Nintendo Classic Mini review: Is this micro NES all it's cracked up to be?

T3 dons the shoulder pads and travels back to 1983 in a quest to find out

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Our Verdict

Plug and play retro gaming for those who want a NES nostalgia kick

For

  • Simple setup
  • Slick UI
  • CRT filter adds scanlines

Against

  • Controller lead is very short

Funny really how history has a habit of repeating itself isn’t it? Just under three decades ago T3 remembers enjoying playing the heck out of this wondrous device called the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), which allowed you to cram portly Italian plumbers down pipes, obliterate flying fowl in a hail of virtual buckshot and, errr, go on a quest with some dude called Simon.

I know, arousing right?

Fast-forward 30 years and the NES is back, however this time it is a fraction of the size, comes with 30 games pre-installed on it and, crucially for many no doubt, retails for a under £50.

We received one of these new pint-sized NES a week ago in T3 Towers and since then have been putting it through its paces. Read on for our official verdict.

What's in the box?

Open up the Nintendo Classic Mini’s box and you are presented with a number of sub-compartments, in of which you will find the micro Nintendo Entertainment System itself, as well as a NES controller, a HDMI cable and a USB power cable. A manual and raft of NES pamphlets complete the package.

So, how easy is it to set up?

Very. You plug in the USB power cable at the back of the system and connect it up any power source, you then plug in the included HDMI cable and hook it up to your screen of choice and then, after plugging in a least one controller, you hit the power button and you are away.

The controllers look like the real thing - are they?

Yes, they are. Everything about the controller looks and feels spot on and using them really do take you back. However, it is very important to note that for some reason Nintendo decided to make their cable length incredibly short. How short you say? 31 inches! That is roughly one third of the length of the original NES controller cable.

As such, if you thought you were going to plug this in under your 55-inch 4K TV and then recline three metres back on your sofa then think again. No, you have to sit VERY close to the system as standard, which works fine if the system is connected to a desk monitor, however not well at all with massive flatscreens.


Which raises the issue of who the Nintendo Classic Mini is for and where Nintendo intended it to be used. Because if it was in the aforementioned comfy sofa scenario then the big N has dropped the ball somewhat. 

Technically could you use extra long HDMI and USB cables and simply place the Nintendo Classic Mini closer to you when on the sofa? Yes, yes you could - however we don't know about you but at T3 Towers we like to hide as many cables as possible, not actively flaunt them.

Equally, while there are 3rd party accessories already available that address this issue, those are solutions that come at extra expense for the consumer. So, in short (get it?), the Nintendo Classic Mini's controller is great, however its lead, out of the box, is not.

Seriously, enough talk about cables. Gaming?

Yes, there is gaming a plenty on the Nintendo Classic Mini, with 30 top titles pre-installed and ready to rock. These titles include: 

Balloon Fight, Castlevania, Donkey Kong, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Dr. Mario, Excitebike, Galaga, Ghosts 'n Goblins, Gradius, Ice Climber, Kirby's Adventure, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Bros., Mega Man 2, Metroid, Ninja Gaiden, Pac-Man, Super C, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Bubble Bobble, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Donkey Kong Jr., Final Fantasy, Kid Icarus, Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream, StarTropics and Tecmo Bowl.

And how easy is it to access and play those games?

Incredibly easy. The UI on the Nintendo Classic Mini is very slick, with a scrollable library-style menu system allowing you to scan through the various games, each title neatly presented with its box art.

Select one of the games and it starts immediately. Back out of a title and it suspends in a mini window overlaid on the menu screen. From here you can scan other titles, tweak menu settings or save your progress in one of multiple save slots. 

And, speaking of the menu options, the most important for some no doubt will be the display screen. In here you can select to output the Nintendo Classic Mini's video in one of three different settings, 4:3, Pixel Perfect and - for the purists - CRT filter.

CRT filter is a really nice inclusion as it dulls the crispness of the image and colours, as well as adding in scanlines, thereby helping to replicate the feel of playing on the original hardware three decades ago.

So in summation...

The Nintendo Mini Classic is a tidy little package. If you were to try and replicate what it offers right now by buying original hardware and games, then you would have to spend a small fortune to get the same experience.

A slick, small-scale system and 30 top games ready to play within minutes of you opening the box is really attractive and, when you throw in the fact that it is so light and compact that you could easily take it anywhere, that £50 seems money well spent.

However, there are some things that you need to take into account before pulling the trigger. First up is where the Nintendo Classic Mini is going to reside in your setup. That tiny controller lead demands forward thought. Secondly, the system only comes with one controller, so if you intend to play multiplayer then you'll have to lay down some more cash for a second controller. And, thirdly, this system is very much a standalone product - do not expect additional games to be released for it in the future.

These queries aside though, we think you'd have to be mad to unwrap the Nintendo Classic Mini and not be super, duper excited.