cartridge was, it has a 100% work rate for me and I’ve used the same NES system for about 15 years.

    A friend of mine was notorious for having the top label of his games missing from using the “resistance method” lol.

    Veresithas last blog post..Domo Arigato, Mr. Fel Reaver.

  8. Muckbeast September 4, 2008 9:14 pm 

    Oh man, what memories. I remember blowing on the cartridge AND blowing inside the machine itself to remove dust. This worked the majority of the time.

    Occasionally I would have to use the “insert it just enough to where it is seated, then stop” technique.

    Those things were very tempermental.

    Blogging about Online Gaming and Virtual Worlds:

    Muckbeasts last blog post..Bad Design: Making Your Own Content Obsolete

  9. Bobyboucher September 5, 2008 2:41 pm 

    Hmmmm maybe its becasue I was raised with a bunch of mechanics / electrician savy family but I didnt do any of that. What I use to do was take the top casing off. Then with a needle or very small watch screw driver I would push the top teeth down and bottom teeth up on the “reader” of the NES unit itself. This would make the contacts tight like when you first bought your unit. The constatnt swaping in and out of games made many of the contacts loose and thus games would not be read by the system.

    In doing so I never had a single problem with my NES playing any game >.<

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