Hacking your NES Classic could also ruin it

You may have heard that there’s a way to get more than just the 30 pre-loaded games on your NES Classic Edition, but it involves hacking and potentially bricking it.

The Classic’s 30 trips down memory lane were apparently not enough for a Russian modder, who goes by Madmonkey online and managed to hack Nintendo’s sought-after mini console this weekend. Using a custom toolkit, Madmonkey was able to upload several ROMs, but the number that will fit on the Classic seems arguable as one gamer ran into errors with the games they uploaded after they hit a certain amount.

After the instructions went online — which aren’t much more difficult than pulling off the hacker equivalent of a Konami code in conjunction with a USB device and some software — NES Classic owners have been running wild, hacking their devices to include games Nintendo didn’t intend for you to play on their mini console. Gamers have managed to load Battletoads, the entire Mega Man series (Mega Man 2 comes legally preloaded), Metal Gear and more. 

Though everyone is excited to try their hand at hacking their NES Classic, doing so should of course come with the consideration that you could potentially brick your cherished mini NES. The process involves moving and uploading files between a computer and your NES Classic and, if you don’t do it right, it could corrupt the whole thing. 

“Where you get these ROMs you are adding is almost certainly not legal as well.”

Legally there are specific scenarios in which you can run ROMs that won’t break any rules — they mostly involve you already owning the game and creating a backup of it — but you can’t, for example, do so by downloading anything that’s unlawfully hosted on the internet. “While first sale doctrine permits you to jail break your console in some instances, this kind of use probably still violates everything from the ToS to the warranty,” Ryan Morrison, founding attorney of Morrison/Lee, said. “And where you get these ROMs you are adding is almost certainly not legal as well.”

A few Redditors who have picked up on the hack have also spotted several files on their computers that scanned positive for viruses from the custom tool that’s needed to upload the ROMs, though at least one Redditor mentioned they seemed benign. 

Regardless, now seems like a good time to remind any would-be hackers of what they could be inviting by tampering with their Classic. While boosting your NES Classic’s library may seem like a fun idea, it comes at legal, ethical and technological risks.