Over the holiday season we’ll be republishing a series of Nintendo Life articles, interviews and other features from the previous twelve months that we consider to be our Best of 2020. Hopefully, this will give you a chance to catch up on pieces you missed, or simply enjoy looking back on a year which did have some highlights — honest!
This feature was originally published in May 2020.
If you happen to have any official Nintendo console or peripheral to hand, turn it over and hidden in the legalese and small print on the underside you’ll find a code which typically begins with three letters. Flip over your Switch, for example, and you’ll find the code HAC-001, with an extra (-01) if you’ve got the revised model with the better battery life.
These product codes have been part of Nintendo’s hardware since the beginning and you’ll find them on every single Nintendo-made, cartridge, disc, accessory and peripheral. Slide the left Joy-Con off your Switch and you’ll see its HAC-015 designation on the back (the right one is HAC-016); the Joy-Con grip that comes with the console is HAC-011; the Pro Controller HAC-013; Switch game carts are HAC-008; the Ring-Con HAC-022; the velcro Joy-Con wrap thingy HAC-023…
But beyond internally cataloguing every peripheral under a console’s umbrella, do these designations have any meaning? Today we’re going to take a tour of all Nintendo’s console hardware product codes and look at where they come from. Some of their origins are well-known (or obvious), while others are known only to the Nintendo engineers who named them.
We knew most of the codes below already, but the ones we didn’t required checking the back of our own consoles, or heading to the Maru-Chang webpage for a few of the more obscure ones.
We begin with the trusty Nintendo Entertainment System, or Famicom in Japan…
Famicom (HVC) / NES (NES)
In Nintendo’s homeland the Famicom and its accessories carried the designation HVC, or ‘Home video Computer’. The main console unit is always ‘-001’ and the AC adaptor is typically ‘-002’, with controllers coming after that. The Famicom’s controllers were connected to the base console, though, so they didn’t get a separate code. The RF switch did, though (HVC-003), as did the Famicom 3D System pictured above, and a whole lot more.
In the West, the Nintendo Entertainment System got Nintendo’s most transparent of product codes: NES. Notable peripherals included the main control pad (NES-004), the Zapper (NES-005) and, of course, the Cleaning Kit (NES-030).
Game Boy (DMG) / Game Boy Pocket (MGB) / Game Boy Color (CGB)
Perhaps the most famous of Nintendo’s product codes, the original Game Boy has come to be commonly known as the DMG(-01) in order to differentiate it from a host of hardware variants that followed. DMG stands for Dot Matrix Game and references the system’s display.
The Game Boy Pocket carried the product code MGB-001, with ‘Mini Game Boy’ being the most likely explanation given the trend of the rest of the Game Boy console family. The Game Boy Light (a Japan-only backlit version of the hardware) was designated MGB-101 in keeping with several other console redesigns (such as the NES-101 / HVC-101).
The Game Boy Color got the CGB product code… because it was a Color Game Boy.
Super Famicom (SHVC) / Super NES (SNS/SNSP)
In Japan the Super Famicom followed on logically from its predecessor and was identified as the SHVC-001, or the ‘Super Home video Computer’. Things changed for the North American release where it became the SNS-001 (Super Nintendo System), and in Europe it was the SNSP-001 (the ‘P’ likely stands for ‘PAL’). Controllers were -005 and Game Paks (or cartridges to everyone except Nintendo) were -006.
Virtual Boy (VUE)
The Virtual Boy (VUE-001) offered quite a trip if its product code is to be believed; a ‘Virtual Utopia Experience’, apparently. Personally, we would have gone for the more accurate ‘MIN-001’ – Migraine-Inducing Nightmare, although the Tamagotchi-style Pokémon Mini console used that product code. Feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments, though.
Game Boy Advance (AGB) / Game Boy Advance SP (AGS) / Game Boy Micro (OXY)
Following suit with the MGB and the CGB, the Game Boy Advance was labelled the AGB-001, or ‘Advanced Game Boy’. Other significant peripherals included the good ol’ AGB-005 (the GBA link cable) and the even-sexier AGB-015 (the Wireless Adaptor).
The updated clamshell Game Boy Advance SP got an entirely different code: AGS – Advanced Game Boy Special, perhaps? While we can make sense of that product code with an educated guess, the origins of the Game Boy Micro‘s OXY-001 code isn’t as easy to divine. Perhaps it refers to the oxytocin released by our pituitary gland every time we gaze upon that console’s minuscule magnificence? To the average adult, the Micro is crippling to play for any length of time, but my word is it a sexy little morsel.
Nintendo 64 (NUS)
The Nintendo 64 was originally to be called the Ultra 64 (Ultra is better than Super, natch), although Nintendo decided against that relatively late into the console’s development. It was codenamed Project Reality while Nintendo and Silicon Graphics, Inc were working on it, but the product code on the final hardware reflected the console’s original name: NUS (the Nintendo Ultra Sixty-four).
Other notable peripherals (and the N64 had plenty of ‘Paks’) include the Rumble Pak (NUS-013), the Expansion Pak (NUS-007), the Transfer Pak (NUS-019) and that vital little tool, the Jumper Pak Ejector (NUS-012).