What Are The Differences Between NES Front Loader vs Top Loader?

The original toaster versus the NES top loader look to be two very different consoles from different eras. They both play your favorite NES games like Zelda, Mario or Mega Man but have different ways they output the display or load the games on the NES.

So what are the main differences between the two consoles



  • Way more reliable design than the original front loader
  • Region free
  • “Dogbone” controllers are much more comfortable in your hands than the rectangular console. “Dogbone” controllers also work with the original NES if you have them.
  • Compact design


  • RF picture quality is a significant downgrade than RCA composite.
  • Vertical lines may appear over time

The biggest advantage that the second variation of the NES has over the front loader is that it’s simply a more reliable piece of technology. The move to a top loading design was a perfect one as it helped out with seating the cartridge into the slot properly in order to load the games.

In addition to solving the issue with loading the NES games, the NES top loader is also able to load games from other regions. The lockout chip that plagued the original model was now removed on this top loading variation. If you had games from other regions (such as Japan or North America) you would be able to play them on the NES top loader.

The compact design is an arguable factor. Yes, the NES front loader has the iconic look of what a game console is remembered as. If you are just putting it on your shelf with the ten other consoles you own, you might want to have something more compact in design, saving you tons of room on your gaming tv setup.

The Dogbone controllers are a huge upgrade over the rectangular controllers that the original NES came with. You can mix and match either controller on either console variation. The Dogbone controllers don’t give me the same feel of cramping based on the button placement on the rectangular controllers over longer gameplay sessions. The improved SNES style controllers are the way to go for playing NES games for long periods of time.

As great of a console revision the NES top loader is, it comes with some drawbacks. Removing the ability to plug in the console from the RCA jacks is quite annoying. RF output is the worst type of picture quality you could output on your TV, with a significant step up from composite.

To add to that, many people have reported vertical lines on their particular model of the NES top loader without finding a true resolution that didn’t involve opening and repairing the console’s internals.

You could go down the path of modding the console to give it a different output type (RGB, Component, Composite, S-Video) but that requires time and money in order to bring to life.

With Nintendo releasing the top loader late in the NES life cycle, there weren’t many produced and makes the top loader harder to come by. This makes this device much more expensive than the original front loading model. It’s not a significant price increase, but something to consider.

Bottom Line: For many people who just want to play their favorite games, the NES front loader is the way to go. It’s easily available, comes with composite output right out of the box and gives you that iconic design that people will notice when they see one on the shelf.

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