It’s that time of year again, when the glorious days of summer begin to dwindle and those poor youngsters count the hours until the dreaded school term starts. No more wasting the warm sunshine outside while parked in front of the soft electric glow of the television set, time to kick the rust off those dormant brain cells and get back to the books, right? Sure, maybe, if you’re a sucker. Learning is important, but did you know there’s an alternative to boring classes filled with musty texts, surprise quizzes, and endlessly droning teachers? Thanks to educational programs like Nintendo’s Virtual Console, a wealth of the knowledge of the ages (or at least the last thirty years) is available at the push of an A button.

Instead of vague, unprovable theories like algebra or biology, you’ll be exposed to real-world problems, such as alien invasions, balloon jousting, and the climbing of ice, all the while being given the tools necessary to form practical solutions to these serious issues. It’s the sort of preparation for life that none of those other so-called “universities” can offer. So save that pricey out-of-state tuition from that party school where you weren’t really going to learn anything anyway and enroll in VC today!

The introductory NES path includes such courses as:

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Mythology & Monster Hunting 101: Castlevania

One of the most useful survival classes, Castlevania provides a comprehensive background on a variety of evils lurking in the shadows, from the sorts of creatures populating ancient Greek and Roman traditions to the classic Universal Studios horror lineup, including Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy. No lengthy, metered descriptions from Homer or Victorian melodrama courtesy of Stoker here; just a simple story about climbing a castle to kill Dracula. Those who pay attention along the way will learn valuable tips and tricks for defeating these (supposedly) fictional dangers (like how a boomerang is oddly is the best choice to fight everything), and gain valuable insight into the sometimes freakishly odd behavior nature’s darkest beasts display. Did you know that flying Medusa heads tend to congregate near stairways, crumbling bridges, and other places heroes can fall into bottomless pits that force them to restart whole stages? Or that Igor is a f***ing twitchy hunchbacked asshole?

The bottom line is that at some point or another, everyone runs across a something that requires a stake through the heart or a chain whip to the head. Castlevania teaches you not only how to identify these threats, but how to destroy them forever. Well, maybe not forever, because they’ll probably plague your family for generations while rising from the grave over and over again, but you know.

*Advanced courses available: Anatomy 201: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Geneology 310: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

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Cartography 101: Metroid

Map making may not sound like the sexy profession that it totally is, but plan a military campaign or get lost in the labyrinthine caverns of an alien planet and you’ll regret not learning this valuable skill. Few games on the NES demonstrate the importance of cartography better than Metroid, and its lessons of patience and exactitude still resonate today. Only meticulous documentation, preferably on 1980s graphing paper, will keep students from exploring in circles and cursing under their breath every time they step into the wrong blazing room YET AGAIN in Norfair. Symbols play a large part, so extensive knowledge of the letters “E” and “M” is necessary, as well as the ability to differentiate colored doors.

While the focus is heavy on actual drawing, there is a side component that includes an emphasis on teamwork. Students will be paired off, with one holding the controller and the other a pencil. Look, not everyone gets to be the leader or the hero all the time. Sidekicks who stand by as their friends get all the glory can still be a big help by offering directions and facilitating a quick passage to victory. There’s a quiet pride to be had in this. No real fun, mind you, but pride. Go ahead and try to drive cross-country or find a giant brain in a glass jar without a map and you’ll know what I mean.

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Physical Education: Punch Out!!

Sure, getting an A in gym class is no sweat, but think you have what it takes to compete with the best of the best in the world of athletics? Because you don’t, no matter what you think, and a certain nearly-impossible-to-beat boxer named Mike Tyson Mr. Dream in Punch Out!! will make sure that is understood within the first one minute and thirty seconds of stepping into the ring with him, probably via a ferocious uppercut. Yes, one aspect of physical education is teaching students how to take care of their bodies, but that’s not something learned by just exercising. It’s important to know one’s place in this world (why else would dodgeball exist?), and there’s no better way to find that out than by pitting yourself mano a mano against your peers and utterly failing. Give up? Retire? If the fictional boxing circuit packed with circus freaks doesn’t help students successfully answer these questions, then the brutal final test will.

Also touched upon briefly is the topic of sensitivity. As in, Phys Ed is no place for it. Instead, it’s an hour where impressionable young people are subjected to ridiculous racial stereotypes and confusing trash-talking. Punch Out!! obliges both. “I drink to prepare for a fight. Tonight I am very prepared!” Sure thing, Soda Popinski, if that is your real name.

*Extra Credit available for joining the Nintendo Fun Club today!

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Psychology 101: Super Mario Bros. 2

“To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil…”

Shakespeare knew that the unconscious mind is a place filled with unfathomable weirdness, so much so that Hamlet longed for peace from his own, and thus naturally the study of dreams is one of the key elements of any psych class. Of course, any Mario game could be mistaken for a sleepy-time vision or bad acid trip, but with Super Mario Bros. 2 we have verifiable proof that this is all in the overworked plumber’s head. From giant Frog Kings to an army of druid dwarfs, there’s some bizarre stuff going on here, and correct interpretation may represent the key to a heroic mind. For instance, Phanto’s relentless pursuit is clearly the sign of a guilty conscience over the shabby treatment of his brother, and the abundance of quicksand is obviously meant to represent the pressure put upon a man who must constantly save a whole kingdom, often for a mere cake as reward. This course will train students to spot the symbolism in the imagery, like the (ahem) interesting implications of all that turnip harvesting, then draw conclusions that will no doubt be incorrect and lead to even more therapy.

Speaking of therapy, what the hell is going on with Birdo? It could take years to unravel the inner workings of this gender-ambiguous egg-spitting creature, but even more curious is the brain that created him/her. There’s a career-making load of repressed feelings just below the surface of Super Mario Bros. 2, waiting to be exposed by some first-year know-it-all. Sure, it was all a dream, but not just. Not just…

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International Relations 101: Contra

The modern interconnected world is one of tangled complexity, requiring knowledge of strengths and weaknesses, needs and fears, and a healthy amount of tact to successfully navigate the many diplomatic minefields present when sovereign nations come into contact with each other. In can be a steep challenge to operate on the international stage, but luckily two of Planet Earth’s best ambassadors are here to help. Through various sessions of Contra, students will travel across the globe as they follow two elite military commandos on a fact-finding mission in the exotic jungles of the Amazon. There the class will discover that the best way to deal with any threat to our country’s security is by pulling out a massive gun and blowing the opposition away. Peace isn’t achieved through senseless chatter, but by crushing enemies with superior weapons technology. The proof is in the bloody pudding; talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words, and all that stuff. Remember, we do not negotiate with terrorists. Especially ones teamed up with space invaders that look like the xenomorph from Alien.

A special segment will pay attention to the importance of codes. When communicating sensitive material in a potentially hostile environment, proper encryption may mean the difference between life and 30 more lives. Luckily, the game’s developers have included a specific cipher of their own. Students would do well to memorize it, as it may come in handy elsewhere.

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All of these fine courses and more are available this coming semester at VC! Forget all those colleges that teach stuff with lectures or labs and sign up for your NES education today online through your Nintendo Wii U or 3DS. Get your life back on track by playing video games!

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About The Author

Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy grew up in the hearty Midwest, where he spent many winter hours playing Nintendo games and watching movies while waiting for baseball season to start again. When he’s not writing screenplays to satisfy his film school training, he’s thinking about his next Legend of Zelda post.