Some of the best (and worst!) Retro Games on the Wii U

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The thrill, the excitement, the frustration!  Yup, I got to replay the games of my youth on the Wii U’s virtual console.  Like wine and cheese, some of them aged remarkably well, while others turned to vinegar and mould.

Punch Out

The first game I loaded up was Punch Out!  I have fond memories of playing this with my brother as a kid.  Actually, no.  I have fond memories of my brother playing and me not being allowed to distract him.  In any event, I loaded it up for a fantastic game of boxing brought to us by the 80s.

In pursuing your boxing career, you must knock out a variety of increasingly difficult (and enormous) opponents.  You can not only punch and block, but also dodge.  Oh, and you can revive yourself when you get knocked out by pushing buttons as fast as possible.  Ah, button bashing, my old friend!

Maybe our mental capacity was lower in the 80s.  Or maybe we didn’t have the same high expectations for processing speed.  In any event, it is slow.  Slower than Sarah Palin.  The slowness actually makes it difficult to time when to block, dodge or punch.  I kept dodging too far in advance or too late.  I’m fine with playing something that is difficult and requires great timing, but this took it a bit too far.  I honestly couldn’t bear to play it for very long – it seemed to corrupt those memories of sibling rivalry and awesome gameplay.

F-Zero

This was a game that stole hours and hours from my youth.  I remember focusing on getting the perfect route around the track.  It was the first racing game I played that used the L1 and R1 buttons on the SNES to tilt.  Huge technology jump back in the day!  With weird hovercraft cars that can be healed by floating spaceships in the pit, this was the original amazing racing game.

Somehow, this game fared far better.  Sure, the graphics are what you’d expect from an SNES game, and the AI makes it so that the players behind you are always just one mistake from overtaking you – even if you should have outpaced them by a mile. 

But the music!  The music is awesome and takes me back in a beautiful way.  I was happy to do lap after lap on this game just to hear those techno tunes while I bash into barriers and do insane jumps.  The driving is the same as it was, and still seems quick enough to be enjoyable.  I may not want to play this for hours and hours every day like I did before puberty, but it is certainly worth a play or two… or ten.

Donkey Kong Jr

I suck at platformers.  Not slightly – monumentally!  Back in the day, Donkey Kong Jr. was an awesome platform game, offering cool music, Mario as a bad guy, and swinging from ropes.  Fast-forward about 30 years and this little guy has not grown up into any form of awesome.  He probably still lives at home in his mom’s basement, waiting to go on a school shooting or something.

Yup, I’m sad to say it but this game sorta sucks.  First of all, like Punch Out, it’s slow.  And not just sorta slow in a cute way.  No, Donkey Kong Jr. would ride the short bus to school and get a G in woodworking.  The physics are also bizarre – fall from even a slight height and you might die, or you might be fine, but you can’t predict in advance.  The stages get progressively more difficult, as you might expect, and it’s cool to beat Mario at his crocodile slinging game by swinging from vines and grabbing fruit.  However, in the end, this game just does not live up to the memories.

Excitebike

I must confess, I never played this as a child.  So, I did the next best thing and invited people round to play who had played it back in the day.  The joy that came across their faces when I mentioned Excitebike was enormous, so I was expecting great gameplay.  But it was not to be.

Personally, I think it should be called Boredbike.  I played it, got 1st place on the tracks, and still didn’t see the point.  Sure, you go over jumps and grass and various obstacles.  You can fall off your bike in ridiculous ways, yet never die.  In fact, not matter how bad you fall, you run right back to your bike and keep going – the ultimate in perseverance!  That said, it really is pretty monotonous.  There isn’t much of a challenge, and it just isn’t much fun to play.

Those who played this as kids, well, they didn’t play for long.  Nope, the nostalgia wore off pretty quickly.  So whether or not you played this as a child, you will be less than excited by Excitebike.

Ice Climber

Remember how I said I suck at platformers?  Yeah, still true of Ice Climber.  Yet, somehow, this was moderately more enjoyable.  I still wouldn’t tell all my friends to come round for a game of Ice Climber, but it was better than the others (and some friends would love to come over and play).

Without a time limit, you need to break through blocks, avoid weird enemies, jump from level to level and grab birds and fruit.  The only time there’s a time limit is at the top of each mountain when you hit the bonus round.

After a few ridiculously idiotic deaths, I got the hang of it.  Jumping from level to level (poorly) and killing things with my hammer, it was vaguely entertaining.  The speeds were way better than Donkey Kong Jr. and death didn’t seem as random.  It was actually fun, and I sorta would like this on my phone as a mobile game to pass the time when I need it.  I just won’t play it in public to be mocked about my strange ability to miss even the easiest jumps.

Super Mario World

This game was the best thing EVER when it came out.  You could save, jump, fly, throw fireballs, and even ride Yoshi!  With a variety of levels of all types, this game offered a more complete experience than any game before it.  It had awesome graphics, interesting gameplay, and went beyond the basic puzzler platformer.

This game is like a beautiful port – the years that have passed since I played it have only served to make it even more delicious.  The graphics have that nostalgic awesomeness – not trying to be realistic but just being enjoyable.  I loved seeing Mario as he flies (and falls) or dies.

Here is the thing about Super Mario World – it doesn’t matter if you suck at platforming, it’s still fun!  Sure, there are weird jumps and enemies to overcome that require perfectly timed movements.  However, there are ways to get plenty of lives so that you have a bunch of chances.  Plus, the actual play through is fun.  Yes, I said it – it’s still far too much fun and I will be sinking plenty of hours into this game again.

I love that there are secret levels that can be found using alternative routes.  You can fly over to find hidden coins, use Yoshi to eat those weird cactus monsters, and go back to previous levels to pick up extra feathers, coins and lives.

If you never played this classic, it’s about time you did.  If you played it back in the day, it’s time for a replay.  In a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time, this game has excellent replay value.  It doesn’t need multiple endings or character paths – just the chance to play your way through all the various levels with a huge smile on your face.

Last Updated: May 24, 2013

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at www.borngeek.co.za, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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