Game Shark and Game Genie are external cartridge adapters that can be plugged in between the Game Boy and the actual game cartridge.

Game Genie (ROM patches)

Game Genie codes consist of nine-digit hex numbers, formatted as ABC-DEF-GHI, the meaning of the separate digits is:

  • AB, new data
  • FCDE, memory address, XORed by $F000
  • GI, old data, XORed by $BA and rotated left by two
  • H, Unknown, maybe checksum and/or else

The address should be located in ROM area $0000-7FFF, the adapter permanently compares address/old data with address/data being read by the game, and replaces that data by new data if necessary. That method (more or less) prohibits unwanted patching of wrong memory banks. Eventually it is also possible to patch external RAM ? Newer devices reportedly allow to specify only the first six digits (optionally). Three codes can be used at once.

Check the Game Genie manual for reference.

Game Shark (RAM patches)

Game Shark codes consist of eight hexadecimal digits, with the following meaning:

SRAM bankNew valueAddress

So, for example, cheat code 010238CD switches to SRAM bank $01, and writes $02 at address $CD38.

As far as it is understood, patching is implemented by hooking the original VBlank interrupt handler, and re-writing RAM values each frame. The downside is that this method steals some CPU time, also, it cannot be used to patch program code in ROM. 10-25 codes can be used simultaneously.