Blow No More: How to Fix Your Old Cartridge Games

Between my Lost in the Longbox and Trade or Die columns you’ve probably come to notice that I hoard certain nostalgic items. It’s okay, I’ve come to accept my obsessive ways—these are just things that I love. As it so happens, I’ve also got a habit of collecting retro games.

One of the biggest issues that I have regarding older games, more specifically cartridge-based games, is they’ll just refuse to work. You’ll put it into your system, the screen flickers and then… nothing. Yup, way before Xbox’s were dealing out “red rings of death,” systems like the NES and SNES were delivering the the oh-so-frustrating “screen flicker.” Well, don’t give up and throw that game away just yet—I’ll show you an easy way of fixing your retro gaming woes.

We’re going to need a list of tools for this project:

1. Brasso Cleaner
2. Diluted Rubbing Alcohol
3. 3.8 security bit (Nintendo) or a 4.5 (Sega)
4. A Soft Rag
5. A Small Eyeglass Screwdriver
6. Toothbrush
7. Soap and Water

OK! Got everything checked off? Good let’s get to work.


Here we’ve got a SNES copy of Justice League Task Force that I recently liberated from a nasty garage. Just looking at it, you know it’s seen better days and probably won’t work in this condition. Time to get all Dr. Mario on this mutha’.

First, you are going to wanna take your 3.8 bit (you can find these sizes at hardware stores or online) and take out the screws. Place them where you won’t lose them, these guys aren’t easy to replace.



Flip your cart open and assess the job. This cart is a little on the vile side, especially around those teeth down there. Take it out and set the case aside.



Now, take your soft rag and dab a little bit of Brasso on it. Give those teeth a thorough rubbing, both sides. After applying the Brasso, take your eyeglass screw driver and, very lightly, scratch over the teeth. This will get anything the Brasso didn’t.

You may notice you have a white chalky film left behind from the cleaner. With another soft rag take your diluted rubbing alcohol, dab it, and wipe away any residue it may have left on the teeth. If you don’t, you’re pretty much defeating the purpose of this all.



The teeth are clean and ready to be put back in the case. However, that casing itself is on the gross side. Thankfully it’s just plastic so take your toothbrush, a dab of dish soap and some hot water and scrub the disgustingness away! I tend to lightly dabble around the label… they’re just paper stickers BUT you can get them a little wet with no worries.



Make sure everything is very dry before piecing it all back together, which should be easy since these cartridges are slotted to only work one way. Now we have a game, ready for nostalgic enjoyment and looking world’s better than its original condition.


Oh, a side note… sometimes we end up with a cart that has someone else’s name on it. A spritz of Windex and a magic eraser can usually get that right up.

Written by Christopher Bacon

Mister Bacon tries really hard to define the line between collector and hoarder. Between comics , cards , video games , metal and horror movies the only thing he likes more than obtaining them is talking about them. Beer is good too.

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