Nintendo released four new titles to the Switch Online NES catalogue today— Solomon’s Key, Tournament Golf, Super Dodge Ball, and The Legend of Zelda: Living the life of luxury. That last one is an unannounced surprise—a special edition of the The Legend of Zelda that makes it easier. Players start the game with all the equipment, including the magical shield, white sword, blue ring, and power bracelet, and a bunch of rupees. Beating the game unlocks a harder version of the game called Second Quest.
This is great. Because, let’s be honest, some of these old school games are very hard, and if I’m playing The Legend of Zelda again after all these years, I probably just want to see Ganon and get on with my day. Now that the original Zelda has an easy mode I might actually play it again, which makes me think more old school games should do this.
A lot of video game design from this generation of consoles is weird. The NES brought gaming into the home in a big way, but the legacy of design came from the arcades that preceded home consoles, where the harder a game was, the more a player died, and the more likely they were to feed quarters into a machine. Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Donkey Kong, and Ninja Gaiden are all incredible games that I never want to play again because I know I’ll get frustrated in waves of encounters designed to murder me and pad out the length of the game.
If Nintendo and others are going to inundate the world with tons of remastered old school games, then they should all do the right thing and add easy modes where they can. We should, absolutely, make copies of the pure and hardcore versions of the game available for the sake of the historical archive, but does anyone really want to play the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles again without a little help? Remember that water level? I want to play Ninja Gaiden, but not suffer for it or have to resort to cheat codes.
Old gamers who want to take a quick tour aren’t the only market for remastered old games with easy modes. The original Zelda is a great game, I assure you. It's a classic for good reason. But can a 14-year-old be bothered to power through its most challenging bits while Fortnite beckons? My guess is that more younger players will be willing to at least give it a shot if it has a less challenging mode.