The word Famiclone is a portmanteau or a blend of the words Famicom and Clone, and this word was originally coined to describe the multitude of copy-cat unauthorized reproductions made in the grey-market of Asia. The Famicom is otherwise known as the original Japanese release of what we know as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Today, the words NES Clone or Famiclone refer to a larger collection of system clones, covering SNES and Sega Genesis clones. This is because most of these systems offer the ability to play multiple consoles on one machine, and almost always includes the ability to play NES or Famicom cartridges.
The day of 8-bit or 16-bit consoles may be long over, but people’s passion for retro-gaming is as strong as ever today. Consoles like the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis have been off the market for a long time, but in recent years there has been a surge in popularity in these game systems. As people who grew up in the early 90’s get older, they think back to games of their childhood and desperately want to relive those fun times. The problem is that these consoles are now sold for a small fortune on sites like eBay, the systems and their game cartridges can fetch a hefty premium if found in good working condition.
The scarcity and prohibitive cost of the original systems has created an opportunity for third-party manufacturers to create “clones” or reproductions of these classic video game systems. Console clones got their start in a dubious manner at first, because they were originally produced and sold when the original systems were still on the market. They were produced as cheap knock-offs of the real thing, and sold in the underground world of small electronics shops. Today, things couldn’t be more different. Several hardware patents for the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis have long run out, allowing companies to legally make clones. It has gotten to the point where some clones like the Retro-Bit Retrogen, which is a portable system capable of playing Sega Genesis cartridges, is officially licensed by Sega itself!
As you can imagine, there is a wide variety of NES clones available, all with their own distinct feature set. One thing they all have in common is that they provide more reliability and durability than the aging originals. For example, the original front-loading NES had a severe design flaw in its 72-pin cartridge connector that made the games unplayable after some use. Clones use improved modern components and are able to start your games the first time, every time. No more blowing into the cartridges over and over again. Typically the variety of clones fall into categories which describe the number of systems they support.
Single-System Clones (NES/Famicom Generation)Generation NEX by Messiah Entertainment
Retro Entertainment System by Retro-Bit
FC Console by Yobo Gameware
Dual-System Clones (NES/Famicom & SNES Generation)Retro Duo by Retro-Bit
C2 by Tomee
FC Twin by Yobo Gameware
Triple-System Clones (NES/Famicom, SNES, & Sega Genesis Generation)RetroN 3 by Hyperkin
FC3 Plus by Yobo Gameware
Handheld Portable ClonesFC Mobile II by Hyperkin (NES)
FC-16 Go by Yobo Gameware (SNES)
Retrogen by Retro-Bit (Sega Genesis)
Other than the original systems that each clone supports, there are other important features to keep in mind. For example, some clones will let you use the original classic controllers in your new clone, this keeps the experience as authentic as possible. What’s better than being able to plug your Nintendo Zapper into the clone and hunting ducks in Duck Hunt? As you can see, NES clones and Famiclones have a lot of value to provide the gamer looking to relive their classic-gaming memories, the best part is that it won’t break the bank.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of NES clones and Famiclones, there are guides with a lot more information in these NES clone guides that will let you know what makes or breaks a good system clone.
If you want to compare the different features of each model, check out these NES clone reviews.