The Nintendo Entertainment System came out in America in October 1985, when I was five years old. Insert your own "and the rest is history" comment where you see fit—not that it's been entirely smooth sailing for Nintendo in the years since. The UK, where I call home, didn't get the NES for another year, but for the sake of that headline, let's stick with the system's US release date.
One of the company's biggest recent successes is the Nintendo Classic, a plug-in micro-console pre-loaded with 30 games from Nintendo's breakthrough system, including Super Mario Bros. and its two sequels, the first two Zelda titles, Kid Icarus, Kirby's Adventure and Castlevania. The tiny grey box, modeled to look like a NES (albeit flapless), weighs next to nothing, fits in the palm of an adult hand, and was widely sold out at regular retail on its early November launch.
Auction site eBay was subsequently flooded with listings, with units selling for an average of £185—£135 more than its UK RRP—and a system sold every 18 seconds on the site on day one.
I managed to get my hands on a Classic, and immediately wanted to share these old games, ones I remember from my childhood, with my own kids. I've a five-year-old son, who loves Super Mario Maker and Minecraft. He's taking his first steps into video gaming, as I was at his age, and he was willing, if not quite eager, to check out some of these vintage experiences. And, naturally, I thought about a way to turn this father-son playtime into #content.
I asked him to give me his opinion on five of the featured games, selected with no influence from me, after five minutes of play. First impressions are everything when you've 30 options at hand, after all. Plus, the attention span of your average five year old isn't all that incredible. Here's what he thought.
Above: 'Dr Mario' screenshot courtesy of Nintendo
A tile-matching puzzle game from 1990, that's somewhere between Tetris and Columns.
"I found it hard. I couldn't always turn the pills around in time, to get them into the right place (to match the colors). I think if I played it more I'd get better, but it's not much of a fun game to start with. Well, it is quite fun—when the germs disappear, that's good.
"I like Super Mario Maker a lot more than D.r Mario. I think that's my favorite Mario game. If I could make my own Dr. Mario stages, though, that would be really fun. I would make the germs move more when they get caught, so they'd grab their faces and fall down and disappear."
Originally released in arcades in 1983, this single-screen platformer is the first game to feature both Mario and Luigi. Enemies can't be beaten by jumping on top of them—quite the surprise after so many years of doing just that in Mario games.
"First of all it's not clear what you have to do. Beating the enemies from underneath them is hard. It was hard to jump anyway, to get the enemies, because the direction doesn't work like you're used to—and it was especially hard in the last level I played (which was phase four).
"This isn't near being one of the best Mario games. Mario got a lot better after this. The game looks funny, too—the enemies look funny when you smash them off the screen (having first upended them from below). I don't think this is very good at all."
Above: 'Kirby's Adventure' screenshot courtesy of Nintendo
A later-period title for the system, releasing in 1993, this is the only NES game to feature Kirby, a character who could copy the abilities of enemies by swallowing them. As you do.
"I like this one. It's easier than the others, because you can fly over the enemies if you want to. Sucking them in can be quite hard, because sometimes the enemies aren't close enough and I don't want to get too close to them.
"I think Kirby looks good—he's just a pink… I don't know what he is! He's just a Kirby!
"I prefer this to the Mario game—that was harder, and some people will like that because it makes them get better, but I don't like dying all the time."
"I'd make a level with only one ghost who gets smaller and smaller the more you eat him, until he disappears!"
You know what Pac-Man is.
"Pac-Man is good. Why is he called Pac-Man? (I explain the origins.) What's a puck?
"I think this is a game a lot of my friends would like. They like Minecraft, like me, but this is quite an easy game to understand and get playing. You don't need to know much before you start. The controls are quite hard though—you have to be really fast and the [d-pad] button isn't that good." (He has a point—the controller's d-pad is a bit imprecise on left and down, making mistakes frequent.)
"I think a new Pac-Man game would be cool. One like this, but better. I'd make it so that you go out of one of the holes at the side, you will unlock new areas, different screens to this one. And I'd make a level with only one ghost who gets smaller and smaller the more you eat him, until he disappears! Because it's a bit too easy to get trapped by two ghosts and then die."
Above: 'The Legend of Zelda' screenshot courtesy of Nintendo
The Legend of Zelda
The debut of Link, and the first console game to feature battery back-up, essential given the game's size—it might be modest versus modern role-players, but you could easily lose ten hours and more to this on its 1986 release.
"Can you enter my name as 'Zelda'? (I explain Zelda is the princess.) So, who is Link? Can I just make up my own name? I want to call him 'Link Mike'. No, I'll call him '1-Link', because this is the first time I'm playing this.
(On entering the first cave) "I've got a sword. I think it's a wooden sword." (It is, but it's only a few seconds before his first Game Over.) "Oh, I'm dead already. I enjoy hitting these enemies, but they move fast and the screen is quite flickering, so sometimes it is hard to see them properly." (On entering another cave) "I'm going to try walking into this fire. Can I not be on fire? I guess not." (On entering the shop) "Oh, I can't buy anything—how do you get money?"
"I don't like this game so much. It's hard to make enough money to buy anything useful—I want to buy the things to make 1-Link stronger. I'd prefer to just stay in one of the caves, where it's safe. It's dark but there are too many enemies around outside—can you help me?
"I don't really want to play this anymore. I'm just going to stand still until something kills me. Can we play Super Mario Maker now?"