While we've already seen four of these arcade classics released as NES titles on the Virtual Console, we've yet to see Nintendo bring their own arcade games to the Virtual Console Arcade, despite many third party companies already doing so. So why exactly is Nintendo dragging its feet on these arcade classics and will we ever see them finally made available at some point?
There has already been countless debates on various gaming forums regarding whether or not Nintendo should release their arcade titles given that the NES releases are in fact, quite similar to the originals. Some have even gone on to claim that the NES versions were really no different than the arcade releases, making it redundant for Nintendo to charge gamers more money for what is essentially the same game.
While all of us here at Nintendo Life have varying opinions on the subject, we decided to take a look at five of Nintendo's most popular arcade releases and compare them side-by-side with their NES counterparts. You can check out the results below, along with a few talking points for each of the games, making a case as to why they should or should not be released in their original arcade forms on the Virtual Console Arcade.
Donkey Kong was a huge hit in arcades upon its release in 1981 and is really the game that put Nintendo on the map in the early 80's. The game saw a release on just about every console imaginable at the time, including rather shoddy ports on such popular game consoles as the Atari 2600 and Mattel Intellivision.
It wasn't until the game's release on the Colecovision system that fans were finally treated to a home console port that actually resembled the arcade release in terms of visuals and sound effects.
Of course when it comes to the best home version of the game, nothing can touch the game's release on Nintendo's own Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. Not only was the game extremely faithful to the arcade version in terms of visuals and sound effects, but it also replicated the layouts of each level almost perfectly, aside from the trademark missing Cement Factory level that seems to be missing from almost all home releases of the game.
There's no denying the quality of the NES release of Donkey Kong, but the missing Cement Factory level is a deal breaker to most die-hard Donkey Kong fans and makes this arcade release easily the most desirable choice of the group to release on the Virtual Console Arcade.
After the monstrous success of Donkey Kong in arcades, it came as no surprise when Nintendo released the sequel Donkey Kong Jr. into arcades in 1982. Not only was the gameplay itself radically different from the original, it also transformed our lovable plumber Mario (who was, at the time, moonlighting as a carpenter) into the game's villain.
While Donkey Kong Jr. never reached the type of sales success of its predecessor, it still went on to become a very popular game in arcades throughout the 80's and, much like the original Donkey Kong, was ported to just about every major console of the time period to varying degrees of accuracy and playability.
Most home releases of the game omitted the Mario's Hideout level, but when it came time to release the game on their NES console, Nintendo made sure not to leave any levels out as was the case in their NES Donkey Kong release. The levels were a bit out of order, but they were still all intact and accounted for just the same.
Overall, Donkey Kong Jr. is a very accurate port of the arcade version of the game, but there's still something special about the original arcade release that keeps die-hard fans of the game tracking down original arcade boards to this very day, making this yet another extremely desirable candidate for a Virtual Console Arcade release.
Donkey Kong 3 is generally regarded as the red-headed stepchild of the series and is easily the least successful of the three arcade releases. Not only is the gameplay a complete departure from the previous two games, Nintendo also decided to cut out Mario in favour of introducing a brand new character named Stanley the Bugman. Instead of the usual dose of climbing and platforming, Donkey Kong 3 presented more of a fixed shooter-style of gameplay, obviously alienating many fans of the series right off the bat.
While the game still fared decently in arcades, it never came close to capturing the same level of popularity of the first two Donkey Kong games. Some arcade game dealers even went so far as to remove the Donkey Kong 3 arcade board from the cabinet and replace it with one of the first two Donkey Kong games, not even bothering to change the arcade cabinet artwork.
Unlike the previous two Donkey Kong titles, Donkey Kong 3 never saw a release on many of the game consoles of the early 80's. Instead, it was released almost simultaneously on Nintendo's Famicom system and then three years later on the NES console in North America.
The NES port of the game tends to be very accurate to the arcade release, although there are some visual omissions in the home version of the game that some long-time fans might appreciate having on the Virtual Console Arcade. Given the game's lack of popularity, however, a release on the Virtual Console service seems even more unlikely than that of the other Nintendo arcade titles.
Mario Bros. hit arcades in 1983 and became Nintendo's first arcade offering to allow simultaneous 2-player action. The arcade cabinet itself was even made wider so two players could operate the controls on the cabinet at the same time. The game also brought Mario back into the fold, along with his green-jeaned brother Luigi.
Mario Bros. was fairly popular in arcades in North America, but didn't fare as well in Japan, a territory normally very receptive to Nintendo game releases. Many attribute its success outside of Japan to the unique ability for two players to play the game at the same time even allowing the players to choose to play in either a cooperative or competitive manner.
The game was ported to many of the home consoles and home computers of the time period, although it wouldn't be until the Famicom and NES releases that gamers would get an extremely accurate home release of the arcade version. While the NES release wasn't perfect, it was about as close as you could get to playing the arcade game in the comfort of your own home without hauling in the actual arcade cabinet.
Given how many times the game has seen releases on the various Nintendo consoles, especially the inclusion of a slightly updated version of the game on all four Super Mario Advance GBA releases, the chances of this one coming to the Virtual Console Arcade are fairly slim. Of course, given how great the arcade version is, it's still one we'd love to see make the trip for nostalgia's sake.
Popeye has the unique distinction of being one of the very few Nintendo-created games to have a license attached to it. The game was released in arcades in 1982 to mixed reviews. While the Popeye brand was enjoying a bit of a resurgence at the time, it didn't really filter over into the arcade game sales, despite being a very solid gameplay experience overall.
The game was ported to just about every console and home computer of the time period, usually by Parker Bros., who held the licence to the home version of the game. Nintendo did take the reins when it came time to port the game to their Famicom and NES consoles, even making the game one of the original three launch titles for the Japanese Famicom system in 1983.
The NES version of the game is very accurate, but does feature a few hit detection issues that hinder the overall performance of the game's controls at times. Even the visuals took a bit of a hit when brought over to the 8-bit console, although it's still a very decent presentation, especially when compared to many of the inferior ports found on earlier consoles.
Sadly, licensing issues have kept the NES release from appearing on the Virtual Console, which lends very little hope of the actual arcade title seeing a release on the Virtual Console Arcade. Having said that, we're still pulling for one, just the same. It's honestly too great a game to leave behind.
Now that we've laid it all out for you to ponder over, we'd love to hear what you have to say regarding whether or not Nintendo should bring these timeless arcade classics to the Virtual Console Arcade or just let the NES releases represent them. Who knows, maybe Nintendo will even listen. Stranger things have happened.