Are Gamesharks Illegal? What You Need To Know

Back in the day, gamers used cheat cartridges to unlock functionality within games that developers typically lock away from end users. These cheat cartridges let you modify game behavior, run games from another region, unlock hidden items, etc. But a lot of people view them through the same lens as emulators, i.e. these things reside in a legal grey zone.

Are Gamesharks illegal? What you need to know is that cheats by themselves aren’t illegal unless you’re actively hacking game servers or including explicit content within the cheat. As long as you’re not exploiting the game data for commercial purposes, you shouldn’t get into any legal trouble.

Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice, but rest assured- nobody from Nintendo is going to sue you for using a GameShark cartridge. All the games and consoles that you would use a GameShark on are very outdated. Hence, you aren’t hurting anyone’s bottom line by cheating in a 20-year-old game.

Are Gamesharks Illegal? What You Need To Know

Long story short- no, using a GameShark isn’t illegal. At least in the practical sense, because you’re not modifying data within the game cartridge or breaking any copyright laws by sharing protected material. GameShark works by acting as an intermediary between your console and the game data.

Behaving as a game launcher, it “hooks” onto the code being transferred into your console. By searching for specific addresses in the code, it can flip values to benefit the player. For instance, it can search for the location where your player health data is stored and increase the number to something like 10000 instead of 100.

Or it can unlock areas and characters that you’d normally take days to achieve. GameShark doesn’t dump ROM data, nor does it reverse-engineer copyrighted code. It functions like an early version of Cheat Engine.

Are Game Cheats Illegal?

Some folks dislike the use of cheat devices such as GameShark or Codebreaker. Especially retro gaming purists who believe that a game shouldn’t be tampered with, nor should the player use unfair means to progress. However, the act of cheating isn’t illegal by itself.

It only becomes illegal if you’re doing it in an online competitive multiplayer, and accessing copyright data from the game server. Even so, the game developer usually just punishes you with a ban. I have never heard of someone paying a fine or going to jail for cheating in Counter-Strike.

The people who make paid online cheats are engaging in an illegal business and can be sued by a game company. Unless you’re one of those guys, you don’t have to worry. Some games even have built-in cheat codes that are added by the developers as hidden nuggets for their players to discover.

Does GameShark Still Exist?

GameShark stopped being made after the PS2 era. The parent company went bankrupt and was purchased by Mad Catz- the gaming peripheral manufacturer from China. The original website for GameShark shut down long ago, but you can still find clone devices online.

Some of the most popular consoles supported by GameShark are- Game Boy, N64, DS, GameCube, PS2, and the original Xbox. GameShark for N64 was extremely popular as it allowed users to modify several key features of games like GoldenEye and Ocarina of Time. In some games, it even unlocked content that would otherwise stay hidden.

What Does A GameShark Do?

It modifies game data flowing into the console by hooking onto the code and searching for patterns to find key parameters. Like how many lives you have, your character stats, unlocked levels, ammo, etc. Then, you enter a code to modify this value to your advantage.

GameShark can even unlock features that were hidden by the developer, sort of like a playtesting mode on games. In GoldenEye, GameShark reveals a tower within the dam stage that would otherwise stay hidden. You can also bypass region locks on certain consoles with GameShark.

Which Is Better- GameShark Or Codebreaker?

Overall, Codebreaker is recommended due to its superior stability and support for a wide range of cheats. However, the choice will come down to which console you’re playing and the game. GameShark has optional encryption and lets you manage saved files, plus you can build personal code lists.

However, Codebreaker has a wider range of cheat commands and a more stable cheat engine. Both GameShark and Codebreaker are outdated, so you won’t find support for PS2 and Xbox games released late in the console’s lifecycle. And official devices/ discs are hard to find, most of what you’ll see are clones.

How Do You Use GameShark Cheats?

If it’s a cartridge-based game, you install the GameShark device into your console’s cartridge slot and plug the game cartridge on top of it. Then, you enter a code using the on-screen keyboard to unlock certain functions.  Disc-based systems like PS2 and Xbox will run the GameShark disc, which displays a menu.

Here, you can select the game and cheat. It will then prompt you to insert the game disc, so you do a hot swap while the GameShark menu is still active. Once you boot into the game, your cheat will get implemented.


I hope this article helped you understand what GameShark is and how it works. It isn’t illegal to use GameShark as the product doesn’t explicitly violate copyright laws or dump game data. Besides, it is an outdated product that stopped getting manufactured long ago.

The original company is out of business, and all you have today are clones. Nintendo or Sony won’t take legal action against some random person who’s cheating in a 20-year-old game. It’s not like you’re playing online multiplayer in a competitive title.


As long as I can remember myself I always enjoyed video games. I had amazing moments playing them and that's why I became a game developer, to create amazing experiences for the players. Read More About Me

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