Nintendo's newest novelty doodad, a plug-n-play mini-console called the NES Classic Edition, is looking like a hit for the holidays. The $60 version of Nintendo's first home console comes with 30 games that run on an emulator created in-house.
The games installed include both Nintendo classics like the Super Mario Bros. series, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Metroid, but also games from second party developers, such as Mega Man, Ninja Gaiden, and Final Fantasy. There are even some b-list classics like StarTropics, Tecmo Bowl and Bubble Bobble, balancing out a pretty formidable package.
It's not the complete package, of course. Not every NES game is worth repurchasing—it had its fair share of true garbage—but many fans know the greatness of the NES stretched beyond its Mega Men and Marios. There are many games, famous and overlooked, that should be recognized for making the NES the powerhouse it was.
Here are a few games that you won't find in the Classic Edition, and that ought to be part of the NES legacy despite being snubbed. More importantly, these are classics to the only person that matters: me.
In one of Capcom's essential and frustrating action games, Ladd Spencer (more often known by his arcade name "Rad") is sent to investigate and sabotage a facility run essentially by Nazis (literal Nazis before being localized). Spencer's special weapon is an extending arm that can latch onto multiple surfaces, pulling him up to platforms or swinging dynamically through the air. The tradeoff is that Spencer cannot jump, only maneuver by swooping around like a spider caught in the breeze. I will say that the next time the government chooses a video game secret agent to infiltrate a base lined with normally pedestrian barrels, they should first consider anyone who can hop.
No I'm not pulling your leg, Tetris isn't in the NES Classic Edition. Really, go look for yourself. See? That's right. It's not in there. Dr. Mario is in there. Tetris isn't. I know there are hundreds of different ways to play Tetris, but the most desired will not be in Nintendo's NES sendup. Letters of complaint will mount next to the hill of ones demanding Goku in Smash.
Capcom and Disney's partnership made a lot of great games starring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Aladdin. Even that Saturday morning cartoon that was essentially The Rescuers with a different pair of rodents, or the one where Balloo pilots a plane for some reason. None of them stood the test of time quite like DuckTales, where Scrooge McDuck travels the planet looking to increase his absurd amount of wealth. Scrooge uses his cane as both a golf club and a pogo stick. The memorable music and secret-littered levels made it not only a stand out for Capcom but the entire NES. Obviously its license is the main reason it's not on the Classic Edition. A remake came out in 2013 with the cartoon's cast reprising their roles. Alan Yonge, who voiced Scrooge and passed away earlier this year, was 93 at the time, so he sounds a little older than was probably intended, and you'll feel a little older than you intended by proxy.
Blaster Master, not to be confused with Master Blaster, is about Jason, a childhood idiot who lost his frog. Jason's pet was drawn to a radioactive box, mutating the frog into a larger frog that then jumps down a massive hole. Jason chases the frog and discovers a power suit and a jumping all-terrain battle vehicle that he'll use in an amazing adventure to save the companion he keeps in a small glass jar. Both the radioactive box and the giant adventure hole were mere meters away from Jason's house. Jason leads a very interesting life.
Vice: Project Doom
If the box art that portrays a Ghanese movie poster Mel Gibson surrounded by fog, lightning, and steel beams wasn't a tip off enough, Vice: Project Doom is an awesome action game. You play as a cop that uses a sword who discovers his city is being overrun by mutants and monsters. You travel through cities, jungles, sewers and castles to find the root of this conspiracy. The game opens with a car chase that leaves a highway full of innocent drivers in ruin. It may shock you to learn that the mastermind behind this doomsday plot spends most of the game standing by a large window and talking to himself. Take him out, heroes.
Yes, Tecmo Bowl has an inhuman Bo Jackson, but if you want one of the most memorable NES sports games starring overpowered athletes Base Wars is not only a good NES baseball game, but a baseball game with robots. Robots who use tread wheels, baseball cannons and scoop hands to make a joke out of America's pastime. Plus sometimes the robots would fight with their bats and laser blades like this was a deadly cybernetic scrummage or hockey! A preview of an industrialized dystopia that's decided humans aren't even efficient enough to play their own sports!
You know it. I know it. We all know we want those battlin' toads, Pimple, Rash and Zitz. It doesn't matter that you never beat it. It doesn't matter you never got through that horrible hoverbike stage. That's fine. It's fine. The most important thing is you want to relive pummelling crows with your fists, feel that satisfying meaty thump of headbuting mutant rats, and the triumph of ripping the legs off of those nerdy sentry robots and slapping them with around with them.
The Late Arrivals: Felix the Cat/Panic Restaurant/Rockin' Cats/Snow Bros/Mr. Gimmick/Mighty Final Fight
The transition between the NES to the SNES was the first generational leap for Nintendo, and a few NES games that released late in the cycle were lost in the shuffle. Between 1990 and 1993, a fair chunk of games that were fun, weird, and made by developers now familiar with how to make 8-bits look really nice, continued to pour out. Kirby's Adventure came out as late as 1993, but being made by Nintendo it at least had a marketing push. Games like Felix the Cat, Panic Restaurant, Rockin' Cats, Snow Bros, Mighty Final Fight and Mr. Gimmick might have gone down as classics… had they come out four years earlier. Instead, never purchased, never discovered, and now pricy to find, a compilation like the Classic Edition would have been a neat opportunity to give some games a shot they never got the first time around.
River City Ransom
If you're picking up the NES Classic Edition in Japan, ignore this: you're already getting "Downtown Hot-Blooded Story" in your bundle. If you aren't, friend, you're boned. This classic, sprawling brawler about two angular dudes bopping their way through every gang in town to rescue one of their girlfriends is one for the ages. The set up's the same as Double Dragon, but it plays much differently. Essentially a prototype of "sandbox" games like Grand Theft Auto, you roam branching city streets, collect money, find clues, buy supplies and on your road to justice. Also enemies say "BARF" when you kill them. Delightful.