My Top 30 NES Games

With the announcement of the Nintendo Classic Mini this morning (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check the link) and the list of games that will come built-in, I was surprised at how many of them would probably be on my personal top 30 NES games, which got me thinking: what is my top 30 NES games list? So, here’s my attempt figure that out.

My Top 30 NES Games

I’ll start with some honourable mentions:

  • Blades of Steel
  • Ice Hockey
  • Shadow of the Ninja
  • Adventure Island
  • Adventure Island II
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • The Punisher
  • Adventures of Lolo 2
  • Kabuki: Quantum Fighter
  • Kirby’s Adventure


Dishonourable mentions (overrated or I just don’t like them):

  • Kid Icarus
  • Metroid
  • Battletoads
  • Tetris
  • Bionic Commando
  • Blaster Master
  • Excitebike
  • Punch Out!!
  • All the TMNT games


Alright, here’s my list.

30 – StarTropics

This is the kind of game that would’ve been much higher if I’d played it as a kid, but since I only played and beat it a few years ago, it’s just a really good game that has no memories or nostalgia attached to it.


29 – River City Ransom

I hate beat ’em ups, but I love RPGs. Apparently, I love them so much that adding RPG elements to a beat ’em up is enough to make me love a beat ’em up. I’m still kinda shocked by this.


28 – Power Blade

Cool, fun game. Can’t believe Schwarzenegger didn’t sue over the box art.


27 – Metal Storm

It’s kinda like VVVVVV, but with guns and on NES.


26 – Mega Man 4

To me, this is the last good Mega Man game outside of the Legends series that I’ve played.


25 – DuckTales

I still don’t think the Moon theme is a great track, but the rest of the game’s music is great.


24 – Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers

You could switch this one with DuckTales. They’re pretty much equal to me, as I played them back to back as a kid. I even confused some parts.


23 – Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

The worst NES Castlevania game is still great.


22 – Castlevania

This one edges out III because I feel like III is pretty much this game with very few changes or improvements.


21 – Shadow of the Ninja

Feels a bit like Ninja Gaiden with some Castlevania and Mega Man elements.


20 – Super C

If you like Contra, which is a perfect game, then you should like Super C.


19 – Adventure Island 3

The skateboard is gone, the difficulty is toned down, and a bunch of items and dinosaur friends you can ride are added. Such a fun game.


18 – Ninja Gaiden

I could list this game for the cutscenes and the 1-1 music alone.


17 – Déjà Vu

I can’t believe I had the patience to beat this as a kid. I’m not sure I’d have the patience to do it now, especially without a guide. Still, a genre that I don’t play enough and a game that’s surprisingly fun.


16 – Adventures of Lolo

Probably my favourite puzzle game ever.


15 – Shinobi

I might like the Master System version a little more, but the NES version is excellent as well.


14 – Gauntlet

This is the only game on this list that I’ve never beaten. Still love it.


13 – Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom

Betten than the first, but not as good as the second. At least not to me.


12 – Dragon Warrior

I love JRPGs and this was the 2nd one I ever played. It’s got its flaws, but for a game that kind of started the genre so many years ago, it deserves all the credit it gets.


11 – Maniac Mansion

I borrowed this from a friend about 25 years ago. I still have it.


10 – Super Mario Bros. 3

Ok, this might be “technically” better than SMB 2, but I just don’t like it more.


9 – Mega Man 3

I don’t know what it is. I just don’t “feel” that this is better than Mega Man 2, except for the Gemini Man stage. I love that stage.


8 – Super Mario Bros. 2

“It’s not really a Mario game!”

“Did you know it’s just…Doki Doki…”

Shut up. Just shut up. All of you. No one likes you people, but I like this more than Mario 3.


7 – Faxanadu

Possibly the most criminally underappreciated NES game.


6 – Contra

This game is perfect. No improvements can be made to this game.


5 – Final Fantasy

And I’ve loved every Fanil Fantasy game I’ve played since…


4 – Mega Man 2

My favourite Mega Man game. The music, weapons, stages, Robot Masters…perfect.


3 – Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos

I could probably beat this game with my eyes closed. Well, maybe not, but I’ve played this game so much, I feel like I could.


2 – Castelvania 2: Simon’s Quest

I don’t care about how ridiculous and bad a few parts of the game are. To me, this is the best horror game I’ve ever played. As a kid, the visuals and music just perfectly created an unfortgetable atmosphere I love to this day. Plus, it’s an action-platforming RPG: the best genre.


1 – Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Ever since I first played it, this has been my favourite game ever. I don’t think this will ever change.


So, it appears I may have a some kind of bias against the third game in a series and favour the second game. Anyway, what do you think of my list? Disagree with my choices? Keep in mind, there’s a good chance my list woould look a little different tomorrow morning, maybe even tonight if I were to do it again from scratch. Anyway, what would your list look like?

What do you think of this post?
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About Atsinganoi

Atsinganoi started gaming in the early 80s on an Atari 2600 and still thinks they're kinda neat. You can find him on Twitter if you want, just don't call him a frog.


  1. Intriguing list.
    I like that Déjà Vu is on there, when people talk about point & click it’s an important game that gets forgotten.

    • Zelda II, Faxanadu, and Déjà Vu: all games I played because I had an aunt with an NES that babysat my brothers and me once in a while. She’d come over with a game saying “I rented this last month. It’s really good. I think you’ll like it.” She was never wrong.

  2. Definitely interesting list. I think I might need to do my own…..

  3. Great list! Besides my dislike for Ninja Gaiden, everything on here is something I can enjoy, and kudos for listing some that don’t seem to get enough love: Power Blade and Metal Storm in particular. Power Blade has got me through some tough times, and I can beat it on one life now. I would likewise put Zelda II in my top five, and I can always respect any pick that isn’t one people always talk about.

    But maybe, just maybe, Contra could do with a duck walk/roll in the third person segments? (ducks away and runs)

    • See, duck walking or rolling would’ve made the game easier or more difficult (because it was implemented poorly). Either way, it would’ve made the game worse 😉

  4. Very interesting list. It just reminds me that I need to play a Ninja Gaiden and Castlevania one of these days. I personally think Mega Man 3 is more polished than 2, but I’ve found many people disagree with that. I like Zelda 2, but I don’t love it. I’m not one of those people that hates it, I just think the combat is a bit too tricky too master, and it’s not my favorite NES games. Other than that, my only other comment is I’m extremely surprised at the lack of Kirby’s Adventure (though at least you mentioned it). That game is awesome!

    I would make my own list, but I don’t think I’ve even played 30 NES games (I was always more of a SNES kid).

    • Kirby doesn’t make the list, as is the case with a few of the other honourable mentions, because I’ve only played it once and that was a few years ago, not as a kid. To me, it’s just a solid NES game I played, not some classic I’ve loved for decades.

      Maybe you can make your SNES list when Nintendo releases an SNES Mini.

  5. Great list, and also a great example of effective writing — your two-sentence summary of your experience with Maniac Mansion (“I borrowed this from a friend about 25 years ago. I still have it.”) says as much about the game as a 500-word review could, I imagine!

    It’s funny, too, because I sometimes feel like my tastes in gaming are very different than yours, but I was nodding my head and smiling a lot as I read this. I have even had a similar experience with some of these titles, like marveling at the fact that I had the patience as a kid to beat Déjà Vu as well, it is just a well-made, taut little narrative.

    Good stuff, friend.

    • I’ve been having the same reaction. It’s been really neat to see other people’s lists, people I thought I differed from quite a lot in terms of gaming preferences. In the end, all the lists have a good 8 to 15 games I’ve also listed. Seems like we’re all not so different after all.

  6. I liked how you gave honorable and dishonorable mentions. I agree on Kid Icarus, I hate how your character can die by just moving off the bottom of the screen, despite the fact that you were just on a platform below! I really like the second Zelda more than the first, nice to know I’m not the only one, though I wish Link had access to more weapons. Imagine that game with a bow and boomerang.

    And our version of Super Mario Bros. 2 is the real one.

    • Kid Icarus isn’t that bad, but it just seems to be considered a classic while I think it is painfully mediocre.

      I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many others prefer Zelda II and SMB 2 🙂

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