Monday, September 13, 2021

Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned from the Nintendo NES - By Shane Stein

The NES OmnibusVol. 2 (M-Z) will be out in November, but I wanted to share this excellent supplemental essay from the book with everyone ahead of the shipping date. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did! Enjoy!

Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned from the NES

 By Shane Stein

Everything I needed to know, I learned from the NES. An exaggeration? Well, yes, of course. But surprisingly enough, and perhaps to the chagrin of 1980s parents everywhere, Nintendo games genuinely did teach us far more about the broader world than we probably ever realized. We just simply needed to pay attention.

Today, we take for granted that the world’s information is readily available at our fingertips. Prior to the internet, however, the average American kid had dramatically less access and exposure to most of the globe’s peoples, history, news, entertainment, and far more. Sure, we learned a decent amount in school, through parents and friends, and from books, movies, and magazines. But widespread accessible information on any given topic was virtually nil compared to the present. Need, for example, to research Japanese history for that term paper? These days, of course, we Google it. Back then—head to the library and spend hours finding that one book you need amongst a stack of thousands. Hope you know your Dewey Decimal system and hush your voice around the librarian.

Fascinatingly, though, significant knowledge of the world outside our immediate childhood surroundings could be gleaned from, of all sources, the Nintendo Entertainment System and its games. How can this be, you might ask? Obviously, it wasn’t remotely comparable to today’s internet. But the vast NES oeuvre, encompassing a substantial array of game genres and categories, truly provided a slice of worldly education.

Want to learn about a new sport, for instance? Growing up in Texas, I played endless amounts of baseball, basketball, football, and soccer. But never ice hockey—indeed, I never even learned to properly skate, much less chase a puck. Hockey was little more than an abstract notion to most of us raised south of the Mason-Dixon line. And yet, thanks to Ice Hockey on the NES, I learned the game’s rules so well I could even describe “icing” from the referee’s perspective. (I also learned that video hockey players came in three categories – big/slow, medium, and fast/skinny—but that’s a whole other story!)

How about golf and skateboarding, two other pastimes I rarely experienced in person? Golf on the NES taught me not only that Mario favors the links, but also the fundamentals of club selection and calculating windspeed’s effect on the ball. Skate or Die, meanwhile, imparted an entire skating culture’s milieu and lingo, from freestyle to downhill jams to ollies and rail slides. Eventually I did pick up golf as a teenager, and the NES experience most certainly assisted with my development. I never ultimately pursued skateboarding, but at least I was no longer clueless when it came up in conversation.

Okay, so those are just fun and games. How about more serious topics, like politics and history? For contemporary lessons on the Cold War, try Rush’n Attack and Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode. The thinly veiled title of the former was a genuine concern until the 1989 Berlin Wall collapse, and the player starred as a singular U.S. soldier, armed initially with only a knife, and yet aiming to infiltrate and bring down the Soviet superpower. (Echoes of Schwarzenegger and Stallone movies, anyone?) The latter game, meanwhile, whisked players all around the world in an espionage battle between the CIA, KGB, and other intelligence agencies. Exotic locales included Berlin, Athens, Rio de Janeiro, and even Antarctica. How many American kids learned in school about Berlin’s Tegel Airport, Potsdam Station, and Spree River, or about Athens’ Parthenon, Theater of Dionysius, and Herodes Concert Hall? Those of us who played Golgo 13 were in the know.

What about East Asian culture, you might ask, of which Americans regularly encounter today but back then hardly experienced? Years before ever hearing of sushi or watching Ichiro play baseball, I ascertained plenty from the games Kid Niki, Flying Dragon: The Secret Scroll, and The Legend of Kage. Broader America first learned of Jackie Chan upon his first U.S.-marketed film, 1996’s Rumble in the Bronx. But NES gamers had known his exploits for years thanks to Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu. Obviously, these brushes with East Asia were mere bucket drops compared to actually living there, but for many kids here in the States, the NES is truly the closest we got.

And how about reading comprehension, something the NES certainly was accused of pushing kids away from? Besides Nintendo Power, which millions of us consumed, try some of the games’ instruction booklets. The stories behind Dragon Warrior, Faxanadu, and Final Fantasy come across as thrilling as any young adult fantasy novel. Indeed, Nintendo even seemed to recognize this, licensing their name to the “Worlds of Power” novelization series for Metal Gear, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Ninja Gaiden, and others.

Interested in robotics? Mega Man and its sequels may have been light years ahead of reality, but the titular robot hero and his exploits surely inspired plenty of budding scientists. And how many kids, fascinated by the stealth military strategy of Metal Gear, Jackal, Commando, and others, perhaps received their initial inspiration to join the U.S. Armed Forces and defend America? (If you think this is a reach, look no further than Star Trek, which inspired countless young people to pursue careers in science, engineering, and astronautics.)

Even games without ostensibly thematic connections to certain topics could still impart their wisdom. The Legend of Zelda is by no means about animals per se, but I first heard of sea urchins thanks to its enemy character Digdogger. Nor did I realize a boxing match could end without a knockdown, until encountering the Win by TKO in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! And who could have imagined learning about celebrities—Iggy Pop, Morton Downey Jr., Lemmy from Motorhead, and Beethoven amongst them—through Super Mario Bros. 3’s Koopaling characters? (Seeing SMB 3’s Beethoven knock-off was almost as cool as watching him rock out in the movie Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure!)

And the list goes on. We’re really just scratching the surface of what the NES exposed us to, and it’s almost impossible not to learn something new simply by firing up the controller. With such an expansive variety of games, both American-made and globally-produced, in-house as well as third-party, from individual and team sports, to action and adventure, to puzzles and strategy, science and military, fantasy and RPG, arcade and crime fighting, light gun and power pad, and so much more, Nintendo truly had it covered.

Today, we of course live in a far more advanced digital world. The phones in our hands literally carry more processing power than the supercomputers of the 1980s. We are effectively one click (or voice command) away from most any information, and we are far advantaged for it. But a modicum of interesting and practical knowledge nonetheless remains available through the NES, if only we choose to explore it. In the spirit of education along with entertainment, here’s to retro NES gaming far into the future!

- Shane Stein, executive producer of The Game Chasers Movie

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Time Machine: Comics & More Store - Fort Worth, Texas

Ever since I was a kid during the 1970s, reading the four-color adventures of Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, The Flash, Green Lantern, and the like, I wanted to own my own comic book store. In 1991, I did just that, opening Fantastic Comics & Cards in the Fort Worth area with my brother-in-law, Mike. We even opened a second location. Prior to that, I worked for Lone Star Comics, first in the backroom, then as store manager.

Nowadays, I’m a writer (including a 14-year stint freelancing for The Comics Buyer’s Guide), but I’m still a comic book retailer, selling comics and other pop culture items via my antique mall booth, The Time Machine: Comics & More Store. It is booth #1320 in LoneStar Antiques—when you go, just ask one of the employees at the front desk to show you where the comic book booth is. In addition to old and recent comics, I carry action figures, video games, books (including vintage paperbacks), Hot Wheels, trading cards, records, laser discs, DVDS, toys, VHS tapes, CDs, and other cool stuff. If you’re ever in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, stop by and check it out. Thanks for your business!

The Time Machine: Comics & More Store

Located in LoneStar Antiques (817-503-0441)

5605 Denton Hwy.

Haltom City, TX  76148

Booth #1320

Monday, July 5, 2021

New Nintendo Documentary Coming to The History Channel!

If you’re not super into video games, you may not know that Nintendo began as a playing card company way back in 1889. Or that the NES, home to Super Mario Bros., was NOT the company’s first gaming console—It was the Color TV-Game (of which there were five iterations), introduced in Japan in 1977.

You can learn these arcane facts and much more by watching Playing With Power: The Nintendo Story (2021), a five-part series currently available on Crackle, a streaming service that is similar to Netflix, but is free of charge (unless you consider having to watch commercials a form of payment).

Why am I mentioning this? Because I’m actually in the documentary. That’s right, little ol' me appears periodically throughout all five episodes, talking Nintendo history amongst such luminaries as Wil Wheaton (“Wesley Crusher” in Star Trek the Next Generation), Tommy Tallarico (legendary video game music composer), Howard Phillips (former Nintendo spokesperson), Nolan Bushnell (Atari co-founder), and Tom Kalinske (former president and CEO of Sega of America). Sean Astin, famous for such films as The Goonies (1985), Rudy (1993), and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), is the narrator.

I was in Playing With Power because I’ve written several books about Nintendo, and it probably doesn’t hurt that I know the director, Jeremy Snead, and that I live about 30 minutes from Dallas-based Mediajuice Studios, the company that produced the documentary. Regardless, I was extremely flattered to be asked, and it was a fantastic and rewarding experience, especially after being interviewed for two other video game documentaries—Video Games: The Movie (2014) and The Bits of Yesterday (2018)—and not appearing in either. (My appearance in the former was cut due to time constraints and the latter because the sound quality for my interview was poor.)

Well, I’m going to be in another Nintendo documentary, but this one was filmed in a place far, far away.

Earlier this year, I received the following email from Lucky 8 TV and The History Channel:

“I'm producing expert interviews for a new show that's unpacking the histories and business dealings of iconic companies. I'm in search of experts, historians, and journalists that could speak to the history and product line of Nintendo, and I'd love to connect with you for a potential on-camera interview. Might this be something you'd be into?

If so, we could schedule an introductory call this week and dive into some details. Thank you in advance and please don't hesitate to reach out at your convenience.” 

After considering the proposition for about half a nanosecond, I said that yes, I would love to take part. A few weeks later, they flew me out to New York City to interview for a "snack-sized" episode of The Machines that Built America, a series debuting on The History Channel this summer. I’m not exactly sure when the Nintendo episode will premiere, but you can bet that I’ll be too nervous to eat popcorn while I watch myself on the small screen, trying to sound like I know what I’m talking about. In all seriousness, it was a wonderful trip and a great interview, and they treated me very well.

Lucky 8 TV hosted me for two nights at a hotel in Manhattan, but I decided to stay an extra night because I LOVE exploring New York City. My favorite way to do so is on foot, because you miss a lot if you travel by subway. Two of the four days I was there I walked nearly 20 miles, exploring the sights and sounds of a robust, multi-borough town that appears to be recovering very nicely with Covid restrictions finally being lifted.

I trekked across the Brooklyn Bridge, got a slice at Joe’s Pizza (twice), ate some amazing falafel from a food truck, rode a bike through Central Park, caught a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, hung out with the crazies in Times Square, saw a cool grunge band at the historical Café Wha?, checked out the new releases at Midtown Comics, and even did a little thrifting, antiquing, and used bookstore shopping. One thing is clear: vintage collectibles cost a lot more in New York City than they do in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, likely because real estate is much more expensive in The Big Apple than in Big D.

I also visited Nintendo New York, a two-story retail extravaganza in Manhattan loaded with memorabilia and swag, much of which you won’t find at Target or Walmart. The store even has a little museum featuring such items as a Famicom (the Japanese equivalent of the NES), some Game & Watch handhelds, a Virtual Boy (a failed 3D console), and a Color TV-Game console. You can watch my walkthrough of the store HERE.

So, while the interview was only an hour-and-a-half or so, I got the full New York experience, at least as much as you can in four days.

Now that I’ve appeared in Playing With Power: The Nintendo Story and will soon be seen on The History Channel, I’m ready to quit my writing job, move to Hollywood, get an agent, and lobby for a star on The Walk of Fame. Well, maybe not, but both experiences were fantastic, and I’m already looking forward to doing something similar in the future. After all, I love talking about video games, and if there happens to be a camera on me when I’m doing so, that’s a bonus.

If you haven’t already downloaded Crackle—which is, as I mentioned, a FREE app—you should do so. Not only does it feature my TV debut, it hosts a variety of movies and television programs, including the first two seasons of The Partridge Family. Groovy!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - 35th Anniversary

In 1989, I quit my job driving a bob-tail truck around the Dallas/Fort Worth area, delivering photo copier machines (someone had to do it), and got my lifelong dream gig of working at a comic book store, Lone Star Comics in particular. Ironically, they hired me because I had experience in delivery, not because of my prodigious comic book knowledge. They needed someone to drive the company van, pick up comics at the local Diamond distributor, and take the comics to the various locations of the eight-store chain.

The new job was a cut in pay, but I loved it. I sorted and bagged comic books, cleaned and swept the “Batcave” (which is what they called the backroom), and, of course, delivered boxes and boxes of the new releases each week. After a short time, I began working out front in the store area, waiting on customers and ringing up sales, and within a few months I worked my way up to store manager. (A year or so later, I partnered up with my brother-in-law, and we opened up two stores of our own—Fantastic Comics & Cards—in the Fort Worth area, but I digress…)

One day, while I was manning the register at the main Lone Star location in Arlington (home of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers), a customer came in who I knew from working at Luther’s Barbeque when I was in high school (I graduated in 1985). He was eight years older than me, but we had been good friends as we shared a lot of common interests, including rock music and old horror and science fiction movies. I had absolutely no idea he cared anything about comic books, as I rarely discussed my interest in them with “civilians” (admitting you liked comics during the 1980s was basically like saying you were a child or hopelessly brain damaged), but there he was, checking out the new issues—it was great catching up with him, and we had a lot of laughs over the old days at Luther’s. Better yet, we struck up a (now lifelong) friendship and discovered we had something else in common: “funny books.”

Glenn had grown up reading The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, Iron Man, and other Marvel staples, but, like many fans who reached adulthood and became distracted by cars, girls, bills, and the like, he abandoned them. However, in 1986 he read a review of DC Comics’ mature-themed The Dark Knight Returns in Rolling Stone magazine, and it drew him back in. Not only did Glenn purchase each issue of the groundbreaking, four-part series, he began collecting again in earnest, purchasing Marvels he had grown up reading and even buying new issues of such DC titles as Justice League and Superman.

Glenn’s story is hardly unique. Not only did The Dark Knight Returns, a grim, gritty alternate future story of a grizzled, almost fascistic Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement to be Batman again and battle a gang called the Mutants, attract many people to comics books who had never read them before, it also brought many lapsed readers back into the fold.

Written and drawn by Frank Miller, with pencils by Miller, inks by Klaus Jason, and colors by Lynn Varley, The Dark Knight Returns took an aging Caped Crusader back to his 1939 roots (more or less) as a grim avenger of the night, as opposed to the sci-fi stuff published in the ’50s or the campy Batman inspired by the Adam West TV show of the late 1960s. Miller was clearly influenced by manga (Japanese comic books), especially in terms of panel flow and dynamic page layouts. Other creators, such as writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams, had treated Batman seriously, but The Dark Knight Returns garnered much more mainstream attention. Plus, it was published in a prestige format, with each issue costing $2.95, which was about four times as much as a standard comic book.

DC Comics printed 125,000 copies of that first issue. According to then-DC Comics Executive Vice President Paul Levitz (writing for, this was a huge gamble as Ronin, Frank Miller’s prestige format project from three years before, had a first-issue print run of around 87,000.

“If we were wrong, we could actually lose money on the project,” he relates.

It turns out that DC was indeed wrong, but in the other direction. They had printed far too few copies as the issue quickly sold out and stores were putting in heavy re-orders.

“It was good news,” Levitz writes, “EXCEPT we hadn’t done a second printing of a comic for decades. I think the last may have been the Batman 3-D comic magazine in the ’60s fad, or it may even have been one of the earliest Superman titles in the Golden Age. All long before comic shops and serious collectors. So, there was a real debate around the room about whether we should print more. Were we going to be unfair to collectors who had bought second, or multiple, copies in hope of appreciation? They were an appreciable portion of our audience at the time, we thought. If we didn’t, were we going to lose out on the biggest opportunity DC had since the comic shop market began? Sounds silly now, but then it was a serious conversation.”

Of course, DC printed more. In fact, they did four printings of that first issue for a total of approximately 400,000 copies. To appease collectors, they labeled subsequent printings as such in the indicia, making first printings more desirable and ultimately worth more in the collector’s market.

Levitz recalls, “[This was] a massive number for an expensive book (our regular titles were 75 cents), an emerging market (that was around the time comic shops would pass the newsstand in sales), and a publisher that was a distant No. 2.”

Calling the phenomenon “unforgettable,” Levitz further explains that strong sales were just one aspect of the wide-ranging influence of The Dark Knight Returns: “It was just the beginning. The trade editions would really change the field, establishing the graphic novel format in America (along with Watchmen and Maus).”

The series influenced future Batman (and other superhero) comics and movies as well.

The trade edition of all four issues of The Dark Knight Returns collected into one book that Levitz refers to has gone through numerous reprintings itself and has also sold a ton of copies. To read the story today, this is the easiest and cheapest way to go as you can hop on Amazon or eBay and grab a dog-eared copy for just a few bucks, or you can get a new edition for about $20. If you want a complete set of the four individual issues, all first printings, and all in nice condition, it will set you back around $200 to $250.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Brett Weiss Video Game Book Update & GIVEAWAY CONTEST!

I'm super excited to announce that I completed the manuscript for book #13! The book will release next year. To celebrate, I'm giving away a signed hardcover copy of The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987. To enter the random drawing, all you have to do is comment on THIS VIDEO. US residents only. Thanks for playing! I will announce the winner July 1.

 **Here's the Amazon description of the book I'm giving away:

There have been many top 100 books before, but rarely one like this. Here are the best of the early video games, shown in over 400 color photos and described in incredible detail in the entertaining and informative text. Each game’s entry features production history, critical commentary, quotes from industry professionals, gameplay details, comparisons to other games, and more. This book celebrates the very best of the interactive entertainment industry’s games from this highly crucial, fondly remembered decade. This pivotal period was marked by the introduction of the indispensable Atari 2600, Odyssey2, and Intellivision, the unleashing of the underrated Vectrex, the mind-blowing debut of the next-gen ColecoVision and Atari 5200, plus the rebirth of the industry through Nintendo’s legendary juggernaut, the NES. Whether you’re young or old, new to the hobby or a hardcore collector, this book will introduce you to or remind you of some of the greatest, most historically important games ever made.


*You can always depend on Brett Weiss for the world's most thorough deep-dive on vintage 80s and 90s gaming. There's no one I know that's more knowledgeable on the game systems we all fell in love with years ago. His books are a must-have for any modern-day gamer wanting to get an old school fix. His books won't just prove a dose of nostalgia, you'll also discover games you never even knew existed! - Adam F. Goldberg, creator of "The Goldbergs" hit TV show

*This is an amazing book...detailed information...very high quality all around. - 8-Bit Eric

*Truly beautiful from cover to cover...It should be a fixture on every coffee table in a video gaming household...Each section of the book is well-written and accompanied by high quality artwork and photos. - Patrick Scott Patterson

*Author Brett Weiss knows his stuff...a respected name in the classic gaming community...he provides insightful behind-the-scenes information...the book is suitable for just about any type of video game fan. - The Video Game Critic

*If you love video games and have a fondness for the Golden Age of gaming, 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987 by Brett Weiss will bring you back to those simpler days when games were just plain fun. Even if you owned an Atari, Coleco, Mattel, or Nintendo game console, Weiss' book adds additional context and info that will interest any gamer who loved this era. - 8-Bit Central

*Whether you're an avid collector, or even just casually interested in gaming history, 100 Greatest Consoles Video Games is a must-own. Weiss has written exactly the kind of guide knowledgeable enthusiasts will savor as a handy reference, while those with a budding passion for console gaming will find it a revelatory guide for navigating through the format's incipient offerings. If he has any intention of doing so, I certainly hope he takes on subsequent eras of consoles leading up to the present day. - Marshall Garvey (Last Token Gaming)

*I was really impressed with this book...high quality...I really like it...a nice item to have - John "Gamester81" Lester

*Ever crack open a book and instantly know you're going to love it? This one's kind of like that...One of the best things about these write-ups is that Weiss doesn't try and hide his enthusiasm in the least. Not sounding like a dull history lesson, he actually gets excited just talking (well, writing) about his favorites, and that makes him come across like the game fan that he is. As a fan myself, that's refreshing and makes for a much more interesting read...a joy to read...beautifully illustrated and put together, with fantastic box art, screenshots, and even occasional cartridge pictures...Its colorful presentation is printed on some excellently heavy stock as well, with big and glossy pages that are easy to thumb through and just plain fun to read. - Brutal Gamer

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Help Me Open and Unbox These FACTORY SEALED Atari 2600 & Intellivision Games!

Help Me Open and Unbox These FACTORY SEALED Atari 2600 & Intellivision Games!

I've got eight vintage factory sealed video games I'd love to open in a (near) future video: Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Space Attack, Venture, and Jungle Hunt for the Atari 2600, and Space Armada, Space Spartans, and Triple Attack for the Intellivision.


Here's how it works:

If you--US residents only--place a $25 (or more) order for any of my gaming or pop culture books via by June 7, and then mention your order in the comments of THIS VIDEO, I will open/unbox the game you mention in a subsequent video. I will also plug your website, YouTube channel, business, or anything else in that unboxing video. So, with your book(s) purchase, you are also getting a free plug on my channel, as well as the fun of watching me open a factory sealed game(s) in a video. And I will be happy to sign the book or books that you order. :)

Keep in mind that you are NOT buying the game or paying me to open the game--you are buying a book (or books), getting a free sponsorship on my channel, and helping me open a factory sealed game (your order offsets the fact that opening factory sealed games devalues them). There can be more than one sponsor for each game. For example, if three people purchase $25 or more worth of books for me to open Dig Dug, I will mention all three people and plug their channel/website/business in the subsequent Dig Dug unboxing video.

The one exception to the $25 price is Ms. Pac-Man, which will require a $50 (or more) order since it is a more expensive factory sealed game, and opening it will devalue it more than the others. (BTW, if you order $100 or more of books direct from me, shipping is free.)

So, US residents, get your book orders in by June 7, comment on the video which game or games you'd like for me to open, and I will do so in a subsequent video. And I will plug your gig! Thanks!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) - One of the Greatest Consoles of All Time & One of My Favorites!

The NES is one of the greatest game consoles of all time, home to such legendary titles as Contra, Castlevania, the original Super Mario Bros. trilogy, Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, and the classic Donkey Kong trilogy (Donkey Kong 3 is so underrated!), as well as such hidden gems as Trog!, Cowboy Kid, and Felix the Cat. I could go on all day about the excellent library of games, which I in fact do in The NES Omnibus volumes 1 and 2.

The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 2 (M-Z) is currently on Kickstarter, and you can back it HERE. There are only a couple of days left, so if you miss it, you can still do a standard pre-order for the book HERE. And you can read sample pages from the book HERE.

You may be surprised to know that I didn’t actually play the NES until I got my console for Christmas in 1987. I was 20 years old at the time and was no longer going over to friends’ houses to play video games. I was still gaming on my Atari 2600, ColecoVision, Intellivision, and Odyssey2, but my social life consisting primarily of working, dating, shooting hoops, and hanging out with friends in bars, restaurants, and the like. In addition, I never saw the VS. System version of Super Mario Bros. in the arcades until later. I had heard of the game, though, and was absolutely floored by it when I first booted it up. I was especially impressed with the cartoonish nature of the game, the secrets and surprises, and the near-perfect controls, at least when compared to what came before.

I went on to amass an awesome collection of games, and I’ve written about the NES for the late, lamented All Game Guide, Old School Gamer Magazine, AntiqueWeek, and various other publications. I even wrote the WORLD’S FIRST book featuring write-ups for EVERY U.S. release for the console.

In short, I’m a huge NES fan, and I love playing the games and writing about them and the system.

Long live the NES!

Monday, May 10, 2021

NES Memories from The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 2 (M-Z) - NOW ON KICKSTARTER!

In addition to reviews for 350+ games and all that goes along with that, such as history, box art, screenshots, developer info, and the like, The NES Omnibus Vol. 2 (M-Z), which is NOW ON KICKSTARTER, is loaded down with essays on and nostalgic stories about many of the games featured. This book was a labor of love for myself and all the contributing writers involved, including such noteworthy talents as 8-Bit Eric, Chris “The Irate Gamer” Bores, John “Gamester81” Lester, David Warhol (former Intellivision and NES programmer), Greg Sewart (former Electronic Gaming Monthly editor and reviewer), and many other content creators and personalities. The NES Omnibus Vol. 2 (M-Z) will ship Oct. 28. Enjoy an advance look at this terrific Metroid essay by artist and developer Kale Menges:

Few games have had an impact in my life like Metroid. Without a doubt, it is my favorite video game of all time. In fact, it is the game that most inspired me to become a developer. I first played Metroid in the autumn of 1989 at a cousin's house and was immediately entranced. Being a somewhat introverted kid growing up, and at the time coping with my family's recent cross-country relocation, I found myself easily relating to protagonist Samus Aran's isolation and loneliness in her quest to eradicate the devastating bio-weapons being harvested by space pirates on the planet Zebes. There was something so incredibly surreal about the way Metroid seemed to defy the 2D platforming conventions of the time. The game was just so amazingly innovative from both a creative and a design perspective.

After playing so many other platform games on the NES back in the day, merely being able to scroll left was mind-blowing. The morph ball power-up was a stroke of genius, a design decision the team arrived at when they simply couldn't figure out how to effectively animate Samus crawling (the technical limitations of the NES hardware were what made so many of these 8-bit games so great). Samus' screw attack, a special ability that allowed her to somersault right through enemies like an energized saw blade, remains famous as one of the greatest power-ups in the history of gaming.

The game's password system (the cartridge version's replacement for the original Famicom Disk game's writable save feature) provided players with what basically amounted to a primitive hacking tool that opened up a unique dimension of experimentation and exploration rarely found in console games. Metroid's non-linear gameplay, set in an exotic and hostile ecosystem where the player is the alien exploring a vast subterranean landscape of labyrinthine caverns and ancient ruins of a forgotten alien civilization, creates a fantastic gaming experience that crafts a wonderfully unique experiential narrative that somehow always feels personal. Even the soundtrack is perfectly attuned to the game's atmosphere and ambiance. There is something almost romantic about it all, in a classic pulp sci-fi sort of way.

I have no idea how much of my life I've spent navigating that hostile planet's dark interior, desperately searching every nook and cranny for hidden power-ups and secret passages. Metroid remains one of the gold standards for how to do hidden secrets in game worlds, and it succeeds so well at teaching players to explore and experiment (rather than just holding their hand and spelling everything out for them all the time), and to view roadblocks as signs that they're on the right path. Even the game's protagonist, Samus Aran, represented a veritable ace up the sleeve as the game's ultimate secret, her true identity only being revealed if the player finished the game within a certain time limit. Nowadays, Metroid's design philosophies are central tenets of the genre it helped create, taking 2D platform games to a whole new level of depth and challenge well beyond mere running and jumping.

I don't know how many times I've defeated that mechanical life vein known as the Mother Brain, but I can draw out the entirety of the game's immense map from memory. I still do a play-through of the game at least once a year, even three full decades since the first time I played it. And yet, despite the game's technical shortcomings (pervasive slowdown in enemy-crowded areas and quite a few exploitable glitches), and even though I've thoroughly relished and enjoyed all of the games in the Metroid series over the years, the original NES game still stands out to me as more of a pure, focused experience whose simple narrative perfectly complements its wonderfully organic game design. - Kale Menges, artist and game developer

Monday, May 3, 2021

Twitter Autographed Book Giveaway! The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 1 (A–L)

Hey, I’m giving away a SIGNED copy of The NES OmnibusVol. 1 (A-L) over on Twitter. US residents only.

To be entered into the random drawing, all you have to do is retweet the contest Twitter post, which you can find by clicking HERE. The contest will end Wednesday—thanks for playing!

Below are a couple of reviews of the book, including one by HP Lindsay, who is Papa Pete on YouTube.

Anthony E. Micari

5.0 out of 5 stars

A definitive work for all NES fans!

Reviewed in the United States on December 21, 2020

Brett Weiss has been writing amazing Video Game compendiums for years. Ever since I stumbled upon his SNES Omnibus, I have been a fan. This one does NOT disappoint! I like to read these kinds of books cover to cover, and Weiss fills this with interesting reviews, anecdotes and facts on every game in the NES Library (in this case A - L). The quality of the hardcover is great and everything is nicely laid out. I can't wait for the next volume coming in 2021. I also suggest that anyone interested in video game history or collecting check out his other books.

HP Lindsay

5.0 out of 5 stars

The True "Ultimate" Nintendo NES Encyclopedia

Reviewed in the United States on February 8, 2021

Like Weiss' prior releases, the SNES Omnibuses Vol 1 & 2, The NES Omnibus Volume 1 is the most thorough and appealing guide to the NES Library that's available today. Covering games from A-L, author, Brett Weiss provides extensive descriptions, screen shots and other details on on every licensed and unlicensed game released for the system. Many of the games also include personal stories from various members of the retro game and YouTube communities, to accentuate that particular game.

The clean, clear layout of each page...and every single game gets at least one full page of extremely easy and appealing to read, much different from other books on the same subject, which are so cluttered and "busy" that it takes away from overall experience. This isn't an arbitrary review book. This is an encyclopedia, where Brett Weiss covers each and every game, in a fair and unbiased manner. Overall, as a lover of all retro video games, I have to say that this is by far the best compilation available for the Nintendo Entertainment System, today.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

8 Nintendo NES Couch Co-Op Games You MUST Play - Including Contra!


I recently uploaded a video on YouTube of eight couch co-op games you MUST play for the Nintendo NES. These are titles I’ve played countless hours on over the years, so they come highly recommended. You can watch it HERE.

Contra is among these games I included, so I thought it would be cool to post text from the Contra chapter in The NES Omnibus Vol. 1 (A-L), including author Patrick Hickey Jr.’s nostalgic "Insider Insight" story down below. ENJOY!


Publisher: Konami. Developer: Konami.

Platform Shooter, 1 or 2 players (simultaneous). 1988.

Putting the “hard” in hardcore, Contra is a tour de force of macho gaming, casting the player in the role of a musclebound soldier from the Special Forces elite commando squad. Armed with the ability to run, jump, duck, and fire a gun (at aliens and their evil henchmen), the guerilla warrior must blast his way through eight stages of brutal action: Jungle, Base 1, Waterfall, Base 2, Snow Field, Energy Zone, Hangar Zone, and Alien’s Lair. Bases 1 and 2 sport a behind-the-soldier perspective while Waterfall features vertical scrolling. Capturing flying power-ups enables the player to upgrade their firepower to machine gun, laser, fireball, rapid fire, and, most famously, the awesome spread gun. Like its more graphically detailed (yet less well known) coin-op counterpart (Konami, 1987), a second gamer can join in for cooperative action. Pressing up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A at the title screen lets the player begin with 30 lives, a maneuver that popularized the famous Konami Code.

Memories: As with Castlevania, I bought Contra shortly after it came out. Buzz for the game was strong, and it did not disappoint. I absolutely loved it. I didn’t find out about the Konami code until later, so I played it over and over again with the few lives it would give you. I didn’t mind, though, because I dug every second of it and didn’t know any better. I got so good at Contra—jumping and flipping away from bullets like some kind of buff ballerina—that I beat it without using any cheats. This says more about how many hours I put into the game than it does how skilled of a gamer I am.

Notable Quotable: “Two-player contests are always in demand, because most video games are designed for a solo gamer. Contra is doubly welcome, because it is a truly outstanding action epic.” - Computer Gaming World (June 1988)

Notable Quotable: “Requires all the skill you can muster. The aliens come at you from every which way, and only the fastest responses will save you! The action is non-stop…graphics are quite good…If you like action, you should find many hours of exciting play here.” - Computer Entertainer (March 1988)

Notable Quotable: “The commandos are awkward to control, and have an annoying habit of crouching down facing in the wrong direction. The graphics improve throughout the game, but then again they have to; the early levels look primitive in the extreme. So, considering the NES games coming out at the moment—games that have outstanding graphics, sound, and playability—this really can't be recommended.” - Mean Machines (January 1991)

Insider Insight: It was the summer of 1988. I wasn’t even five years old yet, but I had amassed quite a reputation for myself in the apartments where I lived. I could already read, I always ate my vegetables, and I loved gaming. R.B.I. Baseball, Super Mario Bros., you name it, I was awesome at it.

Then one day my neighbor—let’s just call him Mike (who 20 years later would end up in prison on a murder charge. Hey, it was Brooklyn.)—introduced me to a game that changed my life forever. It kind of looked like Mario, but it was in the jungle and you had guns. Wait, this was nothing like Mario. This was nuts. The guns change when I pick these things up? This was amazing. But it was hard. I didn’t want to play anymore. Wait, what? There’s a fix? A secret code?

The Konami code, which “Mike” introduced me to, changed everything for me and made me absolutely love Contra. No longer would I have to wait for Dad to get home and plot our course of action. No longer would I have to ask my friends how to beat a level. No longer would I get angry when I died. Why? I had 29 more!

The Konami code allowed me to explore the levels of Contra, to take in its undeniable beauty and killer soundtrack and learn the ways of the alien force attacking. That code wasn’t just a cheat to me—it was an introduction to gameplay design, mechanics, and the thought that what you saw wasn’t what you got and that a video game is always more than the sum of its parts. Without Contra, it’s fair to say I don’t end up with the appreciation of games that I have. Yep, it’s that heavy.

While it also incited a cheating scandal in gaming the industry had never seen before (real men don’t need the code to finish Contra, or so they say) and changed the way we play in other regards, the code’s inclusion on one of the best side-scrolling shooters was just another reason why the game is so special. It also fostered an extra strong bond between players in two-player action. Allowing players to “borrow” lives (the same way that a neighbor’s mother would borrow bread no one ever returned) the stronger player could essentially guide the weaker player through the level.

Great games are played in a variety of ways. Contra is an excellent single-player shooter and an even better two-player romp. Add in the storied Konami code, and you’ve got a game that is absolutely iconic. - Patrick Hickey Jr., author of The Minds Behind the Games, founder and editor in chief of

Thursday, April 29, 2021

SAMPLE PAGES! - Excerpts from The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 2 (M-Z)

Hey, fellow gamers and readers, I’ve uploaded several samples pages from my forthcoming book, The NES Omnibus Vol. 2 (M-Z). Click HERE to read pages on Super Mario Bros., Popeye, R.C. Pro-Am II, and Tetris 2. ENJOY!

Here’s a little backstory on The NES Omnibus project:

The SNES Omnibus was a resounding success. Not only have both volumes sold well, they have received rave reviews, and Schiffer Publishing was willing to listen to my pitch for another two-volume set for a major console. The company readily agreed, so I got busy on it. And then it occurred to me that before doing another two-volume set, I could write a single-volume Omnibus to give readers a break on their bank accounts before asking them to shell out for two more books.

As such, The NES Omnibus was conceived, and I put the prospective two-volume Omnibus project on hold. I’ve been a huge fan of the Nintendo Entertainment System ever since I got my original console for Christmas in 1987 (which you can read about in my preface to The NES Omnibus Vol. 1), and I was delighted at the prospect of writing a big, beautiful, single-edition hardcover book about one of my favorite game systems.

But then reality set in. Once I got to work on The NES Omnibus, I couldn’t control myself. I simply stuffed too much information and too many photos on each page for the book to be readable with most of the games only getting half a page each. Plus, I wanted to include vintage ads for many of the games and more nostalgic stories from contributing writers. The latter is what so many of you like the most about the Omnibus books, so those were a top priority. And, to be perfectly honest, they’re my favorite aspect of the books as well—it’s super fun to read and edit the stories and share them with you.

Said stories in this book, which I call “Insider Insights,” are awesome. Popular YouTuber “The Immortal” John Hancock reveals what it was like renting games with his family when he was a kid. Legendary programmer David Warhol gives behind-the-scenes info on developing Maniac Mansion and Monster Truck Rally. Noted authors Ken Horowitz and Patrick Hickey Jr. share their love of Super Mario Bros. 2 and Tecmo Bowl respectively. Krystle Tiedeman, the producer of The King of Arcades, wrote a hilarious story about playing Taboo with friends. And you’ve simply got to read YouTuber Christopher Pico’s epic saga of playing Mad Max as a young game tester back in the day. If you like video game culture and nostalgia, you’re going to love this trip back through time to the ’80s and early ’90s from a variety of perspectives.

As for my memories in the book, I wax nostalgic about a bunch of NES titles, including such personal favorites as Mario Bros., Popeye, Super Mario Bros., Super Sprint, and even Trog!, a hidden gem for the console. I trash some terribly disappointing games as well, such as Superman and Super Pitfall. And, of course, I wrote a synopsis for each game.

In addition to stories, reviews, and synopses, The NES OmnibusVol. 2 (M-Z) features box art, screenshots, developer and publisher info, and historical data, along with quotes from vintage magazines and respected websites to give readers a well-rounded look at each game. I even quote other books as this is a scholarly, research-heavy effort as well as a book that is meant to entertain. At the back of the book you’ll find listings for foreign NES releases and miscellaneous titles, as well as a pair of super insightful essays (by Shane Stein and Patrick Hickey Jr.) about specific aspects of the console.

As always, thanks for reading, and thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered the book or backed it on Kickstarter.

Nostalgic Super Mario Bros. 2 Story - Nintendo NES Game

You hear a lot about video games being a waste of time—that you should be fishing or something instead of playing them. You also hear that video games are isolating and unhealthy for interpersonal relationships. What you hear far less about—at least in the mainstream press—is how video games often create lifelong bonds between friends and family members. Below is a story by writer and former GameStop associate Raymond Fix where he describes just that. It is just one of many nostalgic essays from my forthcoming book, The NES Omnibus Vol. 2 (M-Z), which is NOW ON KICKSTARTER.

Insider Insight: When I was growing up, my Uncle Peter on my mom’s side of the family came over quite often. He only lived a town away, and he seemed to enjoy having a nephew who lived so close. At the time, he and his wife Eileen didn’t have kids of their own. When the NES began gaining momentum, he bought the console and Super Mario Bros. 2. This is when our bond started to form.

On the weekends, Uncle Peter would come by, pick me up, and take me to his house so we could have a good time chomping snacks while we played Super Mario Bros. 2. We would play it all day—this was a highlight of my childhood because he always wanted to spend time with me. He showed me all the secrets he learned. He was fascinated with Peach’s floating ability and claimed she was the best. I would argue and claim Luigi was better because he jumped the highest. We had these kinds of conversations often.

I wasn’t very good at the game, so he would play the hard levels for me. Most of the time he would get all the way to Wart, which is the last boss of the game, and he would switch it to Luigi so I could battle the final boss and claim that I had beaten the entire game.

Uncle Peter passed away a few years ago. Every time I look at my collection and see that light blue end label with a red printed “Super Mario Bros. 2” written on it, I think of him and all the great times we had and how much I miss him. I don’t think I’ve played the game since he passed, but I hope my children will ask me about it someday and want to play so I can relive that part of my childhood. - Raymond Fix, former GameStop associate and blogger of

Please consider backing The NES Omnibus Vol. 2 (M-Z) on Kickstarter. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Yoshi's Cookie for the Nintendo NES Influenced the Roller Coaster Tycoon Franchise!

Did you know that Yoshi’s Cookie influenced the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise? Neither did I until I read developer Matt Raithel’s Insider Insight for my forthcoming book, The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 2 (M-Z), which is NOW ON KICKSTARTER. The book features reviews, history, nostalgic stories, box art, screenshots, quotes from vintage magazines, and much more. If you like retro gaming, please consider backing the book. If you don’t do Kickstarter, US residents can pre-order a signed copy direct from me HERE.

Here’s the Yoshi’s Cookie entry for the book, with Matt’s development story at the end. Of course, the page in the book will have a much cooler design. You can check out sample pages on Kickstarter, as well as get more info. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support!

Yoshi’s Cookie

PUBLISHER: Nintendo.

DEVELOPER: Bullet-Proof Software.

GAME TYPE: Action Puzzle, 1 or 2 players (simultaneous).

YEAR: 1993.

In Yoshi’s Cookie, you use a cursor to shift horizontal rows and vertical columns of randomly sequenced cookies in a square bin. When all the cookies in a line are of the same type (heart, flower, diamond, check, circle, or Yoshi), that row or column will disappear. As play goes on, more cookies will enter the playfield from the top and the side. In one-player mode, Yoshi-shaped cookies act as wild cards, meaning they can be matched with other cookie types. In two-player split-screen mode, when you line up five Yoshis in a row, it sabotages your opponent, such as scrambling their cookies, controlling their cursor, blocking their screen, adding to your point total, or subtracting from their point total. The action moves quickly, so you’ll often pull off combos by sheer luck. Gamers can play as Mario, Yoshi, the Princess, or Bowser. With more than 100 levels (including an expert's game) in the one-player mode and an entertaining, highly competitive two-player mode, which is a race for points, Yoshi's Cookie is a solid entry in the action puzzle genre.

Notable Quotable: “Visuals are simple and clear…The music is an ever-repeating tune that can get a little annoying, but one that gets stuck in your head nonetheless. You'll find yourself whistling it at random moments. Controls are excellent…topnotch versus mode…accessible, yet challenging, addictive, and fun.” - Tom Lenting (

Notable Quotable: “The design may sound a bit confusing, and compared to more immediately understandable puzzlers like Tetris it does take a bit of a mental shift to wrap your head around—but you pick it up quickly after the first few rounds of play. The only real downfall to how Yoshi's Cookie is designed is that you'll often find yourself left with only one or two cookies in your stack, and you'll have to wait around for the game to spawn new pieces for you, and hope that it gives you the right ones to be able to make a match and clear the stage. That waiting period can last a while…fairly fun, but its appeal has never eclipsed those more traditional ‘falling block’ puzzlers like Tetris, Dr. Mario, or Puyo Puyo…fair and favorable…Give it a look if you're a fan of the genre looking for something that’s just a bit different.” - Lucas M. Thomas (, playing the NES game downloaded to the Wii

Insider Insight: I first played Yoshi’s Cookie at my cousin’s house during a family event and was immediately engaged by the unique puzzle mechanics. I connected with the fact that player movements controlled entire rows of pieces, as opposed to moving one by one. This created cascades of matches that were fun to watch and could turn a potential loss into a victory if you planned correctly.

Decades later, my team at Graphite Lab was tasked with designing a puzzle game featuring the RollerCoaster Tycoon brand for Atari. Our challenge was finding ways to make roller coaster rails a meaningful puzzle element. Reflecting on the mechanics of Yoshi’s Cookie, we imagined puzzle pieces moving a full row at a time. We evolved this approach by placing the puzzle pieces of our game on roller coaster rails. Players could drag various pieces throughout the game board in effort to make matches in a fun and unique way. Yoshi’s Cookie inspirations can now be seen through our “rail match system” found in the mobile game, RollerCoaster Tycoon Story. - Matt Raithel, Studio Director, Graphite Lab; Professor of Practice of Game Design, Maryville University