Sailing the Blue Skies since 2001.
Everyone has a different opinion on what the greatest games of all time are. Such lists that state "The Best Games of All Time...Ever!" can't truly be 100% accurate, because it is the union of a staff at a said place, not so much the general populace (I will admit, the recent EGM list is pretty solid, but I still don't 100% agree with it). So, I slap a disclaimer on mine. This is MY personal opinion on what I think the Top 15 NES games are. These are the ones I've gotten the most enjoyment and the most inspiration from. The games that have left an impact on me. The ones that have helped me love gaming as much as I do. You see, I had a NES from 1986 or so to the launch of the Nintendo 64 as my primary gaming system, so I think I've developed a pretty strong sense of what games have left a lasting mark on my growing up. So, without any further ado, here's the 15 games that have left a deep impression on me. A new feature is expanded views on games already on my Top 30 list or ones I have written an opinion for. Just click the link to get more enriched with details...or something like that. For games that I don't have on my list, I'll try to get into more detail here.
1. Mega Man 3
While many think MM2 is the best MM game of all time (Nintendo Power and EGM both do, as well as many of my online friends), I have personally felt a much stronger bond to MM3 over time. A big part of that is the fact I haven't owned MM2 anywhere near as long as MM3 (I bought MM2 a few years ago, while I've owned MM3 for 10+ years), but I still enjoy MM3's stage design and weapons over MM2's. Plus, MM3 brought in a ton of new features to the franchise: Rush the transformable dog, the ability to slide and the introduction of Protoman, who continues to be one of my favorite game characters of all time. MM3 does so much right for me that I can't look at any other game the same way on the NES without comparing it to the gameplay bliss I receive from playing this. The sound, graphics and gameplay all make good use of the system's power, and I really do love the music to this game. So all and all, I love MM3 the most out of all the NES games out there. For more on my opinion, read my favorite games notes.
2. Super Mario Bros. 3
Here's a game that shouldn't surprise you. SMB3 still to me stands as the premiere Mario 2D platformer. It perfected the formula set by its prequel (Super Mario Bros., not SMB2), added tons of new tricks and powers into the formula, and was just a delightful title by every merit one could think of. It introduced the Boos, Thwomps, Chain Chomps, Paragoombas and the 7 Koopa Kids (remember them? They need to be in more games!) into Mario lore, brought together a map system along with fun minigames and top notch level design, and was a genuine joy to play. I played it so much I got a little burnt on it, but it still is one of my favorite games of all time. For more on my opinion, read my favorite games notes.
3. Legend of Zelda
Ah, Zelda. My favorite gaming franchise. It began right here. I had this game twice as a kid, but somehow lost both copies (I do recall how I lost one of them...I am much more cautious of lending games to others now). However, I own it again thanks to Nintendo's Legend of Zelda Collector's Edition for the GC, and it remains a grand adventure of conquering dungeons, battling monsters and collecting rupees. The game has so many hidden secrets that modern games usually can't dare to fathom, and it still controls like a dream. It still stands as a testament to solid and fun game design, despite its age. A recommended Wii download. For more on my opinion, read my favorite games notes.
4. Bionic Commando
A platformer in which you can't jump. Sounds disastrous, doesn't it? This "port" of the arcade version was anything but, changing the game into more of an adventuring quest than the by-the-book platformer the original was. Featuring Nazi-like militant groups trying to conquer the world, Commando hero Super Joe being captured, and the evil Hit...whoops, I mean, MASTER-D, being resurrected in a giant glass tank (which Mother Brain would have felt quite at home in), your bionic-armed hero must unitize his arm to weave his way through the BADD troops and save the day...the sweet glory of 8-bit (translated) story telling. Anyway, the game's unique bionic arm mechanics make for a gameplay treat, and the game has a considerable amount of challenge in both level and control design. And the music...good stuff. Now that I've conquered this gem, it's one of my most treasured NES titles.
5. Kirby's Adventure
I've got to say that Kirby's Adventure stands out among the rest of the Kirby pack for its sheer enjoyment level (only Kirby Superstar comes close). The game's level design is solid, the controls work out well, and the music is cheery and excellent by NES standards. Looks pretty nice, too. But the major motivation in my praise is the introduction to Kirby's Power stealing ability that arose with this game. There's around 20 different abilities, and all of them come in handy (except Sleep and arguably Ball...) at some point in the game. And while the game's challenge is low, there's plenty of secrets to find (and some of them are downright difficult to discover!). A fun game that I spent many an hour in my youth playing, and one I still treasure today.
6. Super Mario Bros.
The above and below games owe a lot to this cartridge. A LOT. Without Mario's first platform outing, the NES would have likely fluttered into obscurity. This business would not have picked up, and a lot of us would be doing other things with our time instead of playing games. Scary thought, eh? This game saved and rebuilt the industry, and it's still pretty fun to play today. Its graphics are ancient, but the game still controls well and the classic Mario themes are still catchy to listen to. Placing #1 in both IGN and EGM's Greatest Games of All Time lists is no small feat, and it surely is deserving. Pick it up on the GBA, GBC, SNES (via SM All-Stars), NES or the Wii's Virtual Console.
I'm normally not a huge shooter fan, but this one does so much right that I can't say I don't love its gameplay. A run-and-gun title at its finest, this game plays exceptionally well, has some incredibly catchy music and looks good despite its age. Plus, the power-ups helped make the game a joy to play (Spread Shot anyone?). Konami crafted a beauty of an arcade port here.
8. Mega Man 2
MM2 is down a bit from where most people would place it, but that's the beauty of different opinions. MM2 sounds wonderful, controls great and is a nice challenge, but it didn't quite wow me like its later cousin did. Maybe it's because most people played MM2 first, or maybe I like the pacing and level design of MM3 more...still a great game, nevertheless.
9. TMNT2: The Arcade Game
Cowabunga! Heh, this game is still a nice reminder of my youthful days of Ninja Turtle fandom. The game's strength lies in its two-player mode, where Turtle Power rages on in all its glory. It's a pretty tough game, too. It looks good, plays well and has catchy music, plus it's a fine port of the arcade classic. What more could you want from a licensed game?
The other "best use of a license" game, Ducktales is a joy to play through. Despite Scrooge's rather unorthodox movelist (pogo sticking and golf clubbing enemies?), Capcom managed to make it rather entertaining to play. Add in solid level design with plenty of secrets, fun music and quality background work and you have a great gem of a game. It is easy, but it was aimed for kids, you know...it's a bonus that adults can still enjoy it.
Metroid's open-ended level design paved the way for future Metroids (and Castlevanias). Samus Aran's original quest captured gamer's hearts (in more ways than one, with Samus being the first major female hero in gaming) with its fun gameplay, RPG-like ability gaining and some freakin' hardcore enemy design. Metroids still stand as some of the scariest enemies in any game, ever. I feel that Metroid, while innovative, hasn't stood the test of time as well as its sequels, but it's still quite worthy of being on this list.
The best racer on the NES, Excitebike is legendary for its simple yet engaging gameplay. While the game's graphics and music were rather simple, the game's fantastic control scheme and track design makes up for it in spades. The best part was making your own tracks...sweet memories. This is one game I'd definitely recommend getting for the GBA/Wii ports over the NES version, since you can (finally) save your custom designs!
StarTropics is a bit of the odd-one-out story. Copying some aspects from Legend of Zelda and throwing in a bunch of different gameplay ideas makes for a unique gameplay experience. Mike may control a bit clunky in the dungeons, but I prefer it over Zoda's Revenge's loose free-roaming method any day. The solid storyline, enjoyable music and puzzling dungeons made this a fun game for me to go through...
I am STILL trying to beat this game. Even with the GBA cartridge's ability to save, I'm still stuck swinging my whip in the caverns. Future games paved the way for bigger and better things, but this monster of a platformer (bad pun, my apologies) is still a fun challenge to play. Except for Medusa heads...I hate those things.
15. Balloon Fight
I like this game's mechanics. Incredibly simple, yet incredibly engaging, too. While the stages recycle after a while, flying around as a Balloon Fighter is entertaining and easy to grasp, and two-player is pretty fun, too. Gameplay this tight makes up for simplicity in this case. Quite catchy music, too.