I love Nintendo as much as the next guy, but I can’t imagine shelling out $60 for the “Mini” Nintendo Entertainment System. Let’s face it: emulation is just plain better than original hardware.
“But emulation is piracy!!” No, sirrah. ’Tis not. It’s 100% permissible under law to own ROMs of games you owned at one time. Buying a game = buying the right to a digital backup of that game, forever. And that’s all a ROM is: a digital backup. Is there potential for piracy? Of course, but also a huge upside: the ability to play through all those wonderful games without the frustration and misery of losing your last continue.
A long list of Things to Dislike about the Mini, but worst is that no additional games are forthcoming. All you get are the preloaded 30 – an impressive roster of titles, but one of my favorite things about the NES was all the weird little games from weird little publishers like Sunsoft (still around!), Hudson, and Data East. Indie gaming before indie gaming was a thing.
So, in “honor” of the Mini, here are five of my favorite NES games not included:
1. A Boy and His Blob
Gameplay might not be its strength, but it’s impossible not to love this quirky, offbeat title. You play as, yes, a boy and an jelly bean-eating alien blob attempting to save planet Blobbonia from an evil junk-food emperor. If that sounds awesome, that’s because it is. A new-and-updated version is available for virtually every modern platform.
2. Bionic Commando
A platformer where you can’t jump?! Sounds crazy, but Bionic Commando’s hook-shot grappling makes for an all-time classic. And a brilliant story brilliantly told, to boot. Notorious for not having a save function, but hey – no problem in emulation.
3. Blaster Master
A boy named Jason chases Fred, his pet frog, into an underground labyrinth, where he finds “Sophia the Third”, a hyper-advanced combat chassis – young Jason hops in and sets off to save Fred from The Plutonium Boss! So much to love about this title, but by far and away, the coolest thing is the tiny caves only Jason can enter, at which point gameplay switches from sidescrolling to top-down. Wonderful non-linear play. They don’t make ’em like this no more.
Woefully underappreciated. Among the best RPGs ever, I’d argue – a beautiful story synthesizing Norse mythology into something unique, flavorful, and unforgettable. One of my favorite things about this title is that your character’s sprite actually changes appearance when you equip different armor and weapons. Start off as a scrawny pipsqueak, end up a bad-ass fantasy warrior. Makes you feel so invested and proud of your character’s progress.
Not on the level of Zelda, but this just might be my favorite oddball, out-of-the-way NES title. Pretty much said it all right here.
Owned any of these games past? Want to relive the glory? Check out Nestopia, the best OSX NES emulator out there, AFAIK.