Historical Games Lost to Time
It’s crazy that here in the year of 2021, there are still so many important first steps in the video game industry that are completely unplayable on modern hardware in any official capacity. Of course, we have ways of getting these things done ourselves, but while these methods are great, there’s something to be said for official re-releases, especially when it comes to franchises that have had a lasting effect on gaming culture as we know it.
Naturally we could talk about licensed fare like Batman for NES or Spider-Man for Atari 2600, but the ones we’re looking at here today are a bit more befuddling. These are games with no logical reason to be lost to time. We’ve got a few guesses, but for the most part, the absence of an ability to play these games on the consoles of today is suspicious at the very least. Let’s take a look.
While it’s true that most people probably played Tetris on Game Boy for the first time, there’s no arguing that Tetris for NES was a massive success in its own right, and likely provided its fair share of puzzle game fans their first taste of one of the finest games ever created.
There’s the issue of the Tengen game out there, which is also lost to time and arguably the superior release, but there’s something unforgettable about the NES version of this gem. From the music to the visuals to the rock solid gameplay, Tetris for NES is an all time classic that never gets old.
So where the heck is it? Chances are, it’s just the way The Tetris Company wants it. The Game Boy version was actually released on the 3DS Virtual Console a while back, which actually gave some folks hope that maybe they'd put the NES version on Wii U or something, but it never happened, and the 3DS version was eventually delisted.
What’s particularly crazy is that there is clearly a very close relationship with Nintendo when it comes to Tetris. Tetris 99 is already a part of their online service, so it begs the question, why not put the NES version on Nintendo Switch Online as well? It’s not like sales would eat into anything. Perhaps they’re asking for too much money to license the game to Nintendo for use on their service? But what would be the point? Keeping this game locked away, even in the face of many far superior readily available versions of Tetris on the market, is a shame.
Wizards & Warriors (NES)
Okay, this one isn't exactly a big name in the world of modern video games, but it certainly held a degree of clout in its day, and I would argue that the only reason the franchise isn’t still around is that nobody’s been able to play it for decades.
Wizards & Warriors and its various sequels were developed by Rare, and we’ve all heard of them. They were tasked with developing them for Acclaim, and they were met with relatively solid success. In case you’ve never played them before, they’re action platformers starring a knight named Kuros where you have to jump around, find keys, and put a stop to the evil wizard Malkil’s plans for world domination. They’re all known for having some very impressive visuals by NES standards, and they all feature excellent music by David Wise, of Donkey Kong Country fame.
So where are they? That’s a solid mystery. They didn't show up on Rare Replay because Rare doesn’t actually own the property. That honor used to belong to Acclaim, but whatever is left of that company sold the rights off ages ago. So whoever purchased them is just sitting on them for whatever reason. Maybe they can’t afford to actually get them properly ported. More likely, they’re just holding onto them in hopes that somebody will pay them more than they bought them for to actually get them back out into the world. But whatever the case, these games have been rotting in the vaults of time for way too long.
Animal Crossing (GameCube)
Animal Crossing wasn’t always one of Nintendo’s biggest brands, but it’s always had at least solid showings. The GameCube original was a bit of a cult favorite, which makes sense considering the GameCube itself is a cult favorite console. The DS followup saw significant success, as did its Wii sequel. But then the 3DS game happened and it was absolutely massive. Then the Switch game came out and once again, was an unreasonable success.
The original game though, still has its charm, and a lot of features that simply don’t exist in the new games. There are gyroids everywhere. NES games to unlock. Weird characters with horned helmets. The newer games are without a doubt more fun to play, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been out for a little while now, and with so many people having discovered the franchise only in the last decade, it stands to reason a decent handful of them would probably like to see where it all came from.
GameCube games in general are a huge missed opportunity for Nintendo in terms of re-releases, but this one right here is one of the biggest they’ve left behind. As for why it’s not available, I really don’t know. It’s probably related to the way the game works and maybe its NES game incorporation? It’s hard to say, but I can’t imagine some sort of straight port with minor quality of life improvements wouldn’t be worth their while.
Metal Gear (NES)
This is the most egregious as far as I’m concerned. Yes, the original MSX Metal Gear game has been re-released several times by now, but that’s only how players in Japan got into the franchise. Here in the US, we played Metal Gear on NES, and we liked it!
Sure, the MSX game is the superior work, but just because that game is great, doesn’t mean the NES game is bad, not by a longshot!
It looks great, it’s still fun to play, it has hilarious poorly translated dialogue, and a killer soundtrack. Back when it originally released, there was almost nothing else like it on any platform, let alone on the NES. It’s a part of American video game history, and it’s been undeservedly swept under the rug.
As for why, that used to be an easy one to answer. Hideo Kjma is famously not at all fond of the game, so he likely was responsible for Konami never letting it see the light of day again. If people wanted to learn the origins of the franchise, they could fire up a port of the MSX version. But Kojima and Konami aren’t exactly on good terms anymore, and Konami owns Metal Gear outright. So why in the name of sanity have they not put this game on some sort of collection?
Metal Gear has seen plenty of compilations over the years, but none of them have included this NES game, its direct sequel Snake’s Revenge, Metal Gear Solid for Game Boy Color, or Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. I don't know about you, but a collection of those games released today would be a day one purchase for me. But even if you were to ignore those other missing games, this one on its own should be available for more to play today.
The world of retro gaming is a weird one when you consider how many older games simply haven’t been preserved in an official capacity, especially culturally important ones like these. Again, there are plenty of ways to get these games today, but seeing them expected by their actual rights holders would be a breath of fresh air. Maybe someday they will.