Sonic The Hedgehog box and cartridge variants

CGC Video Games CIB Guide

CGC Video Games has compiled a comprehensive guide to "complete in box" (CIB) video game collecting, which provides component blueprints for matching boxes, cartridges, manuals and game-specific inserts. All known variants are included in this guide, and as more are discovered, updates will be made to ensure the CGC Video Games CIB Guide is the most accurate and detailed guide available to collectors.


"Complete in box" (CIB) collecting is one of most popular ways to collect video games. For decades, collectors have been preserving and piecing together original boxes, cartridges, manuals and inserts of their favorite video games. The challenge of finding a missing piece or the thrill of upgrading the condition of a component makes CIB collecting one of the most exciting pastimes in the hobby.

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Introduction, cont.

However, CIB collecting has recently become more complicated with the increased recognition of video game variants. A variant refers to a copy of a video game that differs either slightly or dramatically from a subsequent re-release of the same title. For example, some Nintendo Entertainment System games have cartridges with five screws, while other cartridges of the same title might have three screws. On the Super Nintendo, it is not uncommon to find games that have both “Made in Japan” and “Made in Mexico” variants. There are also more obvious variants, like the “Greatest Hits” rereleases of PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3 games.

Nearly every console produced for the North American market has a game library that features variants. These include not only differences in a particular game’s country of production or its cartridge style, but also alterations to cover art, the addition of an ESRB rating to subsequent releases, small changes to the copyright text or a publisher’s address, changes in the publishers themselves, revised screenshots, redesigns of seals of quality, modifications to the box or case design, and even updates to the game’s program data.

Understanding these variants is important because it allows collectors to identify which production run their game is from, and whether the game’s components are properly matched. While some CIB collectors do put in the effort of assembling their games with the correct components, others have disregarded matching components, instead focusing on the condition of the individual components. Years of mismatching boxes, cartridges and manuals have made it hard for the average collector to know which components are correct and which are not.

Video game certification has not only made it possible to professionally catalog and identify these variants, but to also match them to their corresponding components. Unfortunately, some certification companies have either withheld this crucial information from the video game community or ignored it altogether. This creates a lack of confidence among CIB collectors who are interested in certification but wary that their grades may be penalized for having incorrect components.

CGC Video Games™ has taken a different approach. At the launch of our service, our grading team published one of the most comprehensive guides on video game variants and made it freely available to everyone. The CGC Video Games Reference Guide provides pictures, descriptions and explanations of the most prevalent variants, something the video game community desperately needs. It has been a tremendous success, helping many collectors learn about the different types of variants across multiple consoles.

This CIB Guide builds upon the Reference Guide. It includes lists of each box, cartridge, manual and game-specific insert variant for some of the most popular video games across multiple consoles. Each one of these components has been labeled in a way that helps to clearly identify it while also distinguishing it from other variants. Labeling these variants can be quite challenging. Our experts have tried to be as accurate as possible while also considering the common slang within the hobby and the possibility for future variant discoveries.

Most importantly, this guide provides a blueprint for correctly matching each game’s components. These combinations of components have been meticulously researched by our experts and will be the same standard that CGC Video Games’ graders use when determining if a game’s components match and will receive a Universal label, or if they are incorrectly paired and will receive a Qualified label. Ascertaining which of these components match is no easy task. It takes a strong understanding of which types of variants exist for both the console and the game, and when those variants were produced.

While writing this guide, CGC Video Games has considered the date and revision codes printed on components, as well as branding styles, copyright dates, publisher addresses and rereleases to precisely pinpoint when certain variant types were introduced. Collecting this information and thinking about it broadly helps reveal certain patterns in the various production processes of these games, which we can then use to match their components. While there is still much to learn, we are confident that the information provided in this guide is the most accurate and detailed currently available.

That said, our team understands that there are undiscovered variants waiting to appear that will make us rethink these combinations of components. There were many instances while writing this guide where we discovered new boxes, carts, manuals and inserts, all of which forced us to reevaluate and adjust accordingly. Our team will continue to be vigilant in the quest for both variants and accurately matching components.

Many of the games included in this CIB Guide are among the most common CIB submissions received by CGC Video Games. Some were selected for the complexity of their variants, while others were chosen because they are indicative of common patterns of component combinations. However, there is one game that may appear to be missing from this guide: Super Mario Bros. This is not an oversight, but rather an intentional omission. It is our plan to follow this CIB Guide with a similar resource focused exclusively on the Nintendo Entertainment System’s Black Box Series, including Super Mario Bros.

Knowledge building is a crucial step for CGC Video Games’ mission to provide collectors with the best grading services possible. That is why our experts will continue to research variants so that we can better understand the production and distribution processes of video games from all eras. As we learn more about these important variants, we will expand and revise this CIB Guide so that collectors can have the most up-to-date information available and the confidence in knowing which components they have and which ones they may need.

Happy variant hunting!

Kenneth Thrower
Senior Grading Finalizer, CGC Video Games

Joseph Ross
Grader, CGC Video Games 

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