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What You Didn't Know About N64's Colored Cartridges

Before Nintendo swapped to using discs for the Gamecube, its home consoles used immediately identifiable cartridges. Usually, these were colored gray, but occasionally you could locate one that was a little more colorful. Maybe you saw or owned a blue Tony Hawk Pro Skater cartridge or a gold and silver copy of Pokemon Stadium 2. Come to think of it, the Nintendo 64 had numerous titles that ditched the monotonous gray cartridges for more eye-catching colors, didn't it?

From the colors publishers could choose from to restrictions Nintendo put on ordering custom hues, you might be surprised by how much there is to learn about the more vibrant parts of the Nintendo 64 library. Here's what you didn't know about the N64's colored cartridges.

Nintendo offered all the colors of the rainbow — and some went unused

If you are an avid Nintendo 64 collector, you can probably recall all the colors of its library by heart. You had your standard gray cartridges, as well black, blue, red, green, yellow, gold, and silver (which was only used with gold for Pokemon Stadium 2). However, Nintendo provided a total of 13 colors. Of course, the above colors were among those on offer, but Nintendo also let publishers choose from emerald green, pink, beige, and dark and medium gray. Sadly, nobody ever did. Maybe publishers would have picked those colors for Nintendo 64DD carts, but they never got the chance since that add-on failed.

You might wonder why no publisher picked colors such as pink or dark gray. Did those colors drive up costs? Surprisingly, no. With the exception of gold and silver, colored cartridges didn't cost any more than normal gray ones, and they didn't take any longer to manufacture, either. Publishers did apparently have to order at least 50,000 non-gray cartridges if they wanted more colorful ones, though. Plus, Nintendo implemented a strict "no takebacks" policy — once firms ordered gray cartridges, they couldn't change their minds.

Some cartridges came in more than one color

Out of the Nintendo 64's 296 internationally released games, only 42 were printed in a color other than the standard gray. Kind of.

Even though Nintendo printed 42 game releases in non-gray colors, several of these games received gray cart re-releases. For instance, 007 The World Is Not Enough (which is one of the N64's hidden gems) originally launched in a blue cartridge, but it saw a gray reprint. Another example of a multi-color release is Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, which originally had a striking black cartridge but received a gray one in later prints.

While the rationales behind many gray re-releases are a mystery, the gray cart variant of one game, Turok: Rage Wars, has a well-documented (and unfortunately storied) past. The North American version — which originally shipped in black cartridges — featured a game breaking bug. This bug was limited to the two-play cooperative Frag Tag mode, so few players noticed it. Those who did, however, could ship their copy to Acclaim customer services for a fixed version. Instead of receiving another black cartridge, however, their patched version was secured in gray.

Perhaps the other gray variants are also patched versions with bug fixes? Only Nintendo knows for sure.