Analysis

Nintendo's brilliant play for nostalgic gamers

Brace yourselves, children of the '80s and '90s: The NES Classic Edition is almost here

Brace yourselves, children of the '80s and '90s. Nintendo has a bead on you as surely as you once did on Bowser, and it's less than a month from striking. The agent of its seduction? The NES Classic Edition.

For those who missed the news in July, Nintendo is introducing a throwback system that might as well be a DeLorean programmed to send its first fans back to their childhoods. It looks like the original Nintendo Entertainment System, albeit smaller — it could fit into the palm of your hand. It comes with that familiar, red-buttoned A-B controller (the second has to be bought separately). And it's pre-loaded with 30 games including greatest hits like Metroid, Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and the first three Super Mario Bros. games.

The launch is brilliantly timed, and not just because of the Nov. 11 drop date (heck, the system might as well come pre-gift wrapped). Nintendo — which released its iconic first system in October 1985 — is also poised to capitalize on an audience that has reached its nostalgic prime. The pop culture evidence is everywhere. This year alone we've reunited with the Tanners on Fuller House, seen a big-budget remake of Ghostbusters, and welcomed updates of Lethal Weapon and MacGyver to the fall television line-up. The science fiction series Stranger Things, while a new drama, is set in 1983 and soaked in the cinematic influences from the era.

Then there's the success of Pokémon Go this past summer. Fueled by a reservoir of millennial nostalgia, it turned "into a gaming behemoth in just days," said The New York Times. And Pokémon "appeals to roughly the same generation that grew up playing NES." (Incidentally, the Pokémon franchise is partly owned by Nintendo.)

Generation talk is often squishy. In this case, depending on when you were born in the millennial spectrum, the prospect of defeating Ganon and Mother Brain might make you flex your thumbs in anticipation, or just scratch your head. Pokémon launched in the United States more than a decade after the original Nintendo, in September 1998 — so really, with the Nintendo, we are talking about a bridge product, played by the younger gen Xers and the older millennials.

But oh, how they played. The original Nintendo is credited with reviving and redefining what had been a flagging at-home video game industry. In its first two years more than three million systems were sold. It went on to reign for a decade, inspiring a total of 713 games and selling an estimated 65 million consoles worldwide before being discontinued in 1995. (Its successor, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, had arrived in 1991.)

That's a lot of people who owned those gray-and-black boxes — people who are now between their late 20s and early 40s, ready to indulge in some rose-colored remembrances from their childhood. This same group is also old enough to be established in their careers and equipped with the disposable income to drop on a novelty (price tag: $59.99). That's not to say some buyers won't be serious gamers, but there is sure to be a big swath who can already hear the hypnotic hum of the Mario Bros. music and just want to see if they still have what it takes to rescue Princess Toadstool.

What's more, the cohort raised on Nintendo is now raising children of its own — which means the NES Classic offers a chance for parents not just to tell their kids about how things used to be, but to actually show them (and even have a shot at winning).

For all its retro cred, the NES Classic has been updated in ways that count. Up to four games for every title can be paused and saved. The system plugs into your TV via an HDMI cable. And as Wired reports, the visuals are fantastic.

Amazon, Best Buy, and Target are among the retailers expected to sell the system when the time comes — although in August, when Amazon made it available for pre-order, it sold out within minutes. So before you can do battle at home, you might want to be prepared to do battle at the mall.

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