Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sega Genesis Cardboard Box Games: The Basics

The Sega Master System, with whatever flaws it may have, did one thing that has left all other retro game collectors envious. So what did Master System do? It pioneered the Plastic Clam shell case, the forerunner of DVD and BluRay style case. It's true some random games on other system before the SMS ( Sega Master System) had clam shells, but it was the North American SMS that brought a full uniformed library of plastic clam shells to the market. This fine tradition of games in hard, long lasting, durable, plastic cases was continued on the Genesis, except for when it wasn't. Yeah about that...

Enter the Cardboard Box Titles: The Cardboard box titles come in many styles but we can narrow it down to 3 basic types, The Accolade Hard Top (HT), The Flip Top (f), and the most common Slide Out Tray (s).

The Accolade Style Case- These CB's look like old computer game boxes, they have a top and a bottom, with the top lifting off to expose the manual inner tray and cart.

The Flip Top- These Boxes are similar to Original Nintendo NES boxes, as they open from the top to expose the game, but they are more akin to Nintendo 64 boxes in that they have a built in structure to house the game and manual.

The Slide Tray- The Slide Tray uses an inner tray that slides out from either the top or bottom out of the outer box it hold the game in front, but hold the manual inside the tray. This make the manual frustrating to get to and it can't be done easily without damaging the inner tray. It is the most plentiful of all the Sega Genesis Cardboard box types and was used to house most of the Sega 32X games as well.

Others Box Types- Aside from the three basic types we have a smattering of other titles that came in different style cardboard boxes. Some games only came packed with accessories and have no proper case to speak of; Miracle Piano and Lethal Enforcers. Some of them are true Oddities like Outback Joey which only came with a Fitness System. Two games came in gatefold boxes (the front of the box swings open) T2 and Menacer 6 in 1. Another type are the Big Box Games, these are games that come with in a standard clam shell case but because they come with an accessory they have been jammed into a bigger out cardboard box like Mario Lemieux Hockey with Puck, and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. QVC gave us a variant on this style with their QVC Exclusive Maximum Carnage Special Edition. The last variant on these worth mentioning is the Cardboard Hang Tab. I don't know how or why these made it into production and in fact I only know of 2 games that have them Sonic 2 and NHL All-Star Hockey. These are flip top games that have a hang tab attached. Sonic 2 is very rare and hard to find, All-Star Hockey has the tab only on the Canadian version which doesn't appear that often. I have found one other hang tab game and that is Tecmo Super Bowl 3. Tecmo Super Bowl 3 is not a flip top game, it is a slide box and the hang tab is found on the slide tray and can be tucked into back. I have confirmed this tray type only on Tecmo Super Bowl 3 and I have done so on multiple copies.

Tray Types
Having just mention the tray of Tecmo Super Bowl 3 I feel like it's a good time to go over some of the Slide Trays you may find inside your Cardboard Box games. Some trays will hold the game sideways, others will hold the games in an up and down fashion. Some of trays have Genesis written at the top of the tray in big white letters, some have it written on the bottom, other have it on the back, and some don't have Genesis written anywhere. Some of the Trays that have Genesis on the top also have Sega printed in the lower right hand corner, but not all of them. On the portion of the tray that holds the game firm the cardboard flaps might be shaped like triangles, while others are squared triangle and others are just rectangle shaped. I have found that College Football's National Championship II can come with a white inner tray, (I have seen it twice) but I have never seen another game to have a white tray. Lastly, as already mentioned, Super Tecmo Bowl 3 has a hang tab that is punched out of the back of it's tray.

What is with all the tray variation and do all games come with specific trays?
 The variation in trays might have to do with the game title and I have shown that in a few games, but I think it is more likely that the tray types have to do with when they were produced and where they were produced. Most Cardboard box games were produced in one of three locations, Mexico, Japan, and the USA. The difference in the production quality from these three plants varies to a large degree, sometimes you will notices some labels on your games are very dark or look fake, while on others the text looks blurry or bolded on the title and Sega logos. I have noticed the blurry text on many of the Mexico carts. It is safe to assume that these plants all got their production material from separate plants which would explain the differences. It could also do with the production run. A game could have a tray that hold the game up and down in the beginning of its production but by the 3rd or 4th release they may have only had trays that held the game sideways. This is of course all speculation but I feel these could reasonable explain the differences.

Misconceptions about Genesis Cardboard Box Games
1. They all have Black and White Manuals. Nope, while many do have B/W manuals quite a few have color manuals.
2. All CB games are rereleases. Not even close Over 100 games were Cardboard Only.
3. Games only come in one type of Box. No, many CB games have clam shell versions and some even have multiple cardboard types, like say a flip top and a slide box.

4. Sega CB games are Pirates or non North American Releases. No they are official.
5. All Cardboard Box games came late in the Genesis life cycle and typically came in Red Boxes with Genesis in white up the left side. No, but yes several do come just like this; however, companies like EA and Accolade produced Cardboard titles well before the Red Box games were released.
6. Cardboard box games are easily damaged. Yes, actually that is true. Genesis CBs tend to feel thinner than Nintendo boxes and flimsier.

7. Cardboard box games are cheaper. No I feel like the opposite is true. While many people understandable do no like CB Genesis games, the fact that the cardboard is easily lost or discarded makes these games harder to find complete. In years to come I feel the price on these will rise because of the rarity of the boxes and condition will be a huge determinant in the overall cost.

Thank You for reading and I hope you found this post informative. Stay Tuned Next Week for a post a I know a few of you have been waiting for and a video.



  1. Great read, Johnny. Very informative and thorough breakdown of an obscure subset. Now, I need to finish my dang set!

  2. Thanks for the detailed info on these types of boxes.
    I hate them by the way. hehehehe I have some and they remind me of Nintendo urgh!

  3. Thanks. Really enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work and look forward to more posts!

  4. Thanks, this is good information.I recently purchased a Genesis game in a CB. I was curious, this answered my questions.

  5. I really feel great to see some nice information exchange here, very informatics keep it up!! Cardboard boxes

  6. Thank you so much! I didn't know the Cardboard box variant of Sonic 2 was rare! It has now earned it's place on my shelf!

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