What's Missing on NES Part II - The Classics
Last week we talked about some of the “big name” NES classic games that are still missing from the Nintendo Entertainment System - Nintendo Switch Online service, which totally has the best name for any service in the industry. Not cumbersome at all. In case you didn’t catch our last piece, we’re spending some time talking about the NES games that are still worth playing today that haven’t quite made it on the Switch yet. With a vocal sect of people on the internet more than happy to take time out of their days to complain about NES games not being worth playing anymore and repeatedly asking Nintendo to put Nintendo 64 games up instead, I thought it would be fun to take a dive into the NES library and shine a light on the games that should still find their way to the service.
We also mentioned that an EverDrive N8 is also a pretty darn good way to play all these games. But that goes without saying, right?
As these lists go on, I wanted to say that it’s not as simple as saying that all these games are great and you should play them. In some cases that might not even be so. But they are worth having on the service from a historical context, even if it’s probably most people won’t exactly dump more than a couple of minutes into them. Take last week’s Metal Gear, for example. Someone commented that it’s not as good as the MSX original, and while agree, that isn’t necessarily the point. For many of us playing these games as kids, it was the NES ports that got us into the games in the first place, warts and all. Contra isn’t popular in America because of the arcade game, it was the NES port. Same goes for Tecmo Bowl, and yes, even Metal Gear. A superior version existing elsewhere doesn’t negate the good traits of the inferior one. Nowhere is that sentiment more prevalent than today’s list.
For you young folks, way back when the NES was starting out, a considerable selling point for home consoles was how they handled arcade ports. Having the latest arcade hits at home was a huge deal on Atari and ColecoVision, and the NES bringing top notch ports of games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man showed that the system wasn’t just for people who wanted to play new types of games like Super Mario Bros. and Zelda, but for classic arcade fans too. The NES’s earliest offerings largely sit in the “arcade style” camp, with the majority of its games being fun little pick up and play games as opposed to Super Mario Bros. where you would sit down for hours and try to get to the end. Those games had their flaws, but they also helped Nintendo put video games back on the map here in the US, which was a pretty remarkable feat following the crash.
Nintendo has done a great job of getting most of their “black box” games on the service that haven’t seen much, if any, love since their initial debut. But as fun as it is to have regular access to Pro Wrestling on the go, there’s still some heavy hitters from the launch lineup that aren’t on the platform yet, including a coupe of non-Black Box arcade ports. The NES versions of these games may not be arcade perfect, and many of their arcade counterparts are actually readily available on the eShop right now, but I can personally attest to the coolness of having access to the NES version of Donkey Kong for the low price of $20 a year in addition to having paid $7 for the Arcade Archives version from HAMSTER. (Even if they STILL haven’t fixed the sound issue).
So with that in mind, here’s another ten games that should show up as part of the NES Online service.
- Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man are pretty weird as NES games go because they’re both such big titles, but their NES ports are hardly what they’re known for. Still, it’s hard to deny that these games would be a welcome addition to the library. They’re both pretty solid ports, and the NES version of Pac-Man has seen plenty of re-releases, including on the NES Classic Edition and the old Game Boy Advance NES Classics series. As for Ms. Pac-Man, that one hasn’t been re-released since Namco re-released it themselves back on the NES. (Tengen released it the first time around). Ms. Pac-Man has some rights issues Namco has been dealing with I believe, but still, both of these would be great.
Totes the Goat is a fantastic Q*Bert clone that’s super cheap and available now on the Switch, but there’s nothing quite like playing with the original orange weirdo, and the NES port was pretty darn solid. Q*Bert has always been classic fun, and this particular version has never been re-released to my knowledge. I’m not entirely sure who owns the rights to this game these days, but with the character’s appearance in Wreck it Ralph, whoever it is still uses them, and Ultra Games published the NES port, which is Konami, and they’re definitely still around, and on the service!
- Duck Hunt
Now onto the black box games, and I know what you’re thinking. There’s no light gun on the Switch! That’s true, but there is an IR sensor on the Joycon, and it has a touch screen in handheld mode. No, it wouldn’t be a completely straightforward port, but they made it work on Wii U, and I’m convinced they could make it work on Switch. Online multiplayer with player 2 moving the ducks around could be pretty fun too.
Since I’m living in a fantasy world where Nintendo puts light gun games on Switch, I have to say that my number one hope is Gumshoe. It’s a perfect fit. The NES Online app has done a pretty decent job of putting overlooked gems in their lineup, even if they aren’t the shiniest gems of all. Gumshoe is such a cool and interesting concept of a game where you basically control a platformer with a light gun, giving it a second life on Switch seems like it would be a really cool thing to do. It wouldn’t hurt to get Hip Tanaka’s awesome soundtrack for this one out in the world some more either.
- Hogan’s Alley
Here we have another light gun game that has always seemed a bit on the legendary side, though I never was this game’s biggest fan. Still, it’s a neat target shooting game and my friends used to think it was the coolest. This one also hit Wii U Virtual Console, so at least Nintendo thinks more of it than Gumshoe. Thing is, I doubt Hogan’s Alley would do very well for itself as a standalone release these days. There really isn’t much there. This kind of service is a perfect fit for it.
- Wild Gunman
You could pretty much just copy/paste what I said about Hogan’s Alley here too, except Wild Gunman has the whole Back to the Future connection, and its characters are a pretty big part of the Duck Hunt dog’s move set in Smash. No, there isn’t much to it, but again, that’s why it works here. It’s a pretty important part of Nintendo’s history, and having it preserved and playable today would be nothing but good.
- Urban Champion/Donkey Kong Jr. Math
I lumped these two together because they have two big things in common. One, they’re both terrible. Two, they’re both inevitable. Nintendo has trotted these two games out on every Virtual Console service they’ve had, and Urban Champion even inexplicably got a 3D Classics remake on 3DS. Urban Champion does have a degree of charm, and having it playable online would be hilariously absurd, but still, neither game is good, at all. But they ARE black box games, and Nintendo owns them, so they’re going to happen. At least both games have a couple of fun musical diddys in them, and I suppose they work as historic curiosities.
On the other side of the road, we have the excellent Pinball. This game is such a great basic video pinball game! I still gladly sit and mess with this game for at least 20-30 minutes at a time because it’s just plain fun. The sounds are great, the Mario cameo level is fun, and there’s just something very satisfying about the way the whole thing comes together. It also represents a genre that isn’t yet available in any of the Online apps yet, so this game would make a very welcome addition.
- Mach Rider
Every time I look at this game I am genuinely shocked that Nintendo hasn’t gone back to it. It’s a really cool concept, and with some modern retooling it could make for an excellent new game. But the original is pretty fun too! It’s got some great music, funky artwork, and a track editor. It isn’t perfect, but few of the black box games are. At least this one has a decent amount of content, and putting it up on the NES Online service would shine a light on a grossly overlooked IP that Nintendo should really do something with one of these days.
- Kung Fu/10-Yard Fight
These two are lumped together because they probably both share the same issue when it comes to having them put up on the service. They’re both Irem games. Nintendo doesn’t own either one of these, even though they published them back in the day for the NES. Still, I don’t imagine either one of them is particularly hard to obtain the rights to, at least no more so than any other 3rd party offerings. I seem to remember Irem’s stuff being pulled from the Virtual Console back in the day, but Nintendo has pulled off bigger miracles than this. Sure, 10-Yard Fight is essentially pointless because Tecmo Bowl is there and the arcade version is available via Arcade Archives, but Soccer and Volleyball aren’t very good either, and they’re there! But regardless of 10-Yard Fight, Kung-Fu is an absolute NES classic. I’d wager most people who grew up playing that game on NES didn’t even know it was an arcade port. I know I didn’t until I got Kung-Fu Master for Atari 2600 and said “wait a minute. This is Kung-Fu!” It’s one of those games like Rad Racer that everyone had and played back in the day that for whatever reason refuses to resurface. Nintendo fixed that with Pro Wrestling last year, and it’s time to get Kung-Fu back in peoples’ hands too.
As of now, they’ve put exactly half of the Black Box games up on the service, leaving 15 more in the chamber. But even after this list, there’s still a few missing. Slalom is likely never coming back because of the Microsoft/Rare situation. I know they’re playing well together and all that, but if this game is ever going to be playable on Switch, it’ll be when they release Rare Replay for it (which I personally think is unlikely, but one can hope). And finally, there are Stack-Up and Gyromite, the two ROB games, which are pretty unlikely candidates for obvious reasons.
What do you think? Are there any other great NES arcade conversions that you’d like to see Nintendo revisit? Should they make a LABO ROB so people can replay Gyromite?
Check back next week when we’ll be bringing up some missing sequels to games already up on the service.