Nintendo’s NES Classic was such an unexpected hit that the company couldn’t keep it in stores over Christmas, but buyers had two major gripes: the controller cables were too short, and there weren’t enough games. The console, a scaled-down version of the original 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System, came loaded with 30 titles, but there was no obvious way to add more. And Nintendo had previously confirmed it had no plans to expand the initial library.
Now, as ArsTechnica reports, a few savvy hackers from Japan and Russia have cooked up a way to add games, even without Nintendo’s OK. The method doesn’t require messing with any hardware, but is still fairly technical.
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In broad strokes, the hack requires copying internal NES Classic data to a PC, modifying it with (mostly-illegal) files containing old games, and copying the software back to the console. That’s not quite as simple as it sounds, though, since it requires running a special interface on the computer being used to make the tweaks.
As with most software hacks, this one also risks breaking the tiny console, and probably voids any warranty from Nintendo. But, for those willing to take the risk, detailed instructions can be found on Reddit.
For more on Nintendo nostalgia, watch our video.
Users’ willingness to go to such lengths to play classic NES games on era-appropriate hardware exposes both the strengths and weaknesses of Nintendo’s current moment. Iconic characters like Mario and Link arguably have as much drawing power as anything from Marvel or Disney. But as the ever-insightful Ian Bogost argues at the Atlantic, the company has simultaneously been over-reliant on nostalgia, and inconsistent in making the most of it.
The NES Classic is the perfect illustration of that. Its walled-garden approach implies that Nintendo thought of it as little more than a nostalgic stocking stuffer. But players’ willingness to break the law and risk destroying their hardware to get more games shows that a bolder play, perhaps involving an online store stocked with classic games, could have yielded big dividends.