Nintendo World Championship: NES Edition – first impressions of remixed classics


The 1989 movie “Bewitched” had a huge impact on me as a child. In it, the character of teenage Fred Savage goes to the Nintendo World Championships in hell, I don’t even remember what city it was in, but it was somewhere far away to put his video game skills to the test. Either way, once he gets there, the massive twist is that he’ll be taking part in the then-unreleased Super Mario Bros. 3. And oh boy did the product placement work perfectly – me had have Super Mario Bros. 3 right after it came out and God bless my mom, she bought it for me. She pulled it out of a white plastic shopping bag at K-Mart and just handed it to me – it wasn’t even my birthday or anything! – is the most critical memory for me.

That’s what I think of when I think of the Nintendo World Championships, but for others, the real competition was about much more: real-life competition. Now Nintendo is creatively changing the nostalgia of their own history in a way that only they seem to be really good at: turning into a local and online multiplayer game for the Nintendo Switch that is played in intervals of less than two seconds (this is not a joke) up to about a minute.

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Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition includes 13 games: Super Mario Bros. 1-3, Super Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels, Zelda 1 and 2, Metroid, Kid Icarus, Donkey Kong, Ballon Fight, Excitebike, Ice Climber and Kirby’s Adventure. I ended up playing with each of them in a 90-minute hands-on session in both solo modes and local party mode. I certainly knew what I was getting into – a collection of classic NES games from my childhood turned into competitive challenges – but I didn’t expect the format to be so enormous game.

Of these games, Kirby’s Adventure was the only one I never played as a kid, and it was certainly Kirby’s challenges that annoyed me the most. But other than that, I had a great time trying to earn S rankings in the countless challenges offered in each game. Naturally, they become more and more challenging as time goes on, and you have to unlock the harder ones with the coins you earn by getting good rankings on the challenges you have access to.

For example, the first challenge in The Legend of Zelda is so basic it probably sounds stupid: you start the game from the beginning and have to go into the cave observable on the first screen and get a sword. And yet I found myself replaying the game over and over again, trying to shave off tenths of a second of my time and get that jaw-dropping S ranking.

The first challenge in The Legend of Zelda is so basic it probably sounds stupid. And yet I found myself replaying the game over and over again, trying to shave off tenths of a second of my time and get that jaw-dropping S ranking.

However, it’s really fun in party mode. IGN’s Rebekah Valentine and I competed in a series of Party Mode challenges against Nintendo representatives. We raced through World 1-1 Super Mario Bros. 3. We got our first energy ball in Metroid. We climbed to the top of stage one in Donkey Kong, lapped the track in Excitebike, and more. Is it a perfect recreation of a live match with hundreds, if not thousands, of people cheering you on? Definitely not. But it’s a delightfully basic party game that really anyone can play. Will this assist if you already have a nostalgic connection to these games? Without a doubt. But is this experience required? Absolutely not; in 2024, anyone of these 80s classics will be able to pick up and play the game without any problem because there are only two buttons to worry about.

While I’m talking about the buttons, my only real complaint about Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition has to do with them. You see, when four of you are competing, all four of you have to press the A button to get ready before the event starts. The problem is, so much games uses the B button as the turbo button or launch button, which you naturally want to hold down as soon as the countdown timer reaches zero. However, if any of you were not ready yet and someone else starts pressing the B button while waiting for the event to start, everyone will be returned to the previous menu. This happened repeatedly during my 90-minute practice session, and I wasn’t the only one who did it by accident. Seems like a flaw in the UI design for which there needs to be a solution.

I have one other gripe, though this one is much less earnest: slowness in Kirby’s Adventure (and perhaps in parts of other games that I haven’t seen enough of to rule it out). The versions of the 13 games included here are original releases, but several Kirby challenges experienced slowdowns that interrupted the action – similar to frame rate issues in every game, up-to-date and classic. I understand the argument for keeping each game as it is, but for the sake of the competition that is at the heart of Nintendo World Championship gameplay, I would prefer to see it smoothed out. You may disagree with this and that’s OK!

In the meantime, I haven’t played the Online World Championships mode, because of course the game hasn’t been released yet and there’s no one to play with online. But expect weekly rankings with the ability to watch replays of the best players – a useful tool for improving your own skills and strategies.

Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition appears to be priced at $30 for the digital version, and I was once again surprised by how engaged I was with the seemingly basic challenges it presented (at least in the first rounds). I hope this works out because the name suggests we could get a SNES edition, a Nintendo 64 edition, and dare I say, even a GameCube edition if this one turns out to be a hit.

Ryan McCaffrey is IGN’s executive previews editor and host of IGN’s weekly shows on Xbox, Podcast unlockedas well as our monthly interview program, IGN without filter. It’s from North Jersey, so it’s a “Taylor ham,” not a “pork roll.” Chat with him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan.

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