Animal Crossing for Gamecube has a hidden NES emulator to play any game, found nearly two decades later

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The original Animal Crossing for Nintendo Gamecube is loved and adored by many fans for its fun quirks distinguishing itself from more modern games in the series. However, after nearly two decades, it turns out there’s more than meets the eye on one of those quirks!

In the classic game, one of the most unique features are the NES items that can be obtained to play fun retro games in your house. These items take shape in the form of furniture resembling an NES game console and a copy of the specific game it plays on top of the console. When interacting with the item, you can play the game displayed in an emulation inside Animal Crossing — already a pretty cool feature.

Other than the NES items with specific game titles on them, there’s also a so-called dummy item which is simply an NES console with no game displayed on it and nothing to play. Interacting with the item simply produced a short message stating there was no software to play on the NES. Naturally this was previously interpreted as simply flavor text for a display item fitting in with other similar silly flavor text found in Animal Crossing.

Almost two decades later after the initial release of Animal Crossing though, it’s been discovered that this empty NES dummy item actually has a secret function hidden in the game’s code never found before. It turns out that this flavor text about nothing to play should have been taken far more literally by fans.

When a memory card is loaded with the ROM data of an NES game alongside some other code to accommodate it, interacting with the dummy NES console item can actually enable dialogue options to play the game on the memory card! This appears to work for almost any game — not just the ones already included in Animal Crossing’s items. Even the original Mother, or Earthbound Beginnings, works and can be seen in the video below on a real GameCube.

The fun of this discovery doesn’t just end with the emulation of more NES games though — it’s also possible to use this as a method to patch the game allowing for custom mods to be loaded through the memory card. This means we could potentially see a modding community start up around adding new fan created content to the original Animal Crossing like new events, furniture, and more!

Finally, it’s speculated that this may have originally been a feature intended for use by selling additional NES games on memory cards for use inside Animal Crossing. Almost like a far more primitive early version of the Virtual Console inside of the game if you will! It’s also possible this was only left as a bit of fun by the developers with no further intentions, but there sure was a lot of effort put in if there were no plans.

All of these findings have been painstakingly discovered through reverse-engineering done by security researcher James Chambers who has been playing around with the original Animal Crossing lately. If that’s your sort of thing, you can find far more intricate details on the discovery and process leading to it at his blog here.