Did You Butcher Your Mega Drive Carts To Overcome Sega's Physical Region Lock? 1
Image: Games Wave

Region locking is effectively a thing of the past today, but back in the '90s, it was a very real headache for those of us who wanted to occasionally dabble in the world of grey imports.

Companies like Nintendo, Sega and Sony employed regional lock-out systems to prevent software from one territory being played on a console from a different territory, resulting in a host of aftermarket options for overcoming this limitation – including expensive and often complex converter cartridges.

However, in the very early days of the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis, Sega didn't use a software-based lock but a physical one (Sega would eventually create the TMSS region lock, which was rather harder to overcome). The Japanese Mk1 Mega Drive has a locking arm inside the machine that, when the power switch is flicked on, physically swings into place and slots into a notch on the side of Japanese Mega Drive carts – which are physically different from North American and European ones.

Did You Butcher Your Mega Drive Carts To Overcome Sega's Physical Region Lock? 2
Mega Drive / Genesis carts come in all shapes and sizes. Clockwise from top left: North American, European, Third-party (in this case, Electronic Arts), Japanese — Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

This prevents users from inserting Japanese carts into Western consoles – and although Western carts fit inside the cartridge slot of Japanese consoles fine, the aforementioned lock prevents the machine from actually powering up.

Did You Butcher Your Mega Drive Carts To Overcome Sega's Physical Region Lock? 3
Fess up, who did this?! — Image: Retro World Derby

There were ways to get around this, of course. The most simple (but also the most expensive) is using a simple passthrough converter cartridge on your Western console, which allows Japanese games to be booted up.

Another solution, if you have a Japanese console and want to play Western games, is to simply open up the console and remove the locking mechanism – it's only there to hold the cart in place, so taking it out doesn't impact the performance of the machine in any way.

However, many people back in the day took a rather more extreme option. To run Japanese games on their Western consoles, they hacked away at the sides of the cart in order to make them fit. For those who owned Japanese Mega Drives, cutting the left-hand side of the Western cart would overcome the locking mechanism.

Simple, right? Well, yes, but you're then left with an ugly, butchered cartridge. Yuck.

Given the sheer number of mutilated carts we see in the wild, it seems that more people than you might expect took this drastic option – but were you one of them?

Be honest and vote in the poll below, and we'll compile the data and issue bans to anyone who votes "yes" (only kidding!)

Did cut up your Mega Drive / Genesis carts to overcome the physical region lock? (641 votes)

  1. Yes8%
  2. No92%