Back in the good old days, most games didn’t come packaged in a box that was meant to double as a storage case. With the exception of games for Sega’s Master System and Genesis, cartridges generally came packaged in boxes made of card stock that were meant to be thrown away. Most first-party Atari 2600 games had built-in spring-loaded dust covers, while Nintendo packaged their NES and SNES games with dust sleeves and their Game Boy games with clamshell cases, eliminating the need to keep the original packaging. Even if you do still have the original boxes for your games, they are hardly the ideal storage container, as repeated opening and closing of the box will cause wear and tear that lowers both its value and aesthetic appeal.
Originally produced for the video rental industry, the “universal game case” can hold games from several classic consoles including Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Genesis (both normal and Electronic Arts cartridges), and any CD either loose or in a jewel case. Although not advertised as such, it can also hold other small cartridges including Atari, Colecovision, and Intellivision without modification. It will also hold larger cartridges like those for the NES if you are willing to modify the case by removing some if its restraining tabs. Perhaps most importantly, the case has a sleeve on the outside that allows for a game insert. At only about 40 cents a piece when bought in bulk, these cases are a cheap and effective way to create some attractive eye candy on your shelf.
I recently bought 12 of these cases from a fellow forum user so that I could experiment with their use storing various cartridges in my collection. As is probably the case with most classic gamers, my SNES library is made up primarily of loose cartridges which would look much better lined up on my shelf in cases. Additionally, I have some loose Genesis games that need a home, and finally I wanted to play around with making cases for my Atari games. After receiving the cases in the mail, I headed over to “The Cover Project” (www.thecoverproject.net) to browse through their collection of game cover scans.
The Cover Project was started as a collaboration between several users from “Cheap-Ass Gamer”, a web site dedicated to the frugal gamer, and “Snackbar Games”, a game news and reviews site. The Cover Project has game inserts available for almost any classic game system imaginable. Most covers for home cartridge-based games are made to fit the universal game case, but the site also has a large selection of inserts for handheld games which are designed to fit into replacement Nintendo DS cases. For CD-based games, there are inserts designed for both normal and slim DVD cases. All of the inserts are of the highest quality possible, and are free to download. The site also has templates along with guides on how to create your own custom inserts.
To create custom cases for your games, you will need the following supplies:
• Replacement game cases (universal game cases, DVD, or Nintendo DS cases, depending on your needs)
• A color printer capable of photo-quality prints
• Satin or semi-gloss photo paper of normal thickness, 8.5″ x 11″ or 8.5″ x 14″
• A hobby knife and cutting mat
• A metal ruler, a wooden ruler with a metal edge, or some other straight-edge that can’t be cut with the hobby knife
Obviously, a higher quality printer will produce better quality inserts. Unfortunately, most commercial copy shops will not print these inserts because they contain copyrighted material, so if you don’t have a suitable printer then you will need to buy one or use a friend’s. Satin or semi-gloss paper should be used rather that glossy, and the paper should be of normal thickness (not the heavy-duty variety) because it needs to be flexible. A disposable hobby knife can be purchased for less than $2, and if you don’t have a cutting mat you can just use a piece of cardboard. Because a proper insert for a universal game case should be 11.22″ long, you technically would need to use 8.5″ x 14″ (legal size) photo paper. Due to the difficulty in finding legal size photo paper, I used 11″ paper and scaled the image to fit. If you are a perfectionist then this won’t work for you, but I think the results turned out great. Use the printing guide on The Cover Project to properly print out your desired insert.
I decided to start off making a case for my loose copy of Chrono Trigger. Once my insert was printed out, I brought it over to the cutting mat. I then lined the ruler up with the edge of the image and cut it, pressing the side of the blade up against the straight-edge as I moved the blade to insure a straight cut while using my free hand to firmly hold the ruler down on the table. I then repeated the process for the other edge of the image.
Once it was done, I couldn’t see any white paper on the top and bottom edges of the insert, and there was a barely noticeable amount of ink on the trimmed pieces.
After carefully placing the new insert inside the sleeve, I checked to make sure that it was lined up properly. The best place to do this is along the spine, as the text will run off of the top or bottom of the spine if the insert is too far to the front or back of the case.
After making a case for Chrono Trigger, I experimented with inserts for other systems. I made a DVD case-sized insert for my loose copy of Final Fight CD, a new insert for my copy of Mutant League Football using the PAL cover art, and a case for Pitfall! that closely resembles the original box. By the end of the weekend, I had new cases for 12 of my cartridges.
The Cover Project is an excellent resource for game collectors; hosting and allowing for the free download of large image files, providing templates and guides for making new inserts, and hosting a community forum where users can discuss related issues. I don’t know if universal game cases are still in production or if sites like mediashelving.com are simply selling off old stock, but considering their price there is little reason not to buy a box of 100 or more and store the spares in a closet or garage. For handheld games, replacement DS cases are available directly from Nintendo through their online store at store.nintendo.com, and replacement DVD cases are available seemingly anywhere that DVDs are sold. Whether you’re making new cases for your games or simply replacing damaged inserts in your Genesis and Master System games, this method is a great way to enhance or restore the visual appeal of your collection, as well as provide some needed protection for the more valuable titles in your collection.