Jay Bartlett grew up like a lot of kids who lived in the late 80s and into the 90s. During that time, Nintendo became a household name in a matter of weeks, decimating sales across the country and establishing flagship characters as popular, or more so by now, than Disney’s cartoons. Ask most people of this age what their favorite Christmas memory or gaming memory is and they’ll probably mention playing the NES with someone.
After years of being a super fan, Jay is one day challenged by a dear friend, Rob McCallum, who is also the producer of the project, to the ultimate challenge. The goal is to collect all 678 retail released NES games in thirty days, a seemingly impossible task. With the wide spread use of the internet, it would be easy to throw money at Ebay and sites like 99Gamers, but no, Jay has to collect all of these games in person.
What’s more ridiculous is Jay has never seen physical copies of some of the games he has to find. There are twenty ultra-rare games set aside that pose the ultimate challenge, featuring the top one, Stadium Events, a game that can fetch thousands at auction in almost any condition.
Will Jay be able to make this long-time dream a reality? Well, the folks behind the documentary helped him travel the US and Canada, capturing every purchase and dive. What entails becomes not just a journey about collecting old video games, but also a personal journey of growth for Jay.
Thus begins the Nintendo Quest!
The film encapsulates what it means to be a Nintendo fan. Throughout their quest, Jay and his pals come across tons of people who make collecting a community. From shop owners, to YouTubers, to world record holders, to gaming box artists, there’s such a large pool of passionate people represented. In one scene, Jay gets to go on a game hunt with record holder Todd Rogers. It’s apparent that finding games is less important than hearing the stories behind them. While Todd picks out games he has records on, he shares his stories with the team.
While Jay does find tons of games with notable game stores, the true joy is getting the chance to meet other die-hard collectors. These are the titans of the Retro Gaming Community, the legends who have it all and more. Each game has its own story and each collector has theirs. These moments show the time and care collectors put into these often forgotten games, relics of changing times. Organization and presentation are key as shelves are kept tidy, while priceless games like Little Samson or Panic Restaurant are behind glass, often in rated boxes. These super rare titles, while seen few and far between, usually have interesting history and owning a piece of that is amazing.
It’s also important to note the graphics being used throughout the film. There’s a handy counter in the bottom left, keeping track of how many games Jay has acquired. Plus each transition pays homage to the NES, including some famous quotes that set the mood for each segment. The presentation is top notch and as much care went into the editing as it has in the journey.
While Nintendo Quest has a focus on the challenge, the true heart of it lies in Jay: his story and his experience with the quest and gaming with the NES. Before the start of the quest, Rob takes Jay to their old tree house, where their love for the NES inspired a club. As they sit in that confined space, the memories flooding in looks powerful. Things get even more emotional half way through, as Jay mentions the relationship he had with his father, which was rocky to say the least.
Taking this journey changed Jay and the people he and the team met along the way. It’s humbling to see him struggle to find all the games, all while battling having a job, tough deals and high prices.
These games are more than entertainment, making the need to preserve and share these experiences a necessity. Just like how college students tote around heavy tomes of Shakespeare, those same students should also be carrying the games of Miyamoto and Kojima. Gaming is a medium worth caring about.
Personally, I’ve been collecting ever since I was a kid. My obsession started early, with my earliest memories involving playing Wizards and Warriors with my mom and Super Mario Bros 3 with my cousin. Sharing secrets with friends and swapping games filled my summers with joy. Even to this day, I schedule game chases with my wife and friends, hitting up yard sales and Goodwills. I’ve met so many awesome people through the years, many of which have become life long friends, all because of our love for games. It has helped develop my mind and pushed me to pursue a career in the industry.
Nintendo Quest is an awesome presentation of what makes gaming special. Jay and his friends had a journey that can’t be explained in words. To them it was more than collecting every NES game—although I’m sure that was fun too—it was about getting together with people who share a common interest and being a part of that community.
I can’t recommend Nintendo Quest enough. Congratulations to Jay, Rob, the production team and all the folks involved. This is a film that will be quintessential for gamers everywhere.
Nintendo Quest can be found on Vimeo, other major digital platforms and DVD.