News Article

These Screens Show What NES Games Would Be Like Today

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Minus the secrets and controller-hurling difficulty

This video games lark is quite young as an entertainment medium; it's decades behind film and television, while books have hundreds of years behind them. Yet in a short time we've seen extraordinary transformations in technology and also game design. It's easy to forget when playing modern games, but many retro classics take an entirely different approach in their design — namely, they'll beat you down and make you want to cry, and not even blink as they do so.

While not true across the board, retro games can be relentlessly difficult, secretive beasts that leave many reaching for cheat codes, Virtual Console restore points and online guides. With only a small number of exceptions, modern games are very different in terms of how they guide us along, help us when we're stuck and generally try to convince us all that we're gaming ninjas and bad-asses of the top order. Naturally, there are plenty that bemoan the modern way of things and others that defend them stoutly — as always a middle ground is probably close to the right balance.

Still, blogger and computer programmer Hugues Johnson has posted 20 screens to show what NES games would look like if designed for a modern gaming audience; he takes aim at games being easier, linear and other staples such as micro-transactions. A selection of these are below, mainly because they're some of our favourites, but we recommend checking out the full gallery at

So, what do you think of these? Fair enough, or maybe a tad unfair?


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User Comments (81)



Ryo_Hazuki-san said:

quite true kids these days need their hands held to play simke minded games or achievements so dumb@



Wilford111 said:

So true, lol.
I've noticed recently that modern games have made me soft. I'm trying to play through A Link to the Past and it's tough man.



FineLerv said:

The Kid Icarus screen made me cringe. If Nintendo had achievements it would ruin one of the reasons I like my Wii U so much more than my PS3.



nakamura said:

So true, the A button icon on the Punch Out one is one of the most gaulling things today.



SMW said:

Don't forget the messages telling you to take a break along with safety warnings.



Sun said:

Loving the Zelda one, reminds me of the silly Skyward Sword / Spirit Tracks!! I hate how they spoil the games telling you exactly what to do, and not once but repeatedly. It is so annoying. Same goes for pieces of advice reminding you to take breaks and resounding green blocks willing to tell you how to skip levels.

Let me play the way I want, if I need help I will ask for it but do not ruin games by offering it on my face.



Kaeobais said:

To be fair, the Wii Punchout didn't have that. Skyward Sword matches the Zelda one perfectly, though



Whopper744 said:

Wow... this shows me how the old games used to really provide a true challange, and not just cheap ones.



MrWalkieTalkie said:

I kinda do want acheivements on Wii U though. Of course not for anything simple like "You killed an enemy" or "you jumped 10 times!" I mean for the REAL challenges!



Azaris said:

at picture one:so what it's easy to ignore.
pic two fair enough pic 3 not really true.
pic four again you can IGNORE IT.
pic 5 yep pic 6&7 again ignore it.
pic 8 100% true



Sun said:

@Erica_Hartmann Why do you say that? Nobody here said that today's games suck. It feels like we could not complain at all. I just bought Fire Emblem Awakening and Luigi's Mansion 2 for my 3DS and looking forward to get Need for Speed Most Wanted for my Wii U.



Stuffgamer1 said:

Not gonna lie...looking at the full gallery, there are some I really wish WERE real. The hint button for Shadowgate...I refuse to believe anybody ever beat the game on their own. Achievements are nice, although the picture for Kid Icarus is obviously exaggerated (more like three HUNDRED snakes, probably). The checkpoint for Castlevania...HECK YES, IT NEEDS THAT! The cracks in the wall in Zelda...looks like a plus to me...although the ones where you can tap the wall to CHECK before wasting bombs are a fair trade-off. And I really don't get the point of the last one.

Overall, I think the positives in modern game design more than make up for the negatives when compared to NES stuff. that's a tougher call.



Discostew said:

@MrWalkieTalkie So true. I'm not against achievements, but it seems like they ruin the game when they throw in ones like "Achievement earned: You booted up the game"



Rerun said:

IMHO games today are too easy or cheap. I remember challenging myself by trying to beat Quickman's stage without having to use Flashman's time stop ability.
Also I loved it when I proved to my cousin that you can beat Contra without the Konami Code!



UnseatingKDawg said:

"many retro classics take an entirely different approach in their design — namely, they'll beat you down and make you want to cry, and not even blink as they do so."

I really like that analogy. I guess that might be the correct term, anyway. I still can't beat Ghosts N' Goblins.



UnseatingKDawg said:

@Ryo_Hazuki-san: Well, I don't think Achievements are exactly all dumb. Many, yes. But there are definitely a decent number that provide a worthy challenge, like the "You Play It Well" achievement in Guitar Hero: Smash Hits, or the "Speeding Ticket" Achievement in Sonic Unleashed. It just boils down to how lazy the developers feel when they're making them.



Kevin said:

So sad and true. Most games nowadays are too easy and hold your hand throughout the entire game. It's so annoying! I rarely replay new games because of those two problems. Thank God I was born in the 80's.



UnseatingKDawg said:

You know, speaking of "figuring things out for yourself", I guess I'll share this tidbit - my grandparents used to own an Atari 2600. My Pappy actually figured out the patterns the ghosts followed in Pac-Man, and one night, he just kept going. And going. And going without losing any lives, or taking a bathroom break (mainly because the Atari didn't have a pause button). And the next morning, he still went to work.

So yeah, I'd say we have it pretty cushy in today's games.



cornishlee said:

I really don't get the 'achievements' thing. They're anything but. I have no wish to be told how much of my life I've frittered away on something non-constructive.



DreamOn said:

The secret block one is suggesting that unless the player is told about a secret they won't find it or even want to try and find it these days.



BetweenTheTrees said:

yeah. everyone is so right. games these days just suck. it's so sad to see the way games have evolved. it makes me sick.........yeah right.

Games aren't the problem. It pains me to say it but the real problem is the gaming community. All of us, all the gamers out there. Nothing is good enough. nothing.
a company can come out with something awesome, but it will never be enough. we'll pick out it's flaws and complain complain complain. we rarely see the good in a game, and even if we do we focus more on the bad. and these companies try to change it up, fix their past mistakes because their consumers didn't like it. but they always mess that up as well. right?

so while we are complaining, these devs and companies are trying to keep their heads above the ocean of complaints. they'll never win with spoiled little children such as us. I am also in this as well.

if things suck this much for you. quit playing. put the controller down and go read a book or bounce a ball or something.



ompgsag said:


how is stuff like on-disc dlc that you have to pay for the fault of the gaming community? and no one is supposed to complain about how much handholding there is in modern games? BS



WindWakerLink said:

-__- I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking this way too. I've felt alone in this for a years now. Kids nowadays have it too easy than back in the day with these "Super Guides," and what not.

Give me back my 90's era when games were crazy hard, yet fun. (Chuckles) There only a handful of games that are REALLY hard & fun in this modern time. Oh well....regardless of what we say, we will still play video games because we're Gamers & "THAT'S WHAT WE DO!" (Chuckles)



KeeperBvK said:

How could you "ignore" 4 and 6?
In #4 you are handed the location of a secret on a silver plate instead of getting any chance to discover it for yourself. How could one "ignore" this?
And in #6 you have to pay for something that used to be free. Not exactly easy to ignore.



Azaris said:

@KeeperBvK just like i ignored fi in skyward sword.
the fact is that 1.those games give you NO HINT to where the hidden item is.
blantly pointing something out is bad but expecting you to find something with absolutely no help? worse.
also cave story was free when it first came out yet people pay for it.



Sondheimist said:

SunnyShores - I'm afraid you're attacking an argument that very few, if any people are making. The point isn't that modern games suck - it's that there are some (what many perceive to be) unfortunate trends in modern gaming. It doesn't ruin the games or make them terrible - it's just that a lot of us could do without the constant hand-holding in the new Zelda games or the extreme easiness of many games.

Don't mistake criticism for condemnation. Of course modern games also do a lot of things really, really well. We're poking fun at some of the weaker conventions of newer games, not condemning all modern games as junk. I'm pretty sure most people here play and really enjoy a lot of new games, but we can still recognize that they aren't perfect.

Older games weren't perfect either.

Excepting "A Link to the Past," of course.



BetweenTheTrees said:


so complaining about EVERYTHING is just fine. I for one enjoy DLC.
why does everyone complain about it so much? don't want it? don't buy it.
DLC is a part of games now. just what it is. and complaining is healthy, but not this much. no one can just like something without constantly complaining. it's all I hear.

I undertand the article. it's the comments. the comments on every single story. how rare is it to see someone not complaining? look at me now, complaining. see?



UnseatingKDawg said:

@SunnyShores: I don't mind DLC myself, but there's gotta be a line drawn somewhere. Personally, I think DLC should be additional levels/maps (and in the case of music games, songs), not weapons/vehicles/clothing.



Sondheimist said:

Ok, I can see where you're coming from. It does seem like the internet, in general, tends to be a venue for complaining. You either get a lot of uncritical fawning or a lot of nitpicking and complaining about relatively small issues. The internet is proof that it's impossible to please everyone.

In this case, though, I don't think anyone is being too extreme or outspoken in their "complaining." No one is saying (from what I've seen) that all modern games are junk or anything like that. They're expressing dissatisfaction with certain common trends, which I would consider perfectly legitimate complaints.

In general, though, I do agree that a lot of comments sections just devolve into whining (I'm not talking about this site, specifically - I don't read the comments here often enough to know.)



Dreamcaster-X said:

Love the Zelda shot. It's so true!!! WAAAAY too much hand holding in games today. The original Zelda just dropped you off in the woods and just let you explore and figure it out!



Flowerlark said:

I guess I'm a modern gamer. I like games that I can finish without screaming at them. To me video games are for de-stressing, not to be frustrating.

What they should do is have optional tutorials/ hand-holding. Something that you select at the beginning of the game or something.



GraveLordXD said:

@SunnyShores dlc sucks unless it's done right which it hardly ever is, you never get your moneys worth and no you don't have to buy it but then sometimes you're stuck with half a game if you don't
dlc is mostly just a cash grab but there's a few exceptions very few



Cotton said:

I feel like these are true but the only ones that bother me are the contra and the kid Icarus the contra because people now are willing to spend money on shortcuts the kid Icarus because I am very OCD about my video games so just the fact of having it on my screen annoys me but if they had it set up to where when you go to the home menu it shows you then I wouldn't mind it and also the problem with younger gamers today(I'm only sixteen but I don't do this) I see that many people if the game is too hard they give up at the game (like my sister) so I see why they model the games to make them easier because they are taught how to think like you can have anything you want within a minute or less (something I blame mostly on fast food) and they don't have the patience to deal with the fact that you actually have to work long and hard to beat a game



JebbyDeringer said:

It's incredibly true. I've seen examples of all of those in modern games so no you can't "ignore" them. I give up on a lot of games near the beginning if they hand-hold me too much. I hate the mandatory tutorials that require you do do certain actions but at specific times. In other words you can't do it any faster than their incredibly slow pre-programmed pace. So many games now are nothing more than interactive advertisements. Zelda hand holds you so bad that you aren't playing a game any more you are just following a storyline. Some people don't mind which is fine but I don't like to play by the rules, I like to play creatively. I like games that focus on skill and can be played differently more than once. Zelda use to be like that, Mario use to be like that and thankfully still is in some ways though I could do without the silly stories and childish characters.



ajcismo said:

Games are easier now than they were back in the day. Its a scientific fact.



Gameday said:

I dont like dumb down gameplay. Some games arent for everyone lets just keep it at that. Wheres that spirit of conquering and achievement on your own ?



sweetiepiejonus said:

Because playing video games at all is "constructive?"

And since when is obtaining achievements required?

That is the only thing that is dumb and that I don't get.

Play for fun, try to get achievements if you like. If not, who cares? It doesn't matter. The anti-achievement bunch is just as annoying as achievement whores.



Emaan said:

This is perfectly accurate.
I still love modern games though. Sometimes when a game is too challenging it's not even fun.



XCWarrior said:

Those screens are all things I hate about gaming today. Funny, but so sad they are all true.



Zhenya said:

now if you'll excuse me i'm gonna use my Load Restore Point on my WiiU VC :]



eleven59 said:

so true... way to go call of duty generation.. way to go...

#sarcasm (in case they are confused)



Carlos1996 said:

Sadly completely true. System Shock 2's difficulty is awarded in Bioshock Infinite by the difficulty known as 1999 mode.



Jaz007 said:

I'm personally glad most games aren't as difficult anymore. I'm looking to have a good time not pull my hair out. Also remember that a lot of games have some higher difficulties to make the game more challenging. I think a lot of old games are pointlessly difficult. I think a balance is best with higher difficulties available if you feel like it. Some games do work best with just being really dufficult though.



Zombie_Barioth said:

One of the good things about modern games is they no longer need to raise your blood pressure for the sake of longivity. Developers no longer need to choose between accessability and challenge.

Unfortunately, many modern conveniences in games go from being welcome additions to just another marketing tool. Take trophies/achievements for example, sure they were neat at first and some are actually well done but they slowly started being abused due to their addictive qualities.

Even gameplay machanics like z-targeting or AI partners like Navi went from being a useful tool to being an unavoidable, often invasive crutch.



GreenX1 said:

All of these are problems with modern gaming. Sadly, we support these games year after year, and even indie games such as Fez have at least one of those problems.



Einherjar said:

Pic1 Castlevania: Early consoles where only ment to play games on them. You turned them on and you started the game. Since modern consoles all have stand alone funktions that need to be kept up to date, updates are mandatory. I dont see why that should be a problem,

Pic2 Baseball game (dont know the name): Ingame advertisement is ok as long as it fits. I dont want something like that in a fantasy setting, but if the game represents our world, it makes it more beleavable.

Pic3 SMB: This is the same problem adressed in the recent duck tales remastered interview. Developers thing that people need cutscenes to be able to find "hidden" things in games. I cant stand cryptik puzzles myself, but a little bit of brainwork and exploring should be mandatory. They should rpint a new warning on the package, besides the one that you must have reading skills to enjoy the game: "You need to be able to think in order to enjoy this game"

Pic4 Nobunagas Ambition (i guess its it): Look at the recent Sim CIty farce. Selling "always online" as a game feature instead of what it is, crippling, forced DRM is almost fraud.

Pic5 Contra: If you ever played a recent Capcom fighting game, you know exactly why soemthing like this is a problem. Building an entire game, cutting it into little pieces and selling it bit by bit almost seams to be some sort of sport among devs these days "who milks the most money out of a game is the winner"

Pic6 Punch Out: The reason why you didnt need button prompts in the early days of gaming where pretty only had 2 buttons which had mostly just one function. Today, you have a whole array of buttons and keeping track of them can get confusing. So button prompts arent that big of a deal to me. As for QTEs, if done right, they can be really fun here and there, but using it for each and every anymation (God of War for example) can get tedious very quick.

Pic7 Kid Icarus: I was a big fan of achievments. I thought that they give you alittle incentive for trying something, you wouldnt normally try. But since i got my WiiU, a system without achievments, i realized how distracted i was by these things. They dictated my gameplay to get as many of them in one go as possible. Instead of giving me extra playvalue, they almost dictated how i played my games. Love em or hate em, I am somehow glad that the WiiU doesnt have them.



cornishlee said:

They never are. That's my point. I enjoy playing them but I don't like being reminded how much time I've spent doing so.

I don't know anything about 'bunches' or 'whores' or what that particular profession has to do with video games. Maybe you know something I don't though.

To be honest, all I know about achievements is people asking for them - I only have a Wii U and they don't exist on there.



sweetiepiejonus said:


So what did you get a special ordered Wii U that doesn't have the Activity Log then? Both 3DS and Wii U shows they know people want to keep track of that type of stuff. The Accomplishments for Street Pass and individual games that have achievement-like awards contradict that notion of gamers don't want achievements or however Trinen put it.

What I meant by the "bunches" and "whores" is people who talk about achievements like they are some horrible plague that is ruining gaming. They aren't and it is stupid to act like they do anything besides add an alternative way for people to play if they choose to. And the people who don't play a game because the achievements are too hard/too much of a grind/unobtainable/etc are just as bad. So if you didn't know that...well now you do. And knowing is half the battle.

It's not like they are saying you need this number of achievements to progress. It's just such an odd thing for people to hate. That's what I don't get.



Drawdler said:

I prefer playing games for fun and to kick back, so I prefer to play less difficult ones.
However, the challenge of these games is a large part of their charm. I may play Skylanders, New Super Mario Bros. and Crash Bandicoot, but it doesn't mean that I don't see the appeal in or don't play games like NES Kid Icarus, Monster Hunter, and NES The Legend of Zelda or harder options of games in general.

Still, these screens are pretty accurate

By the way, regarding tutorials... Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure on the 3DS has a pretty wonderful one. Besides loading dialogue, literally the only tutorial in the game is that you press Y for your first attack, X for secondary, and A to sprint, and you only see the buttons. The first level is actually fun to play, instead of being an unbearable hand holder just to show noobs how to play via boring cutscenes, and I wish that more games would do something similar. It's easy to figure out that Y is the attack button when the prompt is above an enemy and pressing it makes you attack...



mikeyman64 said:

I think Egoraptor had a video about how much babying they do these days in games. I believe the example (of how it should be) he used was Megaman 2?



Relias said:

LOL... I could imagine some achievements from that age.. (Congrats you unlocked achievement for 100 1-ups off the turtle on the stairs in Mario Bros.) And you forgot Navi's most famous line... Listen.... you should have taken multiple pictures of that game and put little captions that said 5 seconds later... Having her say Listen/Hey Look ... it was so bad I was surprised at times Link didn't send a letter asking for all N64 controllers to come with a Mute Navi Button...

With that being said.. I will say games are good in this day and age.. but I think things have killed some of the fun... (For instance I always thought the little mini games in the FF series starting with 7 as far as I know.. killed that series.. ) The Only FF I loved on Playstation was FF Tactics... and the best on PS 2 to me was 12. I also think that what most people consider the best thing for games has also killed... a lot of games... Going Online... I knew once this happened developers would have a good reason either A. Not to release complete games.. (For DLC purposes which has happened in the past) Or B. Not to work out all the bugs.. because you can just download patches.. (Which has also happened.)

A lot of people don't realize what you pay for now in DLC back in the early to mid 90's would have just been put in the game for free...

I will say this the era of games from the 70's to the early 90's was the best today games are either to easy... or ask you to buy content.. you should be getting free..



Zodiak13 said:

All I can say is that I still like games today. I can barely get passed early levels of games I used to be able to beat. My skills have eroded since the 90's. I wasn't good enought to beat Contra with 3 lives (I got to the last level though) but I did easily w/ 30. Today, I can barely get past the second stage. Over the last 2 months I've used my backup 3ds to practice playing old school games that had some challenge, and also games on the Wii VC. Definately been making today's games even easier than they already were. In the end, if I need a challenge, the old games can still be played.

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