In the two years since Nintendo started their retro superstore, the Virtual Console has played host to many classic games of the last twenty years. It's also brought back some absolute howlers that should have stayed buried. There are dozens of classics still untouched, however, so here's our Eurogamer rundown of the games we hope to see every Friday morning. To keep the list reasonably realistic, we've omitted games based on movies, TV shows or comic books, purely because there's a very good legal reason why such licensed products can't be officially re-released. And, as further food for thought, skip to the end for the five gaming platforms we'd like to see added to the Virtual Console line-up.
SNES Most Wanted
Unirally (DMA Design)
After Lemmings, but before GTA, DMA Design came up with this unsung classic, long overdue its moment in the VC spotlight. It's a simple side-on racer in which riderless unicycles pelt around rollercoaster tracks, pulling off flips, twists and stunts to increase their speed. With a fantastic two-player mode and an instantly appealing concept, the world needs more Unirally.
Earthbound (Ape, Pax, HAL)
With Mother 3 finally getting an English language makeover (albeit unofficially), we can't help but pine for its 1994 SNES prequel. Back in May, a fresh ESRB rating for the game hinted that it would be headed for the VC, but six months on and there's still no sign of it. Why all the excitement? Because it's a witty JRPG that manages to innovate and parody the genre all in one delicious package.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors (LucasArts)
You know a game is a classic when its still considered the benchmark of a genre some fifteen years after its release. Many have tried to mimic this gleefully ghoulish top-down blaster, not least Rare's Grabbed By The Ghoulies and Monster Madness, but none have managed to pull it off. Funny, freaky and absolutely stuffed full of variety, this B-movie homage would clean up as a download.
Chrono Trigger (Square)
Perhaps the most commonly wished-for addition to the Virtual Console, the release of a DS version has probably scuppered any chance of seeing Square's greatest 16-bit RPG for the foreseeable future. And it really is a gem, far better than Final Fantasy with a time-hopping storyline that actually makes sense. Also, one of the characters is a medieval frog. Classic.
Super Punch Out!! (Nintendo)
The NES original has been available on the Virtual Console for over a year and a half, so where's the superior SNES sequel? For a game based on outsized cartoon opponents, you really need the colour and sprite-muscle of a 16-bit system and Punch Out's simple yet effective controls place it firmly within reach of even the most casual player.
Lost Vikings (Blizzard)
One of the all-time great puzzle games, Blizzard's Lost Vikings was probably left by the wayside because too many people expected it to be a platform game. As the title suggests, you have to guide three wayward Norse warriors through a series of fiendish levels, using each of their unique abilities to navigate past obstacles and traps. It's another great game that is a clear influence on a lot of Wii games, so it's time to give credit where it's due and get this on VC.
Super Mario Kart (Nintendo)
This one is so obvious that it almost doesn't need to be mentioned. There are apparently technical problems with emulating the Mode 7 graphics, but if there's one game that warrants a bit of extra backstage tinkering, it's this. Yes, Mario Kart 64 is on the Virtual Console, but it's not the original, and the original is the best. No Super Mario Kart is as daft as having no Super Mario Bros.
Secret of Mana (Square)
While Chrono Trigger remains missing in action, this equally impressive Square RPG actually joined the US Virtual Console in the middle of October. Did it arrive Europe at the same time? No sir, it did not. It better be on its way soon, or there'll be trouble.
Another World (Delphine/Eric Chahi)
Eric Chahi's epic animated adventure is one of those games that is much loved by those who played it, yet it rarely seems to get mentioned whenever gaming greats are under discussion. Let's rectify that. From its movie-style intro through to ferociously tough battles against alien prison guards, and on to a soaring finale, it's a quiet masterpiece of minimalist storytelling and surely a major influence on Half-Life.
Stunt Race FX (Nintendo/Argonaut)
Much like Mario Kart and Mode 7, there are clearly emulation problems with the Super FX chip keeping this - and other FX games - from the VC. Still, despite slightly chunky handling and a distinct lack of speed, Stunt Race FX was one of the first console games to really invest in 3D, and for all its flaws the track design and cheery vehicles make it a tarnished gem we'd love to revisit.
Nintendo 64 Most Wanted
Pilotwings 64 (Paradigm)
It's rather baffling that Nintendo hasn't revived its high-flying franchise for the eminently suitable Wii, but even more strange that it hasn't added this fondly remembered 3D sequel to the Virtual Console. From biplanes to hang gliders, it's a gentle flight sim that seems absolutely perfect for the casual family market.
Body Harvest (DMA Design)
Another forgotten treat from the studio that would later become Rockstar North. This tale of alien invasion is even more interesting, since its 3D world and open levels would prove to be a handy testing ground for the tech that made GTA III possible. Of course, Body Harvest is a great game in its own right, and deserves a place in the third-person shooter Hall of Fame.
Blast Corps (Rare)
People like blowing stuff up, and the bigger the stuff, the more fun it is. Blast Corps understands this simple equation, and tasks you with clearing a path for a leaking nuclear payload. This means using bulldozers, robots and dune buggies to destroy any buildings in the way. One of Rare's more obscure games, this simple-yet-brilliant concept could probably still work as a boxed Wii release let alone a VC re-release.
Okay, so it's highly unlikely. Probably impossible. But if GoldenEye, the brilliant Bond shooter that showed consoles could handle an FPS, does get a downloadable re-release we'd much rather it be on a native Nintendo platform than via Xbox Live. Tied up in a legal brouhaha between various platforms and licence-holders, this is very much wishful thinking. But wishes can come true, can't they Mummy?
Commodore 64 Most Wanted
It's funny writing about Wasteland when all eyes are on Fallout 3. This post-apocalyptic RPG was doing much the same thing way back in 1988, almost a decade before the first Fallout game. Both, interestingly, were published by Interplay. Anyway, considering Wasteland's vintage, it's amazing how many features it crams in. Persistent openworld? Check. Non-linear gameplay? Check. Skill points and levelling up? Check. Multiple optional side quests? Check. It's a true pioneer, and more people should know about it.
Winter Games (Epyx)
Well, it is winter, after all. With the other Epyx sports games already on the VC it seems like a no-brainer that this frosty follow-up to Summer Games (they skipped Autumn Games for some reason) should make an appearance soon. It can't come soon enough for C64 fanboy Kristan, who has been wearing ice skates to work for the last three weeks in anticipation.
This rather wonderful puzzle-action effort from Thalamus would work perfectly on the Wii. Viewed top-down, it was an addictive compendium of cunning challenges where you guided a ball around hazardous environments trying to get to the goal within strict time limits. With visuals which played to the C64's strengths, it doesn't even look that bad, either.
Wizball (Sensible Software)
This is yet another example of just how innovative the old 8-bit era could be. Developed by Sensible Software way before soccer made them legendary, it's almost impossible to sum up in a simple sentence. You're a green ball with a face. You bounce around three simultaneous scrolling playfields, a bit like Defender, shooting enemies which then leave behind drops of paint. Collect the different colours in each playfield to colour in your monochrome world. It's barmy, obviously, but also brilliant - and surely a major influence on de Blob.
Maniac Mansion (LucasArts)
One of the first adventures to boast multiple characters. And multiple endings. And jokes that were actually funny. With the adventure genre resurgent on the Wii, there's no good reason why Maniac Mansion, the first of many awesome LucasArts point-and-clickers, shouldn't be available on the Virtual Console. And when it is available, then you can add Zak McKracken for good measure. Okay?
Many people wrongly remember Turrican as a console game, perhaps because it looked so at home on the Megadrive and SNES. Both those versions are on the Virtual Console, so why no love for the original - which actually debuted on the Commodore 64 in 1990? German developer Manfred Trenz stretched the home computer's architecture to its limit, and his achievement should be honoured with a place on the VC - and its brilliant sequels, while we're at it.
Mega Drive Most Wanted
NBA Jam Tournament Edition (Midway)
While this probably falls foul of changing licence agreements, Midway's basketball series once straddled the globe. This enhanced version is probably best known for its weird sense of humour, which makes it ideal for the Wii. As well as Big Head and Baby Head modes, it also features a bizarre array of secret players - including Will Smith, Bill Clinton, Prince Charles and the Beastie Boys.
Rocket Knight Adventures (Konami)
When it was released back in 1993, many wrote Rocket Knight Adventures off as a lame Sonic rip-off. It's easy to see why - Sparkster, the hero, is an anthropomorphic possum in dark blue armour - but the gameplay is actually closer to Contra, with Nobuya Nakazato working on both titles. The Virtual Console is home to many cute side-scrolling platformers, and it would be nice if it could make room for this instead of yet another Wonder Boy effort.
Road Rash (EA)
What's better than motorbikes? Hitting people on motorbikes, of course. It's a recipe that Electronic Arts dished up with its now-defunct brawler-racer, and it's precisely the sort of fondly remembered arcade trash that should be populating the Virtual Console. There are many sequels, most of them a bit poo, so we'll stick with the original, thanks.
NES Most Wanted
Metal Gear (Konami)
Hideo Kojima was less than pleased with this NES remake of Solid Snake's original MSX2 adventure, apparently dubbing it "complete garbage". Probably not enough poop and boobies. With the MSX2 absent from the VC line-up, however, it seems silly to dismiss this actually-pretty-good makeover just because it mucks about with Kojima's vision. You'll certainly be surprised at how familiar the stealth gameplay is, even when viewed in top-down NES-o-vision.
Karnov (Data East)
Because who doesn't love a game about a fire-breathing Russian strongman fighting dragons and flying eyeballs? It's not just about the weirdness, though. With its large inventory of support items and colour-coded health system, it's a compelling action platform game. Think of it as the Ghosts 'N Goblins you might actually be able to complete.
Spy Hunter (Midway)
Definitely the coolest arcade game of 1983, and one of the few games which ported brilliantly to almost all 8-bit platforms. Top-down driving and, err, speedboating were as much of an unlikely alliance then as it is 25 years on, but with the addition of the Peter Gunn theme tune, smoke screens and oil slicks, classic status was assured.
Battle Chess (Interplay)
How do you get gamers interested in the stuffy world of chess? Simple. Just take the implied violence of the venerable game of military tactics and make it gloriously obvious! The beauty of this is that you don't need state of the art graphics for chess, so there's no reason why this can't appeal to everybody. It's also a bit like that game Chewbacca plays, which always helps.
NeoGeo Most Wanted
The Last Blade II (SNK)
It seems a bit weird to be demanding yet another NeoGeo fighting game, given how many of them have already kick-punch-chopped their way onto the Virtual Console, but this is widely regarded as one of SNK's best. With a deep and rich technical fighting style, and a historical setting livened up by the expected arcade flourishes, its arrival on the VC is long overdue.
Turbo Grafx-16 Most Wanted
With so many cute platform games on the Virtual Console, it's time to add one of the great action platformers from Capcom's heyday. That we have multiple versions of Ghouls 'N Ghosts but no Strider is a crime that will not stand. The children of 2008 need to know the fear of facing a Soviet cyborg caterpillar in deadly combat.
Akumajo Dracula X Chi no Rondo (Konami)
While the Virtual Console has been slowly and methodically adding the early NES versions of Castlevania to the Virtual Console, we can't help but wish they'd skip the numerical order and jump straight to this far more enriching and impressive Japan-only sequel from 1993. Far better than the Americanised SNES port, this is one game we'd happily pay inflated Hanabi Festival prices for.
Most Wanted Platforms
It's always hugely disappointing when a lame port of a classic arcade game goes up on Virtual Console - especially lame ports of Nintendo classics. It's like a band putting a bad cover version of one of their treasured crowd pleasers on a Greatest Hits compilation and expecting people to be happy with that. Why not, Nintendo, have a chat with those amazing MAME coders and sort it out once and for all. We would actually pay for the proper versions of Donkey Kong and Punch Out, you know, not to mention all the classic SEGA, Namco, Capcom and Taito stuff.
We've got the C64 and that is good and lovely and thanks. Now it's time to bring out the big guns - let's get the Amiga on the Virtual Console. Not only does it have a huge library of classic games, many of which were exclusive or never came within sniffing distance of a console, it's also the greatest home computer ever. All you ST owners? Shush.
So why is the C64 on the Virtual Console but the wonderful Speccy isn't? OMG BIAS. Seriously, it's stupidly easy to emulate, it's got an enormous library of games and you can guarantee every dad in every Wii family will go all gooey at the prospect of Sabre Wulf and Manic Miner. I'm sure Alan Sugar still has the rights to the Spectrum somewhere in his cupboard. Pester him for them.
Perhaps a little fanciful, this one, but wouldn't it be glorious to see the Dreamcast back on the scene? And on a platform that is comfortably outselling the latest PlayStation, no less. Weird and wrong though it may be for SEGA's greatest console to rely on Nintendo for a sort of Trojan horse victory, it would be such poetic justice.
A controversial pick, perhaps, given the short lifespan of this misbegotten console. Maybe Nintendo don't want to remind people that the N64 wasn't the first 64-bit console, since the Jaguar beat it to the shelves by three whole years. Maybe nobody cares. It's not got the sort of library that would keep the VC stocked for years to come, but it'd definitely be nice to play Alien vs Predator and Tempest 2000 again.
Apart from the aesthetic problem of blowing up those grey sprites to telly size, there really is no logical reason why Nintendo has yet to bring its world-conquering handheld back into the family fold. At the very least, now they've dropped the cartridge slot from the new DS, why not split the difference and maybe put some classic GBA games on the Virtual Console? Go on. Please?