Welcome to our NES Buyer’s Guide, with all the info needed to buy a Nintendo Nes console.
Let’s start off our NES Buyer’s Guide by talking about some of the history of the console. The Nintendo Entertainment System was released in the US in 1985, and Europe in 1986. (Wikipedia) It was a gamble made by Nintendo after the great video game crash of 1983 to try to jump start the video game market and effectively monopolize it for Nintendo. At the time everyone was too paranoid to buy video game consoles again, so Nintendo did not market it as a video game console but as an “Entertainment System” hence the “Nintendo Entertainment System”, even going as far to use the term “Control Deck” for the actual unit. This worked out quite well, as Nintendo became a household name. Everyone I knew growing up had a NES and “playing Nintendo” was talked about many times a day at school. People spent weekends and evenings “playing Nintendo”, everyone was talking about Super Mario and Zelda around school. It was really a homerun for Nintendo, part of which I would assume was the name change from the Japanese console the “Nintendo Family Computer” or “Famicom” which may not have worked in the US market.
The original iteration of the NES (as seen above) is the one that most people know of and generally came with 2 controllers and a pack in game. There were other packages to buy the Nintendo Nes Console that came with different games or accessories like ROB the robot or the NES Satellite. These could be hooked up to your television in 2 different ways. There was the RF switch box that screwed into the cable or antenna in port on the back of the television and required you to set the tv channel to 3 or 4 (lower quality, the most common). The other option was composite video w/ mono sound that was a yellow video cable and red audio cable. (better quality, required changing modes on the tv sometimes referred to as game mode.) These models were commonly prone to failure, generally resulting in the console not reading games, which is something to keep in mind when you decide to buy a Nintendo Nes console. The large issue was the connector and game loading mechanism that Nintendo had chosen for the console. This went along with the concern of not marketing the NES as a video game console. Nintendo seemed to decide that the console should be easily usable by all ages. This was all well in good in the fact that a 5 year old could easily insert and remove games. (Zero insertion force connector). The problem is that it causes the games to not make good contact. This coupled with the fact that Nintendo was quite paranoid about piracy on the console. This paranoia led to the NES Lockout Chip having been installed in the consoles. This chip is the one responsible for the common ailment of the NES, the hassle of getting games to work due to the constant resetting of the console with a blinking red light. This meant that anytime a cartridge was either misaligned or dirty it could cause the console to not be willing to start the game. Most tried to remedy this by the common “blowing in the cartridge” method, (Myself included) which ironically was bad for the games and console as the moisture can cause oxidization. The right way was to clean the cartridges another way, the widely accepted cleaning methods are rubbing alcohol and qtips or using a pencil eraser on the contacts. I would still recommend this version for you to buy the Nintendo Nes Console however. Expect to pay around the 50 dollars for a working console online, but are still relatively common at yard sales, etc.
There was another console release most are not aware of however…
There was a second release of the NES console in 1993, commonly referred to as the top loader. The top loader solved one of the NES’s major flaws, the ease of getting games to work. With the top loader the games seem to work 95 percent of the time as Nintendo decided to ditch zero insertion force connector and went with a connector like the SNES and Sega Genesis connectors, which is a great reason pick this one when you want to buy a Nintendo Nes console. These consoles were released late in the NES life cycle however and seemingly did not move that many units, resulting in them being relatively rare and in turn somewhat expensive. This console was not without flaws though. The composite video connector was removed, leaving just the RF switch (presumably for cost concerns). The top loader also has what I would assume to be shielding issues and it displays faint vertical lines on the screen when in use, but this is something that you can get used to as I personally don’t really even notice anymore. The top loader can ironically also be modified for even higher quality video, using RGB or Composite video. If you want this, then I recommend to buy the Nintendo Nes Console premodified. Expect to pay in the neighborhood of 100 dollars for one of these stock, and a little more modified.
Accessories, These are things you need when you buy the Nintendo Nes Console.
First off you can’t play games without controllers. There are 2 official variations of the standard NES controller. The rectangular controller is the one that was released with the console and is the one that most are familiar with. These are quite common and can generally be found at flea markets and on ebay around the 5-10 dollar range, buy generally at least one is included when you buy a Nintendo Nes Console.
There was a variation released with the top loader that is much more sought after called the dogbone. The dogbone controller was released with the top loader console and is widely considered to be a more comfortable controller. I personally feel like it is a superior controller. The problem again is that these are harder to find, and the price reflects that. On ebay these normally run around 30 dollars for a used controller. Generally whenever I buy a Nintendo Nes Console Toploader, one comes with it. There are also cheaper aftermarket options available but I have never used one.
While talking about controllers I feel the need to mention that there is now a wireless option available by the company 8bitdo. You can buy the Retro Reciever that will allow you to use one of their wireless controllers on the console. I personally recommend the SFC30.
The NES Advantage was an Arcade stick made for the console to bring an arcade feel into your living room. This was quite the hefty piece of equipment with a metal bottom, large joystick, and large buttons to mimic an arcade cabinet. The Advantage also added adjustable turbo for the A and B buttons, along with a pseudo slow motion. The slow motion was achieved by the controller rapidly pausing and unpausing the game, and in turn was a little wonky. Another peculiar but interesting tid bit about the Advantage was that it used both controller ports on the console. You would plug the stick into both of the ports, and there was a switch to choose whether to have it be player one or two. This would allow you to use one controller with your friends and just swap between turns. The only real flaw Ive found this the advantage is that over time the buttons seem to stick. Expect to pay around 20-25 for one of these on ebay, but bear in mind the shipping cost as it is relatively heavy.
The Nes Max was another controller that had turbo buttons, just this time in a smaller handheld form factor. The max also went a little different for directional control, replacing the standard Dpad with a sort of analog joystick. This is one of those controllers that people either love or hate. I’m personally in the do not like camp, but to each their own. Expect to pay around 10-15 dollars for one of these on ebay
There are also multiple more accessories by Nintendo like the aforementioned ROB and Nes Satellite, along with many other 3rd party addons like the Game Genie and Aladdin Deck Enhancer. This was just the tip of the iceberg on accessories without even covering famous accessories like the Power Glove or the Zapper (does not work on Flat panel Tv) as many were made because of the long time the NES was around and the huge popularity it gathered.
Now let’s talk about games…
There were around 679 officially licensed games released for the NES in the US. This does not include the many unlicensed games released for the system. Some of these games can be found cheap at a few dollars a piece, while some can reach into the thousands. Generally it has a lot to do with when the game was released and by whom. Normally the later the release, the more likely it is going to be a high dollar game. Just because they game may be expensive does not make it good however. There are multiple high dollar games like Action 52 and Cheetahmen 2 that are borderline unplayable. On the other hand there are man that are great that were late releases like Ducktales 2, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers 2, Little Samson, and one of my personal favorites Panic Restaurant. I’ll go ahead and list a few games for the console below, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Im also going to leave out the obvious choices like the Super Mario games (all great games and reasonably cheap however). Some will be cheap (maybe affordable is a better word) and some will be borderline ridiculous. A good collection of great games can be gotten for a reasonable price howeve,r and you are going to want many when you buy the Nintendo Nes Console, so don’t let the expensive games discourage you.
Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers
Chip and Dale is a great choice on the NES. It is a platforming game where you play as Chip or Dale and navigate multiple stages to ultimately rescue Gadget from Fat Cat. The game is fun and not very long, it came be finished in about 20-30 minutes. Also its not too difficult. A copy can be found on ebay for around 15 dollars, and around the same on amazon. There is also a sequel, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers 2 which is quite good, but also very expensive. That one runs around 200 dollars on Ebay, and generally a little more than that on Amazon.
Ducktales is another Capcom/Disney collaboration like Chip and Dale. To be fair almost all of the Capcom/Disney games were great games. I would even recommend this to be your first game when you buy the Nintendo Nes console. In this one you play as Scrooge McDuck trying to collect treasures to become the richest duck in the world. Scrooge can attack enemies by either pogo jumping with his cane, or golf swinging his cane to hit rocks, etc into them. You can check out our review here. Ducktales is another cheaper game and can be found for around 15-20 dollars on ebay. and around the same on Amazon. Much like Chip and Dale, Ducktales also has a much more expensive sequel in Ducktales 2. Again expect to pay around 200 dollars for this one on ebay, and about in that same neighborhood on Amazon.
Adventure Island 2
There were actually 3 Adventure Island games released for the NES. The second is significantly better than the first and quite less expensive than the third. It is a platformer but has some different aspects to it. One hit kills (without the skateboard or a dinosaur) are standard, but there is also a stamina bar. As the level goes on you have to collect fruit and snacks to keep your energy up or poor Master Higgins loses a life. Adventure Island 2 can be found around 15 dollars on ebay, and a little more generally on Amazon. We actually did a review on the first game that can be found here.
Contra is a quite well known run and gun shooter. This was an incredibly popular game, and ended up in most collections. For most people this game is not just difficult, but Very Difficult. Not many people have finished it without use of the famous Konami code. Great game to play with friends. Contra will set you back about 30 dollars on ebay, and a little bit more on Amazon.
Ghosts N’ Goblins
Now if Contra was Very hard, then Ghosts N’ Goblins could be considered borderline impossible. Its another platformer as that was a large genre on the NES. The game is very hard but at the same time has a strategy to it which keeps it from being particularly unfair. It is more of a move a little and form a strategy before moving on. What is ridiculous is that you actually have to beat the game twice in one sitting. Worth it though as the experience is very satisfying. It was part of our Top 5 Halloween NES games that you can find here. You can find Ghosts N’ Goblins for around 10-15 dollars on ebay, and a little more on Amazon.
This one is an arcade game. Bubble Bobble follows 2 dragons named Bub and Bob that can blow bubbles to trap enemies. Once the enemies are defeated, then the next level comes up. There are 100+ levels. This one is great with a friend. Bubble Bobble sits around 30 dollars on ebay, and the same on Amazon. Bubble Bobble spawned 2 NES sequels also (not including Parasol Stars that did not get a USA release). Rainbow Islands that is a direct sequel after the events on Bubble Bobble, and Bubble Bobble Part 2 that is more of the original. Rainbow Islands is another on ebay around 30-45 dollars, but Part 2 suffers from late release problem and is significantly more expensive around 200-400 dollars depending on the time and condition on ebay.
Kirby’s Adventure is one of the most in depth games on the NES. With 8 worlds, and multiple levels in each world this is one of the largest NES games. Personally I feel that this is one of the best Kirby games ever released. You can pick up Kirby’s Adventure for around 20 dollars on ebay.
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
For the last game I am going to cover, we have what may be my favorite for the console, if not my favorite period. I have been playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out for around 25 years now. Ive probably beaten Iron Mike over 100 times. It is one of those games I can just go back to over and over again. We even posted tips on beating along with a Video here. This was released later on as just Punchout, the only major change is that Tyson was replaced with a palate swap named Mr. Dream. Probably looking around 35 dollars on ebay for this one. The Amazon price seems to fluctuate but is generally more.
That was just a small sample of the games available.
My personal recommendation is to just pickup a couple games and find out what you like. The ideal situation is you get a few (well ideal would be a ton) of games in the deal when you buy a Nintendo Nes console, and then you can get an idea of what else you may be interested in. Definitely make sure you are picking something you will like if you decide to dive into the realm of the expensive games, but a fair amount of them are worth it and are the best games on the console.