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Does the NES Classic Hold Up in 2016?

The OG system is back with 30 games, but is it as fun as we remember?

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Getty Images

The NES Classic was rereleased on Friday, November 11, and it sold out in just a few minutes. Ringer writers Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion brought Kotaku’s Jason Schreier on the latest episode of Achievement Oriented to discuss how the system holds up in 2016. Are those games you played in your parents’ basement still fun?

Listen to the full episode here. The portion below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Ben Lindbergh: We’re going to talk about the NES Classic, also known as the mini NES. Also officially known as the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition, although I hope no one except Nintendo is actually calling it that. But that is the news. The system came out Friday [November 11], and so we are talking to the news editor of Kotaku, Jason Schreier. Hey, Jason.

Jason Schreier: Hey, Ben. Thanks for having me. I’m glad that you call it the N-E-S, and not the “Nes,” because “Nes” is awful.

B.L.: Nes is a character. We don’t need that. So you’ve been playing this thing for a couple days, and [we] wanted to have you on to get your impressions of how it’s held up and whether the nostalgia is justified or it’s leading us to places that we don’t actually want to go in practice.

This system comes with 30 games. You’ve played them all. You gave them a quick review at Kotaku. What is your verdict on how well the package as a whole holds up?

J.S.: Controversial review. I got a lot of interesting feedback to my ranking. A lot of people were mad because I trashed Excitebike, which is a bad game.

Jason Concepcion: Well that’s — I take issue with it. But, continue.

J.S.: There are a few games that hold up really well. A few that don’t. I think the NES actually, incidentally, is the one console that has not held up really well. It’s closer to the arcade days when all these games would be frustratingly hard, and it was built where they wanted to take all your money, so you had limited lives. And they were really punishing. I actually think the Super Nintendo — which, Nintendo is for sure going to [reissue] an SNES Classic next year — I think that’s going to be a way better device, especially for people who haven’t played those games.

But the NES Classic still has some classic games that hold up really well, like Super Mario Brothers … especially Super Mario Brothers 3. And Kirby’s Adventure, and Metroid, and Castlevania. I really enjoyed going back to all those. Some of the games on there are not great today. But some of them are. Doctor Mario is another one that I think I could definitely keep playing.

StarTropics is one that really surprised me, because I never played that growing up. It’s kind of a Zelda clone set where you’re like this baseball pitcher who gets a yo-yo that he can hurl at enemies, and so you go around all these different dungeons throwing your yo-yo at monsters and solving puzzles and stuff like that. That actually plays surprisingly well today. There are a few gems on there, if you can get past the whole three-foot controller cable thing. It’s really not a bad purchase at all.

J.C.: I wanted to stan for Excitebike. Just for a moment. Because if memory serves, that game had a level editor, which, at the time was the most mind-blowing thing I’d ever seen as a child — that you could actually design levels in a game. And I think that alone should push it up. It makes it better than Ghost ’n Goblins, at least. Ice Climber, even?

J.S.: I probably should have put Ice Climber at the bottom. And Ghost ’n Goblins. Maybe Excitebike could have been 28, or so — still terrible, but wasn’t the worst. The way I rank those games actually is based on how they hold up today, and not how they held up 30 years ago. So 30 years ago, when you’re playing Excitebike with a friend and you’re both just kind of mashing the controller and trying to beat each other, that was a lot more fun than it is today, when there are so many better options — unless you and your friend are really nostalgic for Excitebike and [how you] used to play it 30 years ago, sitting on the floor, staring at the TV. The level editor also is one of those things that I try to [not] rank and judge based on how revolutionary they were at the time. Like Final Fantasy. The Final Fantasy series is one of my favorites of all time, but the first Final Fantasy does not hold up well at all. If I were ranking all these games based on the things they did historically, it might look a lot different. A lot of these games have some bad practices … Excitebike, man. The sound effects are so annoying. And just everything about that game bothers me.