A game like NES Remix has long been overdue. Imagine that all of those “what if” scenarios and challenges you dreamt up as a child became a reality, chopped up and presented to you in bite-sized mini-games consisting of some of the most recognizable games of the NES era. It’s a brilliant idea, though one that’s not fully realized anywhere near its potential.
NES Remix features 16 NES classics from the ‘80s spanning what would eventually become iconic brands from The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Super Mario Bros., to the fun yet generic Golf, Pinball, Tennis, and Baseball, to lesser-known gems like Urban Champions or games that even hardcore NES fans may not have even heard of like Clu Clu Land. It’s a potent dose of nostalgic variety, enough for an instant high of satisfaction, but can unfortunately wear off abruptly once the unforgiving difficulty of retro gaming sets in.
Looking back, I’m proud of my younger self, barely learning the way around a controller, excelling at games that required near-perfect timing. I had that “try, try again” determination that allowed me to overcome the disappointment of getting so far only to get hit just once and lose all progress, forced to start over again… and again… and again.
Each NES classic has its own catalog of increasingly difficult mini-game challenges that unlock more games and mini-games as you progress by earning up to three stars based on perforamance factors like time and lives lost. Each title’s mini-games are all situations created using a combination of the game's real scenarios and game assets, while two additional Remix modes take components and even characters from other games and mash them together. For example, Link from The Legend of Zelda lacking the ability to jump in Donkey Kong makes rolling barrels all the more frustrating, and challenging, requiring precise timing, speed, and luck to make it from ladder to ladder.
Though completing challenges after many failures is rewarding in a way that isn’t found commonly enough in newer games, this and many other remixes can be so difficult that it borders on being a turn-off. Due to the original design of some of these classics, such as Ice Climbers, some mini-games can be a downright drag to play given the wonky controls. I mean, why the hell can Popo jump ten feet vertically, but no more than a foot forward? Nintendo has done nothing to attempt to improve the playability and accessibility of any of these titles.
And while Excitebike, Balloon Fight, and the original Mario Bros. are games I recall fondly, NES Remix has an air of incompleteness about it due to missing other loved favorites like Metroid, Punch-Out, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and so many more. One might argue that Metroid’s explorative gameplay doesn’t lend itself as easily to the way these mini-games are presented, but its use in WarioWare games and the fact that The Legend of Zelda offers the most enjoyable and original mini-games in NES Remix would beg to differ.
Sadly, this may have been more of a business move allowing Nintendo to use the nostalgic value of NES Remix to encourage the purchase of full-game Virtual Console versions of the included titles—all of which happen to be up for sale via eShop. Had only a few more games or genres been included, the challenges within NES Remix may not be as quickly repetitive or, aside from some truly original ideas, feel generally uninspired. Multiplayer, or at least, leaderboards, would also have been nice for competitiveness and product longevity.
Despite the glaring exclusion of other NES favorites, the no-mercy difficulty, and some bland challenges, NES Remix will resonate positively with any NES fan who welcomes a taste of the past and the feeling of satisfaction you get from the mastery retro games require to win. I can’t wait for a sequel expanding on the franchises and games included, or even better, SNES Remix.