Video games & Region codes

DVD codesLet’s talk firstly about general region codes which are set like your DVD player – these setting have been set by your country. It is not a game related thing, it was determined by a set of two things: the power input (mains electricity) & the type of TV that you use (different TV signals). The 3 main systems we have worldwide are PAL, NTSC & NTSC/J, for more information on why we have these click here (opens a separate window).

Whereas a DVD player only plays DVDs from your own region (with a few exceptions), the video games machines are a lot more complicated and generally unpredictable. There is no single easy region code standard for video games, it is quite obvious that the coding has been left in the hands of the games companies & the residing country.

The easiest way to explain gaming region settings and codes is to split up each console into its own segment and discuss it.


Nintendo Wii

Wii picThis is the definition of Region Coded Hell!
Many people have bought Japanese systems from all across Asia in a bid to get a cheap console, and brought it home to the family only to find that the entire thing is region coded to hell and only plays in certain languages.


So to say it clearly for everyone to hear – the Wii is not a region free console! If you buy one from outside your own country please don’t expect your countries’ games to work. Don’t shout at us if it doesn’t!

The other thing that you have to be aware of is that the w is a product that keeps it’s language system locked in certain regions, so for example: if you buy a Wii in Japan, it will not display any English language within the console’s operating system or the Japanese game you put in it. You have been warned!

Nintendo is one of the biggest companies in Japan, it is (at time of writing) second only to Toyota. They have got to where they are by making clever & rather dicey business decisions which could have cost them the business, one of which is their region code system. Nintendo is very much a Japanese company, and wants to keep all of it’s profits in Japan – after all it’s only income is from video games so they feel it is necessary to keep strict rules to ensure they know where the money is going.

Microsoft Xbox 360

xbox 360The xbox 360 is riddled with region problems. The xbox 360 console itself is a 100% region free system with the only exception of the normal DVD movie region codes. I have heard many people say on the net that all PAL games do not work on an NTSC consoles, that is simply not true! Gears of War & Halo 3 all work on my Japanese (NTSC/J) 360. For the 360 we have to take into account the above mentioned NTSC, PAL & NTSC/J problems. The 360 has two (sometimes 3) NTSC/J platforms arranged with different language settings – there is a Japanese version (日本語版), an english version (Asia) and recently we have seen a Chinese release too.



Due to the complexity of the 360 region coding I have complied a list from different areas of the interweb that you can find HERE.

Hopefully you can work out which game is good for you and your console – but don’t flame us if we are wrong, this information does come from the internet after all – please use it as a general guide, not a definitive guide. If you know of a game that is not listed or you know it works in xx language and it’s not listed, please please let us know here so that we can add it to the list and help other people like ourselves.

Getting games from abroad is a tricky business, I would check the interweb for trustworthy places to buy from, but sometimes even the big guys mess up and send out the wrong stuff. I pre ordered halo 3 with play-asia only to find that when I got it the damn thing was entirely was in Chinese Mandarin!?!?! Luckily I knew from the interwebs that I would be receiving the game and quickly sent it back to get my money returned.

The best way to get the games you want are to get your friends or family from abroad to send one over to you. Though be warned, if you buy a game from abroad you are liable to pay duty on it when it comes through the postal service’s customs office (if they open it)! The easy way around this is to get your friend to take all the wrapping off the game and break the seal on the case – this is now classed as used goods and I believe they have a hard time trying to prove you need to pay duty on it.

Getting around region codes

moddingThe only way to get around the region problem completely is to ‘mod’ (modify) your console, in fact many of the consoles from Thailand have already illegally fitted them. A modified console comes as two types, a hard-mod and a soft-mod: a hard-mod is a chip which is placed inside the machine to fool it into thinking som ething else OR a soft-mod which has been created by hackers to break the underlying source code of the console and changing the settings. Most hard-mods need some electrical experience, and knowledge of soldering – so for many people they find and external person to mod the box. I have heard of many people on the interweb spilling solder onto the motherboard and thus making the console into a brick. Mod at your own choice/risk, this site does not support it so please don’t ask here how it is done….that’s what google is there for.

Update:  Even though I have a picture of a 360 there, I recently found out that even if you modify a 360 it will not play games from other region codes.  I am not an expert at console mods so don’t take my word for it – but I heard that at the time of writing this it is not possible to play dodgy copy of XXX game from a different region.




Details on the ps3 coming soon!


25 Responses

  1. One thing am still puzzled about is if I can get a NTSC/J game to play on my TV in the UK. Is it the case that as long as my TV can support NTSC/J I will be able to play it?

  2. No, your TV is not the main problem in getting a game to run from abroad. NTSC/J (ASIA) is the system we quite often see region free games on. When I say ‘Region Free’, I mean that the game will run on another system other than NTSC/J.

    For example:
    Bioshock was a region free game, 2K games had decided this.
    If you check the list:
    you can see all Bioshock discs are working on all systems.

    To confirm this, play asia also has this written down:
    As you can see, it is a NTSC/U game that works on a PAL and NTSC/J system.

    I have heard at some places on the web that your TV is has to be a certain amount of hz to be able to run games from abroad as the UK PAL system used a 50hz or a 60hz output. But I think you wont have any problems unless you have REALLY old TV.

    Please remember all game disks are different! You need to check the list to see if it is compatible before buying it.

  3. American, living in Korea, and just got burned by a “region code” problem for PGR3. What i don’t understand is why xbox wouldn’t want me to play a game from asia? It’s a racing game, so i wasn’t worried about the language. This is complete Bull.

  4. Hey Tony. Unfortunately, not all games from asia are region free – I gather you have an American 360 over there right?

    PGR 3’s codes are pretty locked to only be run in that country, i.e, American only works in American 360s.
    Please make use of this site’s region code list, hopefully it can help you out in the future and avoid a costly mistake.

  5. Region code locking is usually for benefiting the local distributor of the games.

    Don’t know if most of you know about the case of Lik-sang which was a big online retailer just like play-asia. Lik-sang was shut down for the sole reason of selling video game products from Asia to other regions as pricing is fixed according to different markets.

  6. i bought nba live 08 from hong kong. the woman who sold it to me said it would work on an american xbox console, so i bought it. turns out it doesnt work. some kind of region code error. can you give it to a store to change the region code?

  7. Hi Brian, they cannot change the code on the disk, basically it looks like they either didn’t know or they lied to you.
    As a rule of thumb, avoid foreign versions of EA games! They are almost always region locked!

  8. So… I want to buy NHL 08 for the 360, but I’ve bought my NTSC-J console here in China, since I have no choice. However, it says on your website that there’s no way NHL 08 plays on NTSC-J (or PAL for that matter). Are EA actually going to release an NTSC-J version? I mean, that really sucks if they aren’t!?

  9. I checked for you, there are definitely no 360 NTSC-J versions available. I think they keep this game in the US/Canada and in Europe. Seeing that 2k7 is not available either, that kinda tells me that they won’t make a version for 08 either. Of course if you have a PS3, you could get it on that as it is region free on that.
    Otherwise I can’t see a way around it.

  10. Hi there. Would you be able to tell me if a Canadian Wii with Canadian games would play in Japan on a Japanese ntsc-j TV? I’m an expat in Japan and want to play English games…

  11. I think it would really depend on your TV, I think a lot of the newer TVs have a way to change the NTSC lines. I am pretty sure that the Canadian NTSC system will work with most TVs, though I would advise you to be careful with regards to the power supply of your Wii – I am not sure of Canada’s power supply off the top of my head but if it is 100-110 Volt you should be fine.
    I have known a few people who have brought NTSC consoles into japan and haven’t had any problems. Obviously though, you cannot play Japanese games on your Canadian wii, so you will have to buy them from abroad. Anyone brought an NTSC console to another NTSC country? Please let us know!

  12. Thanks so much crazyfruitbat (cute handle btw, lol!) Yes, I do have a newer Japanese TV, and I think the Canadian voltage is the same as the US–I have successfully used American and Japanese appliances in Canada, and Canadian and American appliances/electronics in Japan, so hopefully it will work. Yes, I will make sure to buy Canadian/American games for the Canadian Wii. Thanks again so much! Ok, looks like I have to go look for a buyer for my Japanese Wii that I bought by mistake…sigh. 🙂

  13. Hi again, I also have another question–I have a brand new Japan Wii Fit–do you think that I could use it with the Canadian Wii console or not?

  14. ooo good question! I would imagine the board itself will work as it is just a board with built in blutooth to speak to the wii. Though the software will not work I am afraid. No way around that.

    You could always sell them on yahoo auction japan – stuff sells quickly there!

  15. Thanks for your reply crazyfruitbat. Yes, I guess I will sell them on yahoo auction japan as a set if it doesn’t work and/or I can’t get a Canadian Wii–they seem to be all sold out! :O I’ll let you all know if I ever find the answers, lol!

  16. We bought a japanese wii in st. maarten voor our kids in holland. once we got home we bought two games wich worked fine. I bought another game and that one doesn;t work. the wii sport doesn’t work either (bought). It wil show up on tha display but if I klil on it I get a black screen???? Wat did we buy?

  17. Hi Irrmpir, it sounds like you bought a Wii in a different region to your own and that is what is causing the problems. If you buy the game from Holland and the Wii is the US then the games will not work.
    I would advise to look at the language settings on the Wii, if it is Spanish, Portuguese and English then it is probably a US Wii (I am guessing).
    IF you are 100% sure it is a US version then maybe picking up a Wii freeloader will help your problem:

  18. thanks for the quick response. I am sure that we bought a pal systeem and we cannot change the language to english. That option doesnt show up on the screen. This is the first time that anyone has given me an answer. everyone has said to us that we bought a modified wii and i got kicked out of every forum untill now. is freeloader still the answer?

  19. No probs, I won’t boot you off here. I think Nintendo deserve a bad rep for region 100% blocking the wii’s region code – the world is a smaller place than it was 10 years ago and Nintendo need to move with the times. If Wiis weren’t in such shortages people wouldn’t have to buy them from abroad.
    You said “bought a pal system and we cannot change the language to english.”, so what language are you seeing then? As far as I know all PAL versions have an English option there. It might be that you bought a modified Wii, and perhaps an update made it stop working.
    I think Wii freeloader is only available for US Wiis at the moment, so you will need to find out about where this Wii comes from first, that is why i asked about language options etc.

  20. Hey,

    Do you have any idea if I were to import a copy of the upcoming game, GTA4 from UK to New Zealand if it would run on my 360? Classifications have been screwed here and there are rumours that we are getting Australia’s cut version of the game to meet their rating standards. Basically I want to know what countries I can import from that would work in New Zealand.


  21. Hi David,
    Nobody knows 100% if those versions will work.
    I reported about this in March:
    It is the reason why PS3 sales of GTA have gone through the roof in Australia since the game got cut. My advice is to wait it out. We are already hearing rumors that illegal versions of the game are hitting torrents so I imagine by next Tuesday (launch day) some hacker would have uploaded several versions – these versions normally also contain all the information on their region codes. So until then, I think picking up a game on a different region is a bit of a risk.
    The choice is yours, but I think within 2 weeks we will find out all the region code information we need.

  22. Hello,
    I’d like to play Asian xbox360 games, but unfortunately they don’t work for American/Canadian consoles.
    I was wondering if I went to Asia and bought a NTSC/J console and stuck my hard drive from the american xbox into it, would it work? Since I want to also play online and have the gamerscore from the Asian games included on the same profile as my American one.

  23. Actually a lot of Asian games do work on your machine – but they have to be a region free game (which the list is for on this site).

    When you say Asian 360 do you mean from Hong Kong or Japan? There are 2 types of 360 in Asia. I guess you could buy a 360 and just move your HDD over but I would guess that if you kept swapping it from machine to machine it would give you some problems. Especially regarding downloaded content.

  24. The ones from Japan.
    Some games aren’t region free, and I would like to play those, so I might get another 360.
    and thank you for the help!

  25. Ugh. I’m American, live in Vietnam, bought a 360 in Singapore, got Mom from NY to send me some games – Bioschock (which I didn’t even really want) and Elder Scrolls and GTA 4, both of which i’m dying to play. Waited with baited breath for my package etc. etc., and of course GTA 4 and Elder Scrolls are both NTSC region coded disks that won’t play on my 360 from Singapore. Massive disappointed. No place to buy real 360 games in vietnam, don’t want to mod my 360, what do I have to do? Fly to singapore again to buy some games? Jeeeez. I just wish the shop in Singapore had mentioned this region coding issue to the NYer handing them money.

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