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The Nintendo eShop, an online marketplace for downloadable content, is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month.
Though the online store was first launched for the 3DS in 2011, the eShop expanded to include the Wii U the following year. While some 26 million members use it to download new releases, another valuable aspect is its offerings of classic games, perfect for fans to relive the heady days of the NES, SNES, and N64.
Here are 10 classic titles all Nintendo enthusiasts need to download. And until 23rd June 2016, UK members can get discounts on all these releases and more!
Super Mario Bros.
Let’s start with what IGN called the greatest game of all time.
Rewind 30-odd years: Mario had already proven himself perfectly capable of ridding the sewers of New York City of pests (and leaping over barrels propelled by a giant monkey). Then, in 1985, Super Mario Bros. hit the ground running… and the franchise hasn’t slowed down since.
Selling more than 40 million copies, it’s the best-selling Mario game, and was, for some 30 years, the best-selling game of all time for a single platform until Wii Sports stole the crown in 2006. It seems like a simple side-scrolling platform game, but its charm, ingenuity, and excitement won over the world, leaving IGN to conclude:
“Super Mario Bros. remains one of the most pioneering and influential titles to date. More importantly, it’s every bit as addictive, enjoyable, and satisfying today as it was two decades ago.”
Donkey Kong 64
Released in 1999 for the N64, this action-adventure game was an immediate success, being named Best Platformer at the Game Critics Awards at that year’s E3.
Though reviewers admitted it wasn’t as innovative as Donkey Kong Country on the SNES, it was praised for its epic scale, enjoyable gameplay, and for continuing the vibrancy of its predecessor.
Despite some initial glitches (fixed by a mandatory Expansion Pak), Donkey Kong 64 remains one of the strongest platformers from Nintendo, and was an obvious title for the Virtual Console — yet it was only added last year. This downloadable copy also includes the original 1981 arcade game, Donkey Kong, as an unlockable bonus. Considered one of the most important arcade games of all time, the title also introduced Mario (then known as Jumpman) to the world.
F-Zero was a visionary title that set a new standard for all racing games.
In ranking the best racers for the SNES, it gives the much-loved Super Mario Kart a run for its money, and the latter certainly owes F-Zero a considerable debt. It was one of two titles that launched the SNES in Japan back in 1990, and over the following two years, it spread to North America and Europe; its appeal partly stemmed from the use of the SNES’ innovative Mode 7, which mimics 3D environs by providing a rotatable background layer of graphics.
Similarly, bobbing above the competition in Super Smash Bros. is only possible thanks to Kirby’s Adventure, as it introduced the character’s key ability to mimic others’ powers by inhaling them.
As the sole Kirby game on the NES, the popularity of this Mario-like platformer ensured the stubby pink sphere’s future across numerous consoles and franchises; its astounding critical reception led to a remake on the GameBoy Advance in 2002 to celebrate its 10th anniversary, but has been a mainstay on Nintendo’s Virtual Console since 2007.
Super Mario World
This was actually the first game I ever played, and the inaugural title — alongside F-Zero — on the SNES in Japan.
Selling over 20 million copies worldwide, this bright, clever, and quirky platformer was an obvious choice for the Virtual Console back in 2006/7, and remains one of the most essential games on the eShop. The plot follows Mario and Luigi, fresh from stopping Bowser’s domination of the Mushroom Kingdom, on holiday to the ominous-sounding Dinosaur Land, where more trouble naturally awaits.
Any Jurassic Park fans could’ve told them to steer clear — but they did at least meet Yoshi there, a character so popular he would become a major part of the brand.
Metroid Prime Trilogy
Okay, this release isn’t as classic as the rest, the original games having appeared on the GameCube and Wii between 2002 and 2007, but it was developed by Retro Studios so it still gets a pass.
Metroid Prime 1, 2: Echoes, and 3: Corruption were packaged together in 2009, boasting new controls to incorporate the Wii Remote and nunchuck. Due to its limited print run, however, you’ll have to pay upwards of $50 for an original copy (some charge closer $200 for a sealed steelbook); you can understand the sigh of relief when the trilogy appeared on the eShop in early 2015.
As a first-person adventure game, Metroid Prime — with its stunning graphics and detailed storyline — is hard to beat. It’s always a pleasure to play as Samus Aran too.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX
There’s a wealth of Zelda games on the Wii U Virtual Console — Oracle of Seasons, The Minish Cap, the original Legend of Zelda — but arguably fewer have heard of Link’s Awakening DX. That needs to be amended.
Link’s Awakening began as a GameBoy port of the SNES’ A Link to the Past before morphing into its own game, released in 1993. Criticisms of the graphics were addressed when it was remade as Link’s Awakening DX for the GameBoy Color. Awarding it 10/10, IGN said:
“[I]ts latest, enhanced version is nothing short of perfect.”
If playing the original Donkey Kong isn’t enough to give you a NES fix, this compilation of 16 classic Nintendo games is begging to be downloaded.
Instead of a full plot, though, you’ll be given a smattering of excerpts from diverse titles like Ice Climber, Pinball, and Excitebike. It’s not perfect, but acts as an effective taster of the releases that form the basis of Nintendo’s empire.
If the 204 challenges included in the game aren’t enough, a follow-up remix collects together a further 12 games (169 challenges), including Dr. Mario, Kid Icarus, and Wario’s Woods, and also incorporates online leaderboards to feed gamers’ competitive natures.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
If you’re looking for gaming perfection, you’d be hard pressed to find better than Ocarina of Time. In fact, a few years ago, the Guinness World Records named it the highest-rated game of all time.
Originally released in 1998 for the N64, Ocarina received an astonishing array of top-mark reviews, with players particularly impressed by its open-world 3D design, and its continued success led to ported versions on the GameCube, the Wii’s Virtual Console, and the 3DS. It only appeared on the Wii U’s eShop last year, with a “Nintendo Select” re-release on the 3DS due later this month.
Greatest game ever? Judge for yourself.
Super Mario 64
We’ll conclude, as we began, with Mario – and a release that holds a special place in the hearts of gamers worldwide.
1996’s Super Mario 64 proved that 3D gaming could be a joy to experience, and its influence is still wide-reaching. Dan Houser, vice president of Creativity at Rockstar Games (Grand Theft Auto), enthused:
“Anyone who makes 3-D games who says they’ve not borrowed something from Mario or Zelda is lying — from the games on Nintendo 64, not necessarily the ones from today.”
The 5th anniversary of the Wii U eShop is the perfect chance to indulge in a deeply satisfying cocktail of nostalgia.
Nintendo’s UK sale gives you the chance to experience these games (and 35 more, including Pokémon, which is celebrating its 20th birthday this year) again in all their glory. They’re equally great for newcomers too!
But it’s always a great time to get a healthy dose of Mario, Link, or Donkey Kong. Dig in: classic worlds await you.
Which other classics have you snapped up? Let us know in the comments!