I bet you were wondering about the Top Ten NES games of all time, weren’t you? Good, because I can help you! I originally posted this entry as being written by a Jewish Mystic combing the Bible for secret Top Ten video game lists. I must confess that was a hoax and I am exorcizing the mythical Mystic from these posts. In truth, this is a list of MY top ten FAVORITE NES games, with an emphasis on variety. It must be said that there are many NES games I’ve never played or have had limited time with and I’ll address some of these at the end of the list. As I am a true nerd, this list will probably change as I play more and more gamez.
#10 MEGA MAN (Capcom): A solid action game with a cool paper/rock/scissors concept and a non-linear progression. The character design is near the top of the NES bunch. If you like this game you’re in luck because there are five sequels that are practically the same game. Also check out the DuckTales, Rescue Rangers and Darkwing Duck games by Capcom, which all use the same graphics and gameplay engine.
#9 BUBBLE BOBBLE (Taito) – wheeeeee!! A successful port of an arcade hit. Players get to control Bub and Bob, a couple of cute dragons, and run around trapping cute bad guys and bubbles before kicking them to hell. It’s like a much, much more developed version of the original Mario Bros. (1983) The bubbles are also used as platforms and the game’s physics actually change drastically from one stage to another. For example, bubbles shoot quickly in some stages and slowly in others. In some stages, Bub and Bob can almost jump through walls but not in others. These changes keep you on your toes. This game is also famous, along with Contra, as being one of the few NES classics that allow for simultaneous multiplayer action.
#8 SUPER DODGE BALL (Technos) – One of the few kick-dick sports game in existence and naturally, it’s a fictional sport. Basically, you master several special throws to KILL your opponenets with your dodgeball. Yes, you really kill them and even get to watch their immortal souls float away to the Heavens. In the American version, you control the USA National Dodge Ball Team and you work your way up through the ranks, finally getting to kill the Soviet National Team. This game features the same characters as the Technos releases River City Ransom, Nintendo World Cup, Crash n’ the Boys, and other Technos-developed games. This game may have single-handedly given rise to the action-sport genre, possibly inspiring the likes of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz.
#7 GHOSTS ‘N GOBLINS (Capcom) – GNG was originally released in the arcades but this NES port is actually an improvement as several ridiculously cheap situations are ironed out. Don’t worry, though, it’s still a very difficult game. If you like both Super Mario and Contra then you should enjoy this buttcracking game, as it really falls somewhere in-between. It’s amazing that this game (or the arcade release, at least) is just as old Super Mario Bros. but it doesn’t really get the props for being one of the first side-scrolling platforming adventures with many levels.
#6 THE LEGEND OF ZELDA (Nintendo) – Vague is the name of this game. You have no idea what to do, which sucks. However, it still has an epic feel to it and when you actually figure out how to get into the next dungeon, it’s pretty good karate. I must admit there is no possible way I would have ever completed this game without a guide. I just don’t have that kind of patience and I’m not willing to run round the entire overworld attempting to burn every bush until I find the next secret dungeon. Incredibly, this is the sort of thing Nintendo really expected people to do and announced at the time that there were “100 hours of playtime” in this game.
#5 METROID (Nintendo) – Another super vague game but like Zelda it’s dripping with atmosphere and exciting times. Finding powerups can be good times but the awesome music that plays when you find them makes owning an NES worthwhile. This game also requires a lot of random shooting and running around in order to find new paths to follow. And there’s no map to refer to! This is another game that I had to use a guide for due to my low levels of intelligence and patience but I’m glad I got through it one way or another as the final confrontation and then the final escape scene were great touches. This is one of the few NES games that has some real tension. There’s a real sense of dread regarding the mysterious Metroids that you won’t see until almost the very end of the game.
#4 KID ICARUS (Nintendo) – Why is this game better than Metroid and Zelda? Durrrrr. It isn’t super vague in a major annoying way. It uses Metroid’s gameplay and graphic engines and even features an enemy that looks just like our friends the Metroids. It plays like a combination of Metroid, Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. The first three stages in each level are vertically or horizontally-scrolling platformer action-oriented combined with Zelda-like inventory management. Every fourth level is a labyrinth that will appeal to you Zelda nerds but these labyrinths are actually somewhat manageable and with some exploration their layouts can be memorized and then destroyed.
#3 NINJA GAIDEN (Tecmo) – Hai-yah! This is a very challenging but very awesome ninja kick-fighting video game for your NES. Actually, it basically plays like a fast-paced version of Castlevania and that is a good thang. Like Castlevania, there are power ups that come in limited supply. The enemies never stop coming in this game and annoyingly respawn in the same spot if you accidentally back up a bit before advancing. As a result, lightning reflexes and memorization of enemy locations is a key requirement. This game was also special for featuring detailed and even semi-interesting story cut-scenes, a rarity at the time. These scenes gave the action a sense of purpose and drama that they would otherwise lack.
#2 CASTLEVANIA (Konami) – It’s slow. It’s scary. I don’t know why, but it’s awesome. It’s also very difficult so put on your pants for this one. Many of the Western horror archetypes are present in the game with everyone from Dracula and Frankenstein(‘s monster) to a dirty hunchback making appearances. Unfortunately, the graphics are very 1986 so the details on these monsters aren’t exactly clear or frightening. However, the difficulty level IS frightening. It’s hard to say exactly why a game with bad graphics and very slow action is so good but it all comes together, somehow.
#1 SUPER MARIO BROS. 3 (Nintendo) – Okay, listen. If it weren’t for the ’emphasis on variety’ requirement, SMB 1-3 would probably be the top 3 on this list. Gosh, this is a good game! Fast-paced! Great character designs! Awesome level designs! Tons of levels! Painfully creative! Play it. But you probably already have.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Bionic Commando, Mega Man 2-6 (my memories of all of these games are completely melted together), DuckTales, Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, Rainbow Islands, Zelda 2, Ninja Gaiden 2 & 3, Castlevania 2 & 3, Super Mario Bros. 1 & 2, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Kirby’s Adventure, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 & 3, Batman, Bonk’s Adventure, Double Dragon 1 & 2
“ME AM MAD. MY FAVORITE GAME DIDN’T DO ON THIS LIST!” Yes, there are really several NES supposed-classics I haven’t played enough to comment on but intend to play someday. This list includes: Contra, Super C, Metal Gear, Gargoyle’s Quest II, Willow, Blaster Master, Crystalis, Rygar, and River City Ransom.
“WAIT, WHERE AM THE RPGz?” Well, I have played through Final Fantasy I and Dragon Warrior I & II but I currently have a personal bias against turn-based RPGs as a genre so sooowwwwwy.