Despite the final officially licensed cartridge for the NES being released back in 1995 (the PAL-exclusive The Lion King, for those curious), indie developers have continued to breathe some modern innovation into the retro gaming platform through homebrew titles. One particularly recent and notable example — Broke Studio’s Super Tilt Bro., previewed by Gizmodo — introduces Wi-Fi-enabled online multiplayer to the NES almost 30 years after the console was discontinued.
Super Tilt Bro. is an open-source eight-bit fighting game with platform mechanics. It’s essentially just a demake of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series, albeit without any of its recognizable characters — probably best not to poke the Nintendo copyright lawsuit dragon after all. Players can eventually choose to expand the current roster with their own custom characters, however, as the game is open source and can be updated through an internet connection.
Broke Studio has completed development and testing for the Super Tilt Bro. game and its Wi-Fi-enabled cartridge and is now raising money to cover the hardware manufacturing cost through a Kickstarter campaign. Pledging €55 (around $61) gets you a boxed copy of the game cartridge and digital access to its original soundtrack and comic book, though all the usual crowdfunding disclaimers apply, so proceed at your own risk. Providing it goes smoothly, Broke Studio is expecting to ship the game globally by April 2024.
The game cartridge supports online co-op multiplayer on unmodified NES consoles thanks to a custom board that sports an ESP8266 Wi-Fi chip, a Wi-Fi antenna, and an FPGA circuit. Players can bypass the console’s lack of front-end wireless and configure their Wi-Fi settings directly through the game’s own system menu. From there, you can access various matchmaking options, including ranked competition and even private play with friends.
Super Tilt Bro. also includes a Story mode to play solo and improve your skills and supports local co-op if you want to relive a more nostalgic couch-based multiplayer experience. Both Story mode and local multiplayer are available to try out on the web or via a downloadable ROM demo that can be used either with an NES emulator or directly on the console hardware itself if you have a suitable flashcart.
As Wi-Fi support comes from the Super Tilt Bro. cartridge and not a console modification, you sadly can’t use it to play other NES games online. Alternatively, the Nintendo Switch Online service supports multiplayer gameplay on a handful of NES titles, but you’re limited to playing with friends.
Retro gaming aficionados may recall that the NES did actually have limited internet support — a modem was released for the Japanese version of the console (known as the Famicom) back in 1988 that connected to the cartridge connector. It saw limited success as online applications were mostly limited to horse race betting and stock trading. The Famicom modem was never released for the US NES market.