Nintendo banner
I have to be honest -- I wasn't the biggest Nintendo fan. I grew up right as the whole thing was really smashing and keeping kids glued to their TVs, but I generally went outside and played more than stayed inside and played games. (Odd, huh?) Still, I had my fun with certain titles. Contra rocked my boat, along with Kid Icarus and a bit of Mario Brothers. My friends, on the other hand, were full members of the Nintendo nation. They subcribed to the magazine, played the same games for hours and hours, and generally acted as though the fate of the real world hung in the balance as they attacked that last boss monster.

Stylistically, the games have left a mark on the genre. Many of those same titles still sell as well, some of them reaching so many variations that I lost track a long, long time ago. I thought it might be fun to list off some free-to-play MMOs that remind me of those old classics. See what you think, and leave any suggestions in the comments section!

Mario Kart banner
Mario Kart is still selling in big numbers and is one of the few titles for which you can get a decent trade-in amount at Gamestop. Why? It's a blast to play and now features connectivity with players across the world. I loved Mario Kart and will eventually get it for my 3DS, but until you get it, here are a few titles that might get your racing blood going.
  • Drift City - Drift City is a neat-looking game that boasts over-the-top graphics and a more outrageous approach to racing. You can freely roam the city, take part in side-missions or go head to head with other drivers. It's described as part RPG, part racing sim. If only the cars were karts!
  • Free Jack - This title is a very unique "racing" game that celebrates the art of parkour -- running around and conquering obstacles that you would find in any real-world city. Of course, in this MMO everything is turned up several notches, from the character models, pedestrians on the street and fashions. There is a pretty fun story mission mode that takes you through a series or tracks that start off easy and only get harder, in addition to races against other players and a free mode that allows exploration. Parkour isn't easy in real life, and it's not that easy in Free Jack either.
  • Free Realms' racing minigame - I was obsessed with Free Realms' racing when I first played the game. It was quite difficult then, but even after the developers turned the difficulty knob down a few notches, it's still a heck of a lot of fun. You can upgrade your cars, play smash-em-up with your friends, try to conquer all of the tracks, or just spend your money to make your car look cool. I still love racing in Free Realms.

The Legend of Zelda banner
Honestly, you could play almost any MMO that boasts epic quests and feel something similar to The Legend of Zelda. Don't get me wrong -- I would love it if MMOs featured more grand questlines like the ones in any Zelda game, but I picked this game more for its art style than its gameplay. I can still remember those primitive graphics and watching my friend obsess over the game for what seemed like months.
  • Fantasy Online - Fantasy Online was enjoyable enough when I played it for Rise and Shiny, but the graphics are what I really enjoyed. The trees in particular made me happy. If you like primitive graphics and 8bit gaming, you'll enjoy this title. Don't expect much from the questing department, however. You'll pretty much be spending most of your time killing 10 of those and 20 of these. Still, for such an independent game, it seems to be changing and getting updated frequently.
  • Realm of the Mad God - This squad-based, browser-based 8bit shooter is... odd. Basically you spend your time in fights with or against fellow players. It's fast, crazy, and a bit infuriating. Actually, if you take Zelda and merge it with Robotron, you might get a bit closer to how Realm feels. Just be warned: The community was insane when I visited before. I will be giving my first impressions of the game a bit later, but only after I will be able to make sure it's safe to go in.

Mario Brothers banner
Ah, Mario Brothers: one of the few titles in the world that is guaranteed to offer generally the same gameplay for generations and still sell millions of copies. Smash this, grab that, shoot a fireball at that as well; such is the life of a Mario fan. Mario is so large that it represents its own genre. There have been some great innovations, but platforming is still key.
  • MilMo - I adore MilMo; I always have. It's quietly letting players explore unique, bright and adventurous platforming levels while so many other MMOs refuse to even crack a smile. There's a story arc running through the whole adventure that adds some depth to the game, and the customization is top-notch. I'd say that this game's art style is absolutely one of my favorites. It takes real guts and real talent to make a game that is friendly to younger players that doesn't also look ridiculous, extremely primitive, or "kiddie." If you like platforming, this is the MMO for you.
  • Spiral Knights - True, Spiral Knights hangs its camera up above the action while classic Mario Brothers was typically a side-scroller, but there's no mistaking how the games share block-smashing, baddie-crunching, and wonderful music. If you want to sit back and kill about 10 hours, log into Spiral Knights.
  • FusionFall - It's been a while since I jumped back into this one, but I always loved the platforming aspects that play such a big role in the game. Take Mario, give him a series of fun or funny outfits, hand him several large firearms, set him loose in a world filled with toxic goo and radioactive monsters, and you get close to what FusionFall is all about.
There are a lot of titles I might be missing, but these few I picked really connect to me in the same way those earlier Nintendo games did. It's funny and yet a bit sad to consider how little game design has changed, but I take it with a grain of salt. After all, gaming is such a primitive thing, and so are many of its concepts. Nintendo hit it big because it made fun and challenging games. I think the MMOs I mentioned will probably feel the same.

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to beau@massively.com!

This article was originally published on Massively.