As with most digital media, Nintendo games have different regional formats to discourage importing and to fit the corresponding region's video formats.
Older consoles which took cartridges simply had cartridges of different shapes. For example, Japanese Famicom cartridges were much smaller and had fewer pins than American NES carts, though convertors were made, not to mention older NES carts with convertor boards in them were used to adapt games.
Disc based media starting with the GameCube has been made with different region codes based on the country's video format and region, similar to DVD/Blu-Ray region codes. Circumvention of these regional barriers was slightly easier due to devices such as the Action Replay and Freeloader which simply disabled the lockout on the GameCubes made importation favorable to some. A region code disabler through the Homebrew Channel is available on the Wii for playing import games.
Handheld consoles are not dependent on the analogue TV standards' limitation (NTSC/PAL/SECAM), however the 3DS system software is designed to ignore a game if it does not correspond to the same region as the console (with the Chinese iQue 3DS being a special exception).
List of Video Game Regions
Note: These games will usually work perfectly on American consoles and vice versa without conversion issues using a lockout disabler due to both video formats being identical (NTSC).
Games of Japanese origin and systems are usually released here first.
North America (NTSC-U)
* Note that these countries sometimes have games made exclusively for them, usually in French (NTSC-C) and Spanish (NTSC-M) respectively, these games however will still work in the other countries of this region without any modifications or lockout disabling devices. As officially listed in the 3DS Region Settings, The U region works as the Americas/Asia region, specifically in these countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- French Guiana
- Netherlands Antilles
- Saudi Arabia
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- St. Lucia
- St. Vicent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- United States
- US Virgin Islands
Note that games of Japanese origin as well as systems are usually released in this region second, with American origin games being released in this secion first.
- Czech Republic
- United Kingdom
Other territories with games released in this area include the following:
- South Africa
- St. Helena
Games can be imported into NTSC territories, but will have conversion issues when using a convertor and lockout disabler due to the different video formats.
Games and systems usually debut in this area third.
- New Zealand
Games from this area will work in European systems and vice versa.
- China (C)
- South Korea (K)
- Taiwan (T)
These countries also get releases of select Nintendo products