Coming clean here: I am a poser. I parade around like a big time gamer who grew up playing and beating tons of NES classic titles. In reality though, it didn’t happen that way. My folks got me a Nintendo when I was five years old in Christmas of 1990. I had no idea what it was or what it did. I didn’t even really like it. I much preferred making car noises with my mouth and pushing Matchbox cars around on a rug. I played Super Mario Bros. first and I was just abysmal as literally every five year old on earth was and it made me so mad. Somehow we ended up getting Super Sprint, Guerilla War, and Galaga and I played those a bit too but never really fell in love until my cousin let me borrow the original Legend of Zelda. Then I fell in love with that series (not my cousin.. phrasing, I know). But that wasn’t until a few years later that I really kicked off my love affair for video games. By this time, I was already behind my peers when it came to playing and beating video games.
Still, even after I played and beat the Legend of Zelda as a kid I was not on the pulse enough to know what else was good. I would go into rental stores and rent games, usually sports games, and play those with my Dad. My friends at school played games but by 1992 they all had Super Nintendo’s and Sega Genesis’s and my parents seeing that I didn’t give enough love to the Nintendo I already had said no when I asked for an upgrade. I was stuck with a NES until the mid 90’s and have been a generation behind in gaming ever since.
This is a big reason why I collect games now. When, like most collectors do when the bug hits, I became nostalgic for the old system I grew up with I wanted more than just the games I had growing up – I wanted all the games I wasn’t allowed to have too. That is how it started anyway and now I have over 500 NES cartridges in my house. Oops.
This blog will not be about collecting but about playing. In the last two years I have finally beaten some of those quintessential NES games that currently line my walls but never entered my household as a kid. Classics like Mega Man 1, 2, and 3, Contra, Zelda II, Metroid and even some classic games not talked about enough like Batman and Shatterhand. I even finally stuck it to Super Mario Bros. to really show my childhood who was boss. It has been a good year. Then earlier this week I managed to polish off Super Contra and Castlevania in back-to-back nights. Booyah!
Now my NES bucket list is dwindling and I am experiencing mixed emotions. On one hand, it’s cathartic to know that I’ve met some of my goals in gaming before I die from saving 100 lives (half puppies/kittens, half babies) from the burning wreckage of a crashed sea plane over the coast of Peru. On the other hand, I am running out of classic NES titles to conquer. I am insatiably addicted to the rush of beating a NES game and not just any NES game but ones regarded as classics. There are derogatory terms for folks who have a specific addiction to objects of affection… cougars, chubby chasers, gold diggers, etc. I guess I’m a “pop player”. I like to play the popular things… that were popular years ago. It is some weird vindication for what I claim to be as a gamer and a justification for the time, effort, and money I have put into lining my walls with games. I have somehow managed to romanticize an idea that no one but me could possibly care about which is that I can beat a bunch of landmark video games.
As a kid, I would fantasize about being on stage with a rock band behind me and singing my greatest hits to thousands of adoring and boob-showing fans. Oddly, as an adult I dream of beating all the video games on my shelves lined with Amiibo and McDonald’s happy meal toys featuring Super Mario characters. Am I an intellectual Benjamin fucking Button?
I often say I was in “sports game prison" my whole life and the last five years has been me experiencing the games I missed while I was locked away. It is not very different from folks who have spent enormous hours playing MMO’s like World of Warcraft or the like. I played many sports games for years… like 20 years. I had fun though but now I see everything I missed and I want it inside me.
I tend to post on Instagram pictures of the end screen and the cartridge of a game I just beat and I don’t know why. I really don’t – I’m not a selfie person but Instagram seemed like a good idea for another social media avenue an aspiring podcaster should have. But the love I get from posting shots of classic wins is awesome! That same recognition is not there when I beat something like Kabuki Quantum Fighter or Xexyz compared to Mega Man. It is also better for being in conversation with other people in the hobby: “Hey, have you ever beaten Metroid?” And I can say "Yes” a little too excitedly and that feels pretty awesome. I’m not even keen on why it matters to me.
There are no badges of recognition for beating classic games. Nintendo Power will no longer print your name. There’s no yearly conference where you’re invited on stage for having a great NES year and asked to give a speech where you thank your dog, mom, and old Emerson televisions for the opportunity. There are hundreds of people on the internet, and YouTube especially, that can beat the games much more efficiently than you or I can. Regardless, I still love it but my bucket list of classic games to conquer on the NES is dwindling.
I could move on to the SNES or Genesis but I am just not ready yet. Don’t get me wrong, I will play games on those systems and do quite frequently but there’s no mission there for me like there is for the NES. Even though it is trite, I do appreciate “Hidden Gems” YouTube videos. I roll my eyes when one pops up but I always watch and take notes.
Maybe the CartridgeClub can do a top 50 NES series. I know those videos are a lot of work and effort but I would probably take it as a challenge to make sure those 50 games were notches in my belt before too long and am quite sure most already are.
This was all a bit of a brain dump but ultimately I’m proud of beating certain games considered classics. It tickles me in the loins. I’m both bummed and excited to see my list shrink but it also occasionally grows. Seriously, who knew Kabuki Quantum Fighter or Vice: Project Doom were such decent games. There are still plenty of games left for me to beat on the NES but the cream of the crop titles are dropping fast. I wonder if I’m alone in this. Have you beaten all the NES games you have ever set out to? Did you set out to? Do you care about that? Why am I so fixated on a single platform? Are there pills out there you think I probably need? Perhaps this is why people take such a dive into the homebrew scene. I’m more fixated on the NES era release titles but if I run out of NES games to play and beat from the 80’s and 90’s, perhaps modern hacks and homebrews are my next venture.