Welcome back to The Last Official Release; a series of posts where I explore the last games to be officially released on a variety of different consoles, focusing on a different one each article. Previous entries have included the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Game Boy.
Today, the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) is up for scrutiny – released October 18th, 1985 in North American and September 1st, 1986 in Europe. It should also be noted that this musing of an article will not include releases for the Famicom, as I believe that could warrant its own separate piece since it was such a behemoth in its native Japan. Today, we’ll be focusing on the lovable western VCR-shaped variant only.
In total, it’s believed that 714 official games were released over the NES’s lifespan and like with other consoles I’ve covered, the last actual game varies between regions. Wario’s Woods was the final release in North American for one, being released on the 10th of December, 1994. A puzzle game developed by Nintendo R&D1, this “falling block” genre of gameplay involves using bombs to clear enemies by arranging them into rows of matching colours. The gimmick here, though, is that instead of manipulating the blocks as they fall (like in Tetris) the goal is to arrange them after they’ve fallen to the bottom of the playfield. You actually play as Toad here too – Wario himself just plays the villain of the game. If you wish to play it but don’t own the necessary hardware, you’ll be glad to know that Wario’s Woods is quite accessible in the modern day. Like most major Nintendo IP’s, it can be found on the Virtual Console for the Wii, 3DS and Wii U.
Even though Wario’s Woods would be the last NES game that North America would see, it would not be the final hurrah internationally. That title goes to The Lion King, released on the 25th of May, 1995 in PAL regions only. Developed by Westworld Studios (yes, of Command & Conquer fame) and published by Virgin Interactive, this adaption of the popular 1994 children’s film of the same name would include ports to many different systems.
Most would be aware of this game thanks to its infamous SNES counterpart that was brutally difficult for children (the assumed target audience) but no one ever really mentions the NES version. While the gameplay was similar, it suffered from bad controls and only included six levels (even though the back of the box promised ten). The graphics undoubtedly would have looked aged by even 1995 standards as well making the Genesis, SNES and PC versions much more desirable. I guess the port might exist because it was for children who may have been playing handy-down NES’s by that point, but who really knows?
In reality, I have found no solid information as to why The Lion King was developed so late in the NES’s life. But considering it only had a limited release it can be assumed that not much thought was put into it in the first place. Oh well, it exists – and even though it doesn’t hold much overall importance, it owns the crown for the last official release on the NES regardless.