This holiday, the Nintendo Entertainment System will be reissued, bringing classic NES games to a new generation.
In the early ’80s, after the craze for the Atari dwindled and the novelty of arcades grew thin, there was a growing uncertainty in the video game industry. The “video game crash” seemed to happen due to the belief that games had already reached their peak. Looking back now, in the age of video game ubiquity in mainstream culture, these worries come off as laughable. Luckily, the force that allowed video games to prosper and proliferate came along amidst the throes of the supposed great video game demise.
The Nintendo Entertainment System, commonly referred to as the NES, launched in North America in the fall of 1985. Along with it came the iconic franchises that even nongamers recognize today: Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Mega Man, Metroid and Castlevania. Even at a price of $200 in 1985 ($449 adjusted for inflation today), the NES went on to sell a startling 62 million units, making it the most successful video game system of all time up until that point. It’s not hyperbole to say that Nintendo and their bold leap into console gaming saved video games. Without the lineage of the NES, the video game industry wouldn’t have posted even a fraction of its $23.5 billion revenue in 2015.
The love story of Zelda and Link is timeless. Via Nintendo.
Nintendo fans frequently call out for the rerelease of old classics from the publisher’s vast archive. While the company has received fanfare for implementing downloadable titles on their more recent systems (Wii, Wii U, 3DS) and for backtracking on their refusal to let Nintendo games appear on mobile devices, they have never quite offered an authentic experience that directly mirrors the beginning of their heyday as the most important video game developer and publisher in the world.
On November 11, 2016, the NES Classic Edition will arrive in stores with a bargain price tag of $60. Perhaps Nintendo knows that the state of massive cable boxes, Blu-ray players and multiple video game consoles has made the open space of entertainment centers spare, because the NES Classic is miniature size. The console itself fits across the palm of a hand, while the controller is an exact replica of the original.
The system comes preinstalled with 30 of the best NES games, including classics such as Super Mario Bros. 1-3, The Legend of Zelda, PAC-MAN, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Kirby’s Adventure and Mega Man 2. Also included are overlooked gems like Startropics, Bubble Bobble and SUPER C.
Super Mario Bros. sold over 40 million copies on NES. Via Nintendo.
In a day and age when kids want the latest and greatest of everything (usually meaning technology), the return of the NES may seem like a system that will appeal only to adults looking to assuage nostalgia, a form of remembering the “good ol’ days.” But the most intriguing aspect of this over-30-year-old piece of technology reemerging on department store racks and digital storefronts is its innate and timeless ability to bring generations together.
Nintendo has always made clear their belief that video games are a family experience. After all, the NES launched in Japan two years prior to its American release with the name Family Computer System (Famicon). While there will likely be single men and women nabbing the NES Mini upon release, the market that Nintendo is hoping to reach is young families.
Kirby is perpetually hungry and everyone’s favorite pink blob. Via Nintendo.
Parents who grew up playing these eight-bit classics on the living room floor remember how much simpler it was to just push a button, pick up the controller and play. Nowadays, starting up the latest AAA game is a series of patch downloads, menu screens and user agreements, followed by the long-winded opening cinematics and a plethora of tutorials to learn complicated control schemes. For those who kept playing games throughout youth, across the outset of 3D graphics and into disorienting realism, it’s no surprise that as the NES generation matured, video games grew alongside us. Many kids are adept with technology, sometimes surpassing their parents’ own skills before they even learn how to read the text on whatever touchscreen they’re currently fawning over. Despite this, the modern era of gaming is suffering from a high barrier for entry for not just our youth but disenfranchised adult gamers.
And while the current modes of game transportation are more sophisticated, they are less genuine.
Metroid introduced players to the mysterious Samus Aran. Via Nintendo.
Parents who have drifted away from video games as they evolved from pixelated sprites to hyper-realistic 3D models can now reenter their comfort zone. When kids click on the NES, parents will be interested not only in what’s on the screen but in the thrill of sharing familiar NES games with their kids for the first time. The NES Classic is fitted with a “Pixel Perfect” mode, which identically simulates the visuals of NES games of the past on modern televisions.
The NES is the perfect introduction to gaming for children. The eight-bit presentation of titles such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and The Legend of Zelda hold up today, offering a simplistic display which also signals familiarity. Today most video game controllers have over a dozen input buttons; NES games are fine-tuned to thrive in a control scheme that includes just a four-way directional pad and two action buttons. In a purely logistical light, the NES is the most inviting system for the pick-up-and-play mentality. Because of its inviting aesthetic, the NES makes it easy for kids to get lost in the worlds of the Mushroom Kingdom and Hyrule.
And rather deceptively, the NES teaches perseverance and willful strategy. NES games are notoriously challenging, existing before the age of adjustable difficulty variants. While challenge may be viewed as a detriment to the NES’s appeal to young children, it’s really a benefit. Instead of being tested by the complexity of an overwhelming number of objects on-screen and a complicated control scheme, kids can be confronted by intuitive gameplay from games that ask only that the player keep trying. If kids are shown the methods in which the NES teaches the player through trial and error, they’re better equipped to move on to the more complex experiences — whether in games, school or even life.
The first of dozens of Final Fantasy titles thus far. Via Nintendo.
Like most activities, video games are best enjoyed when we’re surrounded by the people we love. Nintendo has always been right with that assertion. The reason the NES revitalized the games industry is that it made the video game console a centerpiece of the living room — a living, breathing, extension of the family itself and a reminder of how joint interactivity across all ages is a powerful tool for bonding.
Really, though, the NES Classic Edition is important because it calls back to a time in video game history that feels archaic due to rapid advancement of technology, despite the fact that video games emerged only a generation ago. This was a time when gameplay was king and high fidelity visuals were a pipe dream. Before developers had to worry about frame rates, lifelike people, places and things, games were seamlessly organic and asked the most important question of all: Are you having fun?
The NES is that rare example of “fun for all ages” that never reveals itself to be disingenuous in its message. Reintroduce fun into the family ecosystem this holiday season. In a time when people are constantly busy — with distractions galore — the NES sets out to invite families back to fun once again.