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Every Nintendo Classic Mini Game RANKED

By sheer luck, I happened upon a Nintendo Classic Mini and bought it. Remember that thing? I own one now, at a reasonable price. What I was most surprised about is that my unit was never used. Everything, from the foil inside to the twist ties, was still intact. Y'all really wrote bot scripts to corner a market, just to dump it a few years later. I have a lot of thoughts about that.

Anyway, I went through every game and played them for a while, so I thought it would be a fun exercise to rank every one into the purest, most objective list I can muster. Some games I played for ten minutes, mostly because I already owned them, played them and, in some cases, beat them. A few have already taken an hour or more from me, whether they're compelling or that's just their pace and you need to invest time to get anywhere. Time spent isn't necessarily an indication of its merit. That said, a lot of these are separated by a hair.

This list will be inverted, meaning 1 will be the lowest point and 30 will be the cream of the crop, the top dog, the royal cheese.

That's a lot of start screens
That's a lot of start screens

I tried to give descriptions for my reasoning, but the Giant Bomb editor really doesn't fuck with phones. I lost a lot of hours of writing, so just imagine that I have valid reasons. Maybe I'll add them in post later. [UPDATE: 7 hours later, we did it, baby :)]

List items

  • Look, I like Double Dragon. I've played a lot of Double Dragon, both in arcades and at home. Yet, this does nothing for me. It's the most obvious example of something that got put on here, only because the license cost was justifiable.

  • Some are diehard Galaga fans. I am not one of those. It has very distinct, specific rules on how to do well, but I never remember what they are, so I always get smoked. Is it unique? Sure. It is, however, much more an arcade classic than a console one. I liked it better when it was a loading screen distraction.

  • Another example of "why this one and not that one." I would've preferred the classic. Extra minus points for not being faithful to the European release, which swaps sprites with mechs and is called Probotector. I guess asking for a style swap was too much to ask.

  • What an amazing and confusing addition. I would never play this otherwise, but I also know nothing about American rugby. Even with the online manuals, I still have no idea what the chaos unfolding on the screen means. Interesting as an archival oddity only.

  • Ice Climber needs some polish off its tarnished rep. This very early game explores the platform genre before its time. It's just that its deliberate nature doesn't pair with its insistence on fucking with your movement any chance it gets. Weirdly enough, the jumping design will pop off 30 years later on phones.

  • It's taken me a long time to realize Dr. Mario isn't very good. Or, rather, I appreciate it more on Gameboy than on a dedicated screen. It takes a long time for this one to get interesting, but that Fever track whips.

  • Again, I really appreciate the things Kid Icarus does well. There's some shoot em up in there, the scrolling screen is a neat idea. It also has immediately obtuse design and only one, rapidly declining, life to get things done.

  • Punch-out is a fine sports game, but putting the uppercut on Start should be a crime. You also need specific knowledge to beat opponents. I understand why it isn't, but this should've been the Mike Tyson version.

  • Are we ready yet to admit Mega Man isn't as good as its reputation? Not yet? Ok. Well, unless you consult a guide, you likely won't progress through any stage. There is a lot of game, however. You could definitely play a lot of this.

  • While this is one hell of an atmospheric game, I do own several copies of Simon's Quest, meaning many people were willing to part with it. That can't be a good sign. It has a death pit in the opening town. Yes, I fell in it. What kind of sadist would design something like that? It doesn't improve much from there.

  • The oldest of the bunch and it shows. The rudimentary racer only has a few elements. You hop hills and manage your engine temperature. Simple and clean. It's fun to hop hills, I just wish there was more of it.

  • The Nintendo Classic Mini lets you sort by release date, which is how I initially went through the list. Unbelievably, this is the newest game. In 1993, a year into the SNES, Nintendo decided to put Pac-man on its old console. That's kinda impressive, in a way.

  • You HAVE to have the granddaddy of them all on here. Nintendo is obligated to release this in some form every two years. The first of the trilogy is also the least remarkable, but you can't skip the gold standard.

  • StarTropics wants to be Zelda so bad that it's funny. Its later release date does benefit its visuals, as some of these faces are wild to look at. I could've done without the jumping puzzles, but it had to be different from Zelda somehow. Borderline shameless; brazen, audacious.

  • Dripping with style, this game looks and feels badass. The difficulty hasn't aged well, nor has the weird, creepy-crawly jumping movement. That swagger carries it a lot, still. As a period piece, this displays the naissance of the attitude era.

  • Another rock solid arcade game. Donkey Kong is a good time, wherever you can get and chances are you got it on NES. You always know what to do and you slowly get less bad at doing it. Those springs are assholes, though.

  • It's like a better StarTropics.

  • I own a bunch of Castlevanias, but I never played them a lot. Going back to this, I can see why. The fixed jumps and huge knockback are not exactly inviting you to play. The horror theme and open map design, however, are iconic features that have carried over through time.

  • If you have to add a shoot em up to this collection, I think Gradius is the perfect choice. Its powers are easily parsable for newbies, while still retaining the grueling challenge from the genre. You could totally invest time in this and one day become the first person not to suck at these.

  • I think Metroid has aged a lot. Still, the open map design isn't only historical; it's one of the best implementations of what it means to be an adventure game. You're just going around the world, scrolling through screens, trying to figure it out. Every new piece of information is just a blast door away. They nailed it on that part.

  • This is going to be the most contentious entry, but that's because you're all cowards. Ghost 'n Goblins rips! It doesn't give a fuck about you or your well-being. This game is more Dark Souls than Dark Souls. Every time I fire up the machine, I do a ten minute run to see how far I can get. I'm still on the first stage. A killer challenge with a killer soundtrack. Misanthropy pure.

  • The one that started it all. I don't remember this game being this fucking hard? The first imps wiped my party twice. I've played three hours and I still got nowhere. I did, still, play three hours and I'm going back for more. If you've ever played a roleplaying game, chances are that this one made it happen. This is THE roleplaying game.

  • I would've been cool with only Donkey Kong Jr. in the compilation, as it's a similar challenge to the original, but with its foot easing off the throttle a bit. Perfect for a console experience. There's more variation on the screen as well, making it one extremely playable video game.

  • Sequels used to be good. We actually got to see a different take on what a property could be. The second Zelda is the same thing you know, now in a brand new mold. Even if it's a tad esoteric at times, the adventurous spirit has rarely been greater than here.

  • I never knew Kirby was such a late addition to the Nintendo stable. The SNES existed when this was released. That explains why I've never seen a copy in real life. Luckily, that prolonged gestation time shows in this adventure's raw quality. Cutesy and cosy like a warm blanket, you just can't hate Kirby.

  • The Super Mario Bros games were always going to top the list. It's impossible to be contrarian about their quality and impact. The only contention comes from where they rank. The third in the trilogy is the largest scope, but it also treads the most familiar ground. It's the game you know and love and a lot of it, a bunch of different ways.

  • Bubble Bobble is mad underrated. There's just something intoxicating about playing it. Maybe it's the super kawaii visuals. Maybe it's the looping track that burrows in your ears. Or, maybe it's the platform gameplay that is easy to play, but also has a high ceiling on how to get even better. I love spending time here. This game makes me optimistic.

  • Balloon Fight is the game that, when I booted it up, immediately kicked me back to being a six-year old. Although, I owned the Game and Watch version then. Still, the tight gameplay remains the same and the rules of its world are simple: Adapt and survive. It's the original battle royale game, kinda. It hasn't aged a bit since. A damn near perfect mix of risk and reward.

  • The best Mario game. The best decision Nintendo ever made was to be daring in creating a sequel for its flagship title. A divergence from the norm that is, somehow, even more appealing, with new mysterious worlds to explore in new ways. Rediscovering joy you thought you could only feel once in a lifetime; what a home run.

  • Secretly the best Mario game. When I fired this up, I didn't expect to immediately lose almost an hour. That's the magic of Mario Bros. A monolithic screen and steadily ramping pace create the perfect playing field for an endless, ever altering challenge. A good time played alone or with a partner in crime. I will conquer this mountain. I will become Lord of the flies.