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At what point is a game considered "different" enough to be a new release?


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I want to touch on this subject to gauge the community.

At what point is a game different enough to be qualified as a unique title? Throughout the history of gaming, games have been modified, re-released, and altered on scales as small as a title screen change, to as large as a complete reworking of the game while maintaining a small fraction of the original contents in tact.

Some games are ported to various consoles and have to operate under the consoles limitations, others are reworked on the same platform and changed enough to warrant a new release....I want to explore these differences and see where the line should be drawn. Here are some various examples of changes.


The Legend of Zelda (NES, 1986)

In the US, the Legend of Zelda has two different software releases. The differences between the two I believe are a couple bug fixes and an alteration to the main title screen.


Clearly not enough change to be a unique game. But, if we go by title screens alone then you have to take it one step further and look at...


Family Fun Fitness: Stadium Events & World Class Track Meet

Sometime ago, Stadium Events was released and that pissed off a lot of collectors 30 years later. But, is its common counterpart *really* a unique game? All they did was alter the packaging, title screen, and one graphic element in the game...the music is same, the gameplay is the same, only the name is different and who released it.


I guess if you count publisher variants, then you have to look at this next one.



This game is basically all the same. If I'm not mistaken this is all based on the same ROM released in Japan on the Famicom.

Same game, marketed as the same game but just different publishers and release circumstances. There's even a clear transition in artwork from the boxart.

Tengen Licensed Meth-addict Pac-Man

Tengen Unlicensed Meth-addict Pac-Man

Tengen Unlicensed Happy Pac-Man

Namco Licensed Happy Pac-Man


...but what about sprite changes? Are they enough? Surely a sprite change makes a different game right?



Probotector & Contra

Resolution changes, characters change....even the story changes a bit if you read the manuals....but the game in terms of the overall experience is still the same...


So we're getting to the point that you can say the game is actually different. But let's look at the most radical one on the NES.


Kamen no ninja Hanamaru vs. Yo Noid!

CLEARLY This is a different game right? Well...look closely at the video and you'll see that the levels are still the exact same thing despite looking completely different.

Screenshots don't do justice to this one





So where should the line be drawn?

I can think of dozens of other examples too, even outside of the NES library, like Bubble Bobble 2 by Natsume vs. Taito for the Game Boy, or Kingdom Hearts PS2, vs Kingdom Hearts Final Mix on PS2...or Ninja Bread Man vs. Anubis II vs. Myth Makers: Trixie in Toyland vs. Rock 'n' Roll Adventures

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This keeps me up at night man. I used to just say, different title, different game, but then Midway Arcade Treasures vs. Midway Arcade Treasures 1 (re-release variant that technically was renamed) threw me for a loop since it seems so wrong to count it as a different game. Chavez II and Madden NFL 08 En Espanol are two other examples that give me trouble. Meanwhile there are GH games that have entirely new content but are named the same. I'm half a step a way from folding World Class Track Meet into my Stadium Events database entry as a variant even though no one will ever agree with that besides people trying to pretend they have full US sets without SE. That "feels" wrong.

I'm long past combining publisher variants in my list. There are way too many publisher variants no one cares about like Majesco white label SNES variants of which I don't think there's even a 100.0% solid list of all of them let alone someone who has a full set? Or there are games people simply pretend don't exist when they make lists like Sharedata Chiller. It feels wrong to pretend an interesting one like Myriad 6-in-1 is a unique game just because it happens to be one of the most collectible NES games. IMO breaking out some publisher variants is the biggest disservice NintendoAge ever did to video game lists, because now many lists include the publisher variants that were separate entries in the NA database like NES Impossible Mission II or Game Boy Centipede, but not a million others.

Aladdin versions of games another fun "does it count". They're not even complete cartridges!

I haven't found perfect criteria to deal with this categorization problem besides "I feel in my bones that Midway Arcade Treasures 1 is a variant" vs. "I feel in my bones World Class Track Meet should count as its own game"

Edited by DefaultGen
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Here’s another thought:

Nintendo was doing refurbished Wii, Wii U, DS and 3DS games sold direct from their website. Many of them were sold sealed with an alternative cover art that clearly labeled it as a refurbished product.. Are those considered variants??

If they are, then what about refurbished NES games that were sent into Nintendo for repair. Nintendo would professionally refurbish those, and put a sticker on the cartridge to note that it was serviced. Is that a variant?? If so then they are quite rare.

Edited by phart010
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I hate to give this answer, but I think it comes down to a case by case basis.

Here is my example.  Many people including myself consider Stadium Events and World Class Track Meet to be two different games despite the many similarities described above.  However, a similar example where the games are considered the "same" is ESPN Extreme Games and 1Xtreme for the PS1.  This is an example of a game that was later re-released for the PS1 under the Greatest Hits line.  However, since the ESPN license had expired by the time of the reprint, the name was changed to 1Xtreme and all ESPN logos were removed from he game.  Based on the Stadium Events logic, this would be considered a different game.  However, since a game cannot be released under the Greatest Hits line without selling a certain number of copies, it can't be considered a different game under Sony's rules.  Therefore, 1Xtreme is considered a variant of ESPN Extreme Games and does not count as a separate title in the 1,284 NTSC game count.   

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Well, the Lolo series comes to mind.

In Japan Lolo 2 and Lolo 3 are Adventures of Lolo and Adventures of Lolo 2, respectively. Lolo 1 didn't come out in Japan originally. Instead, Japan got the Eggerland games for Famicom and Famicom Disk System. Lolo 1 is basically a compilation of rooms from those games, with updated graphics.

Edited by MegaMan52
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Member · Posted

This OP question is probably the main reason why collectors are all different in their criteria for a “full set” collection. 

Another example I can think of is Beetle Adventure Racing and HSV Adventure Racing for the N64 (Pal version). The former involves Volkswagen cars and the latter is reskinned to involve HSV (Holden) clubsports cars. So essentially the same game but different titles, different box cover, and different car models. Interestingly, these 2 versions are sold together only in Australia with HSV Adventure being a Pal exclusive only in Australia. 

Personally, I would rate the 2 games as being different releases because they were actually sold as separate titles in the same store back then. Also, I think the marketing would be the Beetles were marketed for younger kids and HSV for the older kids. 

To answer the OP, I think it really boils down to how the individual defines their views on “a different game”. Everyone of us will place a different emphasis on some of the thought processes such as:

- was it officially released in the shops?

- same core gameplay?

- box art/title different?

TLDR - to each their own.

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All of the games in OP are the same game in my book, and I don't see why they wouldn't be.
Different "releases" sure, but that goes without saying, since any new manufacturer SKU is a new release, and a regional release obviously is, even if nothing was changed.
But in terms of what game is this, they are all essentially the same. There are tons of examples similar to Yo Noid (Trolls in Crazyland, Whom 'Em, Shatterhand, Decap Attack, Kid Klown, etc) but none change the game fundamentally. Usually they are only graphical changes.

Hell, I'd file Ninja Ryukenden 3 as the same game as Ninja Gaiden 3. The former is way, way easier, but at their core they are the same game.

As for "the most radical one on the NES", I'd say that award goes to Power Blazer, turning into Power Blade. In terms of development history, Natsume were tasked with completely overhauling the game to fix everything that was bad with the original one before the western release, and the result is a game that is essentially completely new. That one definitely crosses the threshold, despite keeping some boss fights and enemy types, etc.

9TT87UT3G8WAxzPtVEkr3McGYKyExeCJUMLO8s8u power-blade-u-0069.png


For the record, there are no resolution changes between Contra and Probotector. Surprisingly, the two games also play 100% the same, not even accounting for the PAL 50hz timing difference on the soundtrack, which most later PAL NES releases would.

Edited by Sumez
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Member · Posted

Offhand, I would say that ports are the best case for being a different work. Especially with older hardware, where things were much more ad hoc, and specifications mean differences are significant. Arcade Kung Fu Master, Atari Kung Fu Master, NES Kung Fu, and surely other versions were drastically different experiences. Ditto Link’s Awakening GB vs Switch or SMB vs All-Stars.

On the other hand, are different resolutions and controllers merely a different interface, akin to a video released on VHS, optical media, download? or a book published in hardcover/paperback, different typeface or language?/translation? The Bible is the Bible whether King James Version, New International Version, Revised, etc etc. Nobody says Macbeth is a different story based on it being in a leatherbound Compleat Works collection or posted online. More modern ports, like SMB 3-D All-Stars or Assassin’s Creed collections, where nothing really changes, aren’t different games imo.

If you change the characters and setting (á la Doki! Doki! Panic → SMB2) or remake a movie or cover a song, those are different pieces.

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I'm saving my personal opinions until I gather a bit more comments but I like what I'm seeing so far.

To add additional "fuel to the fire" we can look at Super Mario Bros. 2 / Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic of course but there are other Mario titles on the NES that deserve equal attention.

  1. Super Mario Bros. vs. All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. vs. Super Mario Bros. Special vs. Super Luigi Bros vs. VS. Super Mario Bros.
  2. Super Mario Bros. 1/2/3/Lost Levels vs. SMB 1/2/3/Lost Levels on SNES vs. Super Mario Bros. 2/3 GBA
  3. Mario Bros. vs. Mario Bros. Classic Series vs.  Kaettekita Mario Bros. (super fun to think about this one since Classic Series ROM is based on Kaettekita)

And yes, someone hit the nail on the head with something I also want to touch on. The amount of work that goes into translating and LOCALIZING a game is huge compared to adjusting a title screen.

Let's keep this going and see where it leads.

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Oh we could also I suppose throw Bionic Commando, err...I mean Hitler's Resurrection: Top Secret under the bus on the NES/Famicom right? 😄  Gee I wonder what got changed there?  And while going into that whole censorship rabbit hole, Wolfenstein 3D on SNES with the Statzzmeister, giant rats, and the swastikas becoming giant X's instead.  It's like a whole new game but just with familiar map layouts.

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Homebrew Team · Posted

For the examples in the OP, same game.  If switching publishers matter to you, then collect both, but 🤷‍♂️.  I am not a full set collector nor going for one, so my opinion you can take with a grain of salt, but Stadium Events and Family Fun Fitness, same game.

@ThePhleo you do have me wondering when you tossed out Super Mario Bros. 2 / Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic to look at.  I do consider them to be different games.  So where do I draw the line then.... I am going to be thinking about this now 😖

Edit: For me, it comes down to how much your experience is going to change playing the game.  So case by case.  If I am going to consider Super Mario Bros. 2 / Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic different games, I would probably consider Yo Noid and Kamen no ninja Hanamaru different as well if I played both of them.

Edited by Deadeye
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Graphics Team · Posted

This is a really neat thread, @ThePhleo - I love these discussions.

I'm partial to the idea that the degree of alteration makes a difference as to whether or not a release is "unique". And in collecting-terms, the intention of the collection is a factor, too. For example, my NES collection is  primarily a "gaming" collection, so I only want one copy of Punch-Out (rather than one Mike Tyson's Punch-Out and one Mr. Dream Punch-Out). But I would argue that a set-collector should probably have both. As much as I'd love to have clear, defining rules on this stuff, it really always boils down to personal tastes on a case-by-case basis.

@Link - you've brought up some excellent points. I've never considered how unique game releases compare to media like books/movies as far as title and content changes.


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I think we are looking at things wrong here. Why are we examining things as to unique games or not?

If you are collecting full set, same game , different publisher counts. If you are just a gamer, same or similar/hacked game + different publisher = same game/hacked + different publisher. 

What's so hard to understand?


Edited by fcgamer
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  • 4 weeks later...

I think I kept this on the back burner long enough. I need to apologize for ignoring the topic, when I wrote this up only a few days later my first cousin, the only person I could call my “older brother” died of a massive heart attack for unknown reasons. That aside, I’d like to bring up this topic again.

@fcgamer the reason I’m focusing on this is because I believe there’s a need to define such a thing in order to document the history of gaming in a uniform way.

Its easy to make a chart of a series like Wonderboy / Adventure Island to pick what’s the same, what’s different, where the split is, etc...but it’s not as easy to do so when looking at the whole picture of all 50,000ish game releases across 200ish game consoles and handhelds.

So here are my opinions on the matter.

#1 We can not consider software revisions as a new game, because a software change can be as small as a typo in an Easter egg in a hidden side quest, or as large as a rebalance of the entire game.

#2 We should not consider title changes because then when you look at titles between countries you have multiple duplicates of the same game with a different name

#3 The overall EXPERIENCE is what matters. When you play USA’s contra, you have experienced what Europeans would have experienced in Probotector


I firmly believe that there’s a need to separate the concept of a “game” from a “publication”

The “game” of Contra for example can be defined by its mechanics, while the “publication” of Contra and Probotector can be defined by their plot and goals.

The line is a little blurry for extreme cases like Mario 2 / Doki Doki Panic, or Yo Noid / Karen No Ninja but they are the minority that require debate in order to pin them down in an academic way.

The same argument can be had for add on games, expansion packs, and DLC. But I think that’s a debate for a different day (also, the Knuckles game on Sega genesis really scares me...)

here’s my final example that I think drives my point home:

Nintendo World Championships.


One can say it’s just a compilation of Mario, Tetris, and Rad Racer...but the goal of the “game” isn’t to defeat Bowser, clear lines, or win a race....it’s to get the highest score possible at the game’s end screen.

Yes “Super Mario Bros.” is a PART of NWC, and the game of Mario is wholly contained within the cartridge....but no one can say that the goal is to save the princess when the game screen itself explicitly says to gather coins.

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