One of the hottest gift ideas this holiday season will almost certainly be the NES Classic Edition. A tiny recreation of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, with a hard drive full of games that will connect seamlessly to your HD television and home theater system. Nostalgia overload!
The system officially goes on sale on November 11. For the price of a single new release game title, players can instead take home a little piece of the 80s and early 90s and maybe introduce an entire new generation of young gamers to some of the classics upon which Nintendo built their empire. If you’re thinking about buying a NES Classic for your favorite gamer (or even for yourself) this holiday season, here’s everything you need to know.
We’ll start with the easy one. The NES Classic is $59.99 USD. As previously mentioned, this is the same cost (or less) of a brand new AAA gaming title. In fact, most big games now come with $90 Special Editions or $100+ Ultimate Editions, complete with pre-order bonuses and built-in season passes (for the record, those things suck for gaming consumers). The NES Classic probably got their price point just about perfect, as it’s still cheap enough to attract a casual gamer who just wants to re-live a part of their childhood. However, like pretty much every gaming console in the history of ever, the NES Classic only comes with a single controller.
Speaking of which, you can always buy another one for two player action. Nintendo says they will cost $9.99, which is pretty good considering that adding modern console controllers can cost you anywhere from $50-to-$250, depending on your desired features. The controllers are almost identical in size to the original, but they come with a very short cord. Rough estimates put the controller cord length at just 31 inches. That’s less that three feet. In comparison, the original NES controller came with a 90 inch cord. Basically, you’re going to have to sit very close to the console itself to play. Unless…
You can go wireless. Although not officially a Nintendo product, third party hardware maker Nyko is already advertising a wireless version of the controller for $19.99. It will allow you play wirelessly from up to 30 feet away, eliminating the annoyance of that short 31 inch cord the wired version has. Another nice feature is that the Nyko wireless controller has a power button built in (something the original does not), meaning that you can switch games without having to physically touch the console itself. After all, the point of wireless controllers is so that you don’t have to get off the couch at all!
This seems obvious from the pictures of the console and the fact you can buy a second controller, but we felt it was worth saying anyway — the NES Classic supports two players. However, in an era where modern consoles support at least four controllers, the NES Classic hasn’t made that step. Two controller ports, for two players. Of course, almost all of the games developed for the original Nintendo were only ever designed to be one or two-players, so gamers won’t really be missing out on anything.
This thing has been referred to as the “Mini NES” by some media outlets, and that description does have some merit. The official specs of the NES Classic say that the top measures 6.5″ by 8.8″, and it will only stand a touch under 3″ tall sitting on your TV shelf. The whole thing weighs less than two pounds. In fact, it’s roughly the same size (or smaller, in some dimensions) than a cartridge for the original NES. Hopefully “small” doesn’t translate to “fragile.” Knowing Nintendo’s track record, we’re confident that it won’t.
One of the first questions asked when Nintendo announced the NES Classic was “can it play cartridges?” Sadly, the answer is no. The front of the console doesn’t even actually open. So if you are one of those retro gaming collectors who is sitting on a stockpile of old NES games, this new mini console won’t help you. The NES Classic comes preloaded with a hard drive of 30 games, and if they don’t include your childhood favorite, you’re out of luck.
Speaking of games, here’s the list of everything included on the NES Classic:
Balloon Fight, Bubble Bobble, Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Dr. Mario, Excitebike, Pac-Man, Final Fantasy, Galaga, Ghosts’N Goblins, Gradius, Ice Climber, Kid Icarus, Kirby’s Adventure, Mario Bros., Mega Man 2, Metroid, Ninja Gaiden, Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream, StarTropics, Super C, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Tecmo Bowl, The Legend of Zelda, and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
The Japanese version of the console features a slightly different line-up.
Maybe you were thinking, “Hmm, that list of games is alright, but I’m going to wait until Nintendo adds more before I buy this thing.” Well too bad. The NES Classic does NOT have internet connectivity of any kind. That means no updates, no patches, no DLC, and no adding more titles in the future. The 30 games that ship with the NES Classic are the only 30 games it will never contain, so consider those titles carefully when you decide whether you want to own one or not.
One of the biggest pet peeves about original Nintendo games were that they could be impossible to finish. Unless you were willing to dedicate a big chunk of your time to completing games in one sitting, you probably didn’t actually beat many of those childhood favorites. Most games didn’t come with a save system, although some, like Punch-Out, tried to work around that with a password system that allowed you to skip to certain parts of the game. The NES Classic won’t be quite as unforgiving, allowing gamers to save up to four “suspended game states.” Basically, the system will pause your game and save it where you left off, allowing you finally get to the end of Ghosts’N Goblins.
This is perhaps one of the most important, if not overlooked, parts of the NES Classic. This console is a legit Nintendo product, not a piece of hardware that has been licensed off to another company. When the NES Classic was first announced, some internet trolls tried to point out that a mini Sega Genesis already existed. That’s not completely true, though. Sega licensed their games and hardware design out to another company, who made a similar all-in-one gaming box. Except most reviews of that product were that the emulation was crappy, the gameplay suffered, and the hardware itself felt flimsy and cheap. A true recreation of the Genesis, that thing was not. Nintendo has a reputation for making quality products, and the NES Classic will likely be another to add to that list.
We’ve covered the good stuff, like controllers and games. Here’s the fine print. The NES Classic contains a couple different visual modes, including a 16:9 mode (with a slight stretch to fill the screen), a pixel perfect mode (games exactly as you remember them), and a CRT filter mode (giving your games an old-school feel). While the NES Classic doesn’t include any manuals (which were sometimes very important for older games, containing valuable information), there is an option to scan a QR code on your smartphone and be taken to a webpage with the manual on it. That’s a nice touch from Nintendo.