The Retro Gamer
After the relative failure of the Wii U, Nintendo is hoping to recapture its console mojo with next year's Switch, a possibly cool, but also potentially bewildering mix of gaming tablet and home gaming system. But even as the Wii U languishes, the company that Mario built scored a surprising video game hit this year, with the NES Classic Edition. This shrunken down replica of the original console comes pre-loaded with 30 authentic NES games, including fan-favorites like Donkey Kong and the Legend of Zelda, as well as more obscure picks, such as Excitebike and Ice Climber. These are games that have been playable for years with PC emulator software, only without the glitches and inauthentic wonkiness, and with the added retro benefit of an NES controller. Even if this mini-console loses its appeal after a few weeks, at $60, it's roughly the same price as most new console games. Of course, that's assuming Nintendo can get more units on shelves and ready to ship — at press time it was only available from resellers for $280 and up.
Nintendo NES Classic Edition ($60)
Gradius, Ice Climber, Tecmo Bowl (all included)
What You Lose
If someone's expecting a full-fledged gaming console as a gift, and this quirky little character shows up instead, the NES Classic will be received like an 8-bit lump of coal. This isn't a replacement for an Xbox or PlayStation, and doesn't have the video streaming or Blu-ray-playing media capabilities of those systems.
What's In It For Parents
For gamers of a certain age, NES games will always seduce. You might giggle at this system's nostalgia, and expect to only break out the controllers during parties for campy thrills, but their combination of simple game mechanics and punishing degrees of difficulty (not to mention lack of saves or checkpoints) can suck you into retro titles for hours. From the physical curb appeal of the hardware to the smart display features, like an optional CRT filter that replicates the fuzz and scan lines of pre-flatscreen TVs, this immaculately designed little system is a reminder that the obsessive quest for high scores pre-dates smartphone games by decades.
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