Tag Archives: NES

My Bottom 16 NES Games

Last week I made a list of my Top 30 NES games, after the NES Classic was announced. Thirty is a big list for a single console, it’s 2/3 of the NES games I’ve played. So I thought it would be interesting to look at the 16 games that didn’t make the cut. A number of these games are of superior quality to the games I put on my top 30, so why did they get left out?

The Addams Family – The biggest strike against this game is that I barely remember it. I rented it one time and couldn’t tell you much about it. I think there was an owl at one point? /shrug

The Adventure of Link – My entire recollection of Zelda 2 consists of this boss (mini-boss? I don’t know). I borrowed the game from a friend and I could not beat this thing. I actually think the game looks pretty cool, but I can’t really put it on a top list if I only remember 5 seconds of it, can I?

Zelda 2

Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers 2 – Not much different than the first entry, but a whole lot more expensive.

Contra – I dislike it because I’m bad at it.

Deja Vu – Just say no to point and click adventure games with an NES controller. Besides problems with the controls making everything terribly slow, the puzzles are extremely obtuse.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid – I shoot bubbles with my tail? No, do not like.

Donkey Kong – I suppose it’s a classic, but it’s a little on the dull side.

Double Dare – Only played this very briefly. The controls are terrible.

Duck Tales – That fucking pogo stick.

Home Alone – Repetitive and offensive to my eyes and ears.

Pac-Man – Another classic, but better on arcade.

Prince of Persia – The controls are rage inducing. The 60 minute time limit is inexplicable.

River City Ransom – I like RPGs, I like beat’em ups, but this combination of both did nothing for me.

Sesame Street ABC – I played this while sleeping over at a friend’s house when I was really young. The first word it spelled was BUT. Not knowing the difference between BUT and BUTT, I found this hilarious. (No, that doesn’t explain why it wasn’t included on the list).

Where’s Waldo? – I loved Waldo books, but the graphics on this game were too terrible to find anything. Plus it has what, 6 puzzles?

Yoshi – Not a bad game, I just forgot it existed until Murf pointed it out.

 

Gun-Nac

This is for day 21 of Blaugust.

Time for another retro gaming review for day 21 of Blaugust. I played Gun-Nac for the NES for the first time and found it’s an amazing shoot’em up.

Adventures in the Magic Kingdom

This is my 12th post for Blaugust.

Time for another retro gaming review for day 12 of Blaugust (and just under the wire). I reviewed a game I played a lot as a kid, Adventures in the Magic Kingdom on NES.

Travels in the Mushroom World (Part 1)

After replaying Super Mario 3 for the first time in many years recently and finding out my skills had lapsed, I am determined to improve. I will beat this game, without skipping worlds, and hopefully with as few continues as possible. Here is my story.

World 1 – Starting a new game. Alone. It’s starts well. The sky is sunny, the grass is green. I travel through the world with only one death. Grass Land is no match for me.

World 2 – I make the trek through Desert Hill’s vast sandy environments without much incident. The Angry Sun cannot catch me and I’m too quick for the quicksand. I only have only one death in the cold, sunless fortress then breeze through the rest of the world. The dry heat agrees with me. Perhaps things are turning around? My skills are returning.

Super Mario 3 Boss Bass

World 3 – Hubris! The first two worlds have made me overconfident and I have paid dearly. The sea is a harsh mistress and makes her presence acutely felt. But my true enemy is Boss Bass. The extra lives I earned in the first 2 worlds quickly disappear down a fish’s gullet. I am killed no less than 6 times before I’m able to hobble across the finish line of 3-3. The rest of Sea Side treats me better and though I come close, I’m able to avoid seeing a Game Over screen. But for how long? The little confidence I had built has been shaken, and I have few extra lives left.

World 4 – In the Land of Giants everything is large and imposing, but it’s not these giant objects and enemies that pose the biggest threat. Level 4-2 brings back the trauma of 3-3. The water is rising! The fish are close! They’re smaller now, but faster. Cheep Cheeps. They leap out of the water, intent on attacking me with their cold fish lips and razor teeth. They are often successful. I futilely try to kill them with ice blocks, but even when I score a hit, they always come back. There’s a horrifying moment when I mis-time a jump and plunge into the watery depths, into their domain. I thrash about violently, struggling to get back on land. My first leap fails, as does the second. I avoid one by mere inches before I’m finally able to get back up. The level takes its toll and I go into the next with only 2 lives left. I get killed by a Sledge Brother. I fall into a bottomless pit. Game Over.

To be continued…

Shame

I have a confession to make.

This is hard for me to admit.

I am bad at Super Mario Brothers.

As someone who spent a lot of time playing NES 20 years ago this is a very difficult thing to come to terms with.

I didn’t accept it at first. “I never owned an SNES, so I need a few minutes to get used to Super Mario World.” “I haven’t played Super Mario 3 in 20 years, I’ll remember everything in a couple turns.” “The dog made me run into that koopa.” “It’s because I’m playing Luigi. Mario’s better, I want to play Mario.”

Super Mario World

After I had died a number of times without my skills improving much, I got mad. “Holding down a button to run in a platformer, what terrible, stone-age design” or “Is this it? Get a leaf and fly over every level before you find the secret that lets you skip half the game? That’s dumb,” and “How am I supposed to use this blocky controller, it’s terrible.” Also: “Stop watching me play and laughing at me when I die! This is your fault!”

Super Mario 3 death

Then came the questions and self-reflection. Is this it? Am I bad at video games now? Was I ever good at them? Am I a gamer? Has this entire part of my life been a self-aggrandizing delusion? Can I really continue to write about video games with any kind of authority when I’m so fucking terrible?

Super Mario Brother game over screen

I know the last phase of this is supposed to be acceptance, but no. I won’t accept it. I’m going to keep playing, keep practicing, until I’m awesome again. Or at least not completely shitty. I will kick shells into my enemies. I will jump on the heads of koopalings. I will not get killed by anymore Boomerang doucheBros, or  fall to my death. I will master that awful blocky controller.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

A History of Control(lers)

Video game controllers are something I have a lot of strong feelings about. When a game has a multi-console release, I don’t care too much about framerates or 720p vs. 1080p. Exclusive content usually doesn’t sell me on one or the other. But the controller – how comfortable it feels in my hands, and how intuitive playing the game will be – that’s important to me.

So today, I’d like to go through a (completely biased) history and review of all the console controllers that have been a part of my gaming life.

NES (1985)

I remember the good old days. Days when controllers were simple. When ergonomics was a term I had never heard. When I didn’t spend all day in front of a computer with my hands on a keyboard and need to worry about repetitive strain injuries. I was 7, and holding a blocky NES controller was second nature to me.

NES controller

Looking back, it’s not a pretty controller. And it’s definitely not a comfortable controller to hold. But it did its job for me at the time, and having only 2 buttons was good enough for the games of that era. Of course, I’m not 7 anymore and my hands are no longer child-sized. Games have also become much more complex. Luckily, controllers evolved.

Sega Genesis (1988)

The Sega Genesis was released in North America three years after the NES and it introduced a much nicer controller.

With the jump to a 16-bit CPU, Sega introduced a controller with a third button. Though the positioning of the buttons was a bit odd, the extra button was nice (and a few years later they introduced a 6-button version). The D-Pad allowed you to push in 8 directions. The shape of the controller was a huge improvement and much more comfortable to hold.

SNES (1991)

Nintendo entered the 16-bit era with the SNES.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System controller

The biggest improvement over the NES controller was the introduction of more buttons. X and Y were added and the diagonal placement of the buttons really worked and became a mainstay for most future controllers. Left and right shoulder buttons were also introduced, bringing the button count up to six. The D-Pad remained pretty much the same and though they added some curves, the way you held the controller didn’t change much.

Playstation (1995)

Sony entered the console wars with the 32-bit PlayStation.

Original PlayStation controller

This is console the one that spawned my love of RPGs. It’s also the one that added the phrase “No, I don’t want to come outside, I’m playing video games” to my daily vocabulary. The PS controller was an absolute joy to use after so many years of Nintendo bricks. PS added another pair of shoulder buttons (L2/R2), but other than that the button configuration was pretty much the same as the SNES. The the four face buttons were labelled with shapes/colours, likely so they weren’t directly ripping off Nintendo. The grip handles were the big selling feature for me, and (thankfully) soon every major console controller would have them.

N64 (1996)

Nintendo, not to be outdone by Sony, released the 64-bit N64 a year later. It was a more powerful machine but still relied on expensive, limited-capacity cartridges rather than moving to CD-ROMs. In terms of sales, the N64 was hugely outperformed by the PlayStation.

Nintendo 64 controller

Here is where the slow descent into madness starts. The N64 controller was odd in that there were a couple different ways you could grip it. It could be held in the traditional way, with the left and right grips – meaning you had to use the D-Pad, and would not be able to reach the analog stick or the trigger (Z-button) underneath. Well, actually you could reach those, but it wasn’t comfortable. I don’t even want to tell you how I held this controller for my first few months of playing Goldeneye. The other option was to hold the center grip and right grip – this way you could use the analog stick and trigger, but couldn’t use the D-Pad or left shoulder button. Not being able to easily reach every button on a controller was a very strange design decision. Nintendo also recreated the wheel by dropping the X and Y buttons and replacing them with 4 smaller C-buttons.

In 1997 the Rumble Pak was released, making the N64 controller the first one that could vibrate in response to in-game events. The Rumble Pak was a separate peripheral that got plugged into the memory slot on the controller.

PlayStation DualShock (1998)

It didn’t come with a new console, but Sony released an even better PS controller a couple of years later.

Playstation Dual Shock controller

In 1998, the DualShock controller was released for the PlayStation, which added a number of new features. Most obvious were the two analog sticks, which gave gamers a choice between the D-Pad or the stick for movement, and opened up the door for camera control using the right stick. You could also press the analog sticks down, giving two more buttons to play with (L3/R3). Sony one-upped Nintendo’s Rumble Pak by adding internal vibration motors. The DualShock’s rumblings were far superior to the Rumble Pak’s loud and jarring gyrations.

PlayStation 2 (2000)

Oh PS2, how I loved you. What a great console with an amazing library of games. And that backwards compatibility… It’s the best-selling console of all time for a reason.

PlayStation 2 - DualShock 2 controller

Functionally and aesthetically, the DualShock 2 was not much different from the DualShock 1. Kudos to Sony for not messing with a good thing.

XBox (2001)

In 2001 Microsoft began their journey into the console market with the XBox.
Microsoft XBox controller
The original XBox controller was a hulking beast. I don’t even think that people with large hands liked it much, as even though it had a huge surface area, the buttons were inexplicably squished together. For me, Microsoft’s best design choice was swapping the positions of the D-Pad and left stick, which made everything feel much more balanced. The XBox controller had nice solid feeling trigger buttons, and also added two small black and white buttons (which I honestly can’t even remember a use for).

Nintendo GameCube (2001)

After the N64, which had some great games but lackluster sales, Nintendo released the GameCube, hoping to turn things around. Unfortunately, the sales were still dwarfed by the PS2.

Nintendo GameCube controller

The GameCube controller was quite different from the N64’s. They got rid of the middle grip, which was good. However, they also completely reconfigured the buttons again. Now we were back to 4 buttons (A, B, X, Y) on the controller face, which had 3 different shapes. There was a left and right Trigger, and the Z-button got moved above the right Trigger and changed into a shoulder button. There was no corresponding shoulder button on the left side. Like the XBox, the GameCube controller put the left stick above the D-Pad. I think the GameCube controller is funny looking, but it’s actually my favourite offering from Nintendo.

XBox Controller S (2002)

The next year Microsoft released a more reasonably sized controller for the Xbox, which became the standard.

Microsoft XBox controller

The A, B, X, Y buttons were moved into more standard positions with better spacing, though Start and Back got moved got moved to the left side because giant logo placement is clearly most important. It wasn’t quite there yet, but Microsoft was well on its way to creating a very good thing.

XBox 360 (2005)

Microsoft got a head start on the 7th console generation by releasing the 360 a scant four years after the original XBox.

XBox 360 wireless controller

And here it is. The XBox 360 wireless controller – the pinnacle of gamepad design. I love everything about this controller – the shape, the weight of it in my hands, the perfect placement of every button, trigger and stick in relation to my fingers. It’s sleek and smooth, the black and white buttons from the original XBox controller were removed and replaced with left and right bumpers. The center Guide button was added to turn the console or controllers on and off, or access the 360’s menu. If I could use this controller on every console I’d be a happy girl.

Of course, the problem the best controller being released in 2005 is that the future designs just feel inferior (some more than others).

 PlayStation 3 (2006)

Sony came out with two controller for the PS3 – the Sixaxis and the DualShock 3. However, they’re almost identical so I’ll address them both at once.

Sony PS3 Sixaxis control

Sony seemed to like the design of the DualShock, so the appearance of PS3’s DualShock 3 and Sixaxis controllers was very similar. The Analog button was removed, and a PS button (which functioned much like the 360’s Guide button) added. These controllers also used motion sensing technology to experiment with motion controls. Heavy Rain was the only game I played on the PS3 that used this (actually, it was the only game I ever finished on the PS3, period) and the motion controls weren’t as obnoxious as I expected.

Wii (2006)

The Wii was the last of the 7th generation of consoles, and with its release came the realization that I was definitely not Nintendo’s target audience anymore.

Nintendo Wiimote and nunchuk

Nintendo went off the motion control deep end with the Wii Remote. The Wii Remote is long and skinny, designed to be used with one hand and pointed at the motion sensor. The labelling of the buttons was completely changed – again. Now there was a 1 and 2 where A and B would usually be. A was now a big button near the D-Pad, while B was a trigger on the underside of the remote. Start and Select were now + and -. Some games used the Wii Remote on its own, while others added the nunchuck which gave players an analog stick for movement and a C trigger button. I guess using completely awkward controls and flailing around could be fun if you’re: a) a child, b) playing Wii Sports with a group of people, c) drunk, but otherwise these controllers are total bullshit.

Wiimote horizontal grip

Some games let you hold the Wii Remote horizontally… I have nothing nice to say about this.

Wii Classic Controller

If you hated the Wii Remote, Nintendo also sold the Classic Controller (along with about 90 other accessories). With the exception of the analog sticks, the Classic Controller has a very similar design and shape as an SNES controller. Because of all the controllers you could replicate, why not copy the one released in 1991? Attach the cord to the bottom instead of the top just to show what a special snowflake you are as well.

Wii U (2012)

The Wii U was marketed terribly, and sold accordingly (though it seems to be improving now). As someone who pretty much stopped paying attention to Nintendo after the Wii, I was under the impression that the Wii U Gamepad was the new system, rather than the controller for a long time. Sigh. Nintendo, why don’t you want me to love you? (I could probably write a whole post on this).

Wii U gamepad

The Wii U Gamepad is huge. Like a handheld console, except even bigger. The thing that drives me crazy about many Nintendo controllers (well, one of the things) is that no matter how big the device gets – whether it’s the Wii U Gamepad or the 3DS XL – the controls stay child-sized. The D-Pad is small, the buttons are tiny and close together. My hands aren’t even large, but I pick up a DS and think “wow, this definitely was not designed to be held by me”.

The one cool thing about the Gamepad is that you can use it like a handheld and play in bed or something while the console is in the other room (you do have to get up to put the disc in though). However, playing with this monstrosity when you’re sitting in front of the TV the Wii U is connected to is so completely unappealing. It just isn’t at all comfortable to hold. The touchpad is used to as a 2nd screen to supplement gameplay in a lot of games. That can include things like displaying the track map in Mario Kart 8 (a feature which does not offend me), or having to blow into the microphone or rub the screen to reveal secrets in Super Mario 3D World (a feature which is fucking obnoxious).

Wii U Pro Controller

Thank goodness Nintendo had the sense to release a proper controller for the Wii U, because if I had to use the Gamepad or a Wiimote I would never touch the thing (which would be a shame, because Mario and Donkey Kong are fun). The Pro Controller looks like a rip-off of the 360 controller. I don’t know how Microsoft feels about this, but I think this was an excellent design decision. For some reason they’ve swapped the positions of the right stick and A/B/X/Y buttons, which makes this controller more awkward than it needs to be, but it’s still 100x better than the other options for the Wii U.

PlayStation 4 (2013)

The PlayStation 4 is currently the most powerful console. Apparently, with great power comes great responsibility… and the need to “improve” on an already very good controller.

PlayStation 4 DualShock 4

The DualShock 4 is pretty similar to the DualShock 3, but made a few changes. The grips are wider apart and the Start/Select (now Options and Share) have been moved to the top in order to make room for an gratuitously large touch pad. In games like Tomb Raider and Murdered: Soul Suspect, the touch pad is used open the game menu or map which is okay by me, even though it’s too big for this to be the main function. However, a game like Infamous: Second Son makes you swipe the touchpad to perform certain actions, which feels totally unnecessary. They also added a large light bar along the top edge of the controller. Apparently it’s used for player identification, though the light will often change colours based on things happening in the games. Generally the bar glows a really bright blue, so if you’re playing in the dark don’t tip the controller up if you don’t want to be blinded.

The speaker added to the controller is kind of cool, and the motion sense is still there, but has been used sparingly in most games I’ve played.

XBox One (2013)

The XBox One is the most recent major console release.

XBox One controllerMost of the development for this controller was focused on refinement, while the design was left relatively the same. The textures of the analog sticks have changed and gotten a little smaller. The Start and Back buttons were relabeled. The biggest improvements are on the bumpers and triggers – they feel really nice, solid, and responsive now. The Guide button now glows white instead of a muted green. I’m not sure what it is about the latest generation and making the controllers glow so brightly – isn’t the glow from the tv enough? I don’t find the XBox One controller quite as comfortable to hold as the 360’s, but it’s pretty close.

Top 5

Here’s the TLDR version of what I’d rate the best major console controllers from 1985 onwards.

  1. XBox 360
  2. PS DualShock 2
  3. XBox One
  4. Nintendo GameCube
  5. PS DualShock 4

And the worst? Pretty much everything else from Nintendo, with the Wii Remote taking home the award of “controller I’d most like to throw in a fire.”

What do you think? What are the best and worst console controllers?