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Nintendo NES Classic Edition review

“Dad, I want to save my allowance to get this.”

My son played on the throwback controller easily: to him, it’s like a Wii remote. And he already knows how to play Super Mario Bros. 3: he remembers it from Super Mario Maker, where he’s created endless levels.

Nintendo’s prepared him well.

If you love retro games, you’re probably an obsessive over the culture. A collector, maybe. So the NES Classic Edition, a miniature replica of the system released in the US in 1985, that’s also a plug-and-play box with 30 classic NES games installed, probably sounds like a geek dream come true.

It’s available now, but it’s already very difficult to find; it could well be the hard-to-get gift for the 2016 holiday season.

But it’s not just Nintendo’s move into a landscape well-traveled by lots of other all-in-one retro game boxes over the years. Finally, these classic games have been freed from their Nintendo console prison. Into, well, a small, very affordable box.

Nintendo’s classic archive of games, many of which are flat-out legendary, have always existed behind a protective wall of proprietary hardware. Buy a Nintendo 3DS, or a Wii, or a Wii U, and download Virtual Console mini games. What you buy for one system doesn’t necessarily carry over to another. This is how I’ve bought Super Mario Bros. 3 about three times.


It’s smaller than an NES cartridge. Also, a Nintendo 2DS for comparison.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The stand-alone NES Classic Edition bundles 30 NES games in one self-contained package for $60, £50 or AU$100. As my son noticed right off the bat, it’s 30 games for the price of one Wii U game, just about.

Is that a good deal? Well, yes, considering that Nintendo normally sells most of these games for $5 a pop via its Virtual Console service.

A lot of games there.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The included 30 games are all pretty good, too, and they all play perfectly, even down to the authentic sprite-flicker and slowdown. Super Mario Bros. 1-3 are here, and Zelda 1 and 2. Metroid, Kirby’s Adventure, Castlevania, Super C. The whole list, in case you’re curious:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Bubble Bobble
  • Castlevania
  • Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
  • Donkey Kong
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Double Dragon II: The Revenge
  • Dr. Mario
  • Excitebike
  • Final Fantasy
  • Galaga
  • Ghosts’n Goblins
  • Gradius
  • Ice Climber
  • Kid Icarus
  • Kirby’s Adventure
  • Mario Bros.
  • Mega Man 2
  • Metroid
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Pac-Man
  • 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
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

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