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Only '90s Kids Want to Remember: Game Genie's "Thank You Canada" Ad

Totally an innocent "Thank You" note and not engineered to tempt US buyers into crossing the border. Scout's honor!

Article by Nadia Oxford, .

Nintendo is a company that holds its cards very tightly to its bosom. This secrecy was necessary when the Famicom and NES were rolled out: Third party developers had already made it painfully clear they had no qualms about pumping a lot of sewage onto popular game systems if it meant they could make a quick buck.

Nintendo's lock-out chips and licensing fees gave it some measure of control (and the extra cash said fees brought in didn't hurt the company's feelings, either). A lot of third-party garbage still befouled the Famicom and NES, but even the D-grade wrestling game M.U.S.C.L.E. wasn't at an Atari CES Chase the Chuck Wagon-level of shamelessness.

NES Classic Discontinued in North America

Nintendo is very sad about doing the thing that they have control over.

Given Nintendo's penchant for keeping its hardware locked down, it's no wonder the company went orangutan when a British company called Codemasters developed a handy little piece of hardware that let frustrated kids "live forever" and perform other game-breaking tricks on the NES.

Worse (for Nintendo), the Game Genie piqued players' interest right away. Though this current generation of adult gamers loves to puff out its chest and declare how we never needed automatic steering and white tanooki suits, the promise of blazing through Ninja Gaiden without dying over and over at the wings of nightmare-birds proved to be a very juicy piece of forbidden fruit.

Nintendo wasted no time chasing down the Game Genie's North American distributors: Galoob in the US and Camerica in Canada. Camerica distributed unlicensed NES games as well as the Game Genie, so it was well-versed in pissing Nintendo off.

Nintendo's lawsuits against Galoob and Camerica proved time-consuming, costly, and ultimately, unsuccessful. That said, Nintendo did manage to tie up the Game Genie's US distribution for a time, during which the "game enhancer" was still available in Canada.

Without the Game Genie, I wouldn't have been able to beat a Koopa Kid with my Hammer Suit intact and witness this bizarre statement from the rescued King.

Camerica subsequently published a 100% totally innocent "Thank You" ad in game magazines at the time, letting people know that the Game Genie was "only available in Canada." Of course, the ad was in no way meant to coax Americans into doing a little cross-border shopping ("Anything to declare?" "Yeah, the Thunderbird from Zelda II is gonna be so frickin' dead, you have no idea").

I'll transcribe the small text at the bottom of the ad. Make sure to vaccinate yourself against '90s poisoning first, though. This is a doozy.

"You wanted Game Genie ... TOTALLY ... Nintendo didn't ... DRASTIC ... They tried to stop us ... BOGUS ... They haven't ... AWESOME ... Genie's alive ... RADICAL."

I'm no marketing expert, but there should be an exclamation mark at the end of that outpouring. Otherwise it all comes across as the monotone chanting of a madman leading a cult service.

The ad also features a long list of Canadian stores you can buy the Game Genie at. Again, it's totally not for the benefit of any Americans who decide to indulge in some cross-border shopping, no sir. Wow, some of these store names make me feel nostalgic. Simpsons, Woolco, Jumbo frickin' Video ... Ahh. Jumbo Video gave you free popcorn while you browsed over its video and game selection. It was terrible popcorn, mind you, but it was free popcorn.

If you're an American who stepped across the border to buy your illicit game enhancement drugs, feel free to share your story. We won't tell the cops, we promise.

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Comments 5

  • Avatar for mattcom26 #1 mattcom26 4 months ago
    This must have been the Genie's brief X-Men wanna-be period.
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #2 Captain-Gonru 4 months ago
    While we never crossed the border for it, we had a Gane Genie. Not sure if we got it before Nintendo sued, or after they lost, but I was grateful for it.
    I too saw that screen in SMB3 thanks to a Genie. I found you could have some game-breaking fun by combining the "Start as Hammer Mario" and "Skywalker" codes, with a NES Advantage. "Skywalker" let you jump while in mid-air (think double-jump, only more), and you were nearly indestructible while crouched in the Hammer suit. So, I would crouch, then turn on the Turbo button and effectively fly around the screen.
    And Zelda II was made more accessible with the "9 Lives" code (PASKPLLE, if memory serves). You didn't want to do infinite lives, because then you could never save (pro tip).
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #3 VotesForCows 4 months ago
    That's pretty funny stuff. We have a strong history of border hopping here, between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Always differences in prices, availlability, etc of all sorts of stuff.
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #4 Vonlenska 4 months ago
    I miss cheat devices. Modern games are generally much more well-balanced and it's a lot easier to apply mods and downloaded saves and what not even to console games, so I understand the lack of demand...

    ...but I still like RPGs, and it'd be nice to have more control over not-grinding.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #5 yuberus 4 months ago
    We got a Galoob Game Genie in Michigan - even though my parents could have readily crossed the bridge to Canada at that time for one, it certainly wasn't a priority for them to do so!
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