Today I’m going to present you guys with a guide about one of my all-time favorite topics: retro gaming. More specifically, playing Famicom games on an NES.

Can you play Japanese Famicom Games on an NES?

Yes. You can play Famicom Games on an NES. Getting the games to play does however require a game cartridge converter or hardware mod.

But don’t panic. While the requirements sound a little offputting, the process is super easy. Read below to learn exactly what you need to do to be able to enjoy the best Japanese Famicom games on your American Nintendo Entertainment System.

Famicom vs NES

Unless you are an avid retro gamer, you may not even know of the Famicom, Japan’s original version of the Nintendo Entertainment System that we would eventually receive in the West. You see, the gaming market in the early 80s was nothing like it is today. Instead of a multibillion-dollar industry, gaming was more akin to a niche computer hobby.

As a result, the Famicom was retooled and redesigned when it was brought over to the West. The resulting machine was the NES we all remember and love. And while both machines were comparable in many aspects, they were profoundly different in others.

Famicom games were incompatible with NES games. This meant that for many years entire catalogs of fantastic games were unplayable in the west, outside of importing a Famicom system.

Thankfully, not all is lost if you want to try those games for yourself. In fact, there are a few tricks you can resort to if you want to get those exotic Japanese Famicom titles to work on your NES.

Follow me after the break to learn how it’s done.

Famicom game cartridges are not compatible with NES

Identifying The Compatability Problem

Before I can start giving you tips on how to play Japanese Famicom games on your NES, you need to understand clearly what it is about these Famicom games that makes them incompatible with NES systems.

First things first: the Famicom and NES incompatibility issues have nothing to do with TV formats or standards. Afterall all, Japanese TVs are not PAL and work with the same NTSC video standard that American TVs work with.

Second, you have to remember that Nintendo firmly believes in customer protection and having firm control over the user experience. Therefore, there are no “official” peripherals or workarounds to the incompatibility issue.

This is the root of the problem. Nintendo, in an effort to protect their customers from “unapproved” games, created a system that provided them with control over what games were playable on their consoles. This system, which is based on the number of circuit board pins found inside the cartridge, makes Famicom games physically incompatible with NES systems.

In other words, a Famicom media will simply not fit inside an NES system because all Famicom cartridges have a 60-pin cartridge design, while the NES system uses cartridges with a 72-pin connector.

This difference in internal circuit design also affected the exterior design of the cartridge. Therefore all of the methods I will outline below will allow you to play Famicom games on your NES by somehow altering the physical connection between your game cartridges and the system itself.

Solving The Famicom/NES Incompatibility Issue

Today I will present you with two different options to get your Famicom game cartridges to work on your NES system, along with several more to play your Famicom games whether you have an NES or not. Let me go into further detail and allow you to make the best and most informed decision based on your particular means and circumstances.

Using A Famicom To Nes Adapter

Cartridge Converter - Famicom to NES Game Cartridge AdapterThis is probably the simplest and easiest answer to the question of playing Japanese Famicom games on an NES. In the past this was not always the best solution because good adapters were hard to find, and in some cases, they were surprisingly expensive for a piece of technology that is close to 40 years old at this point.

In fact, for many years it was almost impossible to find one of these adapters easily. Thankfully, with the rise of online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, it is far easier to find one that works properly and consistently. This Famicom adapter (from Amazon) is all you need!

What the adapter does is reduce the number of pins that come into contact with the reader inside the console. So, if you are lucky enough to have or find an adapter, playing a Japanese Famicom game on an NES is very easy. You simply insert the Japanese cartridge into the adapter and use the adapter to connect to the NES system.

But what if you can’t find an adapter? Or, what if you, like me, find the world of tinkering with things fascinating?

Modifying An Existing NES Cartridge To Make Your Own Adapter

Don’t want to order anything extra? There may be a cheaper or even free way to get the Famicom on your NES provided you have the right hardware lying around.

The story of how the NES became one of the world’s most successful consoles is very interesting, and it has some ramifications today that will help you play Famicom games on your NES.

You see, when Nintendo launched their new Nintendo Entertainment System in 1983 they did so in an extremely hostile market. American audiences had been burned and traumatized by crappy Atari games for years, so when the idea of a new console coming to the US was presented to them, most people rejected it.

As a result, when the console took off and started selling like hotcakes, Nintendo found that they didn’t have enough games ready to ship and meet the ravenous demand. What they did then was to take existing Famicom games off Japanese shelves, add a conversion chip inside the NES-style cartridges, and call it a day.

This means that you can find NES games with special built-in adapters, which you can then use to play Famicom games. Although this works to solve the incompatibility issue between existing Famicom games and NES consoles, it is far from an ideal solution, since it often leaves fragile circuit components exposed and because getting it to work requires some moderate DIY capabilities.

If you love DIY projects and feel confident in your modding abilities, then this is an easy and fun option to get Famicom games to work on your NES. But don’t go ripping open your NES games just yet. Only certain games have the adapter inside, and on top of that on specific versions of those games.

Here is a list of games that you can check:

  • 1942
  • Clu Clu Land
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Duck Hunt
  • Elevator Action
  • Excitebike
  • Golf
  • Gumshoe
  • Gyromite
  • Hogan’s Alley
  • Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
  • Pinball
  • Raid on Bungeling Bay
  • Rygar
  • Soccer
  • Stack Up
  • Tennis
  • Urban Champion
  • Wizards and Warriors
  • Wrecking Crew

How To Know If Your Game Has The Famicom Adapter?

The adapters were only available in early model NES carts. The top of the cart did not have the tabs on each side and instead will be flat all the way across. These carts also have five screws, instead of the newer 3 screw models, and the screws will be flathead instead of Torx.

A collection of Famicom games

Other Ways To Get Your Famicom Fix

If you don’t care about owning original hardware and are just looking to play some games that you may have missed, there are several other options you have for playing Famicom games at home

The Hyperkin Retron 5

The Hyperkin RetroN 5: HD (from Amazon) is a solid choice for games with limited space for consoles, or those looking for some ease of use.

It is an all-in-one device that lets you play games from several old-school consoles. Not only does it include support for both the NES and Famicom, but also Game Boy, Game Boy Color, GBA, SNES, Super Famicom, Genesis, Mega Drive, and Sega Master System.

What more could you need?

Nintendo eShop

If you have a Nintendo Switch, it is possible to set up a Japanese account and download Famicom games directly from Nintendo. This is very convenient and practical for Switch owners. But just remember when the eShop is gone, you will never be able to redownload your games. So if you lose/break your Switch the collection is gone, Doki Doki and all.


The EverDrive N8 (also from Amazon) is a device that allows you to play ROMs on original hardware. It is shaped like a standard NES cartridge and allows you to flash your games onto a standard SD memory card. Because the Famicom and NES are essentially the same hardware, any Famicom games you load up on the NES cartridge will work as normal.

It even converts games for the fabled Famicom Disk System, no floppy required!


Lastly, you could always buy a Famicom. If you intend on playing more than a few games and building up a nice collection there is nothing wrong with buying an actual Famicom system. The price is comparable to some of the other options here and the is nothing like owning the original.

I personally own a Famicom and play on that, but I am a hoarder… I mean collector. I also have several converters and opened up several carts to liberate their internals. So I do speak from experience. Any of the above-mentioned options should satisfy your import needs.

Last update on 2024-04-04 at 01:36 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API