Lego NES review: The coolest toy of 2020. Period.

This 2,646-piece brick set of the Nintendo Entertainment System, controller, and old-school CRT TV with moving diorama rules so hard.

Sometimes you just have to treat yourself. With so many terrible things going on in the world, I knew spending quality personal time away from my computer, phones, tablets, and the internet would be a healthy escape.

That’s why I have no regrets blowing $230 (more like $250 with tax) on the 2,646-piece Lego Nintendo Entertainment set. The gorgeous brick replica of Nintendo’s first home gaming console took almost 6.5 hours to complete and it was worth every penny.

Assembling the Lego NES brought me back to my childhood. A simpler time when games came on huge cartridges (and you probably blew on them even though that didn’t really do anything); graphics were bright, pixelated, and fuzzy (but lovable) on a CRT; and there was no internet to suck me down a rabbit hole or to help beat a level for that matter. Back then, it was just me and my toys. And I felt that unbridled joy again unboxing and building this set.

For over six hours, I hunched over a table, paging through 500+ pages of instructions split between two manuals, laying brick on top of brick until the boxy NES came to life. First, the dark gray bottom half. Then the internal spring mechanism for popping up the cartridge. And finally, the faithfully replicated composite ports (the red audio and video ports — remember those?) and controller ports.

You can watch a timelapse of me building the whole set below.

The controller was next and then the old-school mini CRT, complete with cabinet legs. Honestly, it was the best way to spend a Saturday and the cathartic destresser I needed. The amount of detail that Lego put into this set is truly stunning. The Lego set doesn't just look like Nintendo's console, it actually works. There are some parts that really annoyed me — the sections that required numerous repetition — but aside from those, the Lego NES is superb and easily the best toy I've seen come out this year. I really can't stop popping off the top of the TV set to look at the gears that make the Mario level spin.

I'll stop talking now because I know you're here for photos of the build process. So here you go!

After about 30 minutes or so, the Lego NES started to come to life.Raymond Wong / Input
Peep the details.Raymond Wong / Input
Yeah, we got some composite ports. Non-functional of course.Raymond Wong / Input
The spring-loaded cartridge mechanism really pops the Lego Super Mario Bros. up and down.Raymond Wong / Input
No idea what these little parts are inside. They kind of look like a mini Mario level with the platforms, steps, and green pipes.Raymond Wong / Input
The panels are coming together.Raymond Wong / Input
The cover pops off pretty easily.Raymond Wong / Input
Installing the cover flap.Raymond Wong / Input
Ayyye. There we go.Raymond Wong / Input
The Lego cartridge before stickers are applied.Raymond Wong / Input
Decals for the back of the Lego TV set and the Super Mario Bros. cart.Raymond Wong / Input
Looking good!Raymond Wong / Input
Next up: the controller.Raymond Wong / Input
Boom. Done!Raymond Wong / Input
Cable connected.Raymond Wong / Input
Plugged in and ready for Nintendo Power.Raymond Wong / Input
Way too many bags left to go.Raymond Wong / Input
Building the Lego TV. This the base for the Mario Bros. level diorama. Raymond Wong / Input
So. Many. Bricks.Raymond Wong / Input
The TV's looking like a TV. Check out the antenna.Raymond Wong / Input
The next step is to build the treads that rotate the diorama.Raymond Wong / Input
I had to brute force this or I would have lost my mind.Raymond Wong / Input
I just assembly-lined this section. Following Lego's manual would have taken longer.Raymond Wong / Input
Many minutes later...Raymond Wong / Input
More bricks.Raymond Wong / Input
More assembly lining pieces...Raymond Wong / Input
The diorama backboard is finished.Raymond Wong / Input
The sight of these tiny little pieces made me want to cry.Raymond Wong / Input
Starting at the bottom and working my way up, column by column.Raymond Wong / Input
It was getting dark by this point, but I had to power through. We got Goombas and mushrooms!Raymond Wong / Input
Complete. Finally complete!Raymond Wong / Input
Connected the treads/chains.Raymond Wong / Input
Now for the rest of the TV. Here's the frame of the CRT.Raymond Wong / Input
This part was also a nightmare to put together because of all of the tiny pieces.Raymond Wong / Input
All 21 bags are empty.Raymond Wong / Input
The completed Lego TV, NES, cartridge, and controller in all of its glory.Raymond Wong / Input
I realized I assembled the wrong panel on the right side after taking these photos.Raymond Wong / Input
The NES Classic controller next to the Lego version. Note the larger A and B buttons on the Lego replica. Gotta fix that wrongly pieced flat panel.Raymond Wong / Input
Time to play.Raymond Wong / Input
Lookin' good!Raymond Wong / Input
The handle spins the level and all of the knobs turn, too. Very neat!Raymond Wong / Input
Mario runs through the level when you spin the handle and rotate the level.Raymond Wong / Input
They turn but don't actually adjust volume, brightness, or contrast.Raymond Wong / Input
Did anyone ever look at the back of their CRTs?Raymond Wong / Input
Pop the top off and you can see how everything works.Raymond Wong / Input
Everything about this set is just so damn cool.Raymond Wong / Input