A rumour has begun circulating that Nintendo has made the tiny Switch cartridges unpleasant-tasting, in order that children aren't tempted to gobble them down like sweets.
Apparently Nintendo made the Switch cartridges taste bad so kids won’t eat them (need to confirm) but I just licked one and IT’S SO GROSS
— Mike Murphy (@mcwm) March 1, 2017
We here at Kotaku UK like to verify information first-hand, or first-tongue in this case, and while awaiting official comment from Nintendo decided to not only taste the Switch carts but, for a point of comparison, see what every Nintendo cartridge tastes like. Some of these things have been in basements for decades, so wish me luck.
Switch - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The rumours are true. This small black cart really tastes horrible - there's an acrid bitterness to it, with an unpleasant aftertaste that lingers long on the tongue. You might lick a Switch cart by mistake once - hey, anyone could do it - but there's no way you want these things near your tastebuds.
An interesting perspective came from Videogamer's editor Alice Bell, who compared the taste to a certain kind of nail varnish designed to stop you biting your nails.
I made Colm lick Just Dance. They taste like that nail varnish you could get to stop you biting your nails. Like dandelions. https://t.co/Ue8WnpDeXg
— Alice Bell (@BabyGotBell) March 1, 2017
NES - Top Gun
Sadly I didn't have the original Zelda cart, but this underrated gem deserves a little spotlight. No taste whatsoever to the plastic, though it did seem remarkably clean after all these years.
SNES - Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
Thought I'd introduce a little global flavour by doing a Japanese SNES cartridge, in this case the peerless Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. Again there was no particular taste to the plastic, but air flowed through the cart's seals quite nicely, making it quite pleasant to suck.
N64 - Super Mario 64
The big daddy, Super Mario 64 tasted of nothing at the edges but there was something distinctive on one corner that left a bitter aftertaste. Shares the SNES cart quality of nice airflow.
Game Boy - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Now we're talking! A true pocket marvel, Link's Awakening had no particular taste but the cartridge's plastic did have a smooth matt quality to the tongue.
Game Boy Advance - The Minish Cap
Definitely a minor nuttiness to this one, with the bevelled edges quite pleasing around the lips.
DS - The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Something about this one just didn't do it for me. Tasteless, but somehow a little bit blander than that. Perhaps the cartridge I would eat last.
3DS - The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
No taste but, like the Game Boy's example, this cart had a lovely smooth finish. I imagine crunching a few of these down wouldn't be so bad.
It may be that the terrible taste of Switch's carts is an incidental effect of the manufacturing process, but the mooted explanation does seem plausible given the context of the console's pitch - as essentially a family or living room device - and the extremely small size of the cartridges. We've asked Nintendo for comment but, as yet, there's no official word.
Whatever the true story we should be thankful, really: imagine having to search through a 5 year-old's poo for your Zelda save.
UPDATE: Mike Fahey over at Kotaku US managed to confirm with Nintendo that it is in fact true that it has flavoured the cartridges to deter children from eating them:
“To avoid the possibility of accidental ingestion, keep the game card away from young children. A bittering agent (Denatonium Benzoate) has also been applied to the game card. This bittering agent is non-toxic.”
According to Wikipedia, denatonium benzoate is the most bitter chemical compound known, commonly used as an aversion agent to prevent accidental ingestion, which is why the Switch cards are coated in it. It’s also used in animal repellent, shampoos, soaps and nail-biting prevention.