It’s the dream of many a retro gamer or devoted programmer to see a game of their own making printed on a real NES cartridge. The New 8-Bit Heroes is making that dream a reality with their NESmaker software.
Platforms like Unity have made game development infinitely more accessible in recent years, but retro development remained in the domain of the particularly skilled programmers. NES development in particular relied on the now-obsolete 6502 Assembly programming language. Books and tutorials are available for learning the language, but it’s a time consuming and difficult process.
NESmaker bypasses that issue by using an interface similar to Unity and GameMaker, which means retro enthusiasts don’t even need to have programming knowledge to get started. The software provides several genre models for users to tinker with, including platform, scrolling shooter, and adventure.
However, it also includes options for those who do know or learn the 6502 Assembly language to build a game from the ground up.
The New 8-Bit Heroes creative director, Joe Granato, said:
Our goal is to give aspiring NES developers a new access point. …for non-programmers, systems like the NES have an almost impossible barrier for entry. NESmaker opens up development for this system for artists and creatives of all types
Finished products are saved in a .nes file. The file can be used in certain emulators, including The New 8-Bit Heroes’ recommended emulator Mesen. However, another feature that makes NESmaker unique is the ability to transfer your .nes file via flash storage onto a genuine NES cartridge.
These cartridges come with a variety of benefits, including flash storage, so there’s no need to remember passwords. Yet they are still recognized by NES and Famicom machines (but not Retron consoles), making the experience as natural as possible.
The NESmaker software, bundled with a DVD documentary detailing the project’s origins can be purchased from The New 8-Bit Heroes website for $40. The site also includes a range of beginner’s and intermediate tutorials.
Users wishing to transfer their games to actual cartridges would need to head to Infinite NES Lives, a retro programming site The New 8-Bit Heroes recommends, to purchase individual NES cartridges, the INLretro USB Programmer, and necessary circuit boards.
Those who are interested in seeing how the finished products look and play can check out The New 8-Bit Heroes’ arcade section here.