Complete Guide to Authentic GBA Pokemon Games!

HELLO ALL! This is my personal guide to telling the Pokemon games for the GameBoy Advance series apart from fake ones!

This guide will go over Generation III and (unofficially) Generation III.5.

These games include the ever popular Pokemon Ruby, Pokemon Sapphire, Pokemon Emerald, Pokemon Fire Red, and Pokemon Leaf Green.

Now you probably found yourself here trying to dig for answers on if you are purchasing an Authentic or Genuine copy of said games vs one that just very well might be a fake bootleg copy.

So sit back, let your nostalgia run rampant while you struggle on trying to get back your childhood, which you may have ever so ungracefully discarded or sold regrettably in the past.

Enjoy! (Click the See More to get the full page!) All large HQ images too! Click the image to view it in PNG!


Now, to start things off, these copies here are from my personal collection over the years. Most of which I purchased online (after much digging on trying to authenticate stuff). The copies of Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald all contain a battery to keep their clocks running properly. As these games have aged over the years, they have dried up and died. All of them has been replaced by myself. Simple soldering process is all that is needed to replace them. Of course, having a tri-wing screwdriver helps as well.

First off we’ll start with Pokemon Ruby!

Here is the front of the game. Please note the embossed number’s just right of Pokemon title. Fake ones NEVER have that.


Front image showing the non-gloss, and the transparency of the cartridge. Note the position of the battery.


Obverse side. Note the four contact points in the upper left corner. Also the contact points of all the teeth that insert into the cartridge. They are all straight and level. Fake ones have variously positioned points.


When you take them apart, the cartridge slides a bit then comes right out. (I don’t have a fake copy so I can’t know if they are any different.)


Here is what the board looks like. Notice the battery position and the crystal used for the time on the left hand side. Also the chips placement on the board as well as their size.

(if I’m not mistaken this is a later model with the smaller chip. Look at the Sapphire and you’ll see what I mean)

Then the back side of the circuit board where everything is made clearly visible.


———Next we have Pokemon Sapphire!———


Please note everything as the Ruby version as to this one.




Reverse (x2)


Board. Now this is where I was mentioning the larger chip on this copy.


Back side, unobstructed view of the board.


———Pokemon EMERALD!———

Now for some reason my copy doesn’t have the embossed letters on it.


Don’t let that fool you though! Check out the actual holographic details on the sticker!


Obverse side, you can clearly see the contact points and pins with the 4-square in the corner.




Back side of circuit.


Pokemon Fire Red time!!!

Check out the shiny design of the sticker, and embossed numbers.


Back side you can see the 4-square and flat contact points.


Inside view. Note, NO BATTERY! This version has a smaller chip than the Leaf Green below. Probably a newer revision.


Back side of the circuit board.


Pokemon Leaf Green!

Note the shiny sticker and the embossed letters/numbers.


The lettering isn’t shiny while the background is.


Back side. Same as Fire Red. 4-square, flat contact points.


Internal board. NO BATTERY! Larger chip. Possibly Rev.1?


And back side of Leaf Green.



If your copies do not look like this, then they are most likely fakes!

I also found this page (Spanish webpage) it also shows some of the most common fakes and easy ways to spot them.

Hope this helps out!


All images are copyrighted by me, chieftain20. You are free to use these images as you like, just don’t alter them at all. Hence the watermark added to each photo. The watermark has been added to each image to be least intrusive as possible on the item, while keeping images secure from illegitimate potential sales on various websites.

39 Responses to “Complete Guide to Authentic GBA Pokemon Games!”

  1. I have a fire red that shows all signs that its real, the metallic sticker, the embossed number the board inside with the no battery on it etc, but the layout of the sticker is different, is it real or?

    • If thats the case you should check a “confirmed real version” of your layout… There are always a couple of different layouts depending on the region where they come from, but noneteless if its shows all the signs of being real…. it probably is.

  2. This is interesting! Are you sure the Leaf Green version is real? The Nintendo logo on the circuit board is different than on the others. Did Nintendo produce two different Nintendo stamps on the circuit boards? Thanks for your help!

  3. Try to look on your Emerald’s Nintendo Quality Seal. The embossed numbers are probably there, but hard to see.

  4. First of all, great post! There should be way more articles like this floating arround the internet which, sadly, it isnt the case. From what I can tell, one of the main differences between real and fake cartridges are often the fonts used, and the “shinyness” of the sticker. Some people also say that the plastic feels different but I cant really confirm on that. The main problem is when you are buying online, since you cant really open the game which is usually one of the easiest methods to spot a a fake.

    Nonetheless, either if you are buying online or in person keep in mind: all the fonts used (everything should be clear), the positioning of the sticker, in the case of FRLG check the positioning of the so called “swirlies” and see if they match, the layout of the sticker, the game boy advanced logo, if you cant open it up check the back and see if everything in the board matches, the white inscription above the pins that go into the console (note that there may be a couple of different inscriptions), and if you have the cartridge on your hand (or if you have good pictures) always check the “metalic” brightness or “shinyness” of the sticker, not forgetting the embossed letters and numbers which can also be very diverse. Once again, you can open the cartridge and see if its fake or not, even though you can check the battery and its position without opening the games. (FRLG dont have batteries)

    If you already bought the game you should always try it on and check if: there is already a save file, even though some people may delet it before selling the game, see if it saves, see if some weird message appears after the title screen (the batery has run out message is completely normal btw) and the last thing to do is probably check if the game can trade with other games. Fake games are getting better and better unfortunatelyand and all this aspects may work in a fake game, but keep them in mind nonetheless since if one of them doesnt check, your copy might be a fake.

    Anyway, ive ramlbed for way too much but i bought a copy of fire red and had a really hard time confirming it was real, so in case someone is in the same situation as me, they dont have to do as much research. One last thing, always check with reference that is from the same region of your game, and despite US fakes being more common, keep in mind that there are also PAL region fakes, and if you bought one european copy like i did its even harder to find images on the internet. Anyway, be carefull and cheers!

  5. So leaf green is the only one without a year date?

    • On my copy it was. It may have went through a couple revision or two, but without taking apart more copies to verify, I would not know. As long as the chip layout is the same and has tell-tale 4 square on the back side, likely genuine.

  6. dragon types Says:

    Actually the bigger and smaller chip differences are as followed:

    Big chip: Macronix MX29L010TC-15A1, 1m (128kb) flash memory chip. MX = Macronix.

    Small chip: Sanyo LE26FV10N1TS, 1m (128kb) flash memory chip.

    Nintendo used multiple brands of quality chip companies like Macronix, Sanyo and more…

    About the the white Nintendo stamp inside the board:
    The games released in batches and therefore have different stamps but are genuine games from Nintendo. Also the capacitor inside the board may have altered placements.

    Label: Notice the are different labels depending the games location sales. European versions (EUR) has own label art. North America (USA) has own label art. Australia (AUS) has own label art. Still same English game.

    English cartridge release versions and revisions :
    If your game has two numbers then it is version 1.0 (original release).
    If your game has two numbers followed by a letter A then it is version 1.1. Some texts and bugs fixed.
    If your game has two numbers followed by a letter B then it is version 1.2. Berry glitch fixed.
    Only Pokemon Emerald is 1.0 and has never got revisions.

    Save feature:
    Uses Flash memory chip (see above) 128kb to hold save data.
    64kb is for actual save file and the other 64kb is for save back-up and record save holdings.

    • Hey sorry to bother you but could use some help,just bought a firered copy that was two mx chips,it doesnt have a copyright symbol or date before the nintendo imprint on top of the connector pins but everything else seems legit.Factory imprinted numbers are 00A E4 i Believe.

      • dragon types Says:

        Hi. It’s a real copy you got. Your 00A is revision 1.1 of the game. To go into details about that, the pokedex fixed a bug of some texts of all pokemon.

        • Hey thanks so much for the reply,was going nuts thinking i got a fake copy,glad to know ill be able to trade up now,Thanks!

    • Hi. I just wanted to ask where can I find the factory imprinted numbers? I’ve taken photos of my recently delivered cartridge and would like to send it to you. Could you please help me figure out whether my cartridge is fake or not?

    • If the number you’re talking about is the embossed number on the front, mine says 00 and no other letters what so ever. What I’m concerned is that the number 00 is overlapped by the letter RE-U (in BPRE-USA), therefore making it look like half of the letters are missing. But if I look carefully I can clearly read the number 00 embossed. Everything other than this is exactly the same as the photos above. Is my cartridge legitimate?

      Just in case you might want to see the pictures I posted the pictures on my personal blog.

      I hope you could help me distinguish whether this cartridge is fake or real.

  7. dragon types Says:

    Well, some fake pokemon games can still trade pokemons but they can’t receive real event pokemons and can’t migrate to gen 4. And all gba games (especially pokemon) have an anti-pirate check upon booting up on nds / lite. Real games plays and saves fine and bootleg games will have their save file deleted by the nds.
    Gba flash cards can act like real games for the nds.

    • Oh i see,so the definitive way is trading to another generation with a nds?Ive tried looking for countless authentic cartridges and from what ive seen is Some boards are different because some either use a copyright symbol and date while others use a circled I and also either use 1 big chip or one small or 2 big mx chips but what doesnt change are the fact that they use MX chips, and the 4 gold squares on the back aswell as the imprinted factory numbers in the front.

      • dragon types Says:

        It’s very easy to compare real vs fake. Because real uses high quality components while fakes are very cheap. Even if the fake game can hold save data but it will malfunctions later on the game and will erase the save data.

  8. Question: is the crystal oscillator inside the battery?

    • dragon types Says:

      No. It’s inside in the upper left corner of the cartridge’s circuit board, the cylinder thing. That’s where the clock function is. The battery only supplies the voltage to run the clock of the game.

  9. J O L T I N Says:

    on my ruby game, the little imprinted number on the cover is on the left side instead of the right, is it still legit?

  10. Hey, I just bought a copy of Leaf Green. Things seem to be normal, however, the board resembles your fire red board instead of the leaf Green one. I have a picture I can share. Can you please help me?

    It is also having an issue with saving. It’s a problem with the 1m board..

    My board:

    • Never mind! I fixed it!! I took apart the pak and I noticed a bunch of dark gunk all over the back of the circuit board. And, with a little time, a peg leg, and some patience, I got the gunk off and it works great!

      Thanks for this forum though, I wouldn’t have known what to look for at all! You definitely got me pointed in the right direction! Thanks again!

  11. Jared Harris Says:

    I have found that most fakes usually won’t let you transfer to gen 4, I think this is a good way to test for fakes

  12. Thanks for this awesome resource!

  13. Bought one of those “get all 5 games for a good price” kind of things, it looked too good to be true and as soon as it said “delivered from china” I knew that they would be fakes.

    Now I didn’t care much at first, I was like “who cares if they are fakes let me just play the games for fun”. The cartridges turned up within a month which was surprisingly fast considering it is eBay, and that there is a global pandemic atm.

    First thing I did was to check the most important thing, which is the reason why I bought the games. Plug it into a DS Lite on the gba slot and plug in my real pokemon platinum to check if the option for “migrate” appeared. It did not do that.

    The game I put most time into was the emerald one and it had problems with certain routes in game where my gameboy would just turn off for no reason, forcing me to start over.

    It was to the point to where I got a team of lvl 40+ pokemon and got into an encounter with a ralts when after catching it, the screen was glitching. After turning it off and back on I got a blue menu screen with a text saying “Save file was corrupted”.

    TLDR buy the real stuff, don’t go to the extreme in terms of price, and be sceptical of everything.

    • dragon types Says:

      Actually most fake and pirated games have or will have malfunctions on the save file and random crashes and missing functions. They can still link trade and link battle.

  14. Is this ebay link legit? i literally cannot tell anymore. i keep finding these games that look so close to the originals that I cannot tell the difference.

  15. Recently bought a FireRed version off of eBay. On the front sticker there are two embossed numbers/letters that are above the official nintendo seal not directly on top of it. The numbers are 15A and E4. Does this indicate a fake or were some FireRed GBA cartridges produced that way? The game does turn on and function but I haven’t played very far into it yet.

  16. I wish the EU copies were included here, its super hard to find a gift this good for those

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