Day #206: Mini-NES Remixed

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So the Mini-NES was announced last week. The world then rejoiced at the opportunity to finally play their favorite games from their childhood, something that the folks at Nintendo have never offered before. Snarkiness aside, I do realize that I am in no way the audience for it, targeted more towards those lapsed gamers that perhaps haven’t done touched a controller since they were kids or the hardcore collectors that simply want to rip the thing open and announce “hey, there’s just a Raspberry Pi in here” to the shock of no one. The concept is far from new, though I certainly expect the Nintendo offering to be much sturdier and more reliable than recent Mega Drive one, for instance, which has more than double the games but is an absolute piece of junk.

It is really easy to make fun of Nintendo for just how overbearingly they market nostalgia though, especially considering the asking price for the Mini-NES – $60 USD. Though I’ve read my share of articles explaining the numbers and how much it would be to (legally) play all 30 games otherwise, they also kind of ignore that the games list isn’t flawless. The NES version of Galaga isn’t exactly equal to Mega Man 2, meaning that in its current form, there are quite a few games that aren’t really worth wasting one’s time on. This is where I thought I’d do a little experiment, putting myself in the shoes of a hypothetical Nintendo employee that had the power to dictate the games list of the Mini-NES whilst ignoring most of the licensing hang-ups that would get in the way. I thought it would be fun to do a little curation, making the best possible Mini-NES as long as we understand that “best” is an absolute value pertaining strictly to my tastes alone. You have to listen to me, I’m now the uncle that you told everyone you had that works at Nintendo and makes all the decisions.

For starters, let’s look at what the Mini-NES is actually going to have in it.

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

Now here’s the part where I break your heart. These are the games from this list we’re keeping.

Castlevania
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
Dr. Mario
Ghosts N’ Goblins
Gradius
Kirby’s Adventure
Legend of Zelda
Mega Man 2
Metroid
Ninja Gaiden
Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
StarTropics
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. 2
Super Mario Bros. 3
Tecmo Bowl

That’s right, only half, but it’s a damn fine list on its own. You won’t find me talking mess about any of these. I’m not even one of those weirdos that insists Mr. Dream doesn’t exist. He’s fine with me. Dude can stop by and borrow my DVDs anytime.

Now let’s explain the cuts. This won’t take long.

Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, and Kid Icarus – These are the oft-forgotten Nintendo games that haven’t been milked to death since their initial release. There’s a reason for that. They’re not actually very good. Sorry.

Bubble Bobble – As much as I’d like to see some Taito representation, it’s hard to argue for its inclusion in the face of much better options.

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest – I LOVE Simon’s Quest, but in a morbid masochistic sense. Most people, rightfully, don’t have the patience for it and its inclusion is just odd. The better game in the series is already there.

Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. – Fine as purely nostalgic picks but ultimately just taking up space. No one other than Billy Mitchell wants to play Donkey Kong for longer than four minutes.

Excitebike – Just go see what I wrote about it.

Final Fantasy – If we were making a Mini-SNES, there would be at least 2 FF games represented, but the original is really nothing special. An RPG is a weird choice for this format anyway.

Galaga – Just an odd one. I don’t think anyone thinks of Galaga as a classic NES game, seeing as it’s from an earlier era.

Mario Bros. – Completely pointless.

Pac-Man – See Donkey Kong.

Super C – A fine game but will be replaced with something more fitting.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – See Castlevania II. I actually spent more time with Zelda II than I did the original, but it’s kind of a dark horse in the series.

Now here’s are the hot new draft picks I’ve settled on to fill out this roster.

Bionic Commando – One of the best platformers on the system and not just because the Japanaese version was titled Hitler’s Revival: Top Secret.

Bomberman – Have I written about Bomberman yet? I really need to write about Bomberman. I love me some Bomberman.

Blaster Master – Maybe a deep cut since I think I’m one of the only people in the world that cares about Blaster Master. That’s fine. I’m on the right side of history.

Contra – This is why we don’t need Super C, even though it’s a better game. Let’s be honest with ourselves; people want to boot up Contra to put in the familiar Konami code and tear through it without any regard for their own safety.

Gun.Smoke – Yes, it’s a compromised version of the arcade original, but it’s still fantastic in compromised form. Another great game that Capcom has done nothing with since.

Ice Hockey – Feel free to pretend I put Blades of Steel here instead. I won’t judge you.

Little Nemo the Dream Master – Maybe another weird one, but Little Nemo may actually be in my top five NES games. This is another one I need to go back to and write about, since it deserves a more in-depth look.

Metal Gear – I want this untouched, bad translation and all. I’m a horrible person and this is why I’m never given power. I’m also pushing it by thinking that Konami would allow for such a thing in the first place.

RBI Baseball – I actually wanted to put Bad News Baseball since it’s very similar, but RBI is the one everyone remembers.

R.C. Pro-Am – If I have to explain this, we are no longer friends.

River City Goddamn Ransom – Fun fact, that was actually the official title in New Zealand. No, please don’t fact check that. My head-canon is better. Seriously though, awesome beat-em-up.

Shadowgate – Another case of a game that’s better elsewhere but got a memorable NES port anyway. It’s also good for the sake of variety, even if I wouldn’t expect anyone to actually finish it on this format.

Skate or Die! – I understand why this isn’t included, since it’s owned by EA. We have a better chance of Skate 4 happening. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go write another letter to EA now.

Tetris – The only reason I can think of this not being included is due to some residual legal issues from the Tengen version. Still, an NES compilation of any sort just feels empty without it.

So that would leave us with, if I do say so myself, the best game console ever conceived by a human brain… or something. I dunno. I tried to consider some level of commercial recognition, which is why I left out oddball favorites of mine like VICE: Project Doom and Nightshade. Perhaps some other time I’ll see if I can do this for a different console, like the Super NES. I imagine parsing that down to 30 games would be even more difficult.

But I’m here to do the difficult jobs. That’s why they hired me, after all. You know, at Nintendo.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go raid the vault and see if there’s any more of that NES cereal.

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