Get depressed: The NES came out almost 30 years ago. Or over 30 years ago, if you are Japan. That’s old. Thirty years before the NES came out, Eisenhower was president and rock’n’roll was an infant and videogames didn’t even exist. If, like me, you owned an NES when you were a kid, we should probably stop talking about videogames on the internet and go spend some quality time with our grandkids right now. Because life is short and we are ancient.
When I was still young and an NES man I would occasionally wonder why some of my favorite games didn’t exist for my gaming system of choice. From arcade classics I’d pop quarters into at the bowling alley, to Atari or Sega games that never got an NES version, there were a bunch of games I wanted to play in the comfort of my own home but could not. It’s been almost 30 years but there are still new games coming out today that I wish I could’ve played with my friends on the NES back in the 80s. Here are ten games that would’ve been welcome additions to my NES collection, if only Nintendo ports existed at the time, and if only it was possible to reverse engineer games from today into the Game Paks of yesteryear.
1. Yie Ar Kung Fu
Konami’s classic arcade fighting game appeared in drastically different form on the Famicom in Japan, but it was never released in the States for the NES. Although simplistic compared to fighting games that followed, Yie Ar Kung Fu was an arcade favorite in the mid 80s, and today its lack of combos and basic two-button system give it an austere appeal that transcends mere nostalgia.
2. Robotron 2084
There were a lot of home versions of Robotron in the 80s, but none of them really worked because dual joystick controllers didn’t really exist. An NES version would’ve met the same fate, but at the age of ten I would’ve gladly accepted even a subpar version of Robotron in my home. It would take over a decade for Sony to introduce the DualShock controller, which finally made twin-stick shooters viable for home consumption.
Let’s talk about the Sega problem. The Sega Master System competed directly with the NES, meaning most of Sega’s arcade hits weren’t officially released for Nintendo’s system. There were weird unlicensed ports and foreign versions of some of Sega’s biggest games, but if you wanted to play them without a lot of hassle you pretty much needed a Sega Master System. But nobody needed a Sega Master System, though, unless they wanted to alienate their friends. Zaxxon, one of Sega’s earlier arcade smashes, had home versions on a variety of platforms, but few of those systems had the power to truly recreate the isometric experience of the original. The NES could’ve done that. It would’ve been fun, and totally isometric. But Sega had their Master System, so the world was denied the NES version of Zaxxon it deserved.
Reread what I just wrote about Zaxxon. I only know of the anime-based Zillion because it was a fixture in the Sega Master System demo station at the Lechmere in Sarasota, Florida. It felt like Sega’s version of Metroid, a creepy sci-fi story where you had to find new power-ups to unlock old doors and continually expand the game’s exploratory turf. I don’t remember much about Zillion, but I remember how much I wanted to take it home and play it in full, along with the free cassingles Lechmere gave away during its opening month.
5. Mario Kart
Super Mario Kart couldn’t have existed on the NES, at least not in the way it did on the SNES in 1992. That first-person, split-screen, Mode 7 biz was technologically beyond what an NES could churn out. Still, Nintendo was still making NES games in 1992, and the basic idea of a racing game starring Mario characters would’ve cheated tons of kids out of their allowance money at least as far back as 1988. Just take R.C. Pro-Am and slap some Mario heads on it. Boom, instant best-seller. Kids don’t ask for much. Instead we had to wait until Nintendo could do the idea right with a pricy new piece of hardware.
On the next page, we look at five modern day games that would’ve been great on the Nintendo in the late 80s.