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Fun NES games to play with young kids?


dvertov
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I'd like to hear others' experiences with playing NES or earlier-era games with young kids (maybe 6 and under), especially if you've had any luck where you didn't expect to find it. Personally, I feel most NES games are too hard or unintuitive to keep my kids' attention, especially when they already have plenty of modern games designed specifically for their age group on our phones, tablets, Switch, etc. 

There are exceptions though, and sometimes they're surprising. For example: my five year old son's favorite game to play right now is Smash TV on the NES. Since it's a dual-stick game, I can take the controller doing all the movement, and he gets the one with the firearms. So the first time through I spent 10-15 minutes running around like a nut while he figured out the controller. After a few levels he got the hang of it, and now we can usually get through Mutoid Man together. This has basically taught him how to use a directional pad.

I'd appreciate responses drawn from experiences with actual children, not what you think a child might hypothetically enjoy if you had to play a game with one. Like, I know we all cut our teeth on Super Mario Bros, so "why not start there?" But watching my daughter's frustration / boredom after running into that first Goomba on 1-1 twenty times in a row made me realize I'd need a gentler approach for these... uh, modern sensibilities. So what are your thoughts?

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Member · Posted

Kids will be different, so it's hard to say.  The best I can give is to take a stack of carts and let them try them all out.  Like most kids, when a game is to hard right out the door, they are turned off by it.  I get it.  We grew up in a time when you had one or two games at a time that you hadn't yet mastered, where now kids have endless options. 

Regardless, the two retro games my kids love are old Sonic games (all of them) and my daughter loves Ninja Gaiden.  She's not a wizard at it, but she really, really likes it.  I know it's considered to be super hard, but getting through the first stage is kind of easy.  That was enough to keep her interested and trying.  It's been probably a year and a half since she's last played it, so I need to see if she's still interested.  She's 9 now and was first introduced to it at age 6 but she kept going back to it when she had a chance.

Oh, and they both also like Kirby.  I don't know why. I could never get into Kirby, even when I was younger, but that's one they try to muscle through.

Edited by RH
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Wow I'm honestly surprised kids today even could be into retro gaming or get into it.  I mean it's one thing for those of us who grew up in the NES or SNES era or something but it honestly would be very surprising for a kid to actually get into a console that was what, at least a decade or two before their time?

Geez whatever happened to the days when kids ridiculed what their parents were into back in their day? 😉 

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Get 'em going on the good stuff.  That way they won't suck when they get a little older.  Started my son on Super Mario Bros and Mega Mans when he was 4 or so.  He can hold his own on those games these days. 

They'll never like Nintendo if you give em the weak crap that nobody likes like Fisher Price and Sesame Street.  Throw on some Contra, plug in the Konami code and let em go.

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I tried on numerous occasions to get my son into NES games when he was 3-4 years old and he just didn't enjoy them. We tried a pretty big variety too. He'd much rather zoom around in Rocket League or headbutt people in Goat Simulator, despite the significantly more complex controls in those games. Every kid is different, but I don't have any great recommendations for you.

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8 hours ago, Estil said:

Wow I'm honestly surprised kids today even could be into retro gaming or get into it.  I mean it's one thing for those of us who grew up in the NES or SNES era or something but it honestly would be very surprising for a kid to actually get into a console that was what, at least a decade or two before their time?

Geez whatever happened to the days when kids ridiculed what their parents were into back in their day? 😉 

Why?  Is it that hard to believe that a very well made game would be a turn off just because the number on the copyright is from the 20th century?  My kid loves the GB, GBC, GBA games, also the NES and SNES CEs she has too.  They don't get hard core played since she got 3DS/Switch but they still do, even let her use my flash kits on occasion as well.  The stuff at least Nintendo made is fairly timeless, and as long as you're not a low resolution perhaps low color pixel snob or think of sampled audio or chip tune stuff as obnoxious ear rape it opens doors to so much greatness the age matters for nothing.  A good game, it's timeless.

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On 10/13/2020 at 12:05 PM, Estil said:

Wow I'm honestly surprised kids today even could be into retro gaming or get into it.  I mean it's one thing for those of us who grew up in the NES or SNES era or something but it honestly would be very surprising for a kid to actually get into a console that was what, at least a decade or two before their time?

Geez whatever happened to the days when kids ridiculed what their parents were into back in their day? 😉 

My kids are still too young to really grasp the concept of "retro," so to them they're all just games, whether it's the shiny cartoon-looking stuff we play on the Switch or the chunky graphics of the games on the "other tv" (the CRT where I've got my NES hooked up). My son likes Mario Kart 8, but he also likes Mega Man (or at least, he likes to watch me play it). My daughter loves modern tennis games, but she also enjoys a few rounds of Donkey Kong or Pac-Man. Granted, a lot of the old stuff is never going to appeal to them -- I don't expect them to start asking to play Dragon Warrior anytime soon -- but the pick-up-and-play games especially still draw plenty of interest. Also, I kept my post about NES or earlier because I don't find SNES games to be a very hard sell at all with younger generations, especially when they look so much like a lot of the "retro" style indie games that are already popular at the moment.

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Member · Posted

IMHO, high-quality 2D games should never really get old so long as there are cartoons.  I can kind of get kids not getting to much into NES games.  We had an Atari 2600 when I was 4-6 and as soon as I saw the NES, I had a tough time going back to those games.  I can't imagine what it's like for kids today, seeing blocky "ancient" graphics like the NES.

Regardless, the SNES and even PS1 or Saturn had some solid, high-quality 2D games, and they have to be timeless. A CRT does help in this regard, though. Scanlines help smooth out those BIG pixels.

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12 minutes ago, RH said:

Regardless, the SNES and even PS1 or Saturn had some solid, high-quality 2D games, and they have to be timeless. A CRT does help in this regard, though. Scanlines help smooth out those BIG pixels.

More than scanlines, the phosphorous glow/bleed from a CRT helps smooth out the big pixels.

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I can try contribute from from my experience as a kid (since I have no experience with kids).

I grew up in the 90s and didn't know what a NES is, or any 8/16-bit console for that matter. I remember playing playing sonic at a friends house when I was very young (so that was probably a mega drive). But the first home console that we had was an N64.

I've learned what a NES is for the first time when I played Donkey Kong 64 (there is ported version of the arcade game in it, though at the time I've thought about it as a NES game). Next thing my PC was full of NES and SNES roms.

The main motivation at the beginning was seeing the origins of the franchises I know and love. I think this idea (learning to love old games through franchises you already know) is true not only for me, but for most people with interest in games from before they were born. Prices show that.

As a kid, it took me a ridiculous amount of time to "beat" (finish 3 or 4 levels) Donkey Kong for the first time. And I've never beat SMB, Zelda, Metroid. I didn't even reach too far in them.

On the one hand, trying to play these games was a bit frustrating. On the other hand, it didn't make me dislike them. I've returned to them as an adult, unexpectedly with more motivation somehow, and beat them. But the main point is that I did want to return to them as an adult, hence my experience of them was also positive, even though I sucked bad at them.

What I'm trying to say is that a game being hard and even frustrating isn't necessarily a bad experience. However, it helps to have "anchors" that provide reasons to like the game despite it being almost unplayable for you at the moment. Things like: "SMB2 is so cool, they introduced Shy Guys and it's the first time peach is playable", "Maybe I can't even get through the dungeon, but I like to load the cart just for the intro music".

Maybe even if they struggle with these game today, they'll have enough reasons to return to them in the future.

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5 minutes ago, sg17 said:

On the one hand, trying to play these games was a bit frustrating. On the other hand, it didn't make me dislike them. I've returned to them as an adult, unexpectedly with more motivation somehow, and beat them. But the main point is that I did want to return to them as an adult, hence my experience of them was also positive, even though I sucked bad at them.

I'll tell you a little secret... Many of us who grew up in that era also sucked at these games. If I got through Bowser's castle once on SMB I was having a good day, and the three or four times I managed to make it all the way to 8-3 (just to get slaughtered by Hammer Brothers, of course) I thought I was some kind of Nintendo God. In fact, I didn't beat the first SMB for the first time until I was in my late 30s. But yeah, I'm curious to see how my kids' interest in NES changes as they get older and the games hopefully become more accessible.

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5 hours ago, G-type said:

my kids enjoyed my NES and Atari games. I remember my son (5 yrs old) was really into Dragonfire for a little while and even wanted to submit a high score for it.

You did make sure to remind him he must take the picture of the high score with the console also in the pic to prove he wasn't using a cheating device right?  Otherwise noooooo Nintendo Power Stamps for him! 😄 

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