NES Classic Edition – The 10 Weirdest Instruction Manuals

Henry Gilbert
Games Nintendo
Games Nintendo Super Mario

The NES Classic Edition console is one of the hottest game releases of the year. This mini NES is selling out as soon as it appears on store shelves, and people are paying high premiums for it on sites like eBay. Clearly, people are ready for a heavy dose of nostalgia this holiday season. That extends to rediscovering the weird fun of reading NES Classic Edition instruction manuals.

Unlike today, where booklets are nonexistent, Nintendo has a special treat alongside the NES Classic. The publisher also released digital versions of the original instruction manuals for all the games included. When you scroll through these pristine scans of the old booklets, it’ll feel like it’s 1987 all over again. To show you how fun they are, I’ve picked the ten funniest, strangest, and dated pages of NES Classic Edition instruction manuals. Take a look.

Super Mario Bros.

NES Classic Edition Instruction Manuals

That has to be the weirdest Koopa Troopa Nintendo has ever published. Spoilers: Those secrets are mainly “jump on shells to hit other enemies” and “jump on multiple Goombas at once.” They don’t even give you hint about Warp Zones!


NES Classic Edition Instruction Manuals

It’s certainly off-model, but I like the kind of loose art style used to draw the Metroid world in its first game. That page is from the last section of the background story, and do you notice the text refers to Samus as “he”? That’s not a mistake — Nintendo was just setting people up for the surprise reveal of her gender at the end.

NES Classic Edition Instruction Manuals

From now on, we should only be referring to Pac-Man as “ghost gobbler.” It’s too perfect. Oddly, there’s more than one page to the instructions. You’d figure by 1993 everyone knew how to play Pac-Man.

Taito Game Ads

NES Classic Edition Instruction Manuals

I found these in a couple of the old manuals. Hats off to Nintendo for even scanning in the out of date ads from the backs of these. However, I don’t think you’ll have much luck trying to find Sky Shark or Operation Wolf in stores.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

NES Classic Edition Instruction Manuals

Both this game and the original Legend of Zelda had some impressive, full-color manuals back when that was a rarity. It’s also full of silly little doodles of Link. The goofiest has to be the Hero of Hyrule laying down with a sword and arrow stuck in his butt. Apparently, that’s his weak point.

Kirby’s Adventure

NES Classic Edition Instruction Manuals

Kirby’s Adventure hit the NES in 1993 after the Super NES was already in stores. Thus, the instruction manual is much more sophisticated than the rest on the NES Classic Edition. My favorite aspect is just how resolute and confident the “young pudge ball” looks as he’s marching off to battle.

Dr. Mario

NES Classic Edition Instruction Manuals

Mario becoming a physician after years of being a working class hero is odd enough. The strangeness increases when you see how Nintendo describes the cause of Dr. Marios plotSeriously, there’s such a thing as the Mushroom Kingdom Hospital, and Mario is a researcher there? Did Princess Peach (er, Nurse Toadstool) just give Mario an honorary doctorate as a reward for saving her kingdom?

Ghosts ‘N Goblins

NES Classic Edition Instruction Manuals

The manual for Ghosts ‘N Goblins is pretty bland, not at all preparing kids for the torment ahead of them. The best part of the booklet is an appearance by Captain Commando, Capcom’s former mascot. The captain wasn’t all that famous, though he’s one of the most courteous mascots out there. Not enough games thank you for buying them.

By the way, the other games in the Captain Commando “Challenge Series” were 1942, Commando, Mega ManSection Z, Trojan, and Gun Smoke. All of these were extremely challenging games worthy of the title.

Super Mario Bros. 3

NES Classic Edition Instruction Manuals

I love Super Mario Bros. 3 more than most people, but even I think they went overboard with the game’s instructions. There are dozens of full-color pages and descriptions of every enemy and power-up there is. The booklet’s oddest moment is hard to pick, but I have to go with the page three postcard from Mario that’s overly formal about describing his own game.

Bubble Bobble

NES Classic Edition Instruction Manuals

So many of these manuals are stuffed with long paragraphs describing the plot and gameplay, though Bubble Bobble has more fun with it. This comic strip might be a bit off model, but it’s a fun way to explain the game’s modest objectives. If only Taito had paid a little extra to make a full-color manual.

Now that you’ve reflected on the NES Classic Edition instruction manuals take a closer look at the ten best games the NES Classic has to offer.

Henry Gilbert
Henry Gilbert is Senior Games Editor at Fandom. He's worked in the gaming press since 2008, writing for sites as diverse as GamesRadar, IGN, and Paste Magazine. He's also been known to record a podcast or two with Laser Time. Follow him on Twitter @henereyg.
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