We expected Nintendo to make a console announcement this year, but we didn't anticipate that it would be a reborn NES.
Nintendo's beloved, formative console will get a rebirth of sorts this November with the Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES Classic Edition in the States). It's a smaller, all-in-one box that plugs into your TV with an HDMI cable and comes bundled with 30 games built right into the hardware.
And they're classics, too, by and large: nearly any of these pixel-packed entries could be someone's favourite game, and at US$60 for the whole thing, it's much cheaper than buying Virtual Console games on Wii U or 3DS, or stockpiling cartridges.
Still, there are a few notable omissions that we can't help but point out. Here's the best of what's there – and the ones we wish had made the cut.
Super Mario Bros. 3
Our pick for the #2 best Mario game of all time is also easily one of the top games found on this compact NES. It's the 2D platform-action game perfected: Nintendo took the original Super Mario Bros. template, amplified the creativity and personality, and delivered a brilliant adventure through and through.
While future side-scrolling Mario entries delivered more content and further twists, few games are as iconic or memorable as Super Mario Bros. 3. If you haven't experienced it at some point in your life (or it's been a while), put this atop your to-play list.
The Legend of Zelda
Picking which NES game deserves the most admiration feels like choosing your favourite kid, but really, The Legend of Zelda is absolutely on par with Super Mario Bros. 3. The original set the template for action role-playing adventures, and kick-started one of the greatest franchises in all of gaming.
And it totally holds up. True, the 1986 original isn't as vast or flashy as the also-essential follow-up games, but there's still a sense of mystery and wonder to the world, not to mention a serious challenge. Revisit this before playing next year's Breath of the Wild, for sure.
The King of Kong might have focused on the original arcade obsession, but Donkey Kong is just as addictive on NES. As ever, as proto-Mario (Jumpman), you'll leap over barrels and fireballs while climbing ladders to confront the titular gorilla over stealing your lady love.
It's a game of skill, memorization, and tenacity as you learn the patterns, time your jumps and movements appropriately, and try to push further and further into the stack of tough stages. Donkey Kong is a prime example of how enthralling a relatively simple game can be.
Mega Man 2
If we had to settle for only one of Capcom's six original NES entries, then we'd choose Mega Man 2. Widely considered one of the best games in the long-running action series, Mega Man 2 improved upon the design of the original in every way, and really set a lot of the template for the games that followed.
The Blue Bomber has sadly seen much less play in the last few years, but his original battles against the likes of Heat Man and Crash Man still ring true today – assuming you can deal with the intense difficulty.
While the later Super Metroid expanded its concept, gameplay, and storytelling, the original Metroid is a seminal sci-fi adventure that you can really get lost in. Perhaps literally, too, as the cavernous interconnected areas offer a lot of terrain to cover.
But that's a large part of the appeal: Metroid's biggest hook is guiding armored Samus Aran around in search of new upgrades and abilities, which in turn open up new opportunities throughout the world. It's unexpectedly engrossing for an 8-bit game, and one to pour some hours into.
We Want: Tetris
Really? No Tetris? Honestly, if there's one NES game that feels like a baffling omission, it's this one. True, the brilliant block puzzler is more closely associated with the Game Boy, but the NES rendition was awesome, and we'd happily play it again for ages and ages.
Sadly, this one's probably a licensing nightmare. Publishing rights to Tetris have changed hands many times over the years, which is why we get slightly different versions every so often, and getting it on the NES Classic was probably too big of a feat even for Nintendo. It's a shame.
We Want: Duck Hunt
The NES Classic is all about streamlined simplicity: it's a small box that does one thing and assumedly does it well, and it's cheap. Adding a light gun to that would complicate matters and raise the cost. Oh, also? The original NES Zapper wouldn't work with your modern flatscreen anyway.
It's a shame, because Duck Hunt is one of the most memorable games from the original NES. The light gun was clever and effective, shaking up the experience of playing games on the console, and the game itself was a blast (pun totally intended). At least you can play it on Wii with the Wii Remote.
We Want: Mother
Don't know Mother? You might know its SNES sequel, Earthbound, but the original didn't see an official English release for more than 25 years – until it hit the Wii U Virtual Console as EarthBound Beginnings last summer. In short: there's a translated version and it's not here.
It's a shame, because the franchise delivers great old-school role-playing action with a very surreal twist, and it has a lot more personality than the original Final Fantasy (which is in the box). Still, given Nintendo's general indifference to the series, it's not that surprising.
We Want: Metal Gear
Ages before Snake was dropped into an overwhelmingly massive open world in last year's Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, the series had a much humbler start with the original Metal Gear for NES (adapted from the earlier MSX2 release).
It's the game that launched the stealth-action genre, even if the top-down graphics and mechanics seem primitive today. While certainly not as utterly insane as the more recent series entries, Metal Gear remains a formative entry worth exploring by later series fans. It's sad that we can't do that here, though.
We Want: Maniac Mansion
Metal Gear might not have been that weird back in the NES days, but Maniac Mansion sure was. This LucasArts classic essentially created the point-and-click genre, and it follows a teenage hero as he tries to free his girlfriend from the control of a self-aware meteor. Yes, really.
Although the NES version was heavily tweaked and censored to meet conservative Nintendo's wishes back when, it was still widely regarded as one of the most original and influential games on the platform. Today, however, we'll have to stick with playing recently remastered sequel Day of the Tentacle.