The Wonderful, Shady World of Knock-Off Nintendo ConsolesS

The Nintendo Entertainment System, and its Japanese sibling the Famicom, were two of the most successful video game consoles to ever be released. Which led to a lot of, let's say, imitators.

OK, no, let's say complete unlicensed rip-offs.

But we're not here to tut tut and point fingers. Today, we're going to celebrate some of these machines, which were often much wackier and more wonderful than the consoles they were based on.

The NES and Famicom existed in a unique time. They were the first successful consoles after the great video game crash of 1983, yet they were also sold in a time before globalisation and had truly taken hold, so Nintendo's all-seeing eye (and that of the company's lawyers) weren't as powerful as they are today.

Meaning a trade in bootleg versions of the machines flourished, especially in regions where Nintendo had declined or been unable to launch the NES officially. Some of these, Nintendo at least tried to go after. Others, given the established popularity and regional...difficulties involved in going to court, the company knew not to even bother.

In the gallery above you'll find some of the more interesting examples of the original imitators (not the more recent devices that have popped up since many of Nintendo's original patents expired last decade), including both those available in the 80's and those which came a little later, in the early 90s, once the Iron Curtain came down in Eastern Europe.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

You can contact Luke Plunkett, the author of this post, at plunkett@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.

The Wonderful, Shady World of Knock-Off Nintendo Consoles

Golden China TV Game - This South African console was a direct copy of the Japanese Famicom, the only major differences being a crummier casing and a way cooler name.

The Wonderful, Shady World of Knock-Off Nintendo Consoles

Pegasus - This cool little machine was released in Serbia, Poland and Bosnia in the 1990s (which explains its more "modern" styling. It was compatible with Famicom games, but was mostly used to play pirated carts.

The Wonderful, Shady World of Knock-Off Nintendo ConsolesS

Top Game - A Brazilian console manufactured by CCE, it didn't just have its own Zapper, but also had cartridge slots for both Japanese and American games.

The Wonderful, Shady World of Knock-Off Nintendo Consoles

Dendy - My favourite, the King of cloned Nintendo systems and future subject of its own Total Recall, the Dendy was a Russian console (based on the Famicom) first released in the early 1990s. With no official Nintendo presence in the country and a populace with a thirst to try out video games with the fall of the Iron Curtain, the machine was a massive success.

The Wonderful, Shady World of Knock-Off Nintendo Consoles

Terminator 2 - Don't let the Sega stylings fool you: this console had the bootleg hardware of a Famicom, and became pretty popular not just in Eastern Europe (wherever the Pegasus and Dendy couldn't reach), but in Spain and even India and the Middle East.

The Wonderful, Shady World of Knock-Off Nintendo Consoles

Mega Kid MK-1000 - What. A. Beauty. Going above and beyond simply ripping off a NES, the MK-1000 was pitched as a full-blown home computer, which couldn't just play games but had educational software and a full-blown keyboard (again a bootleg of the Famicom's own keyboard) built into the machine.