NES Works 1985 & ‘86 Arrive Today!

Context matters

By Jared Petty


I read really neat books at work. The fact that people give me money to do this never ceases to amaze me. Last year, I spent some time combing through Jeremy Parish’s NES Works 1985 & ‘86 as copy editor, and folks, this is a hell of a great video game book.

NES Works 1985 & ‘86 excels at concisely providing rich context for games you might otherwise not even glance at. NES Pinball may not look all that compelling in screenshots, but after reading the richly-researched prose describing how it came together and what makes it tick, you’ll be reaching for your Switch to try it out. Jeremy consistently finds a neat story to tell and something to appreciate, maybe even something to love, about every game… even Clu Clu Land.

NES Works 1985 & ‘86 explores the time before Nintendo wove itself into video game legend, when ROMs were small, release calendars were less crowded, and expectations were lower. The two highlighted years burst with creative ideas and ambitions often beyond the still-developing skills of game creators. It was an age of rough edges and jank, where high-minded experiments didn’t always translate into fun (we’re looking at you, Ice Climber)—but it was also a time of dreams come to life.

For the 1985 launch, Nintendo keyed up a slate of games that appear primitive in retrospect but, by the standards of the time, were stunningly innovative. Golf, for example, seems mundane, as it plays like every other golf game you’ve ever played since… until you realize the inverse historic truth: every other golf game since NES Golf plays like NES Golf. It’s that influential.

That’s the wonder of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985 and ‘86: it’s a place where almost anything could (and did) happen. 1985 gave us some of the most forgettable NES games: the barely-adequate Baseball and positively inexcusable Stack Up… but it also gave us Super Mario Bros.

This is the NES origin story, complete with sneaky robots, light-gun gimmicks, and lots of arcade adaptations. Some games are much more fun to read about than to play, and this book gives those games a supreme treatment. I do not want to play NES Soccer. I do want to learn about it and how its release date is so shrouded in mystery that even Nintendo got it wrong. Thank you, NES Works.

Black box games, arcade ports like Donkey Kong Jr. and Popeye, weird internal Nintendo projects like the home version of Kung Fu, and of course, the emergence of third parties on NES… it’s all here in splendid detail and buttressed by stellar original photography. You’ll read about the first third-party NES games (M.U.S.C.L.E. and Chubby Cherub), the first ambitious-but-infuriating third party NES game (Ghosts n’ Goblins), and the first great third-party NES game (Gradius), a harbinger of the explosive third-party output that would define the NES in 1987.

If you were there when it was new, then you’re gonna dig this book when it reminds you of old favorites while filling in the gaps in your knowledge. If you weren’t there, you’re likely to dig it even more, as the incredible story of this system and these games will be entirely new to you and help you better understand how the wonderland of games we enjoy today began.

This is the significantly revised combination of two of Jeremy’s previous books, with new photography, new copy editing, and a new section on the aforementioned NES Soccer (read the book to find out why), all updated in a glossy package. NES Works 1985 & ‘86 is available at Limited Run Games in hardcover and collector’s editions. The Collector’s Edition includes a poster, a signed certificate of authenticity, and eight art cards and comes in a lovely slipcase. Note that this isn’t a pre-order—the standalone copies of these books are printed, in stock today, and ready to ship.

Order your copy today!

Limited Run Games:

is a subsidiary of “Freemode”, an operative group comprised of gaming and entertainment companies owned by Embracer. Limited Run Games is the industry leader in the production and distribution of premium physical video games. Limited Run seeks to celebrate the legacy of gaming through its award-winning collector’s editions. Founded in 2015, they have published over 1,000 physical games, exclusive merch, and collectables. Limited Run is the gold standard in bringing digital games to physical form and now re-releasing retro titles on modern platforms via their proprietary Carbon Engine. Visit limitedrungames.com for the latest offerings and to learn more about Carbon Engine development. Follow the brand on your social media platform of choice for all LRG-related updates:@limitedrungames.

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