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NES Classic: 5 tips and tricks you need to know

If you're lucky enough to own the hard-to-find NES Classic, here are some key tips and tricks to help you get the maximum enjoyment out of Nintendo's mini retro console.

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John P. Falcone is the senior director of commerce content at CNET, where he coordinates coverage of the site's buying recommendations alongside the CNET Advice team (where he previously headed the consumer electronics reviews section). He's been a CNET editor since 2003.
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John Falcone
3 min read
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Let's fantasize, for a moment, that you're lucky enough to get your hands on 2016's most impossible-to-find gift: the NES Classic. The mini console has 30 vintage mid-'80s games packed into a tiny replica of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. And yes, it's just as fun as it sounds -- especially considering its $60/£50/AU$100 retail price.

The Classic is a plug-and-play affair -- just connect it to your HDTV and the wall's power socket -- and you're good to go. Well, for the most part: We've rounded up five things you should know that will make your Donkey Kong, Super Mario and Tecmo Bowl sessions all that they can be.

Get an extension cable

Like the 1980s original, the Mini NES has an old-fashioned wired gamepad. But unlike the old NES, the cable on the Classic's gamepad is only about a third as long: under 3 feet (less than 1 meter) versus around 7.5 feet (more than 2 meters). You can correct that oversight by investing in a third-party extension cable. Models that add up to 10 feet (3 meters) go for about $10 or $11 in the US (about £9 or AU$14).

One alternative? Get a longer HDMI and micro-USB power cable instead (if you don't mind your NES Classic sitting in the middle of the living room floor.

Get a second controller (for two-player games)

Two-player games like the original Mario Bros., Tecmo Bowl and Double Dragon require a second controller if you want to play head-to-head -- but the NES Classic includes only one in the box. Spare controllers cost only $10 (£8 or AU$20), but -- no surprise -- they're as hard to find as the console itself.

There is a hack, of sorts, for games that alternate between player 1 and player 2: You can just pop the controller back and forth between each port. (Yes, it's as aggravating as it sounds, but it works.)

Wireless controllers are coming -- eventually

Nintendo's controllers are wired, but third-party accessory makers such as Nyko and 8Bitdo have announced wireless controllers that include a dongle that plugs into each controller jack. Be prepared to pay up to one-third to one-half of the NES Classic's total price for each controller, though.

The bigger problem? They're difficult to find in stores and online, too. (Sensing a pattern here?) Check back on Amazon for updated shipping dates, but be aware that "December 31" is usually a placeholder for "we have no idea."

Watch this: We fixed the NES Classic's biggest problem

Yes, the old cheat codes still work

The 30 games built-in to the NES Classic are so accurate to the originals that even the old-school cheat codes still work. IGN has catalogued dozens of them. We tried a select handful, and they all seemed to work just fine.

The same goes for all of the warp zones and shortcuts in Super Mario Bros. Everything appears to have survived its transition to the twenty-first century intact.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Games stay saved when you power off

A nice change from the original NES is that the Classic has four save slots ("suspend points") for each title. The better news: Those save slots can be accessed even after you power down, unplug the console and move it to another TV. We were able to access our saved games even after we left our Classic unpowered and unplugged for days -- great news if you're moving it between rooms or even between homes.