Top 10 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Games

Prior to 1985 in the US, Nintendo was a strong name in the arcade with Donkey Kong and it was cleaning up in the toy aisle with its Game & Watch handhelds. But the home console industry was buried under the figurative dust after the industry collapsed on itself, and “videogame” was considered a bad word. Nintendo set to change all that with the Nintendo Entertainment System. Unlike Atari, Nintendo kept everything under control with the Nintendo’s License of Approval making sure that majority of the games in its library is at its best, playable. The Nintendo Entertainment System is the most important game console ever because it saved the game industry from the market crash of 1983 and also it made the industry as a whole for what it is today. I have nothing but full respect for this system, however, that’s the only kudos that I give for this system. I really did grew up with the NES, but unlike every person who’s nostalgic to the NES, I’m not going to act like this is the greatest console of all time. I mean, more than 50% of the NES’s library are so bad that it would take the Angry Video Game Nerd to continue making his video series running for a life time. We all like to state that video game sequels often are great, but that’s not the case for the NES because there are just so many horrible sequels that I want them to disappear and never hear from again (Super Mario Bros 2, Zelda II, Castlevania II). And it doesn’t help that there isn’t a single add-on from the NES that feels like it even fucking works; its all wasted space! There are only ten games that I enjoy in the NES while the rest I’m just not interested in playing. If there’s a console that actually gives me that feeling, then there’s really not much effect for me, personally. Besides, since we all live the goddamn Nintendo generation now, we have to believe the history told by Nintendo irrefutable evidence (sarcasm). Well here’s my Top 10 NES games

Number 10.  –  Contra

Perhaps the best example of the NES’s capability at adapting and even improving on arcade games of its era, Contra offers the best shooting action on the NES and is also the console’s definitive multiplayer experience. Contra deftly captures the spirit of the testosterone-fueled ’80s summer blockbusters, with obvious nods to the Alien and Rambo series. I really despise the difficulty in many games in the NES library, but Contra is an exception for the simple fact that it is so much fun! Alternating both horizontal and vertical scrolling levels with cool 3D-imitating third-person view stages, Contra was designed with short attention spans in mind. Although the game offers a fairly decent challenge, the experience of kicking serious alien ass can be had by less talented players, thanks to the legendary Konami Code, which, in its most famous implementation, gives you 30 lives to burn through as you please. And if you somehow run out of those, you can always steal one from your unsuspecting partner. Any discussion of Contra wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the two player co-op making it the ultimate game to play with another friend. After a few minutes with Contra’s militant anthems you’ll want to put your controller down and headbang along.

Number 9.  –  Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!

Sports games always sucks (in my eyes) but boxing games, if done well, will always be that exception. Preferably, the arcade version of the original Punch Out is a much better experience, but the NES port showed that the NES is capable of bringing this game to home consoles and manage to make it as fun as ever. Classic cartoony boxing game with a really nice caricatured design for all the boxers, it just makes it a wonderful experience. The game play is very reaction based with you dodging, jabbing and making sure you don’t over exert yourself. The best part is the number of unique opponents you face as they all have different patterns and challenges. And in between fights, you get to see a training cutscene with Little Mac and his manager doing short-footage workouts that is reminiscent to the Rocky movies. There’s nothing more that you can say about Mike Tyson’s Punch Out than a classic that’s addictive and really fun. The only thing left is when is Nintendo going to use the Mike Tyson’ license and bring him back as a worthy opponent to the Punch Out series?

Number 8.  –  Mega Man 3

Mega Man 2 is a testament to excellence in gaming and is arguably the most important iteration of the franchise. Yet Mega Man 3 shows that even a supreme achievement can be improved upon. If a statement is declared incessantly, it tends to “come true” in that most people will believe it. Mega Man 2 has had that level of pre-assumption about it. Many state that 2 is the best game in the entire series, but few explain why. Without question, it’s a great game and one of the best titles on the NES. To be fair, I’m sure that a large amount of people have played through the entire series and concluded on their own that 2 is the best of them all. That’s fine. But in this blogger’s humble opinion, Mega Man 3 refines the formula to a perfect level. In addition to the excellent new move, 3 just seemed to be incapable of doing any wrong. The big enemies were bigger, the tough bosses were tougher, and the level layout and variety were even better than its predecessors. One of Mega Man 2‘s most notable features was its robot master battles. But Mega Man 3 snarfs those right up by featuring a battle with every boss from 2, reproduced here via “Doc Robots.” Some may see it as recycling content; I see it as an awesome rematch. Replacing the faceless numbered items of 2 with Rush the dog gave the game that extra shot of character. And the mystery surrounding Proto Man was certainly compelling. Remember the chills that went down your spine when you heard that famous whistle?

Number 7.  –  Dragon Warrior IV

In the realm of 8-bit graphics and extremely limited storage space, Nintendo RPGs (and other RPGs of the time) had a difficult time telling expansive, immersive stories. Dragon Warrior IV, released in the US in 1992, tried to buck this trend with a unique approach to unraveling the game’s overarching narrative that’s divided into chapters with different characters each. Instead of focusing on just one character or one group of characters, Dragon Warrior IV tells its fragmented story in chapters, which the gamer takes on one at a time. When all’s said and done, the chapters’ events and characters culminate in an amazing endgame. Even though Dragon Warrior IV approached the act of storytelling in a unique way, most of Dragon Warrior’s gameplay conventions remained unchanged. It’s a good thing, too, since this was the last Dragon Warrior game to appear in the United States for nearly a decade. American gamers weren’t privy to subsequent releases until Dragon Warrior VII hit the PlayStation in 2001.  It’s really impressive that with so many limitations that the NES has with only text and pixels to tell a story, the last game on the NES turned out to be the of the series for the NES!

Number 6.  –  The Legend of Zelda

This is the very game that brought to us the action-adventure genre and it’s an innovative title that got us out of the 2D plane that we kept seeing in the NES. It showed that gamers can actually have an journey, traveling around the game world and find whatever sort of interesting locations that makes it feel adventurous. Of course this title has a bunch of medieval elements like monsters, dungeons, items, magic, fairies, princess, etc. which is why its easy to be mistaken as an RPG. But having such an adventure that we kept seeing in the fantasy genre felt wholesome when playing this game. The Legend of Zelda packs in quality gameplay throughout, whether you’re battling enemies in a dungeon or picking up new items to assist you on your quest. This is the very reason why the game spawned into Nintendo’s second biggest franchise and also the reason why making Zelda to anything but an action-adventure (cough…cough… Zelda II) will be an utter failure. The game had a huge amount of dungeons, an open world to explore, items and weapons to collect, and challenging and puzzling dungeons to conquer. Also, this game introduced us to the amazing Zelda music that is still around today. Everything The Legend of Zelda did pushed the envelope on what video games could be – it was an open world game before that was a term.  The only real complaint with this game is the lack of a map, making it tough to know where you have been and where you should go. It’s far from being the best of the series, but for what it really is, it holds its stats as legendary in the video game world!

Number 5.  –  Metroid

Another epically popular franchise to this day, Nintendo’s Metroid came to the United States in 1987 and immediately floored gamers not only with its slick presentation, interesting protagonist and open world, but from the fact that it was non-linear in nature. Mixing Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. (and a touch of Alien & Aliens), Metroid toned down the action-platforming found in Icarus and focused on exploration. And explore you did. Metroid proved to be one of the biggest, most unpredictable, and most daunting games early in the NES’ lifecycle. Metroid was unique for so many reasons, among them the ability to explore at your own pace. All of the terrain was interconnected into one big map, an idea later expanded upon and matured by the SNES’s Super Metroid. In fact, ideas in Metroid have been replicated time and time again, being a subgenre called Metroidvania. The best part of Metroid is that it has varied boss fights that challenges gamers like no other and the power-ups that are in the game is stunningly amazing and innovative. Many of the power-ups in this game has been repeated and reintroduced many times in the future games of the series, but it’s simply because they couldn’t get any more creative or better than what has been seen from this game (screw attack for the win)! Though there are aspects of the game are are a bit outdated (like the enemy design and boss fights) it’s still a fun title to go back to. What the NES introduced to the gaming industry is having an adventure and surprises within video games, instead of repetitive games that’s meant for breaking the highest score like the Atari 2600 days. That’s why I still believe that Metroid embodies the adventuring and unpredictability in games in general!

Number 4.  –  Little Samson

Little Samson arrived at the tail-end of the NES era, when most gamers had moved on to newer, although not necessarily better, consoles. While it clearly adopted its non-linear level select structure from Mega Man, the similarities end there. In Little Samson you play as one of four different characters: a mouse, a robot, a dragon and a boring ol’ human boy. Each character has its own powers and limitations, for instance the mouse makes up for its measly health meter with its ability to cling to ceilings and walls. Little Samson is one of the most technically impressive NES titles, featuring eye candy like rotating character sprites and colossal bosses in what was ultimately a futile effort to try and entice 16-bit-smitten gamers back to their NES. The atypical confluence of high quality and low sales of Little Samson ultimately resulted the demise of Takeru and being one of the most sought after cartridges for collectors today. One of the reasons why this obscure title is so beautiful is that you can switch characters (Castlevania III style) and they all have their abilities and challenges. A mouse, a dragon, a golem and a spiky-haired kid set out to save a kingdom with their unique abilities, all of which the player gets to explore in four separate introductory quests. The dragon can fly, the golem can take a lot of punishment, the kid can shoot bells and climb walls, and the mouse can lay what are either magical landmines or magical exploding mouse turds. It’s a simple game with simple appeal, yet the interchangeable characters boost that blends very well into Castlevania III and the Mega Man series.

Number 3.  –  Super Mario Bros. 3

After sitting through Wizard, the Fred Savage movie, all the kids want nothing more than Super Mario Bros. 3. Why weren’t they? This was ten times better than the last two Mario games and it gave us a platforming challenge unlike anything before it. Just like Castlevania, the third game of the series abandoned the changes made from the second game, and not only went back to the formula from the first but expand it. Every world in this game brings different wonders from icy tundras, to ginormous enemies and objects. There as just so many secrets throughout the game that it is massive none the less. And did I mention the power-ups in this game? Oh my lord, the raccoon tail was awesome enough to actually let the players fly up in the sky, but the frog suit lets you have better swim controls, kinuki shoe to stomp the unstoppable, hammerhead allows you to throw hammers, fireball Mario and superstar returns, and the raccoon suit turns you into a stone… this is all amazing! But over all the Mario games,  I love the fact that we’re saving and helping the various kings in each world who are cursed and need us to beat the Kupa kids to bring them back to normal; abandoning the saving Princess Peach formula until the very end of the game. It’s no wonder and no surprise to see that everyone’s list and even this list has put this game on the top of the list of the best game on Nintendo Entertainment System. As for me, though I agree and accept the praise that this game earned, there are just two more games that are actually better than this classic!

Number 2.  – Crystalis

If there had to be the best RPG on the NES then it had to be Crystalis!  The gameplay in Crystalis is like that in The Legend of Zelda (with Fallout theme) but with fewer puzzles and more button mashing action. You gain experience points and money for the creatures you beat. You can level up and buy/equip items like a normal RPG, and fighting is all in real-time. No menus, just your skill and the ability to press the B button rapidly. When you hold the B button you can charge your sword up, you can do that to unleash more powerful attacks. This is not your standard level grinding RPG, this is also a thinking man’s game where the player has plenty of puzzles and it up to the player to figure out what items to use to go pass through the obstacle. What’s so cool about Crystalis is that it has this post-apocalyptic tale of thermonuclear aftermath skillfully blended fantasy and science-fiction into one dynamic story predating Fallout. The hero begins the game by awakening from cryogenic sleep, and then goes on to collect a set of four elemental swords to save the world. Each blade offered a different ability, like the Sword of Wind that shot small tornadoes and the Sword of Water that could create bridges of ice. Once all four had been collected, the legendary titular sword “Crystalis” could be created. Use that sword and you’ll understand why this one has certainly earned its classic status.

Number 1.  –  Blaster Master

Imagine if Metroid was done so much better, you have Blaster Master and it is bar none the best NES game of all time! Gameplay alternates between a side-scrolling mode where you ride along in the tank, and a Zelda-like overhead view where you’re outside your vehicle. The game has a strong adventure element to it, and traveling between worlds is non-linear, two things which have spelled disaster for a number of more-recent releases. This setup seems to work well for BM, as it makes you think about what you’re doing instead of just doing it. I really can’t convey how much I love Blaster Master… it allowed the player to do so much. For instance, it was one of the first games where you could strafe! Just hold down the grenade button when you’re in the overhead view and you’ll keep facing the same direction. Very useful when fighting some of the bosses; all of which are challenged on foot. This is one of the defining titles for the NES, showcasing everything that console is capable of and not sacrificing anything for a great gaming experience. Go ahead and give Blaster Master a shot because you’ll realize that this title is actually better than the big three (Mario, Zelda, and Metroid)!

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