On a Wednesday after work, I was in my apartment playing Super Mario Bros. 3 on the new Analogue Nt Mini, when my two roommates and one of their girlfriends sat on the couch next to me. They watched. Then, after I died several times, I handed off the controller. Over two hours that controller made several revolutions. After the beers and banter dwindled, we called it a night.
Never in our two years of living together had we played any video game together. And I own an Xbox One.
Playing video games in 2017, especially on a 4K HDR TV, is objectively amazing; triple-A titles like Battlefield, FIFA and Overwatch offer spectacle alongside the creative wonder of indie games like Firewatch and Inside. But it was an 8-bit Mario game from 1988 that captivated three people who don’t normally play video games, even for just for a few hours. Nostalgia is a powerful pull when it comes to videos games — and the Analogue Nt Mini is dripping in it.
It’s an upgraded and more affordable version of the original Analogue Nt, which plays original NES games (including titles exclusive to Japan) with improved 1080p visuals and 48KHz, 16-bit stereo sound. Visually, each console alleviates the stretch and blur that plagues old consoles on new TVs. The Nt Mini is 20 percent smaller than the original console, which has been sold out since early 2016, and comes with built-in HDMI compatibility. (Previously, customers had to shell out $79 for an HDMI adapter.)
Here’s the problem: the Analogue Nt Mini costs $449 and comes with exactly zero games. That’s over $200 more than a base-model Xbox One or PS4, and over $100 more than most bundle packages. Meanwhile, the NES Classic Edition costs $60 and comes stocked with 30 great NES games, including The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. To most, the Nt Mini would seem an excruciating expense.
However, the Nt Mini has its advantages. It can play over 2,000 games (if you have them) in 1080p with zero lag and zero signal degradation — two big wins over the NES Classic Edition, which lacks HD upscaling and is still sold out pretty much everywhere. “Clone” gaming systems like the RetroN 5, along with emulators and DIY NES replicas, can put a wide library of games at your fingertips as well — yet the Nt Mini runs better, and honestly, it’ll look much prettier on your media cabinet.
But the main thing that anyone with an appreciation for classic games will understand is that the games themselves are worth their weight in gold. After two weeks with the Nt Mini, my roommates and I beat Super Mario Bros. 3, and are still working our way through The Legend of Zelda. (No cheat codes were used, although it’s said that any Game Genie code will work with the Nt.) We’re currently looking into buying Duck Hunt and its accompanying Zapper controller, because nothing brings roommates together like drinking beer and pointing a plastic gun at a screen. The Xbox One, meanwhile, remains untouched.