Review: NES Classic Edition

The prodigal son has returned, better than ever!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/21/2016 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Great selection of games; wonderful design; nothing better than playing NES games with an NES controller; display options are varied and fun; save states for those who want them
Poison Mushroom for...
Short controller cord length


Note: We won’t be launching into the actual games bundled inside of NES Classic Edition for this review; all 30 titles are either classic or genuinely fun titles that are worthy of a look. This review is intended to be about the console itself and the features that it boasts. However, for those interested, scroll down to the bottom of the page for a full list of the games!

This will likely be one of the few times that I ever use the word “nostalgia” in a review, because there’s no denying that NES Classic Edition is clearly made to pull at the heartstrings of old-school video game players. Sporting the exact same console and controller designs as the original Nintendo Entertainment System, NES Classic is dripping with ’80s charm. I was stunned when I took the system out of its box by just how genuinely miniature the thing actually is. The controller is wider than the system itself, which sits comfortably in the palm of most people’s hands. It’s also insanely lightweight! That’s not to say it feels cheap, though; the console is meticulously detailed, right down to its red LED power light, and has that innate sense of quality about it that all Nintendo hardware is known for.

NES Classic isn’t completely faithful to the original, however, and that’s a good thing. Gone are the traditional AV cords (and RF switch for those who were rocking extra old-school TVs, back in the day!) and power block that NES came bundled with, replaced now with an HDMI cord and micro USB, respectively. The new setup feels much simpler and more elegant than the original, though there’s something charming about the clunkiness of the classic setup that an old timer like me misses. Still, that’s just an observation and not an actual complaint; it made connecting the system to my TV a breeze, and will certainly be helpful for retro enthusiasts as time marches forward and they want to keep playing these classic titles. As in the halcyon days of gaming, NES Classic, with a press of the power button, boots up quickly and is instantly ready to play.


Well… almost instantly ready to play. Rather than jump right into a game, NES Classic starts players off with a home screen that allows them to scroll from left to right through its 30 offerings of classic software. Tap up on the D-Pad and display options for the TV screen are presented. There’s a choice to render the games in a 4:3 ratio, a Pixel Perfect option that optimizes the graphics to take advantage of HD screens while maintaining the square, perfect pixels that NES projects (this results in a narrow square playing field), and a CRT mode that mimics the look of playing on an old tube screen TV, scan lines and all. It’s also from this menu that players can access original game manuals via a QR code scan on a smart device! A tap down on the D-Pad reveals save slots; games can be paused at any point creating a save state to return to at a later time, and they all go in this menu. The user interface is clean and intuitive, allowing players access to NES Classic’s various features while not sacrificing the ease of use and accessibility of the original NES.

The games themselves are the real draw of the system, and NES Classic comes packed with 30 very fun titles. While these games have all been available to play in their original forms since the days of Wii’s Virtual Console service, there are a handful of factors that make playing them on NES Classic the best option. For one, the presentation is top-notch; regardless of the screen display that player’s choose, the games look better than ever (well, the CRT mode is debatable, but at the very least it’s authentic to the era). The optional save states, which some purists hate, are nevertheless a fun choice for those who want to complete games they never could before due to the grueling difficulty level that many of these titles are known for. Finally, there’s also no denying just how great it feels to play all these games with a proper NES controller. The D-Pad and face buttons of the NES controller revolutionized the industry back in 1985 and still feel wonderful to press to this day.


My list of complaints about NES Classic is small, but worth noting. For one, there’s no getting around how insanely short the controller cords are. They barely stretch out to about 30 inches in length, which is much, much shorter than the original controller’s nearly 90 inches. I have a fairly open, unrestrictive setup for my consoles, but even I was annoyed by how unreasonable the cable length is. The length of the HDMI and power cords can help soften the blow a bit, but that means pulling the NES Classic from wherever its perched any time that a person wants to play the thing. Also, the software selection boasts some of the greatest games of the era, but for diehard fans it’s bound to be a bit disappointing that there isn’t more software on offer; it’s also sad that there’s no way of expanding the system’s library via downloads of some sort. Still, the cord situation isn’t so glaring that it should impact anyone’s enjoyment of the system, and the wish for downloadable titles doesn’t trump the value of what’s already here.

NES Classic is a wonderful addition to Nintendo’s hardware offerings. It plays to nostalgia while at the same time freshening these games up for a more modern audience. The form factor of NES Classic is perfect, and playing all of these old titles again with a proper NES controller feels wonderful. While it’s lamentable that Nintendo gave the console such short cords for the controllers, it’s a small flaw that doesn’t take away from overall experience. This is a fun piece of fan service that should please both new and old fans, and the wealth of masterpiece games on offer like Super Mario Bros. 3, Mega Man 2, Super C, and more is a great way of highlighting the watershed moments of video game history for all. I’ve complained in the past that the video game industry doesn’t do enough to preserve it’s history, but this is a definite step in the right direction.

Here’s a list of the 30 games inside of NES Classic Edition:

Balloon Fight
Bubble Bobble
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong Jr.
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
Dr. Mario
Final Fantasy
Ghosts ‘N Goblins
Ice Climber
Kid Icarus
Kirby’s Adventure
Mario Bros. 
Mega Man 2
Ninja Gaiden
Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
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

Also, please keep in mind that a lot of these titles support two-player and extra controllers only cost an additional $10 apiece!

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