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The Wave Race game for Nintendo 64 is called "Wave Race 64 - Kawasaki Jet Ski" in a ROM set. On Wikipedia, which I've previously considered authoritative for titles of commercial products, it's simply called "Wave Race 64". On MobyGames, it's called "Wave Race 64: Kawasaki Jet Ski".

Three different titles for the same game. And it doesn't seem to be based on the region in this case, unlike other games which may have completely different subtitles or even full titles based on the region.

How am I supposed to know what a game actually was officially called? Is there a massive list of the real, official titles for all video games? (Which is not just "guessed" or "approximated".)

I'm not just asking for this game in particular, but in general. Clearly, there is no consistency between Wikipedia, MobyGames and the filenames in ROM sets.

For this particular case (and in many other cases), the box art is of little help, since the "subtitle" is ambiguous at best: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e6/Wave_Race_64_Coverart.png

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    You'll have a field day with "StarFighter 3000". Or is that "Starfighter 3000". Or "Star Fighter 3000". Or just "Starfighter". Different ports of the same identical game will have different titles depending on platform and region, with a different pre-rendered 3d-rendered title sequence for each variation... and then, in-game, they all use completely different titles yet again in credits. - For an 'official' name, you could look at trademark filings, but sometimes they're written entirely in uppercase or with different spelling too.
    – knol
    Dec 16 '20 at 4:41
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    I would guess they were just lax about how to spell it. I would have been.
    – OmarL
    Dec 16 '20 at 15:02
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    @knol And if the game (like many on the various Nintendo platforms) was written in Japan, all bets are off on finding a single "official" name. Try figuring out the numbering system in the Final Fantasy franchise for example. It's all kinds of messed up due to some never being released in certain regions, and others having multiple different numbers depending on region, etc. Dec 16 '20 at 16:00
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    It's still user-supplied content so not in any way official, but the giant bomb wiki has a tab for different releases, of which there are 12 for Wave Race 64: giantbomb.com/wave-race-64/3030-11969/releases
    – llama
    Dec 16 '20 at 19:13
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    Nah, FF is fairly simple. There were only two games that had their numbers adjusted (and three that didn't get western releases the first time around), and everything since about 1997 has been kept in sync, including rereleases of the stuff that was originally weird. There's also the oddity of the first three SaGa games bearing the "Final Fantasy Legend" name overseas, but not in Japan, but that's just marketing silliness.
    – hobbs
    Dec 16 '20 at 20:02
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I commend your desire for accuracy in software preservation.

How am I supposed to know what a game actually was officially called?

This presupposes the existence of a single, official title. That may not always be the case. Titles of software are often chosen quite late in development, and may be localized, or chosen by the publisher and not the creator or studio. This is particularly true with the physical packaging, manuals, and so on.

Software is also sometimes renamed, relaunched or re-issued with minor changes, and that may include tweaking the title or other such superficial elements.

If you wish to be methodical about this, you would have to define what an official title is, and then attempt to establish that the criteria are met. Some thoughts on what you might consider:

  • If the work was registered for copyright in a jurisdiction that allows or requires this, what was the title used there?

  • If it was advertised, or listed in catalogues, etc., what was the title used there?

  • Does the title actually appear in the software itself? Is it the same in different localizations/markets?

  • What was the title, as actually chosen by the people responsible for the choice at the studio or publishers? This would likely require insider information -- documents or testimonials from someone who worked there.

  • If there actually are multiple forms of the title used, which should take precedence? Packaging or the software? Publisher or the author? Local market or overseas markets?

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    In addition, the video game industry was very young, and fast lived, particularly in the 80s. It is very well possible that the people involved back then cared much less about what was and what wasn't the "real" title of their games than you do today. Dec 16 '20 at 13:03
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    @nick012000 — My understanding was that the OP was asking about finding "the REAL title of a given video game" in general, and just Wave Race 64 as an example. For a specific game, there may be an answer to this question. In general, I fear there isn't. Dec 16 '20 at 14:48
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    Also note that many games have been published multiple times, potentially by different publishers, who may have used subtly different titles.
    – occipita
    Dec 17 '20 at 0:00
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    Surely we've all seen software that uses different exact spellings (capitalisations, spaces, etc) within the one program! Dec 17 '20 at 5:03
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    As an example of an official registration / name, Australia requires games sold to be classified similar to films, and the classification can be searched. For example : classification.gov.au/titles/wave-race-stb-wave-race-64
    – Gary Myers
    Dec 17 '20 at 20:12

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