A dentist named Eric Naierman sunk a cool $1.02 million on some first-edition, sticker-sealed games in September, the Washington Post reported today. It was one of the biggest-money sales in gaming history.
Naierman picked up about 40 factory-sealed Nintendo games in the million-dollar haul, all of which were assembled by three collectors who took 52 combined years to amass them. In addition to the large size of the purchase, many of the games are believed to be the only copies in existence, or one of a few copies. The games included 1986’s Mario Bros. arcade versionand the only known copies of 1985’s Golf, 1986’s Balloon Fight and 1986’s Gumshoe. According to the Post, “some experts consider it to be one of the foremost collections in the world, both in terms of overall value and rarity.”
Naierman used to collect baseball cards, writes the Post, which added, “It took far too much money, he said, to buy a single card, and he was looking to form a collection that could rank as one of the best in the world.” Naierman made the purchase with the help of a collector group that, in a creative twist, calls themselves the Video Game Club.
Kotaku has previously reported on how deep-pocketed collectors are fueling a retro games gold rush. You can read the full Washington Post story here. Meanwhile, I’m going to be pretty skeptical the next time my dentist says it’s time for some pricey procedure…
[Update—1:45 ET]: Kotaku has updated the story to reflect that the sellers took a combined 52 years to collect the items.
[Correction—2:24 ET]: The Washington Post writer reached out to clarify that the three collectors were not from Denver, as we previously stated. Rather, Naierman went to Denver to see the games graded by a Denver-based company. We’ve updated the article accordingly.
The original Yooka-Laylee attempted to capture the magic of 3D platformers like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64, but instead it felt more like a pale imitation of those great games. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, Playtonic’s 2.5D platformer follow-up, is much more successful at capturing the spirit of its old school inspirations, feeling like a redone classic in its own right while also introducing new concepts to the genre.
This piece was first published on October 3, 2019. We’re bumping it today for the game’s release.
In other words, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a much better Donkey Kong Country than the first Yooka-Laylee was a Banjo-Kazooie. Rolling and jumping and swinging through the whimsical-yet-challenging levels of The ImpossibleLair massages my nostalgia glands in such a way that they are fooled into feeling like I’m playing a beloved favorite, but also one that’s somehow brand new. It’s the same vibe I get from the recent Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon remasters. I remember playing this game, though I never have and never could have. Weird, right?
It helps that Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair has unique features that set it apart from most old school platforming games. For one, the game’s final level is accessible from the very start. The evil Capital B has set up shop at the end of an incredibly brutal platforming challenge filled with flames and spikes and enemies. One might say his lair is impossible, but there is hope. Yooka the chameleon and his bat sidekick must travel the Bee Kingdom, rescuing 48 members of the queen’s Beettalion. Each rescued bee is an extra hit the duo can take in Capital B’s lair. The lair can be challenged at any time.
Theoretically, a player with enough skill could win the game without ever stepping foot in another level to rescue a bee. I am not that player. I’m going to need all the help I get, so I’ve been scouring the overland to open up new levels and collect new bees.
Only half the game is a 2.5D platformer. The overworld is positioned from an overhead perspective and is its own adventure. Rather than moving along a set path from level to level, Yooka and Laylee can scour this 3D world for secrets and items, uncovering new paths, solving puzzles, and occasionally paying off that wily snake, Trowzer, to open up new areas.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair also gives players the ability to manipulate levels in the overworld, transforming them into different versions of themselves. By hitting a switch, Yooka and Laylee can divert water into one of the storybook levels, creating a flooded version with a completely new layout, including new collectibles and a new bee to rescue.
The video below shows the same level two ways. First I run through it in its original form. Then I grab an ice berry from a nearby bush and toss it onto the puddle of water the level’s storybook is sitting in, transforming it into an ice-filled wonderland.
The levels are challenging, but the game is also very forgiving. Should a player die five times in a section of any level (excluding the Impossible Lair), the game allows them to hold down a button and teleport to the next checkpoint, skipping the tough bits. Considering the amount of spikes and hazards scattered about the levels I’ve played through so far, I could see my kids making use of the skip feature so they can enjoy the cute visuals and charming music without the frustration of endless death. What more could a parent ask for?
One of my sons got hooked on the original 3D Yooka-Laylee. Sometimes he’d hand me the controller and ask me to help, and I’d wander about the bright and happy world without a clue of where I was supposed to go or what I had to do. He’d get antsy, I’d get snappy. It wasn’t a good scene. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible door has all the appeal of the first game but it’s more straightforward, more compelling, and most importantly, feels less like a homage and more like its own game. I can’t wait for him to play.
Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.
Towering over the Taito booth at this year’s Tokyo Game Show is an enormous Space Invaders cabinet. Just look. It’s huge!
The cabinet isn’t open for demos. I asked a representative at the booth if it’s possible to play the cabinet, and he told me that while it’s not open for demos because its height and size could be unsafe, the cabinet is operational.
Taito took a regular-sized arcade cabinet and made it bigger. It looks to be around 20 feet high. The wooden housing is handmade, so pulling this off was done at great expense, said the representative.
After years of wishing and hoping, Nintendo finally added a selection of Super Nintendo games to its Switch online service. Which of the 20 classics should you play first? We had Kotaku’s resident old men, Chris Kohler and Mike Fahey, Statler and Waldorf together a ranked list.
20. Super Soccer
Chris Kohler: I played this for a minute.
Mike Fahey: Same. I played for a minute, got two fouls, felt very American.
Chris: The opposing team got the ball, started running it toward my goal, and I realized all too late that I had no idea what buttons did what.
Fahey: Which is exactly how real soccer works.
19. Super Tennis
Fahey: I do understand tennis. This is definitely tennis.
Chris: Yes. This one I got the ball over the net a couple times.
Fahey: I appreciate the use of Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 graphics to turn the court around once per match.
Chris: That’s a model of restraint.
18. Brawl Brothers
Chris: There are a lot of great side-scrolling beat-em-ups on the SNES. This is not one of them.
Fahey: It reminded me of several good ones, so much so that I had it higher in my list. Then I played it again.
Chris: It’s not much to look at, the controls are stiff… it doesn’t have the personality of a Final Fight. Where’s Final Fight? Oh, it’s on the Capcom Beat-Em-Up Bundle. Where’s Final Fight 2, then?
Fahey: In the hearts of little children everywhere.
17. Super E.D.F. Earth Defense Force
Fahey: Talk about a misleading title.
Chris: Yeah, if you were thinking this was going to be about killing giant ants, I have bad news.
Fahey: That a game could make me feel bad about a lack of spiders is an amazing feat.
Chris: It is a competent side-scrolling shooter. Again, though, not much personality.
Fahey: We’ll get to good games soon, I swear.
Chris: We’re there now!
Fahey: This is certainly a game that people love a great deal. I still love its look, if not its feel.
Chris: Yeah, F-Zero never really grabbed me. Not sure why.
Fahey: I liked the Gamecube version much better. Until the virtual console gets Gamecube games, we have this.
15. Joe & Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics
Fahey: Here is a game I did not remember enjoying, but I’m having fun with it now. Maybe I’m growing up?
Chris: Maybe you appreciate the slow-paced leisurely island lifestyle more now that you’re a parent.
While the original was a straightforward port of the arcade game, this is a console exclusive with more adventurey elements. It’s fun although it’s not quite as exciting as the first one.
Fahey: Or dinosaurs. My kids love those dinosaurs. Either I am older and more mature or I am projecting. Either way, mildly better than those other four.
14. Stunt Race FX
Chris: I had never played this back in the day but I’m fascinated with how they pulled off a polygonal racer on the SNES.
Fahey: It was too slow for me back when it came out, and I was too shallow to appreciate the technical achievement. Now I gawk at it in wonder.
Chris: It has charm. The cars have eyes.
Fahey: Proper headlight eyes, none of this Pixar windshield eyes BS.
Chris: 10 FPS means you have time to appreciate each frame as it goes by.
13. Star Fox
Fahey: Is this the one with the furries?
Chris: ‘Tis. And I think again the personality of the characters and the design helps smooth over the fact that as an early polygonal game, it’s pretty choppy.
Fahey: I do love the characters. And I remember being blown away by what the Super FX chip could do. They basically installed an extra GPU inside the game cartridge. That’s amazing.
12. Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
Chris: They keep re-releasing this and I keep playing the first minute of it only to realize the only way I’m going to get past the first minute is to make mastering this game a second career.
Fahey: I just choked on a delicious beverage. This is another game that was much higher on my list until I played it. Still love the look and the terrain morphing.
Chris: Yeah, the music, the graphics, the tech is all so beautiful! It is an appealing game. And then everything about it is designed to murder you relentlessly. I’m too old for this.
Fahey: It will always be the fastest I’ve ever gotten naked. Can’t take that away.
Fahey: You’d think there’d be more non-sim games about casually flying. Aren’t we humans always dreaming about this stuff?
Chris: It’s just this side of being a glorified $60 tech demo for the SNES’ sprite rotating and scaling ability, and yet it’s still super fun. You’re right, the “casual flight” genre is not particularly robust.
Fahey: I am surprised we aren’t playing the latest Pilotwings game on our Switches right now. This will have to do.
10. Kirby’s Dream Land 3
Chris: I forgot to play this. This is good, right?
Fahey: As a fan of everything Kirby, it is indeed good. It’s still too early a game for Kirby to transform into different forms based on which powers he’s using, but the mechanics are all present and accounted for.
Chris: OK. I assumed.
Fahey: KIRBY FOR LIFE!
9. Demon’s Crest
Fahey: Look at us in the single digits, and with a Ghouls ‘n Ghosts spin-off no less.
Chris: It’s all the beautiful animation, art design, music, etc. from Ghouls ‘n Ghosts except you actually have a life bar and mobility and half a chance of winning. This is a very good action game with RPG elements.
Fahey: I remember peeing a little when the dragon peeked through the bars during the game’s opening sequence. In my defense, I was just a young boy of *checks release date* err, 21. Maybe I was drunk.
8. Super Puyo Puyo 2
Chris: It’s Puyo Puyo, which is a good thing.
Fahey: What I love most about Super Puyo Puyo, aside from its Puyo Puyo-ness, is it opens with an anti-AIDS message.
Chris: I saw that! That’s awesome. This particular edition is well-liked for having four-player support. At this point I’m sure you have four Switch controllers.
Fahey: And some of them work!
7. Breath of Fire
Fahey: It’s no Chrono Trigger. It’s none of the Final Fantasies. If I had to pick a turn-based Super Nintendo role-playing game that was not either of those, this would easily be fourth or fifth on my list.
Chris: And yet, where are the Chrono Triggers and Final Fantasies? Certainly not here. So it falls to plucky Breath of Fire to fill the void. I mean, it’s pretty good though.
Fahey: Oh yes, I will happily take Breath of Fire any day. Hell, it’s time for a new, non-free-to-play mobile sequel. I’m sure Capcom is totally on top of that.
6. Super Mario Kart
Chris: When I read the words “Super Mario Kart,” the soundtrack just starts playing in my head immediately.
Fahey: My trigger fingers starts me a-hopping. It’s like F-Zero for people with taste.
Chris: I wish it had four-player balloon battle mode, but I’ll just have to live without it.
Fahey: One day there will be a Mario Kart game with that mode, Chris. One day.
5. Kirby’s Dream Course
Fahey: Now we are talking. For all of the excellent platformers and free-to-play four-player Switch battle games out there, Kirby as a golf ball is the most charming Kirby of them all.
Chris: Oh man, this is still the best golf game ever. So clever. You know, a prototype of the unreleased pre-Kirby version of this, called Special Tee Shot, was just dumped. Would be cool if Nintendo put the final version of it on this service.
Fahey: Maybe they will include it in the modern version of Kirby’s Dream Course secretly being developed inside my head.
4. Super Mario World
Chris: I remember when this came out on the Wii U and it was like, ah, finally, a game to play on my Wii U.
Switch has a few more games though.
Fahey: A couple, yes.
This one was tough for me. I feel like Yoshi’s Island and Super Mario Land are constantly duking it out inside my head.
Chris: Yeah, this one is still a fantastic Mario game, but in the fullness of time you can see that it’s not quite as ambitious as Yoshi’s Island.
We’re splitting hairs at this point though.
Fahey: And spitting eggs.
3. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Fahey: In the battle between more Mario and something cool and new, cool and new won.
Chris: We’re deep into “masterpiece” territory now. Playing it again, you can see that the art design still looks fantastic. And that music!
Fahey: It’s ageless, like you.
Chris: Yoshi’s Island will be here after we are all gone.
2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past
Chris: I think this is still the best old-school formula Zelda. Prove me wrong.
Fahey: Do I have to?
Fahey: I would go as far as saying that A Link to the Past is my favorite Legend of Zelda game. The modern 3D stuff has its own flavor. I like 2D better.
Chris: You don’t need to qualify this with “Well, you see, at the time this was released…” — it just holds up. You could put this on a cartridge and sell it (although I’ll glady take it as part of a super cheap yearly subscription instead)!
1. Super Metroid
Fahey: The closest thing we had to a huge disagreement on placement in the rankings, solved by ten minutes of playing this legendary game.
Chris: It is the best Metroid. If you’ve played any other Metroid game and thought, oh, this is cool, but you haven’t played this—this is better.
As someone obsessed with handheld gaming consoles, Nintendo’s Switch should have been the ultimate portable system for me. Instead, it actually made me nostalgic for Tiger Electronics’ LCD handhelds; arguably some of the first true portable video game systems. They were cheap, durable, simple, and addictive, and 30 years later I find myself missing that experience.
I don’t have a lot of free time to devout to playing and finishing games these days. I’ll occasionally have a few minutes of boredom I’m looking to kill, but I don’t think I could even load Breath of the Wild in that amount of time. That’s where the cheap LCD games of the late ‘80s and ‘90s excelled. They were bite-size snippets of action with a goal that was rarely more involved than registering a new high score. They required no serious commitment and there were no tutorials to slog through. You could easily hop in into a game in a couple of seconds, enjoy a few minutes of satisfying button mashing, and then quickly stash them away until you needed to feed your gaming addiction again—minus the side effects of losing hours of your life or blowing your budget.
Founded by Arnold, Gerald, and Randy Rissman in 1978, Tiger Electronics got its start making simple electronics like phonographs, but transitioned to interactive toys and LCD-based gaming devices in the early ‘80s. For a while the company’s most notable product was a series of portable game devices based on Universal’s 1976 King Kong remake featuring a knock-off version of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong. It led to a legal dustup between Universal and Nintendo over who owned the rights to giant apes, which Nintendo eventually won, but ultimately decided not to take down Tiger Electronics in the process.
A few years after the Kong controversy blew over, Tiger Electronics settled on a design for a series of electronic handheld games that the company would eventually sell millions of in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. The first games in Tiger’s new lineup, released in 1987, were sports titles like football, skeet shooting, and baseball, which also happened to be the first Tiger handheld I ever owned.
Before Tiger’s new line, portable gaming systems always came with a premium price tag. I can remember drooling over mini tabletop arcades in catalogs, but never actually putting them on my Christmas or birthday wish lists for fear of maxing out what my parents were willing to spend. Even Nintendo’s Game & Watch handhelds were on the pricy side, but in 1987 Tiger Electronics changed that. Its new handhelds featured a gratuitous use of plastic—from the housings, to the buttons, to even the display covers—and simple segmented LCD screens, barely a couple of inches in size, that could only display a limited and crude collection of graphics and animations. If there was such a thing as disposable video games, Tiger’s handhelds came close to being that.
Gameplay was equally basic. Tiger’s Electronic Baseball played more like an enhanced home run derby where the player’s team never actually takes the field. Just two buttons were used to swing at every pitch and then strategically advance your players from base to base—with “strategically” being used very generously here.
But the 10-year-old version of me didn’t care, he absolutely loved this game, bringing it on long road trips and even smuggling it into Sunday school every week. I also didn’t care that Bases Loaded on the NES was a vastly superior experience; Tiger’s version could come with me anywhere, I didn’t have to take turns playing with my siblings, and I didn’t have to wait until my parents were done watching something on TV. Playing it today I rarely get past a couple of innings before losing interest, but the simplicity is exactly why I still keep games like these in easy reach, and keep coming back. They scratch an itch without destroying my productivity.
All the corner cutting also meant that Tiger Electronic’s handhelds were usually around $20 each, easily accommodating the budgets of most 10-year-olds reliant on allowances or birthday money for income. The plastic still feels cheap and my baseball game is covered in scratches and scars from being endlessly dropped and rage-thrown, but it’s one of my few childhood electronic toys that still works fine 30 years later. Tiger had found the perfect balance between price, durability, and addictiveness to hook a generation.
It also helped that the company was almost obsessive about licensing popular properties like movies, video games, and even TV shows. Unlike a console game these handhelds didn’t require months of complicated development. Tiger could churn these games out quickly, and it did just that. Mortal Kombat, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, GI Joe, Captain Planet, Full House, The Little Mermaid—if something was pop culturally relevant in the ‘90s, there’s a good chance there was a Tiger Electronics handheld game made for it.
So why isn’t Tiger Electronics a dominant name in gaming today? The brand is definitely still around, now owned by Hasbro, but the clock started ticking on the company’s cheap and simple approach to handheld gaming on April 21, 1989, when Nintendo’s Game Boy was released. It was more expensive than Tiger’s handhelds, but every game offered unique gameplay, graphics, and sound, and game carts could often be found competitively priced. Tiger eventually released its own cartridge based system in 1997, the Game.com, that included online connectivity and a touchscreen, but the Game Boy Color arrived soon after, and Tiger Electronics simply wasn’t big enough to take on Nintendo any more.
I’m not going to pretend like I still turn to Electronic Baseball for all my gaming needs, the Switch is definitely my goto console now. But despite being portable, I’m hesitant to travel with it for fear of damaging or losing $300 worth of gear. It also doesn’t really provide instant gratification, and more often than not as an adult that’s what I’m looking for. Smartphone games come close to filling that need, but sometimes I just want to mindlessly mash buttons for a couple of minutes, hitting home runs or beating up baddies, without having to worry about killing my phone’s battery, waiting for app updates, or all the other distractions of modern gaming. Tiger Electronics game me exactly that 30 years ago.
Total RecallTotal Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.
When it comes to online play and digital distribution, Nintendo always seem two steps behind its competitors. But things weren’t always like this, at least in Japan.
Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s Nintendo actually brought both the Famicom and Super Famicom (known as the NES and SNES elsewhere) online via powerful console peripherals like the Famicom Modem and the Satellaview. Users could download games, trade stocks, read digital magazines, and more with these bulky add-ons. In fact, every single Nintendo home console released in Japan, from the Famicom to the Switch, has featured some form of online connection.
As the late ‘90s gave way to the new millennium, Nintendo decided it was high time its long-standing Game Boy handheld made the jump to an online space of its own. This move was likely inspired by the record-setting sales of Pokémon, a series introduced in 1996 that had almost single-handedly revitalized the Game Boy brand. The Pokémon series’ focus on battling and trading with others via the Game Boy link cable made the idea of producing an online component for the Game Boy an obvious next step.
With this goal in mind, Nintendo partnered with fellow gaming giant Konami to form a new development company known as Mobile21. A 50/50 joint venture, Mobile21 was created solely to bring the Game Boy online and produce games compatible with its new mobile network. Thus the Mobile Adapter GB was born — a device that allowed Japanese players to plug their Game Boy Color (and later Game Boy Advance) into a cellular phone to access a host of online services. Unsurprisingly, this service, dubbed Mobile System GB, wouldn’t be free. Players who wanted to use their Mobile Adapter GB for its intended purpose would be charged by their phone company for their data usage while connected to the Game Boy’s online service.
Though the Mobile Adapter GB was planned to launch alongside the greatly anticipated Pokémon Crystal in December of 2000, Mobile21 decided it was necessary to delay the accessory to late January of the following year. Sold for ¥5800 (nearly $55), the Mobile Adapter GB came bundled with a special Game Boy Color cartridge that allowed users to download Game Boy-related news and send emails, as well as check their Mobile System GB registration details and balance. Upon launch Nintendo’s fancy new peripheral only worked with a single game. Luckily, it just so happened to be one of the most popular games in Japan at the time.
Pokémon Crystal, sporting legendary dog Suicune on its cover, offered die-hard fans a few choice improvements over its wildly successful predecessors, Pokémon Gold and Silver. Players could now choose a female character, Pokémon sprites were animated during battle, and a new Battle Tower challenge was introduced. Though not drastically different from Gold and Silver, PokémonCrystal was certainly the most polished game of Pokemon’s second generation. The game’s biggest addition by far, one that would never make it to the West, was its online capabilities via the Mobile Adapter GB.
Once players had officially connected their copy of Pokémon Crystal to the Mobile System GB network, an array of features became immediately available. As a welcoming gesture, every online player was gifted a digital “Egg Ticket,” which they could trade in-game for a coveted “Odd Egg.” This was one of the few free online transactions, with players forking over ¥10 (roughly 10 cents) a pop to trade or battle with random strangers and ¥100 (roughly one dollar) a month for access to Pokémon news and quizzes via the in-game Pokémon Communication Center. There was even a ¥20 option to record one’s mobile battles and upload them to Pokémon Stadium 2 via the Nintendo 64 Transfer Pak. Online interaction with friends, initialed by simply ringing them from a connected phone, cost the two parties involved their normal mobile calling fees.
The aforementioned Battle Tower, a concept that would see iterations in nearly all Pokémon games moving forward, was designed by Game Freak with the Mobile Adapter GB in mind. Forever closed to offline players in Japan, the Battle Tower was the site of the game’s ¥10 battles with unknown trainers. With enough victories online a trainer could earn the title of Room Leader, an honor recorded in an constantly-updating Hall of Fame that could be stripped away by losing to a talented new challenger.
A very blurry commercial for the Mobile Adapter GB
Of course, when Pokémon Crystal made its way overseas months later all functionality with the Mobile System GB network had been scrapped. Gone were the online options and PokémonStadium compatibility. All that remained was the Battle Tower, which had been tweaked to allow all players inside, providing a series of increasingly powerful CPU trainers in lieu of online opponents.
While Pokémon Crystal did fairly well in Japan, moving over 1.5 million copies, it still stands as one of the lowest selling main series Pokémon games to date. The Mobile Adapter GB fared much worse, selling less than 100,000 units in its short two-year lifespan. Even with more than twenty compatible games on the market, it was clear Japanese residents just didn’t have much of an interest in connecting online via the Game Boy. Though, to be fair, many die-hard players may have simply been too young to afford such a luxury. Years later, many have speculated that the failure of Nintendo’s online service was likely due to the fact that its main draw, Pokémon Crystal, was a game targeted at children, a demographic rarely associated with cutting edge technology or large sums of expendable money.
Regardless of its unfortunate failure and relative obscurity outside of Japan, the Mobile Adapter GB was certainly a huge step in the right direction for both Nintendo and Pokémon. It would be five years later, with the release of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, that trading and battling online would return. By harnessing the built-in WiFi capabilities of its wildly popular DS handheld, Nintendo had finally reached the goal it had set out to achieve with Pokémon Crystal — an online system that could connect mobile players the world over.
Swedish designer and craftsman Love Hultén transforms existing gaming hardware into dreamlike pieces of functional retrofuturist art. His latest work, the FC-PVM, combines a Japanese Famicom console with a Sony Trinitron monitor to create a self-contained retro gaming system with an old school terminal vibe.
The FC-PVM is a Japanese NES in a box, with its own monitor and a pair of original controllers modded to have wireless functionality. It’s also much more than that. It’s what the Famicom might have looked like if the modern age that technology futurists imagined in the 1950s and 1960s had come to fruition.
Love’s designs are always as utilitarian as they are striking. The wireless controllers store inside the unit behind a removable panel when not in use. The power and reset buttons are a pair of keyboard-style switches topped with red keycaps. In this photo of the set, the teal color of the Japanese Rockman 5 cartridge complements the retro design. The top of the unit has several cartridge storage slots, integrating the quirky Japanese cartridge colors into the design.
The FC-PVM is a piece of custom hardware that my fingers ache to touch. I want to place it in a room with corn-colored wallpaper and brown shag carpet and play with it while sitting on the floor, my grandmother’s cigarette smoke hanging in the air. As it’s not for sale and my grandmother passed away when I was 17, the best I can do is watch Love fiddle with it on video.
Check out Love’s Instagram and website for more of his glorious retro tech creations.
While fake retro games are certainly not new, now is a good a time as any for a reminder to watch out when shopping.
In the past few years, more and more retro games have been sold in Japan via e-commerce sites Mercari and Yahoo! Auctions. Twitter user Jabberlooper cautioned that many phony versions of rare games are being sold this way and that quality of the fakes is getting better and better.
Below is Magical Pop’n.
Kotakupreviously found a real version of this rare game in Akihabara that was priced around $1,200.
More of the fake Magical Pop’n in the reply tweet:
Here, the tells are the positioning of some of the text on the printed circuit boards. The back sticker is wrong. Also, the soldering isn’t as carefully done.
Another giveaway I’ve seen among some Magical Pop’n fakes, the pcb reads “N1ntendo” with the number 1.
In Japan, Super Famicom Games and Famicom games, in particular, seem to be susceptible to forgery.
For example, here are two copies of the Famicom game 4 Nin Uchi Mahjong. Just looking at the photo, can you tell which one is fake?
The top one is fake. The clear giveaway is how the kanji for mahjong (麻雀) appears. According to this Twitter user, the feel of the plastic is different and the cart is rather heavy.
Since game collecting is global, this problem isn’t unique to Japan. Some of these fakes appear to have spread internationally. There are threads like “Is my copy of Magical Pop’n fake?” on Nintendoage.com and “Magical Pop’n: Real or Repro?” on Reddit.
You know who are the worst people on earth? Dingbats who condescendingly scoff at creative works because they’re not “modern.” Those who go to revival screenings to guffaw at pre-digital special effects, or who say things like, “This game sucks! The graphics are so blocky and it doesn’t auto-save every five seconds!”
Don’t let your child become that. Instead, introduce them to older masterpieces early and often, so they learn that art is a conversation between the ages, and every creator of a cool, new thing is standing on the shoulders of giants. Start with these retro games and work your way up to Truffaut.
Atari’s 1979 classic is a masterclass in the power of minimalism and design, and a perfect first game for kids. Using only 4 kiB of RAM (that’s about two pages of text), creator Warren Robinett wove a sweeping adventure that includes combat, puzzles, exploration, and even the world’s first Easter egg. It still works because your child’s imagination will transform the game’s blocky shapes and simple quests into an entire world of danger and heroics. It’s like magic. When my son was four, he identified with Adventure’s hero (a square) so strongly that he insisted on dressing up like him/her/it for Halloween. He talked incessantly about the sinister motives of the bat (What is a bat even going to do with a goblet anyway?), and had nightmares about the game’s “dragon” (a not-scary-at-all blob of pixels that looks like a duck) coming to get him. All that from a few pixels and a perfect design.
I used to let my kid win most of the time, but now he’s 12, and I don’t let him do shit. But even when I’m playing my best, he beats me. He smokes me at Halo. He’s beaten my old ass at every Mario Kart game ever made. But not Joust. Joust is my last line of video game defense.
My mom was wrong: All those hours feeding quarters into that accursed machine at Spaceport did pay off, because now I completely DESTROY my kid at Joust. I mean, I knock him off his ostrich without even thinking about it, and grab up all the bonus eggs too. In your face, kid! Your old man can still kick your ass! I’m not completely irrelevant … right? (You should substitute whatever arcade game you wasted your youth playing, of course. They’re all available somewhere.)
Super Mario Bros. 3
Everyone likes this game. It’s impossible to not like this game. Its perfect level design, colorful graphics, unforgettable characters and addiction potential as strong as heroin make this early ‘80s Nintendo classic the best video game ever made. Warning, though: Do not let your child play the Switch version. It includes save slots. This is sacrilege. It destroys the lesson of SMB: Even ostensibly fun things are actually a frustrating series of mistakes and disappointments, and only through perseverance and drudgery can we hope to succeed at jumping on bullets and dodging those goddamn fireballs spat out of weird plants that will eat you.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
Ocarina of Time blew everyone’s mind when it came out in 1998. Everything we ever wanted from a video game was packed in one little N64 cartridge: a huge (for the time, anyway) open world, perfectly balanced puzzles that seem impossible at first, but aren’t actually hard enough to frustrate you, 3D gameplay and combat that didn’t suck, unforgettable characters, an awesome horse, great music, and more. Every Zelda game since then, right up to Breath of the Wild, is just a footnote, a refinement of Ocarina of Time, so if your kid ever wonders how newer games came about, a few hours playing Ocarina of Time will provide the answers, and a hell of a fun time.
Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings
As a rule, I don’t like things that are “educational,” but I make an exception for AoE II.This real-time-strategy game came out for PCs in 1999,and it’s still a perfect game for older kids. It lets you lead one of 13 ancient civilizations, and battle against other cultures by gathering resources, building weapons, and going to war. Each civilization is unique, and the carefully balanced gameplay means that any civilization can defeat any other, if you play it right. Not only does Age of Kings teach players something about ancient cultures, it also teaches you how to think strategically, how to plan and organize, and lets you create fantasy alternative histories in which ancient Korea went to war with the Celts, or the Huns fought the Aztecs.
Another game that’s perfect for older kids, SimCity 2000 is proof that video games don’t have to be violent, fast, competitive or even about anything interesting to be totally engrossing. This civic administration simulator challenges players to grow and run their own city, micro-managing zoning, taxes, traffic patterns and municipal ordinances (kids love ordinances!). It sounds incredibly boring, but it’s totally fascinating, and I will fight you if you don’t think so.
More than just a fun way to waste 8,000 hours, SimCity 2000 will change the way your kid thinks about the world around them. What was once an anonymous city block can now be understood in terms of the laws, history, and wrenching political compromises that brought it into being. Your kid will see an abandoned building and wonder how exactly the mayor failed his people, or take a look at a map and figure out how the traffic flow could be improved. As an added bonus, you can name your city “Fartburgh.”
Spotted by PC Gamer, the short game, titled simply John Wick, was created by developer MuriloDev and uploaded to itch.io. It recreates the most recent film in the series as the sort of licensed tie-in game we might have seen during the 8-bit era. It controls like an 80s side-scrolling shooter and mercilessly channels the difficulty of games from that era.
As Wick, you can jump, shoot, and duck, but that’s about it. Meanwhile, guys with guns and swords run at you while snipers take aim from afar. Your health is limited to a small bar reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden, and once it’s depleted, it’s game over. No extra lives. No continues. And certainly no miraculously stumbling back to life after getting shot up and beat-the-shit-out-of like in the movies.
But while it is incredibly hard, the game’s not impossible. Each time I died, I learned a little bit more about the starting level and had eventually memorized enough to get to the end of it, if not actually beat it. Brute-forcing my way through games isn’t my preferred way to play, but it did make me feel slightly more like the battered and bruised hero from the movies.
John Wick is only a few stages long, but it’s as good a case as any for other popular action movies to get their own NES-inspired adaptations. Its music and art are particularly on the mark, and their original creator, Danilo Dias, made the assets free for others to use as well in case they want to go ahead and make the complete game we all deserve.
Correction: an earlier version of this article wrongly attributed the creation of the game’s assets to MuriloDev. They were actually originally created by Danilo Dias.