Despite being a die-hard SEGA I’m jumping on the “Top 30 NES Games” bandwagon following Nintendo’s announcement of a new NES Classic “clone console.”
Growing up with Alex Kidd as my main man, I never grew to really enjoy the original Mario games (and I still don’t care for them). Also noticeably absent is Tetris. I don’t like stacking puzzle games, so it’s always been a serious “meh” game for me.
So what 30 games does this out-of-the-closet Nintendo skeptic truly enjoy the most?
30 – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
A surprisingly very good licensed game, Robin Hood has a Zelda-like overworld, larger-scale strategy battles where you have to balance the fight using all of the members of your party, and boss battles which take the form of fencing battles. It a surprising amount of fun, and worth checking out.
29 – Pro Wrestling
Why do I love Pro Wrestling so much? Hard to say. A catchy soundtrack and fairly simple pick-up-and-play mechanics bring this wrestling game to life. Beware the Amazon!
28 – Battletoads
Tough as nails, but so fun, even though I never completed the game fairly. If I were to play it today, I’d opt for the Genesis version, but Battletoads on NES is still a great romp.
27 – Duck Hunt
Shoot flying things and they die. Get laughed at by a dog if you suck. Git gud! You have to love it. Simple, yet effective.
26 – Excitebike
The best thing about Excitebike was building your own tracks, as the rest of the game is just fair, by comparison. Still, going nuts on building my own custom tracks sucked a lot of hours out of my childhood. If only there was a way to back them up with a save feature…
25 – North & South
A zany take on the bloodiest war in American history. The battles are fun, but the game shines when you attempt to take over a fort or intercept a train and the perspective becomes a side-scroller. Grab a friend and watch the South rise again!
24 – Castlevania
A successful mish-mash of the Universal Monsters, the first Castlevania game had such great atmosphere that you can forgive some of the slightly clunky platforming.
23 – Jurassic Park
A later addition to the NES library, Jurassic Park is a very fun game with an overhead perspective, and it thankfully isn’t burdened with the awful 3D stages from the SNES version of the game. Some catchy tunes, too.
22 – Wrecking Crew
Probably the closest thing to a Mario game on my list, but at least Wrecking Crew allows me to satisfy my base urge to destroy all of mankind’s creation. An across-the-street friend of mine had this game, so Wrecking Crew was a staple of every visit to his house.
21 – Cowboy Kid
One of those rare occasions where an overpriced, highly sought-after retro game is worth the attention that it gets. Imagine an NES version of Goemon with a western setting. It even has a co-op two-player mode. If you missed it, don’t spend the insane amounts of cash to buy an actual cartridge, but try to find a way to play it.
20 – Mega Man 3
The first but not last iteration of Mega Man on my list, part three added series staple Rush to the mix, as well as revisiting old enemies in the form of what I always called “Shadow Bosses.”
19 – Blaster Master
It’s a tank that jumps. It’s a TANK that JUMPS.
18 – RBI Baseball
How did sports games get so burdensome and un-fun? Retro games like RBI Baseball are simple but enjoyable.
17 – Guardian Legend
A mix of Alien Syndrome and Aleste, Guardian Legend isn’t a high-profile game but beloved by nearly everyone who played it. It’s not generally available on digital services, but thankfully the retro market hasn’t driven the price up to an unreasonable degree… yet.
16 – Kirby’s Adventure
I loved the GameBoy original, and while I didn’t love the new pink design of Kirby’s character, everything else in Kirby’s Adventure is an improvement over the original. A much longer game, battery back-up, and the introduction of the ability-stealing mechanic made Kirby’s Adventure the first fully-realized game in the series.
15 – Hogan’s Alley
The most fun you can have with a light gun game on NES. I wanted to be a cop when I was a kid, so blasting bad guys in this shooting-gallery themed blast-fest was the closest I would get on the NES.
14 – Ninja Gaiden
An incredible ninja platformer, wall-jumping and all. It gets fairly lambasted for being extremely difficult and rife with some cheap hits, but the advantage is that getting better at the game means playing more Ninja Gaiden. All 3 of the games on NES are very good, but the original was the one I came back to most often.
13 – Tecmo Bowl
Remember arcade-style football games? Before Madden ruined everything, pick-up-and-play NFL games were readily available. Tecmo Bowl is easily the best on NES, even if Bo Jackson is totes OP.
12 – Tiny Toon Adventures
I was a big fan of the original WB cartoon, and Tiny Toon Adventures on NES gave me the opportunity to play in that world with four distinct characters, which is a mechanic that later installments on the 16-bit consoles would sadly drop.
11 – Little Nemo the Dream Master
There really isn’t another platformer on NES quite like Little Nemo. Your main character has almost no abilities of his own other than to feed animals candy to coax them into helping him. It’s a beautiful game with a lot of variety, and the final boss fight is worth the difficult trek in reaching him.
10 – Gun.Smoke
A port of the Capcom arcade game, Gun.Smoke is even better than the arcade original, if you ask me. It’s a little bit tougher to shoot straight ahead, but the NES version has a much catchier soundtrack and isn’t quite as gruelingly difficult.
9 – Mega Man 2
A huge improvement over the first game, Mega Man 2 is probably the first definitive Mega Man game. 8 bosses, catchy music, though not my personal favorite game in the series as I find Mega Man 2 to be a bit too easy.
8 – Blades of Steel
It’s like Double Dribble with sticks and fighting. The first truly great hockey game.
7 – Metroid
This first game in the Metroid series sets the eerie tone for the rest of the series. It doesn’t reach the heights of the sequels, though.
6 – Contra
An easy go-to for me and my brothers while growing up. Like Gun.Smoke, I enjoy the home version of Contra even more than the arcade. It’s tough, but you’ve always got the unforgettable “Konami code” to help you out if all you want to do is have a simple romp through alien-infested hell.
5 – Castlevania III
Improves on the original game by adding multiple characters, improved sound and graphics, and multiple pathways making for a much longer game. Still tough as nails, though.
4 – The Legend of Zelda
While I enjoy the Metroid series more, I find myself stuck admitting that the original Zelda is the superior game. A perfect balance of exploration and action, Zelda really does capture that sense of adventure which Shigeru Miyamoto was inspired by when developing the game.
3 – Final Fantasy
It’s not as good as Phantasy Star on SEGA Master System, Final Fantasy is still the best NES RPG that I had the pleasure to play. Choosing your party to suit your play style was a great feature, and there is a reason why the soundtrack has become so iconic.
2 – Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!
More of a rhythm game than a boxing game, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is probably the most purely “fun” experience I had on NES. Easy to learn, difficult to master, and filled with fun character designs, the only fault may be that it recycles fighters to extend the game. Nearly perfect otherwise.
1 – Mega Man IV
Oh yeah. I said number 4. This installment was the first to add the “false villain” which the Mega Man series would become so famous for, it added hidden weapons requiring exploration to find, plus, I think it has the best music of the NES installments.
I’m sure I missed some games in my rush to create the list, but this list is still probably pretty close. Now what do we think may happen if Nintendo announces an SNES Classic console? Hurm…