NES Classic Edition Menu

Impulse Purchase of the Week: The NES Classic Edition

I was in a Best Buy the other day shopping for something else when I spotted fresh stock of Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition gaming console on a shelf, marked at an attractive price. I’d passed this over during its initial release a couple years ago and regretted it. I hadn’t thought about it since, but seeing it there in front of me, I couldn’t resist putting it in my cart.

The Nintendo Entertainment System is precisely my speed as far as video games go. I bought an NES when I was in middle school (or, more accurately, begged my mother to buy me one) and played the hell out of tons of games over the next few years – some purchased with allowance money, some borrowed from friends, and many rented from a local video store. Funnily, my console actually did not come packaged with Super Mario Bros. like most did. Instead, my first game was Konami’s Rush’n Attack. I loved that game.

As video game technology has gotten exponentially more complicated over time, my interest in gaming waned. The most advanced console I currently own is a first-generation “fat” PS3, which I got for free as part of a perks program from my employer at the time. I have about six games for it and have never even played half of them. The PS3 is not currently connected to anything in my home theater.

Yet I still love those simple, 8-bit NES games, which lacked sophistication but maximized fun. I appreciate being able to complete a game start-to-finish in one sitting over a couple hours, rather than investing months into grinding and building up experience points, only so that some asshole teenager can kill my character within minutes of making the mistake of playing online. The more I’ve played a game over and over and memorized all of its moves until I can repeat them through muscle memory, the more I enjoy it.

I know I’m not alone in this. There has been a huge nostalgia boom for 8-bit games in recent years, which led to Nintendo releasing the NES Classic Edition in late 2016. I debated at the time whether to buy one, but had other priorities and let it go. Unfortunately, it was marketed as a limited edition item and soon sold out. However, Nintendo reissued it at the end of June this year, and the Classic Edition has been coming in and out of stock at Amazon and other retailers at fluctuating price points for the past couple months. The possibility of missing out again prompted me to grab one when I saw them at Best Buy.

NES Classic Edition vs. Original NES

The Classic Edition is like a miniaturized version of the original console that comes loaded with 30 classic games. Unfortunately, that’s all it can ever play. You can’t download, stream, or input any other games into the device. Fortunately, the titles provided include a number of all-time NES greats: Super Mario Bros. 1-3! Castlevania! Metroid! The Legend of Zelda! Ninja Gaiden! Mega Man 2!

I still have my original NES console and a handful of old cartridges. Although I haven’t used it in a few years, it was still in good working order the last time I tried it. However, the interlaced video it outputs through its antiquated Composite connection looks pretty crappy on a modern HDTV. These 8-bit games are frustratingly difficult to upconvert to higher resolutions while still retaining any semblance of their original appearance. A major benefit of the NES Classic Edition is that it has an HDMI output and can deliver the games to an HDTV in watchable quality. It’s not 4k HDR or anything, but it’s more tolerable than using the original device. For those who consider themselves 8-bit purists, the unit offers a mode that will soften the picture and add simulated CRT scan lines. I found that amusing but tired of it quickly and went back to the standard 4:3 mode.

Almost everything about the Classic Edition feels undersized. The device comes packaged with a short HDMI cable, a short USB power cord, and one wired controller with another very short cable. To use it like this, you’d have to sit no more than a couple feet from your television or display. Luckily, I had longer HDMI and USB cables on hand at home, but the controller cord is so short that the console basically needs to be in your lap. Purchasing a wireless controller is pretty much a necessity with this. I’ll have to do that soon.

The first game I played upon purchase was, naturally, Super Mario Bros. I’d forgotten how frustrating the physics controls of this game are, but it’s still a lot of fun. I really wish it were possible to download additional games into this. Mega Man 2 is great, but what about the rest of that series?

I didn’t intend this post to be a comprehensive review of the NES Classic Edition. The thing was first released a couple years ago, so it’d be kind of late for me to do that now. I just wanted to give some quick impressions and call attention to the fact that it’s on the market again.

Did any of our readers own an original NES? What were your favorite games for it? I’m partial to all the Mega Man titles, the Batman movie tie-in game, and Golgo 13. I guess I’ll have to keep my old NES around to play those.

NES Classic Edition - Buy from Amazon

NES Classic Edition – Buy from Amazon (if you can catch it in stock)

28 comments

  1. Csm101

    I have an old NES in very good physical condition all packaged up in my office. I will never get rid of it, as it has sentimental value. I’m not sure if I have any games for it though. My favorite games were Ninja Gaiden, Bad Dudes, Batman; Renegade, Fester’s Quest. There’s also one with a star fighter type guy, who if anything would touch him, he would explode in a startling manner. Great music though. Spy hunter was lots of fun as well.

  2. Opinionhaver

    Definitely had an NES and still do and it still works. I enjoyed all the usual lineup of classic first party games, like the Marios, Zeldas, etc and Punch-Out!! (w or w/o Mike Tyson) got a lot of play. But I wore out my pack-in controllers on Tecmo Super Bowl; to this day one of the best sports games ever made.

    Josh you may want to look carefully at a wireless controller, because it could introduce an amount of input lag that, miniscule though it may be, might mean the difference between life and death in games that demand that level of precision.

  3. njscorpio

    I dig mine, I’ve had it since the initial release. I won’t get into all the “other” stuff you can do with it, but I love playing NHL ’94 for Sega CD in my living room.

  4. Bolo

    I have a lot of affection for the 8 bit era, probably even more for the 16 bit era.

    The indie market has risen to fill the gap of what Josh is talking about. People still want games they can pick up, learn the mechanics, experience a decent level of challenge, and beat them in one sitting. I am an indie game maker making my first game, but with many ideas for more, and my inspirations usually comes from games of this era.

    From the NES era, ‘Punch Out’ is definitely my favourite. I also have a lot of affection for the ‘Megaman’ games. I even have the coffeetable book of the artwork for that series. I have the Megaman collections that have been made available on the Xbox (and all other current platforms) and love revisiting them. It’s especially fun to try out the ones I’m not as familiar with. In their day, I kinda got sick of them around the 4th one, so playing parts 5, 6 and the ‘Megaman X’ series is a mostly new experience.

    Even though they were stragglers, I also always had a lot of affection for the ‘Adventure Island’ games. They were always behind whatever Mario was doing in terms of gameplay and graphics, but they were always fun. The cheerful music and tropical setting were just so pleasant.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      It’s funny, I love all the 8-bit Mega Man games, but I never much liked any of the Mega Man X titles, even though they’re superficially pretty much the same thing.

      • Opinionhaver

        The first Mega Man X is one of the greatest games ever made and I say that with no hyperbole. When you see an attractively priced SNES Classic at Best Buy, as a Mega Man fan, please revisit it.

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          I never had an SNES so I don’t think I played that one. I did, however, play through the sequels that wound up on PlayStation (PS1).

          I did enjoy the Mega Man Legends games where they moved him to 3D.

          • The Mega Man games on the PS1 were awful. But I agree, the ones on the SNES were great. Never cared much for the series until it hit the SNES, and never really cared for it since, but the SNES had great Mega Man games.

            As for the SNES Classic Mini, I got one of those as well. Interesting to note that the plugs are the same on the controllers, so your extension cables for the NES Mini work on the SNES Mini as well. I haven’t tried to see if I can use my SNES Mini controller on the NES yet – I got no one to play with, so whatever. But yeah, the SNES Mini has some AWESOME games. I had never played Earthbound before (the price when it launched put it out of reach of many, and it never really ever went down in price, and I just forgot about it until the SNES Mini).

  5. Pedram

    I’m sure you know that the included games are not technically all it’ll ever play. There are pretty easy ways to make it play more.

    Also, the fact that the original Contra wasn’t included in the bundle is criminal. It’s one off the best classic games. The included sequel isn’t as good.

    • njscorpio

      The reason why I first modded my NESC was to change Punch-Out back to Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. It just isn’t the same if you aren’t busting your ass to try and knock out Mike.

      • Chaz

        You know, I don’t think I ever noticed that lol, totally forgot about that being his game and the one of the system isn’t that. I’ll have to fix that now 😉

        • I loaded Mike Tyson as well. It is so much more fun to beat up on Mike Tyson than on Mr Dream.

          Also, check out the Famicom Disk System versions of The Legend of Zelda and Doki Doki Panic.

          My all time favorite NES game wasn’t on the NES Mini, and is largely forgotten – The Battle of Olympus. MAN, I forgot how hard that game is, and it is almost impossible to beat even the first boss on an LCD or LED due to needing precision timing

  6. Chaz

    This and the SNES classic were must buys for me, but there IS a way to get other games on there and its super easy to do it with hardly any time invested. Obviously not going to go into that but since most games will never see the light of day again, I have no issues paying proper money for this and putting some old classics on that I used to play that I will never be able to pick up again….sorry but I’m not spending hundreds to pay others for actual cartridges that are no longer truly available to purchase, none of that money goes to Nintendo or the companies that own/made the game.

    Now if we could get a PROPER Genesis system or better yet, one that could have SEGA CD games installed since they can easily be run without an actual CD anymore, that would be awesome, that crappy Genesis knock off is NOT a good example of how to make that work, that thing is a piece of garbage with tons of issues…..hoping Nintendo does the rumored N64 one at some point and please, for the love of all, put WWE No Mercy on there 🙂

    • I would imagine as you start coming into newer generation consoles, the price will start going up. The NES and the SNES Mini have the exact same internals – the same processor, the same amount of ram, the same amount of solid state storage (I think its like 2 gig, but I may be wrong). So that is plenty to hold every NES rom, and a few dozen SNES Roms. But you get to the N64 and you might be able to put 20 games on the system. Sega CD, maybe 5-15, depending on the game (Night Trap alone would take up most of the storage space). Gamecube, maybe 2-3 games. Well, of course, you could just increase the amount of Solid State storage – and that is where the problem comes in – you suddenly start significantly increasing the cost of the system. And once you start needing 3D chips, and faster CPUs, and more ram, you are increasing the cost of the units again.

      I think they should do a Gameboy Advanced Macro next (with original Gameboy, Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advanced Games)

      • I am not even sure what games, other than GoldenEye, was even on the N64. I jumped ship and went team Sony – Nintendo’s loss of Square over them dropping the CD was the main reason, but also, the N64 controller was hideous, and IMHO, the worst video game controller ever made. I think there was a Mario game and a Zelda game that I played on emulators, with the Zelda games getting a later Gamecube release, but those were hard to find.

        Still, once again, expect the n64 to only have around 20 games

        I would have to look at the games list again, but while both systems had 1st party titles, I am thinking they only made up about a third of the offering. However, that gets tricky when you have games that were released by Nintendo but programed by someone else (the original Final Fantasy, Super Mario RPG, Donkey Kong Country, StarFox, or licensed games such as SimCity).

        But yeah, I would be surprised if there were any THQ games due to studio acquisitions. Which means no Tony Hawk either, but that is fine – the N64 version was garbage.

        • Bolo

          I skipped owning the entire 5th and 6th generation of consoles. I found almost everything about the games of that era to be clunky and ugly. It felt like a learning period, during which they were figuring out 3D. In most cases, I would rather play the modern iteration of any of the games I liked from that period.

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