He promised he’d be back, and he is! Arnold’s back in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which is just one of the many hundreds of games I’m choosing not to write about in response to MichaelBtheGameGenie’s latest Top 3 Tuesday video: Top 3 Games Left Off the NES Classic (which you should totally open in another window and watch to completion, like, and subscribe before coming back). Total Recall, Predator, and Last Action Hero didn’t make the cut either. If you were hoping to see them on the list, sorry you’re disappointed, but I already got your click so you might as well keep reading this 8-bit video response delivered via simple ASCII format.
The NES Classic, for those unaware, is a stand-alone miniature clone of the classic 8-bit system that ships with a built-in selection of software. These titles cover a wide range of genres, and the best part is an almost complete lack of crapware. You get total classics like all three Super Mario Bros. titles, the first two Castlevania games, both NES Zelda titles, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Mega Man 2, Ghosts ‘N Goblins, Excitebike, Donkey Kong, StarTropics, Final Fantasy, Tecmo Bowl, and more. Sixty bucks buys you thirty classic games, and if you don’t think two bucks a pop for these babies is a great deal, then maybe a quick trip to eBay will clear your head. Still, thirty games is a paltry sample of what the NES had available over the course of its illustrious career. Several answers to MichaelB’s question tempted me, but in the end, these were the entries for my personal NES Classic’s ‘Most-Needed DLC’ list.
1) River City Ransom
Licensing shouldn’t have been an issue for this one, considering Nintendo was able to secure the use of the second game in the Double Dragon franchise, and the fact it doesn’t appear on the NES Classic is perhaps the crying shame to end all crying shames. River City Ransom offers up a mixture of side-scrolling beat ’em up and RPG character development you can’t find anywhere else on the system. Two-player simultaneous play makes it ideal for those times when you want to bring a friend to watch your back.
The password system gives it the ultimate in portability, as you can level up a character on your own system and bring him to a friend’s house (though you’ll want to make sure you don’t make any mistakes writing down that ridiculously long code). It’s a perfect example of gameplay trumping everything else, as River City Ransom is so easy to pick up and start, but has so much to offer in terms of playability, music, humor, and secrets. Double Dragon II might have it beat in terms of challenge and seriousness of storyline, but it’s hard to find anything my friends and I laughed longer and harder while playing than Alex and Ryan’s battle to rid their high school of evil gangs in between trips to the mall to pick up the latest in fashionable footwear and food. PROTIP: Smiles are FREE, so don’t forget one with every order.
2) Dragon Warrior IV
RPGs are the least-represented genre on the NES Classic’s list, with Final Fantasy holding the lone torch in the category. While it’s true there are other games that include RPG elements, like Legend of Zelda, StarTropics, and Castlevania II, if you’re looking for a pure 8-bit turn-based combat experience, the NES Classic offers only sobs of wasted potential. Not that there’s anything wrong with Final Fantasy, but if it had been up to me, I’d have been fine losing Galaga or Ice Climber in exchange for another title players would be apt to enjoy for a few months. The obvious choice to compliment Final Fantasy, in my book, is one of the Dragon Quest titles. Since Nintendo is obviously already cool with SquareEnix given the presence of Final Fantasy on the thing, and since this is my list, I figured I might as well pick my favorite of the 8-bit editions.
Dragon Warrior IV stretched the NES hardware to the breaking point. It’s one of the largest games ever made for the system: a quest that spans five chapters, eight protagonists, and a good forty-some hours of your life if you want to see everything on offer isn’t anything to sneeze at. It’s also an expensive title to add to your physical NES library, so getting it for what you could dig out from under my couch cushions is an unbeatable deal. Since it saves via battery, having a version that uses flash memory instead means you can still play it a decade later. If I had left this one off the list, I’d deserve all the names Carl called me the other night for insinuating his back door had seen more action than Anbar Province. Dude gets a lot of packages, that’s all I’m sayin’.
3) The Guardian Legend
We’ve got the RPGs covered, we’ve got the beat ’em ups covered, time to compliment Metroid with my second-favorite female protagonist in a sci-fi adventure: give it up, ladies and gentlemen, for that ship-transforming, alien-blasting, blue- and red-lander-rescuing spaceship/adventuress hybrid, Guardian! Described in the Japanese version as one of Earth’s mightiest women, Guardian’s the one you call when you need both Samus Aran and her spaceship in one convenient, transformable package. Sporting an arsenal shaming any other three 8-bit heroes you care to name, Guardian’s a one-woman army sent to Luke Skywalker the heck out of Naju, a planet-sized space station infested with aliens who understood how to cover a thermal exhaust port.
That Guardian Legend doesn’t appear on the NES Classic doesn’t surprise me since nobody has the first clue who actually owns the game. Japanese developer Compile closed up shop in 2001, Japanese publisher Irem now exclusively makes pachinko and slot machines, and US publisher Brøderbund was acquired by The Learning Company, which was then purchased by Mattel, then subsequently delivered to an asset liquidation firm to salvage some of the $3.6 billion Mattel didn’t realize they had just spent on a company that produced edutainment titles. While UbiSoft wound up with many of The Learning Company’s properties, a sizable portion went to an Irish company called Riverdeep, who then bought out the US publisher Houghton Mifflin and merged the two entities together to create the Megazord-esque Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Learning Technology. The end result of all this dealing is that nobody’s willing to pay the requisite team of lawyers to dig through the paper trail to find out who actually owns what, leaving every property not currently published by UbiSoft or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt floundering about in copyright hell. But this is my fantasy, darn it, and in my dream world, The Guardian Legend flies proudly once again on the NES Classic!
Well, you heard my choices. Now get your scrawny butt over to MichaelB’s channel and leave him a comment explaining just how terrible this article was, and how you could totally write a better one if you really wanted to, but you just don’t have it in your heart to humiliate me by showing off your double-secret magenta belt in Grammar-Kwon-Do. After you’ve done that, tell him what your selections would be. Maybe he’ll laugh so hard he’ll spend next Tuesday asking about Top 3 Hernia Cures. Make me proud, internet!