Nintendo's "next" games console launches in just one week: The Classic Mini: NES. This inspired a great many questions from readers, and we've attempted to answer them here (getting official statements from Nintendo where possible). Now that we've gone hands-on and posted our in-depth review, we've decided to update this F.A.Q. one final time to bring everything fully up-to-date. Latest update | September 12, 2017: Nintendo announces new stock of NES Classic Mini is coming in summer 2018!
NES Classic Mini Guide
If you want info on the NES Classic Mini we've got all the answers to your questions right here. Read on for a complete rundown of the retro console.
Is NES Classic Mini Coming Back in Stock?
Good news! Nintendo has annoucned that the NES Classic Mini is entering production again and will be back in stock at retailers in the summer of 2018. That's some way off, but at least you can now rest easy knowing you'll get a chance to own a NES Classic without having to pay extortionate eBay prices.
What is the NES Classic Mini?
A plug-and-play mini console in the shape of a Nintendo entertainment system. It connects to televisions via HDMI, and comes loaded with 30 different classic NES games.
When will it be released?
Nov. 11, 2016 in the U.S., and at similar dates elsewhere in the world. The console will be essentially identical in the U.S. and Europe. Japan will be receiving a decidedly different edition of the system called the Famicom Mini, which does not resemble the NES but instead is a perfect recreation of the Japanese Family Computer console. It will also include a slightly different selection of games, dropping U.S.-focused titles like StarTropics and Tecmo Bowl in favor of Final Fantasy sequels and games in the River City Ransom series.
How much will it cost?
It's priced at $59.99. Some retailers may charge less. Or, it may sell out quickly, leading scalpers to charge far more on eBay. Hopefully not.
Where can I buy one?
Before launch? Apparently nowhere. A couple of retailers made preorders available very briefly, but Nintendo has stated that it doesn't intend to presell this system. That makes sense, as the NES CE will almost certainly be available at a much wider array of retailers than its standard consoles. You're as likely to be able to find this at Home Goods or some other chain that doesn't sell standard game consoles as you are at Toys R Us. The point of this product is that it's self-contained, compact, and convenient — meaning it can go up for sale anywhere. So check likely suspects such as Best Buy and Target, and then set your sights wider. You never know!
What kind of controllers does it use?
They resemble original NES game pads, but in fact they're Wii Classic Controllers shaped like NES pads. Unlike Classic Controllers, they don't require players to plug them into a Wii remote — they can plug in to the mini console itself. Presumably this means you can plug in existing Classic Controllers as well. The console ships with one controller in the package, and additional controllers will cost a painless $9.99 apiece.
Are the controllers cross-compatible?
Yes: Standard Wii dongle extensions such as the Classic Controller definitely work with the NES CE. Several sights have confirmed that the NES controller works on Wii and Wii U when plugged into a Wii remote, and we're told Shovel Knight is a treat when played with an authentic NES controller.
Is there a Zapper light gun controller, too?
No, but wouldn't that be cool? Unfortunately, the system doesn't include any Zapper games, like Duck Hunt or Wild Gunman. The light gun wouldn't work with modern TVs, anyway, but maybe they'll come up with a motion-based solution for future mini-consoles.
The controller cords seem pretty short...
They're incredibly short — a mere 30 inches. If you look around you can find extension cables, but they're third-party fare and therefore should be approached with the understanding that they could be garbage. The goofy reality of this console is that you need to have it sitting close by rather than across the living room... so you're probably going to want to invest in a longer HDMI cable.
Don't the controllers do wireless? They're Wii Remotes, right?
Ah, no, sorry. They're Wii Remote attachments and do not have wireless capabilities. The console also lacks any wireless support at all, so even if you plug the controllers into a Wii Remote, there's no way to pair them with the NES CE.
Does it work like a real NES? Can I stick a cartridge in the top slot?
No, it doesn't, and no, you can't. The cartridge flap is strictly decorative and is molded shut. Anyway, the Mini Classic NES is physically smaller than an NES cartridge, so you'd destroy that $2,000 copy of Little Samson by even making the attempt.
Because the controller ports are the same as the controller expansion ports on the Wii remote, it won't accept any original NES peripherals like the NES Advantage (though someone is making an ersatz third-party Advantage clone for the purpose!) or, alas, the so-bad Power Glove.
Also: Note that the NES CE offers video-out only through HDMI, so if you're looking to play it on an old-school TV, you're out of luck.
What kind of play and display options does it include?
The NES CE outputs in high-definition and allows a limited selection of display options. You can set the system to 4:3 mode to imitate the proportions of classic TVs, to true-pixel mode to see the games with perfect, undistorted graphics, or the CRT mode to see everything through a fuzzy, imperfect filter that resembles a cheap connection on an old TV.
All games play as they were originally designed. Two-player games support two-player action, provided you have a second controller. The graphics still suffer from sprite flicker, but strobing effects have been removed, and it appears some of the more severe cases of slowdown during gameplay have been wallpapered over.
The NES CE allows you to record suspend points to save your progress or simply have infinite chances at a particularly tough section of game. Each game supports up to four individual save points, and each suspend file can be locked to prevent accidental erasure.
I live in the U.K. — am I going to have to deal with janky 50Hz PAL games?
Nintendo's U.K. site specifically lists your games under their U.S. titles (e.g. Super C versus Super Probotector), so it appears you'll be receiving the 60Hz NTSC versions — generally regarded as superior to NES PAL conversions.
What games come included?
- Balloon Fight
- Bubble Bobble
- Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
- Donkey Kong
- Donkey Kong Jr.
- Double Dragon II: The Revenge
- Dr. Mario
- Final Fantasy
- Ghosts ’N Goblins
- Ice Climber
- Kid Icarus
- Kirby’s Adventure
- Mario Bros.
- Mega Man 2
- Ninja Gaiden
- Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
- Super C
- Super Mario Bros.
- Super Mario Bros. 2
- Super Mario Bros. 3
- Tecmo Bowl
- The Legend of Zelda
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
I can add new games, right?
Wouldn't that be awesome? Let's see what Nintendo has to say:
"No. The console is a standalone device, so it cannot connect to the internet or any external storage devices."
Why doesn't it have the games I want or use original NES cart—
I'm going to stop you right there, friend. As great as it would be to have a mini-console featuring the ability to expand and meet the expectations of avid collectors and die-hard Nintendo fans, the most important thing to realize about this product is that... it's really not meant for avid collectors and die-hard Nintendo fans. Again, Nintendo's official statement:
"The 30 games included with the system were chosen to provide a wide variety of top-quality, long-lasting game-play experiences [with] a diverse mix of popular and recognizable NES games that appeal to a wide variety of players."
In short, Nintendo is shooting for a broad audience with this device. Casual shoppers, people who have warm memories of playing Super Mario Bros. a million years ago. For that to work, the Classic Mini NES needs to be (1) simple and (2) affordable. $60 is a relatively painless price point, one that would become much more expensive if the console included expansion capabilities (be it extra memory, SD card readers, wifi) and if Nintendo had hunted down interesting obscurities to include.
Yeah, being able to play carts on this would be awesome. Being able to download more games for this would be great. Having it loaded with crazy expensive NES rarities like Panic Restaurant, or Chip ’N Dale: Rescue Rangers 2 would have been wonderful! But extra hardware features would have increased the price significantly. So too would the cost of licensing a cartoon-based property like The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak — assuming Nintendo could even figure out who owns the rights to rarities by defunct publishers (like Meldac's Zombie Nation). All of these things are worth dreaming of, but this simply isn't the product for that.
What kind of technology does it run on?
We had originally speculated that the NES CE would be a repurposed Wii. However, that has turned out not to be the case. The NES CE runs on its own custom hardware solution, one seemingly not based on any existing consoles.
If it's not a Wii or 3DS inside, what does that mean for the quality of the game emulation?
Evidently Nintendo invested in new emulation technology to go along with its new hardware. Online reports indicate Nintendo Europe Research & Development (fittingly known as NERD) supervised the NES CE's interface and production. They did a great job with it, as indicated in our review: Games look great, control perfectly with almost no lag, and the sound just right. Plus, the front end is simple, visually appealing, and offers a decent array of features with little fuss.
Can I hack it to add new games, then?
It looks like Nintendo has learned from the hacks that have plagued its other consoles and has made this a closed system that will be very difficult to hack — likely requiring some hands-on electrical work. Nothing is impossible, of course, but in this case the process of hacking the system seems entirely likely to end up being more trouble than it's worth.
Will there be a Super NES Mini?
Well, yes, there is a SNES Mini! Read all about it in our SNES Classic Mini guide.