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The Greatest NES games of all time


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Solomon's Key.

Playing with my uncle as a kid, really trying our best to figure out that one level with all the mirrors... Still makes me smile thinking about it!

Recently thought I'd pick it up, crapped myself seeing it's £60 on eBay!

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Batman - Because Batman

Legend of Zelda 2 - Known as the black sheep but I played it to death as a kid, awesome fun

Pirates! - The closest the NES had to a truly open world game and a brilliant port to boot.

Turtles - The Speccy version was the best but this was true console gaming and the visuals just blew me away as a child.

Darkwing Duck - Mega Man meets Ducktales, what more do you need?

And finally Elite, which is an amazing console version and plays brilliantly on a pad.

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The NES is a weird one for me. It was my first console, and I absolutely love it, but it doesn't seem to have as many stand out, amazing games as the SNES or N64 did. There are plenty of great games like Zelda, Micro Machines, Elite, Batman and Final Fantasy.

And then there's Mario 3, which is just brilliant. A real step up from the other games, where Nintendo oozed everything out of that little old 8-bit. And the game was just a few hundred kbs in size. How is that even possible?

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Popeye, loved the arcade version and it was really well coverted to the NES.

Double Dragon 2, very different to the arcade version but that's no bad thing. A great beat em up to play at home.

Rolling Thunder, this wasn't released in the UK as it wasn't licensed through Nintendo but it's a very playable conversion of the arcade game.

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Bit of a safe list here...
1. Kirby's Adventure - I can't think of another platform game that celebrates power-ups so effectively as this. Absorbing nearly any enemy allows Kirby to replicate that enemy's attacks, giving you a unique amount of freedom and variety as you experiment with the various powers on offer. That, and the presentation's fantastic too, and it got a sweet GBA remake which I still haven't got around to tracking down... :P
2. Mega Man II - The Wily 1 Theme. Heat Man's disappearing blocks. Quick Man's bullshit lasers. Farming those egg-bomb things for energy drops. It might not have been the first, but MM2 is full of those little moments that stick in your mind and elevate it to classic status. It's the kind of game you can play over and over until you start doing silly things like buster-only runs, or completing Quick Man's stage without the time-stopper. It's timeless.
3. Super Mario Bros. 3 - This was always the true Mario sequel to me. Maybe it was because we picked up a NES just as the SMB3 hype was underway, or maybe it was because the second game was really Doki Doki Panic, but it doesn't matter - Mario's third adventure took him to numerous themed worlds and saw him defeat the Koopa family in one of the most memorable journeys yet seen in a platformer. The catchy music and various secrets only made the game even more special.
4. Castlevania (1) - The third game, Dracula's Curse, may have had more going on, but like Mega Man II this is a game with tons of unforgettable moments, even though repeated deaths at the hands of Medusas and bottomless pits is something we might rather erase from our minds :P It's various bosses all recall certain horror favourites, from the Grim Reaper to Frankenstein's monster, and the journey to each of these bosses has enough challenge and sweet music to keep you playing.
5. Gradius - Okay, it's an arcade conversion so this might be cheating a little, but Gradius plays so well on the NES that it's worth recommending. The power-up system and responsive control are as enjoyable as they ever were, and the music is still likely to get stuck in your head after too many repeated attempts at certain sections. :P
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Trying to think of some alternative choices that I still love.

Tecmo World Wrestling - Don't think I ever actually owned it, but Glenn Thomas did and I played it round his for ages. Then at our holiday home someone had it and I borrowed it and played it (mainly in 2 player) non stop over one summer. Choosing Dr Whatever his name was and pulling off the move where you swing them round by the ankles was the killer move. Watching Mickey Rourke in 'The Wrestler' and seeing him playing it (or a doctored version at least) put a grin on my face straight from the 80s.

Bubble Bobble - I was mega excited when this came through the post one day. Life was great, I remember finding a friend to play with (again at our holiday home) and we finally busted that boss's ass with lightning and found out we had to do it all again! Lol. Still love it.

Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles - I had this pack, so I ended up with this and Super Mario 2 and I have great memories of both games. Turtles though, despite it being fucking hard, I loved switching between the different dudes (always left Raph till last). The joy of finally doing that shitty damn bomb disposal shit. Don't think I ever finished it. Farming enemies to get them to drop whole pizzas!

Mega Man 2 - Primary school finished and my 11th birthday rolled around. I got Mega Man 2 and Super Mario Bros 1 (was only £20), these were the next games I got and brought my total up to a proud 4. I was able to show them off because Gemma Tully held a summer party at her house. I took the instruction books. Again, rock hard game plus loads of time plus games costing loads of money = the perfect storm of rinsing them over and over, scribbling down the 'password' system in earnest. Farming tirelessly for extra lives with the metal blade. Bought it again and to my surprise completed it on the 3DS recently.

Punch-Out! - Never bean Iron Mike or Mr Dream, but the wide eyed wonder of your friend next to you when you reached Soda Popinski - and beat him! Nerve wracking, pattern spotting, showboating, timing your punch exactly to get the star punches. Beautiful, what a journey. This was Rocky for me before I knew what Rocky was...!

Honourable mentions:

Snake Rattle and Roll


Double Dragon - hammered the VS mode on this with friends again at the holiday home (never owned it myself). Somehow so satisfying.

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Going to throw out some different ones to the usual Nintendo games...

Solar Jetman, because I so desperately wanted to play the next in the Jetman series. Was devastated when Ultimate quite the Spectrum, sold off to US Gold and we to develop Nintendo games. When I finally got a NES in the early 90s, this was one game I had to get. It was worth it. A brilliant thrust clone.

Bionic Commando - the arcade game was brilliant, the C64 hversion ad amazing music, this took the arcade game and made it an adventure. Plus you got some of the great music...

Cobra Triangle. Another RARE classic, not that well known. Take RC Pro Am and mix it with the boat bit from Live And Let Die...

You know what you should do an article on - "adult ROM hacks". I remember,her a load of these turning up in the 90s, Donkey Schlong where Mario had his cock out and DK had a huge... Schlong! Or nuts and milk where your main character was a cock and balls. Hilarious stuff.

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Super Mario Bros 3 is the obvious answer. 8 incredible, unforgettable and distinctly different worlds filled with brilliant level design, music and game mechanics.

Dark Land still fills me with dread.

As 2D platforming goes it's arguably only ever been bettered by Mario World.

Other favourite NES games would include:

Chip 'n Dale Rescue Ranger and DuckTales - Two fantastic Disney-licensed platformers from Capcom. Bonus points to the former for offering 2-player which was always important.

Snake Rattle 'n Roll - Another game that saw a lot of playtime in my household due to it's simultaneous 2 player mode. Helped that it was also a great game.

Krusty's Fun House - A fun Lemmings-like puzzle game with a loose connection to The Simpsons all about murdering rats if I recall correctly.

Super Mario Bros 2 - While often overlooked due to it not being a "proper" Mario game it still holds its own and would rank it alongside (or even ahead of) the original SMB.

Tetris - It's Tetris, no further explanation needed.

I wish I still had my NES.

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My first gaming console which I had for Christmas 1991 from my parents. My choices, mainly down to the fact I had a lack of games for the system because of money, are as follows:

1. Super Mario Bros.

As I had the Action Pack this, along with Duck Hunt, were included. Probably the first game I actually completed and I did it not even knowing about the Warp zones. Haven't played since Allstars but I would imagine it still holds up well.

2. Super Mario Bros 3

The Christmas I got my NES was the Christmas my cousin had SMB3. I remember playing it round my Nans on boxing day and being slightly envious of him, it was such a graphical leap forward. When I finally got my own copy months later I played it to death. I even remember having an unofficial paperback strategy guide for it that I carried around with me until it fell apart.

3. TMHTurtles

Big fan of the Turtles and I think the first film had not long been out when I got this. What a swine of a game, massively unfair enemies that respawn as soon as you left the screen, terrible choppy slowdown with flickering sprites and just generally a difficult game to play. Despite all this I still remember that catchy music and enjoying playing it.

4. Digger T Rock

A funny one this. I bought the game based on the funky box artwork (a cartoony miner being attacked by skeletons) but it was actually a pretty good (if challenging) game that saw your miner having to navigate several enemy infested mines collecting diamonds, digging/blasting through soil etc. Probably the only time I actually called a helpline for a game to find out how to beat the last level (I think it involved a dragon at the end).

5. Burai Fighter

My last NES game before I moved onto the SNES. It was the first proper shooter I had ever owned and I loved it. Loads of enemies on screen at once, powerups in abundance and big boss fights. Think I had the cheat codes to help me beat it though!

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Oh I totally forgot Gremlins 2! So the tale is that my I had wanted Mario 3 that Christmas, and I knew it was going to sell out, I KNEW IT. And I mean, I'd walked down to the village 8 days in a row to see if the new Mean Machines with Mario 3 review was out. When it finally was, I was over the moon, read that massive review for ages. Told my Mum, showed my Mum, warned my Mum it would sell out so please get it early. Christmas rolls around, NES shaped box for me, open it up and WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK this is Gremlins 2. 1st world problems but my heart sank. Not for long though as my Mum was very sorry and promised to get me Mario 3 as well as this, so really it was a bonus game. Ended up playing it a LOT. It was pretty tough but kind of awesome and graphics were really good in my memory at least. THAT SPIDER BOSS.

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  • 3 months later...

Having no real nostalgia for the system other than re-re-re-re-re-releases since, the list is fairly simple but may prove interesting without that nostalgic prospective.

I've tried to get through Zelda a couple of times and although the genius is clearly there I just haven't been dedicated enough in the concentration department. Maybe because Golden Axe Warrior popped my cherry for this kind of free roam dungeon exploring back in the day. Metroid is another I haven't bothered to finish (But I did 100% Super Metroid).

I loved most of what I played of Kirby but since I didn't finish it I don't want to rate it. Amazingly impressive for a late NES title in all departments.

There's a million other games on the NES I haven't played of course which American youtubers have let us all know of over the years. but I just don't know how one goes around a NES collection. Is there such a thing as a modded region-free NES? (for at least the US titles). Even if it does, with the popularity of the system at a all time high with collectors, it sounds like even typical every day classics such as Castlevania are a pretty penny to own now, without the thought of import charges involved.

I'd imagine, as ever, an Everdrive investment would fix that.

1. Super Mario Bros 3

I think part of what makes this so good (though that can be it's own top 50 list, seriously) is the length of the levels. They come off short yet in fact are just the right size for a moreish experience (and thus, you move onto the next level). The length also makes any kind of run you want to do a joy. From speedrunning 100% (something I tend to improve my time on) to finding every nook and cranny at your own pace, it suits every kind of playstyle, assuming you like platformers.

Whilst Koji Kondo certainly wrote just as catchy Mario tunes later on, I'd have to say it wasn't until Galaxy where we got something 'consistently' amazing as a soundtrack as Mario 3. Whilst again it's not like it has too many tracks, length of levels does wonders.

In my opinion we haven't had a 2D Mario with quite so varied amount of power ups, either. Frogs, raccoons, shells, GOOMBA'S SHOE! Fantastic.

I also think this is one case where the original (NES) wins over the SNES version, just for the castle scenery being less dull compared to All-Stars.

2. Mega Man 3

First classic MM I finished, the sheer length of it made it feel amazing by the end. In my mind 8 + 4 + Wily is a more perfect set up of levels since going through all the rest of the games. It's also the reason 2 isn't written here instead. The series is a must play in general for all concerned, just don't feel bad about dying too much.

3. Ducktales

After going through the remake, I went to check out the original. It's as good as they said it was, with no need to pause to cancel cutscenes whenever you pick something up. I wouldn't mind if it was a set number per level, 3 max from the start to finish for example. But having Scrooge stop to say something after every collectable in the Amazon for example is just unacceptable. Or even before that in the tutorial, you get paused, what, 4 times?

In any case less about the remake, the NES version has none of that. Another Disney classic of the era, one I would have loved to have grown up with, having played many of the Disney games on SEGA's 8 and 16bit systems at the time.

As ever, it's remarkable how right Disney properties were treated at the time.

4. Pac-Man

GBA NES Classics port. I played this to death at the time and in retrospect it just feels impressive for the NES having such a faithful conversion. GBA even saved my score, perfect. While I was disappointed with some of the other nes classics at the time(Ice Climbers), I was so very happy with this. Championship Edition came a year or two later, resurrecting the pallet munching addiction. It would be a nice feat to go for level 255 of the original someday, though.

5. Final Fantasy

Cheating a bit here, I've played the PSP version, but I did go back just to check the faithfulness (just not for a whole run). Amazing from a technical prospective and of course if you can endure old school RPG's it helps, Whilst it's not exactly timeless to my eyes like the games above this (I haven't much choice from the 'played' department), the fact NES managed this is again impressive. There is a certain feel here that's in the best FF games.

As ever there's probably something I'm forgetting. Never liked the original Mario until All-stars. Played quite a lot of Mario 2 (US), but in retrospect I have more feelings of frustration of that game compared to genuine enjoyment. The GBA effort did help, though. More plentiful with hearts, and giant turnips. Love Contra but it's the XBLA Arcade version I played over and over (with online co-op to boot).

Edit: This would need to be part of the collection:

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I never liked it despite loving Zelda 2! I clocked that so many times back in the day, for years it would always amuse me when people said how difficult it was. Easy to forget as a kid you have all sorts of ninja skills but going back to it in recent years my old hands just don't have the skill let alone patience. I always seemed to be able to rinse the suyper hard ones like Ghosts n Goblins including the SNES version yet today they might as well be unplayable :lol: Man I'm so old.

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I'm exactly the same. Games I played to death as a kid I can still play as smooth as butter, but there's no way I'm ever gonna get through something like Mega Probotector* these days without lovely cheats.

Mind you, I do want to give Zelda 2 the time of day very soon. I only ever played a copy that I borrowed off a mate for a couple of weeks and as it was after playing the aforementioned Battle of Olympus I was a bit nonplussed. I'll probably be far more forgiving nowadays, now that I'm a complete Zelda whore.

*Contra what?

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