NES Classic Hack: Instructions Now Available In English, But Perform It At Your Own Risk

Reports of an NES Classic hack for Nintendo’s retro-style console brought great excitement to gamers who felt constrained by the sheer lack of available titles. And that’s even more true now that there are multiple resources detailing the steps, which were originally written in Russian, in English. But will it be the hack you need for a more comprehensive gaming experience, or is it risky to the point that you may end up bricking your console and rendering it useless?

Released in November 2016, the NES Classic Edition was Nintendo’s re-released version of its vintage NES console, a device that first arrived in the 1980s, right in between the success of Atari’s consoles and the later emergence of the PlayStation and Xbox. And while it was seemingly designed for retro gamers seeking the simpler thrills of their ’80s childhood or teenage years, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima explained in December (quotes c/o KnowYourMobile) that it was also released for players who didn’t own the original NES back in the day.

“We decided to launch the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition […] to provide a chance for fans who didnʼt already own the system to play our past games and share the experience with their children. In addition, we felt that providing a chance to play this system again would rekindle an interest in Nintendoʼs game systems.”

Despite all the hype, there was one problem for a lot of players, and that was the lack of available games for the NES Classic. Only 30 games were included in the console’s official library, and as a result of this, a number of individuals and crews had tried to hack the device, hoping to make the console support new games that weren’t part of the original library.

Earlier this week, TechCrunch reported that the NES Classic was hacked successfully by a Russian source, with the hack first illustrated in Russian gaming portal GBX and soon picked up by the r/NESClassicMods sub-Reddit. But the publication warned that the process could be a complicated one for the untrained, and requires a number of steps to perform.

“It must be said that this is not a simple process — not yet, at least. It involves booting the Linux-based NES into FEL mode, hacking the kernel, and injecting ROM files using a special tool.”

Is it worth the effort to try the hack out yourself, now that at least one English version of the instructions has been published, including this one from Pastebin? TechCrunch also cautioned would-be NES Classic hackers that the process might result in a bricked console or one that’s completely useless and unable to operate in any way, shape, or form. And this point was further underscored by Gizmodo in a separate report that also included blow-by-blow instructions on how to pull the hack off.

The first few steps are simple enough, as you would simply have to go to the Super Mario Bros first slot on your NES Classic and create a save file, then connect the console to a PC via micro-USB cable. But things get complicated, as the next steps involve the use of Linux interfaces, including running a “sunxi-FEL” interface on your PC while holding down on the power button with the console turned off.

“Then, things get really scary,” Gizmodo continued. “You’ll be taking files off of the NES Classic, altering them and putting them back. If you screw up any of the steps going forward, it’s possible that highly-coveted Nintendo will become a very geeky paper weight.”

Several Redditors and YouTubers have had success after following ArcadeRu’s step-by-step instructional video. But the chances of bricking your console by failing to follow the NES Classic hack instructions to the letter may all depend on your familiarity with the process. If done right, the hack could allow gamers to enjoy more eight-bit goodness on the device, but if not, there’s a good chance it may all lead to a bricked NES Classic and $200-plus down the drain.

[Featured Image by Shizuo Kambayashi/AP Images]