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Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition feels like far more than nostalgia bait, it could be a multiplayer classic

At £25, Nintendo's latest retro throwback feels like an ample replacement for Mario Party in some ways (and that's a good thing).

The boxed version of Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition over a blurred screen of available levels in the title
Image credit: VG247/Nintendo

I’ve got to be honest. When Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition was announced, my response was sort of… a shrug. The package, as originally announced, didn’t speak to me very much at all. I’m the right age, the right target audience. I’m the sort of person who watches speedrunning marathons. But… I dunno. It just felt cheap, to my cynical mind.

Not including the full game ROMs was a red flag to me. The fact that the missions shown when first announced were so simple as to be trivial… I just did not get it at all. But then I played it. Dear reader, I am a convert.

There are caveats to all this, of course. Chief of which is one simple fact: I think this is an absolutely killer same-room, same-screen multiplayer experience. That is where this game shines - and I think it offers a £25 alternative to Mario Party for those who might not get a full-priced game’s worth of play out of one of those board game-alike minigame collections.

But first, the full package. In a build that pretty much seemed like it was (but I must inform you technically wasn’t) the final version of the game, I saw all of the core modes. If you’ve not been following the pre-release information drops, here’s the modes and how they work:

  • Speedrun Mode allows you to buy each of the individual mini games in the package and then play them one-by-one. Completing challenges earns rewards and coins that can be spent to unlock new, and more complicated challenges - and sets your best record.
  • World Championships is a rotating suite of challenges which are made up of a number of smaller speedrun minigames strung together. Your total time across these challenges is uploaded to an online leaderboard, where you’ll see your placement for the current challenge set.
  • Legend Challenges is functionally similar to World Championships, but it strings together difficult objectives into one larger challenge.
  • Survival Mode sees you pick challenges and then face off against the recorded ‘Ghost’ data from other players around the world - so it’s not fully live online play, but is a solo endeavor with an online twist.
  • Party Mode is where the party is at - literally. In my opinion this is the reason to play this game.
A victory screen in Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition
Who will be the winner? | Image credit: Nintendo

So, yeah, let’s talk about Party Mode. At the game’s preview event, I experienced it both in a casual format and in a tournament-style mode with a few other media and some Nintendo employees - and it’s a blast.

First of all, it supports eight players - which for my money is an absolutely brilliant idea. Eight-player multiplayer is naturally quite chaotic… but here it works. NES games ran at a native 256x224 pixels (slightly larger horizontally for us Europeans) - which means slotting eight of them onto a 1080p or even 720p display is easy. What happens then is the screen delivers an optimum layout for however many of you are playing - and then everybody plays the minigames at once.

Because the nature of the game is built around speed running, there’s a gloriously old-school split-screen nature to it all. It reminds me a bit of playing Sonic 2 multiplayer back in the day, but less stretched and inherently crap. You zero in to focus on your little slice of the screen, which is flagged up to you at the start of each game. But out of the corner of your eye, you might see others finishing ahead of you, trailing, or making critical mistakes that’ll give you a better chance at victory.

A pin screen that you can win in Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition
Putting a pin in this one. | Image credit: Nintendo

Challenges in this game range from the woefully simple (grabbing that first Super Mushroom in Super Mario Bros. 1-1 as fast as you can) up to much longer and more complicated (completing the first three full stages of Donkey Kong as quickly as you can), and the multi-mini game ‘playlists’ for multiplayer involve having players take on a range of games, each rewarding points for where you place in the group.

The range of challenges combine to offer a rather Nintendo-like setup where even challenge groupings marked as more difficult contain a few easier offerings, meaning in a group that might range from a fair-skinned beginner child to an elderly NES expert, everybody has a chance to win a game or two. The selection of 13 first-party NES games included also helps level the playing field; I’m an expert at Mario and Metroid, but I am wretched at Ice Climber, and will come near-last on any challenge involving those jumping controls.

The game selection is small, but good enough for a game of this size - and it does set the mind racing with thoughts about other versions of this format - ones with SNES games, third party titles, N64, even Mega Drive and the like. Nintendo could actually be on to something with this. It could be a franchise.

Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition results screen, showing the final places of 8 players on one screen
Are you a survivor? | Image credit: Nintendo

What’s also interesting is how the multiplayer competitive aspect, even for fun, ‘levels up’ the minigames themselves. Solo, in Speedrun mode, that grab the first Super Mushroom task seems incredibly stupid. Who wants to replay the first five seconds of Mario over and over again trying to shave a millisecond off? In the multiplayer context, however, it becomes exciting - that millisecond might decide the overall winner.

In short, it gets the blood pumping. And at £25, it feels like an ample replacement for Mario Party for someone who buys those games at full price and then only plays them a few times a year, either for quick-and-easy fun when there’s children in the house for some reason, or as a scream-inducing, eye-popping rivalry settler on a drunken night in with adults. That, I know, is how I’ll use this game. So even after a whistle-stop preview tour of its challenges and modes, I’m in. Classic Nintendo: cynicism breakers.

Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition launches July 18, 2024 for Nintendo Switch exclusively.

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