In 2004, Nintendo released the Classic NES Series, a limited edition Game Boy Advance system along with 12 classic NES games in GBA cartridge form. In all my years of collecting, these is my favorite little sub-series because of its unique combination of my childhood nostalgia and adoration for the GBA itself. In fact, it’s one of the more expensive pieces I’ve ever bought for my collection.
The design is gorgeous as it intended to harken back to the original NES and not to look exactly like it, which is ideal because the recently nauseating NES 3DS edition demonstrated how bad an idea that would’ve been. It features a base gray color with the infamous NES air vents along the top and inside along with its signature red buttons. The GBA SP form factor is the pinnacle of pure retro gaming in my eyes. A simple clamshell, long battery life, two-button and two-shoulder-button configuration allows for perfectly translated retro games while still allowing for newer styles. The only downside to the device is that it never supported the “brighter screen” that later AGS-101 models boasted. (You can transplant AGS-101 guts into it pretty easily, but I prefer to keep my collected items in their original state.)
Along with the limited edition system, Nintendo also released 12 Classic NES Series games to go with it: The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Donkey Kong, Ice Climbers, Excitebike, Dr. Mario, and Super Mario Bros. along with (perhaps surprisingly) a small selection of 3rd-party titles including Castlevania, Bomberman, Pac Man, and Xevious. (Japan got several more as well.) Each game retailed for $19.99, a bit of a discount from the standard GBA prices at the time.
While only a dozen big, the collection features many games that are perfect for handheld gaming. My favorite is Castlevania, a game I can play over and over again even if I’ve only beaten it once. Dr. Mario is a great puzzler to have if you want to work on perfecting your skill at the game…no more sitting in front of the TV for hours! Of course, the original The Legend of Zelda is glorious as well. Being able to play in bed, on the bus, at school or work (shhhh…) and perhaps while indisposed (cough, cough…) allows you maximum time to discover all of its secrets!
Each of the games is left untouched from its NES equivalent with very few exceptions. One notable alteration is that Nintendo made corrections to the title screen backstory on The Legend of Zelda. While I doubt that really bothered anybody (if you noticed at all), it’s kind of cool that an even more perfect version of the game now exists. Of course, the lack of modifications brought its share of critics, too. Bomberman was a single-player experience because you can’t have a second controller on a GBA. While they could’ve worked to make it support the GBA connector cable, I simply don’t believe Nintendo wanted to devote the resources for this kind of effort. In the end, their error was including Bomberman at all. If they were going to include a popular 2-player game and make it 1-player only, they should’ve gone with Contra instead!
And the best part? None of these games will cost you an arm and a leg to get as not a single one was rare. The highest you’ll pay is $20-$25 for The Legend of Zelda. Great games, a great system, and an easy collection to complete? I stand in praise for the Classic NES Series!
What’s your favorite game in the collection? What makes it such a great game to play on a portable? Comment below and let us know!