Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition is a retro speedrunning paradise

Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition header

While online gaming really thrown esports and competitive gaming into the spotlight over the past 15 years, the battle to be the very best gamer in the room goes back much, much further. Ardent gamers have been at it since the “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics” were held by Stanford University students in 1972, but there’s been the rise and fall of countless gaming competitions in the decades since. While far from being a part of the yearly gaming landscape like Evo or QuakeCon, there’s still a special place in gaming lore for the Nintendo World Championships. And now you can bring that competitive spirit home with Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition.

It’s actually a little surprising that there’s only been three Nintendo World Championships, with a 25 year wait from the 1990 inaugural event to the anniversary to its anniversary revival in 2015, and then another entry two years later just as the Nintendo Switch was coming to the fore. It’s similarly surprising that it’s taken Nintendo seven years to decide to release a branded tie-in game, but it’s better late than never, right?

Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition, much like Nintendo World Championships Remix on the Wii U and the original Nintendo World Championships 1990 Game Pak that went before it, is all about taking classic NES games and breaking them down into mini stages and tasks for you to try and speed run your way through. That factor alone adds a huge compulsive urge to play, replay, better yourself and best the other names on leaderboard, or rivals who are closer to home.

It starts with 1-1, and a challenge that’s barely 5 or 6 seconds long (if you’re doing things right), to go left to right, hop over a Goomba, hit the second question block, and grab the mushroom that emerges. Seriously, I could play this time and time and time again trying to master it, and getting an S rank is going to require pixel precise jumping. There’s similarly miniscule, but addictive challenges to get you started in The Legend of Zelda, Balloon Fight, Donkey Kong, Metroid, Kirby’s Adventure, Excitebike and all of the 13 games featured here, before building up into longer slices of levels and more varied challenges to test yourself against.

Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition speedrun

The UI wrapped around this is pretty neat in the Speedrun mode. You always get to see a preview of the task you have before you, to get your eye in, and then you have your current attempt on the left side of the screen and your previous best on the right, and showing your button inputs on screen. Arguably it’s not that important for a six second level, but when you get to a longer challenge, this will let you see how you’re stacking up as you chase down a better time and ranking.

It all builds up to the Legend Challenges, which will really put your skills to the test through minutes, not seconds. These could be clearing the first three Donkey Kong levels, racing through the whole of Super Mario Bros. (using Warp Pipes), or doing the most ridiculous thing imaginable: speedrunning a Kirby level. Legend Challenges come with ‘Classified Information’ pages, styled after classic game guides as they give you a rundown of all the specific tips and tricks that you’ll need to beat the challenge.

Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition survival mode

Putting a different spin on things are things like Survival Mode, where you face off against ghost data plucked from the internet. It’s a small three round knockout format that drops you in against seven other players and then ditches the bottom half after each level. The three levels are known in advance, with a Silver and Gold ranked competition to enter, but they can appear in a varying order that potentially gives you a better chance of coming out on top. While you have just a single shot for success on each attempt, you can play these over and over, just like pretty much everything else in the game.

And then there’s the Party Mode for local multiplayer with up to eight players, in which you can take on individual levels or curated sequences set to different difficulty levels, with each round awarding points for your finishing position. It’s another fun competitive twist to play side-by-side, especially with some of the game crutches like an automatic rewind meaning that less skilled players can still compete despite the odd mistake. Another nice tweak is that, in addition to the video preview before a challenge, you can also dive into a full practice session to get everyone up to speed.

It’s a bit of a mystery why Nintendo hasn’t made the Nintendo World Championships a more regular event, but it’s neat to see them bringing it back to the living room with Nintendo World Championships: NES Edition, filled with around 150 challenges and a bunch of different ways to play them.

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