My Top-10 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Games

The NES was unquestionably the most important game system in history and a big part of my childhood as well. I played my very first video-game (Super Mario Bros.) on it and it made me a fan of Mario, Nintendo and all things video-game related in one-fell-swoop. The NES had countless classics and a number of game franchises that still continue to this day had their start on the NES.

These are my 10 favourite games from the system…

10. Punch-Out!! (a.k.a. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!)

Okay, so on my Top-10 SNES games list, I complained how Super Punch-Out tends to get ignored due to people preferring the NES classic over it. And though I feel that Super Punch-Out is the better game, I can’t deny that I also happen to love the original as well.

A cartoony, humorous boxing title where you go up against a cast of crazy characters. Who can forget Glass Joe, Don Flamenco, King Hippo, Soda Popinski or Super Macho Man? The simple gameplay worked great and even with the simplistic graphic design, the game looked pretty polished with its cartoony designs. Also, the music was excellent. Each fighter gets their own little anthem at the beginning and then there’s the iconic fighting and training themes.

Punch-Out is a classic, whether you’re playing the Mike Tyson or sans-Tyson version of it. However, as stated before, I think the fact that the game relies heavily on mastering the secret tricks to beating each opponent is its biggest weakness. There’s nothing more frustrating than going for three rounds against an opponent and then losing from an automated decision.

9. Castlevania

Konami’s horror-themed action-platformer series started on the 8-bit Nintendo and the first game of the series has aged remarkably well. Konami was breaking ground with the game’s detailed graphics and excellent soundtrack which would pave the way to a number of sequels. Whenever you play Castlevania it feels like you’re really playing something special.

Unfortunately, Castlevania is also one of the hardest games on the NES. Though perhaps not as merciless Castlevania 3 or the Contra titles, the gameplay and abundance of enemies in each stage mean that this is a game that’s really hard to beat. However, the feeling of accomplishment you get from finishing a level is great.

Plus, you have to love the fact that you get to fight the Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Grim Reaper and Dracula all in the same game. This list simply wouldn’t feel right without Castlevania, and though some might feel that Dracula’s Curse is a better game, the first one is just much closer to my heart.

8. Snake Rattle N Roll

A slightly more obscure entry but one I really enjoy. This game also made it on my list of Top-10 Rareware titles, so its only appropriate I include it. Snake Rattle & Roll was one of the earliest NES games I played and it certainly deserves to be up here. The game was released when Rare was still relatively unknown, before they had released any of the games that made the big names: Killer Instinct, Donkey Kong Country or even BattleToads.

Snake Rattle N Roll is a simple arcade style isometric platformer where you control a snake defeating enemies and eating balls that grow his tail. The goal in its simplicity is to grow a tail long-enough to make the bell on the scale ring and open the exit to the level. Your enemies include bombs, invisible sharks, toilet-seats come to life and a Monty Python style disembodied foot.

The game has great colourful graphics and simple but addicting gameplay as well as cheery music. It may seem like a very simplistic game, but its charm lies in its simplicity. It’s just a game I never get tired of.

7. Mighty Final Fight

This one might feel like an odd pick, but there’s a reason Mighty Final Fight is on this list. In the realm of beat-em-up games Capcom’s Final Fight is considered the definitive classic and, of course, the Super Nintendo had its own version of the game. However, I think the SNES version of the game removed so many things that made the original great that I honestly think this 8-bit SD reimagining of it is much more faithful to the original game.

Sure, the characters are drawn super cute, but the music is still great and beating up bad guys is super addicting. Whereas the SNES version wimped out and left Poison out of the game, she’s back in Mighty Final Fight as are all the other recognisable baddies.

Mighty Final Fight shouldn’t be over-looked or under-estimated just because it’s an 8-bit port of a 16-bit arcade title. The game does everything perfectly and recreates the most important ingredient of the game: the sense of fun. This is a definite pick-up-and-play experience.

6. Super Mario Bros. 2

Once again, I didn’t want the top-10 to be entirely dominated by Mario titles, but I had to include SMB2 for a reason. It’s simply the most unique game in the Super Mario Bros. series and I think deserves massive recognition. When the original SMB2, Lost Levels, wasn’t released in the West – Nintendo had to quickly take another game called Doki Doki Panic and transform it into a Mario game to make up for the gap between the first and third Mario games.

What resulted is one of the strangest but also one of the most interesting Mario games. A game where you could choose from four playable characters, traverse colourful worlds and defeat unique baddies. And to top it all off, it’s just a super fun game to boot. The soundtrack is excellent and the tunes stick in your head, just as they do with any other Mario game.

SMB2 gets so easily over-looked, especially in comparison to the third Mario game that I simply had to put it up here. If you’ve wanted to experience a different kind of Mario game, then SMB2 is absolutely worth trying out.

5. Ducktales

Ducktales is one of my favourite Disney TV cartoons and Capcom is one of my favourite game companies. What do you think happens when you put the two together? Capcom’s Disney titles on the NES have been praised highly and for good reason. However, Ducktales still has that little extra edge that in my view makes it just a tad better than the rest.

As Scrooge McDuck, you travel to different parts of the world finding treasures in order to solidify your reputation as the world’s richest duck. The game is filled with inventive and colourful level design as well as some of the most highly memorable music from any NES game around. Not only can you play through the levels in any order (ala Mega Man) the game also features appearances by a number of recognisable Ducktales characters: Launchpad, the Beagle Boys, Magica De Spell, Gizmo Duck and of course Huey, Dewey and Louie.

Ducktales may appear to be a rather standard platformer on the off-set, but its a game that does so many things right gameplay wise and even succeeds in capturing the essentials of the TV show it was based on that it just becomes a classic in its own right.

4. Mega Man 2

Alright, so Mega Man 2 had to be in this Top-10, no questions asked. It’s a timeless classic, it’s widely regarded as the best game of the franchise and for good reason. It’s a fun, action-packed title with a classic charm and excellent level design and with enough challenge that you feel accomplished without unnecessary aggravation.

On top of that, it does have my favourite selection of Robot Masters and unquestionably the best soundtrack of the classic Mega Man series. With an excellent choice of Master Weapons at your disposal, you’ll have a blast tearing your way through the game. And if the game feels too easy, you can crank the difficulty up a notch and give it another go.

There are many who would put Mega Man 2 on the number-1 spot on their NES games list and I do regard the game highly myself. However, I think the game gets praised so much that it tends to over-shadow other games which are just as good or even better. However, it has definitely deserved its spot in the Top-5.

3. Super Mario Bros. 3

This top-5 wouldn’t be complete without Mario 3 on it. SMB3 was the first video-game sequels that impressed me with  how much it improved on its predecessor, but still kept everything that made that first game fun. It’s a game that completely redefined my ideas about what a sequel and a video-game were really capable of.

SMB3 had an excellent variety of colourful worlds to explore. You had so much more content and variety than with the first game it was unbelievable. You had all new enemies along with familiar ones. You had unique bosses at the end of each world. You could carry power-ups in an inventory and you had a whole lot more of them than ever before. The magic leaves, the frog suit and even the Hammer Bros. suit all made this an excellent gaming experience.

The only problem with SMB3 as a NES game was that it was perhaps a little too big, especially for a game with no save or password system. However, it was one of my favourite games growing up and I still love it.

2. Mega Man 5

I’m a huge Mega Man fan and Mega Man 2 is a classic, so I had to have it on the list, but – this list simply wouldn’t be complete without my all-time favourite classic series Mega Man game. And that is Mega Man 5. If you didn’t fall out of your chair when Proto Man grabbed Dr. Light and flew off at the start of this game, you aren’t a Mega Man fan. That was some epic story-telling right there…

Okay, so there are other reasons I love this game. Firstly, the level variety was probably the best in the whole Mega Man series. You got to ride a water-scooter, battle on a train, jump around in space and walk on ceilings. On top of that you had colourful enemies in vast numbers and loads of challenge. That’s what I want from a Mega Man game, character and challenge. The soundtrack may had not been as good as Mega Man 2, but it was still excellent with solid tracks like Stone Man’s, Wave Man’s and Gravity Man’s themes – not to mention the Skull Castle theme.

Mega Man 5 also had an upgraded version of the Super Shot and Beat the Bird to help you out. Mega Man 5 is just the untoppable title from the classic franchise in my view and it had to be in the Top-5 for sure.

1. Kirby’s Adventure

NES was the system of excellent platformers for me and so I always look for the very finest, the most refined and the most fun gaming experiences when I play anything on it. Nothing I’ve played on the NES has yet topped Kirby’s Adventure. This is a game that certainly shouldn’t be underestimated by its cute exterior, because Kirby is a real man’s game.

Firstly, the game has some of the best and most detailed graphics on the NES. True love went into the game from the artists who designed it. The game is practically flawless in its graphic design. Granted, it was a late release in the NES’s history, that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Secondly, the music is cheery but not annoying in any way. It gets you pumped up and ready to go out and bust some ass.

Thirdly, and most importantly of all, the gameplay is practically flawless. You can jump, slide and suck your way through the level or you can say f*** it and skip the annoying bits. Eventually though, the game is going to test your skills with hard levels that require fast maneuvering and this is when the smooth controls start to come into play. When you screw up, you can only blame yourself and you keep coming back to try again.

And I haven’t even gotten to the cool part yet, your super-powers. Kirby can suck enemies and gain their super-powers, most of which are super-helpful and make the gameplay even more fun. Whether your blasting lasers, smashing or rolling over enemies or slicing them up with a sword – Kirby offers endless variety and fun.

Kirby’s Adventure never gets tiresome, no matter how much you play it. That’s why it’s the best and number-1.