A hacker who goes by “jamchamb” has discovered a built-in NES emulator hiding in the code of the original Animal Crossing for Gamecube. That may not sound surprising at first, but we’re not talking about the specific NES games you can collect in Animal Crossing. We’re talking about a specific item in the game that, it turns out, was once capable of playing ANY NES game — reading directly from the memory card.

Originally, some of the items you could find in Animal Crossing were NES games — they would turn up randomly in the form of NES units with a game box stacked on top of them. When you put them in your house, you could play the game as noted by walking up to one. It was a feature Nintendo eliminated from all future Animal Crossing games once they found out people would pay for those games individually.

Over the years people have hacked the Gamecube Animal Crossing to find more games in the code than were officially revealed. Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda were collectible at some point, and can only be accessed by Gameshark or Action Replay (remember those?) This week’s discovery is even wilder than that.

You can also find, at random, a naked NES in Animal Crossing — meaning it has no game on top, and if you try to “play” it, it just tells you there isn’t a game. Everyone assumed it was just for decorative purposes, but…not so! “It turns out that this generic console item actually attempts to scan the memory card for specially constructed files that contain NES ROM images!” posted Jamchamb, and then went into detail as to how the feature worked.

This may be the most pirate-friendly feature Nintendo has left in a game. It’s quite common for hackers to install homebrew software and emulators on consoles of this era through memory cards. Here’s a game that actually provided a way to do that — intentionally — and no one knew until now!

How Nintendo planned to distribute extra NES games through memory cards is anyone’s guess, especially when they never fully supported an online mode for Gamecube (there was a Broadband adapter, but only Sega used it). But it works, and thanks to this discovery, the homebrew community for Gamecube is about to explode. All you need is a copy of Animal Crossing, so get ’em while they’re cheap.

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