As most of you will know, the whole retrogame world is now available in an ultra-low-cost "home version" through various software, called emulators, available for practically all existing platforms (from Windows to OSX, from Android to iOS, from Raspberry to the most varied proprietary operating systems of consoles); emulating the most modern consoles obviously requires more performing machines and we have even come to have them retro console emulators within the homebrew software park of the same (eg the GNUBOY emulator that allows the emulation of Game Boy ROMs in an original Nintendo 64!).

What perhaps not all readers know is that there is the possibility to load the old ROMs or ISOs of the discs inside special "reprogrammable" cartridges to boot them directly on the original hardware!

But why do you do what you say? I already have emulators that are great!
It is true, emulators often go big BUT ... games, especially older ones, were programmed to be viewed on cathode ray tube monitors and not LCDs, often using programming tricks related to performance on such displays (in image below you can see the comparison between a real CRT on the left and in an "emulated" version without filters on the right):

It must also be said that some analog peculiarities are impossible to replicate in emulation with 100% fidelity to the original (eg the C64 SID sound chip) because some characteristics (which can sometimes even be defined as "imperfections") are closely linked hardware and cannot be replicated with absolute correspondence via software.

(enable CC subtitles option in video to see if you are listening to real or emulated digital)

Nello specifico i chip SID dispongono di linee di condensatori in ingresso costituite da elementi naturali e ciò significa che i filtri sono impossibili da emulare al 100%. Ricordate inoltre ad esempio che 2 SID di 2 C64 differenti non avranno MAI lo stesso identico suono ! I filtri si basano infatti su componenti presenti in natura (che appartengono al mondo analogico) e quindi si discostano “naturalmente” e per definizione dalla “perfezione digitale”.
We also have the "emotional" component linked to the intrinsic pleasure of using the real machine! You want it for the "nostalgia effect" or you want for the obsessiveness of "analogic perfection" ... summing up in 2 words we can therefore affirm that no emulation will be able to reproduce what has been said above with perfect fidelity; imperfections can be introduced (eg scanlines that recall the “alternating lines” effect) but they will also be “digital”; by emulating you can get close to reality at 99% but we will never have an exact match to 100%. If you are satisfied there is no problem but avoid saying, especially to those who are "fanatic" of the retrogame, that emulating is practically identical to playing on a real machine, especially when speaking of video rendering between cathode ray tube and LCD monitors; if you do, the consequences could be devastating and you could bring out the lowest instincts of man! You are warned!


Like the vast majority of products for retrogame / retroconsoles, flash cards (or flash carts, if you prefer) are born as ideas of enthusiasts who are experts in both electronics and programming who wanted to be able to exploit the increasingly widespread phenomenon of "rom dumping" (i.e. copying the games on cartridges in digital files) in order to start on the original machine titles released only in other countries or simply titles that for some reason had never managed to get in their hands.

The first prototypes were homemade with a rather "raw" design, perhaps obtained by modifying original cartridges re-adapted to connect a PROM (not rewritable):

subsequently evolved into slightly more "refined" and rewritable products:

Over time, some realized that they could monetize their work and here they started selling their own mass-produced homemade prototypes. (photo on the right)

The first to make it a real business was Igor Golubovskiy, better known among retrogame fans under the pseudonym of "krikzz". (photo on the right)

Its cartridges are now famous with the name of "EverDrives", each specific for a particular console; the names of its individual products have changed over the years, perhaps by simply adding a "v2" or "v3" at the bottom of the name or by radically changing the name for copyright reasons (eg SD2SNES has become since January 2020 FXPAK PRO), while some have gone out of production perhaps replaced by new more powerful hardware and their price has inexorably increased by substantially lacking competitors on the market !.

History has it that Igor he sold the schemes (but not the sources of the firmware it provided pre-flashed) to a Chinese (junfangames) who wanted to build them on his own and sell them on the Asian market; perhaps a little naively krikzz accepted (behind it is not known how much money) offering support to the Chinese versions only and exclusively for the software (since the hardware is not from krikzz) and in the early days there were only 2 types of everdrives, the original and the original-Chinese ones with a price that was practically identical; at the same time, however, the first products developed / cloned completely in China began to appear, which had prices reduced by up to 1/6 - 1/9 compared to the original product, perhaps placed on the market by an elusive "Jack Do It Yourself”(Or JDIY) even if this information is not certain (when out sourcing in China it is possible that the schemes of the projects carried out in an Asian company are“ magically ”copied and cloned); at the beginning only EDMD v2.3 were available for MegaDrive / Genesis and ED64 V1 (also called ED64 Plus) for N64; subsequently appeared, at very competitive prices, those for Nintendo / Famicom and Super Nintendo and recently also those for Master System and Turbografx (some of these seem to be found only on Aliexpress). Obviously these products are not supported by Igor and indeed the updates may include protection systems that brikk the fake cartridges if updated with the new original OS versions released by him so, if you buy them, you will presumably be forever bound to the firmware and the OS (menu that appears on the console) with which they will arrive unless someone produces specific cracks which currently has never happened yet apparently; you can realize if they are fake or not both for the price definitely below cost and because it is usually written in the description that they should not be updated; alternatively it is the same seller to declare it upon specific request (if you are curious to know it, the most cloned and sold is undoubtedly the one for Mega Drive that can be found for less than 20 dollars).

After monopolizing the market for lack of competitors, krikzz has found bread for its teeth with Terraonion, run by developers and enthusiasts (in the photo you can see Todd Gill member who plays a kind of PR role for the company). 

Who sell (at prices that define "excessive" is a compliment) products that are in any case of excellent workmanship.


In particular the Super SD System 3 for PC-Engine / Turbografx16 (emulates cartridges and CD-ROM drives), the MegaSD for Mega Drive / Genesis (emulates cartridges and CD-ROM drives) and the NeoSD for NeoGeo / MVS (allow to start the entire NeoGeo stock); exaggerated costs but if you think about it with these technical gems you will no longer need to buy expensive CD-ROM add-ons or hyper-expensive NeoGeo cartridges.

Terraonion doesn't seem to be very happy to help its customers if a problem arises; before shopping from them read this: and maybe buy their products from third parties (eg.
[/ su_spoiler]
Despite the competition, the price of the products unfortunately has not dropped, and moreover Igor is trying to run for cover by trying to implement in the new updates to its products what they are not yet able to do while those of others do (eg Mega support CD at EverDrive for Mega Drive / Genesis).

Certainly one of the most interesting things about these wonders is that of being able to use the homebrews created for these rear machines on a real machine even tens of years after their official discontinuation from the trade !!!

Having done this introductory hat, let's deal with these "tools of power"!


They all have flashable / reprogrammable chips but it fundamentally changes the way these are written; they are divided into 2 broad categories:

- equipped with 1 or more reprogrammable FLASH CHIPs;

- equipped with SD / microSD card / USB port


These cartridges are the first to be designed; they have one or more memory chips that can be rewritten by external programmers that must be purchased separately (some are erased only with ultraviolet rays while others can be erased via the programmer); in some cases the chip must be extracted from the cartridge card and mounted on the programmer to be programmed with special software after which it is reinserted into the cartridge, in other cases there is already a connection interface soldered on the card (parallel in the older ones, USB in the more modern ones) which allows direct connection with the PC through dedicated software.

The limits of these cards are:
- memory capacity: we are dealing with chips with memories ranging from a few Kb up to a few hundred MB; if the ROMs park of the console for which they are dedicated is very limited (a few MB as in the case of the very old consoles where 1 rom takes up a few Kb) they are just fine: you program them only once with all the romset and you are good to go.
- slowness in programming: often these are devices linked to parallel programmers (very slow) or to USB 1.0 peripherals (slow).
- the need to have an external programmer with which to program these cards. For the single chip usually universal programmers are used which you can also reuse for other projects or chips; in other cases the programmer is proprietary and you have to buy that one if no one has reversed the communication protocol and made it available.
- the need to find a ready-made loader (unless you know how to program it yourself) to select the desired ROM from a menu; the “poorest” cartridges allow you to load only 1 ROM at a time without the need for a loader.
- very often these cartridges are not able to emulate additional circuitry / chips thus making compatibility with the specific stock available far from the 100%.

The advantages I am:
- the cheapness of the card alone (they can be found for a few tens of dollars each); obviously the cost of the programmer must be added.
- not infrequently there are ready-made projects that contain the PCB diagram, the necessary components and the software that allows the selection of the ROM from a menu visible on the screen (loader) so, if you are able, for a few dollars you can build 1 yourself .


WITH SD / microSD / USB

These cards are also equipped with a flash chip but this is programmed through a microcontroller soldered on the PCB which reads the ROMs directly from an SD / microSD card or from a USB peripheral through a selection menu and flashes / emulates it without the need for a external programmer.

The limits of these cards are:
- the exaggerated cost; it starts from a minimum of about 60 dollars up to a few hundred euros each; the circuitry is certainly more expensive but the final price is objectively exaggerated compared to a hypothetical “acceptable” value; however, these are extremely niche products, therefore, as there is little competition, whoever invents them first makes the price; however, it must be said that they are often products of excellent quality!
- when using a FAT32 format the files listed in the selection menu are in copy order on the SD and not in alphabetical order and there is no option to order them directly from the menu so either you copy the files in the desired order or you use special tools they will do it for us.

The advantages I am:
- the extreme simplicity of use; copy the ROMs / ISOs to the SD via PC (sometimes it is necessary to keep a specific structure of files / folders), insert the SD into the card and insert the cartridge into the console!
- Some are able to emulate specific additional circuits / chips (mappers, graphics chips, etc.) that are only found in specific cartridges as happens for example in different Super Nintendo games without which the game will never start, consequently the compatibility of the specific stock available increases, becoming close to 100%.
- in some cases they are able to emulate the behavior of specific (and expensive!) Hardware add-ons (eg cards for PC-Engine or Mega CD for Mega Drive) which you will no longer need.
- an integrated loader from which to choose games or even set specific hardware settings.
- ease of firmware update (beware of using original firmwares with cloned flashcarts, there is a brick risk!).
- in some cases there are Chinese clones that reduce the price to about 1/3; unfortunately the clones do not have software support so any latest update of the official firmware will probably not support and indeed risk making you brikkare the cartridge if installed so watch out !!
- some also have the possibility of connecting the card directly to the PC via USB for various functions (eg debugging).

The choice must therefore be aimed both at the budget (if it is "unlimited" go with your eyes closed on the ORIGINAL SD / microSD ones) and at the compatibility (if you are interested in having the possibility to start the 90-95% without reaching the coveted 100% of the titles go on the Chinese clone).
For older consoles (let's say pre-Nintendo 8bit then Atari 2600, Intellivision, Colecovision, etc.) the cartridges with reprogrammable flash chip are cheap, they can contain almost the entire stock and have high compatibility due to the fact that in that period were usual additional chips to boost the game directly inside the cartridge.

DE (Drive Emulator)

These devices (ODE - Optical Drive Emulator / FDE - Floppy Drive Emulator / TDE - Tape Drive Emulator) emulate the functions of the original drive by completely replacing it (or in rarer cases by adapting next to it) thus allowing not to wear out the already delicate ones components and mechanics (lenses, transmission belts, magnetic supports, etc.) of the original machines and supports (especially cassette tapes and floppy disks). Titles are usually read via SD / microSD card or directly via external USB device (HDD, USB key, etc.). Sometimes these devices take the name of the communication BUS of the emulated device (eg SD2IEC to say that it emulates on SD the peripheral with IEC BUS of the Commodore 64 floppy reader).

These contraptions offer practically nothing but advantages; the only "cons" are the costs and in some cases the need to open the console / computer to install them having to remove / unsolder / solder wires or small cards.
Some sites offer paid modification services by selling pre-modified consoles as needed (at much higher prices compared to the homemade installation solution).


Since the consoles began to have a rewritable internal / external memory (therefore no longer just ROM) the developers have tried to find systems that do not require additional hardware to modify them by rewriting them, once they have obtained the privileges of arbitrary execution of commands through specific exploits, the functions of the operating system started by patching the controls of any protections thus making the hardware a kind of "dev board" for which you can develop homebrews without having to pay royalties to the manufacturer.

In some cases (eg. 3DS) we have witnessed the presence of both rewritable cartridges (first "phase" of the hacking) and softmods (in a subsequent phase) which obviously made the cartridges obsolete as any softmod for any device is practically at no cost (you just need the expense for the memory card on which to load the exploits to which in some cases any small inexpensive hardware to start them must be added).

In other cases these changes must be restarted each time the console is restarted (eg the various "Homebrew Enabler" or "HEN") as the patches applied in memory are lost during shutdown due to the fact that you have not (yet) succeeded to find a way to apply them persistently, in other cases they can be permanent (in this case we speak of "coldboot" softmod) because the level of access to the machine is so "deep" that the changes can be forced upon startup of the same.

Finally, there are hardware changes that go hand in hand with homebrew software as in the case of ODEs with which a change that is physically made on the machine is managed by a homebrew software interface to facilitate the user experience (eg. GCLoader + Swiss for GameCube).


You will find the devices divided by manufacturer and further separated from each other in convenient tables following the chronological order of their release on the market.

Technical characteristics may vary based on hardware revisions; those reported in this article should be the most recent at the time of writing. The prices are relative to the beginning of 2020 and may vary depending on where they are purchased and depending on whether it is new or used.

This thread will not cover devices that have been declared “discontinued” nor will it elaborate on devices that have not been tested from reliable sources.

Some official reviews will be proposed often presented on well-known sites: ALWAYS check the writing date of these reviews because firmware and software updates of the most famous cartridges often fill any incompatibilities and problems encountered with older versions.

As a last note, before venturing into reading and any subsequent purchase, read carefully this article and its relative technical explanation-demonstration; the 2 writings explain how it is possible to damage a console if these devices were made without the due design attention (in particular the working difference between the 5v of the console and the 3.3v of the flash carts does not seem to get along very well with the internal circuitry of some consoles with consequent stress on the components and the possibility of their damage over time as they are not built to manage these differences).