The Top 10 Greatest games for the NES is an extremely tough list to narrow down. Having grown up on the NES, there are hundreds of games that could make the cut for me alone. For that reason, I focused on which ones I beat time and time again; and those that really hold a special memory for me. With over 800 games for the NES available, there are certainly a lot of titles to consider. My picks ranged from shooters, action adventures and amazing platformers that still stand the test of time to this very day.
10. Punch Out
Punch Out and the NES went hand in hand. If you grew up with this 8-bit system you certainly spent some time fighting Macho Man and getting punished by Mike Tyson. Fantastic controls, memorable opponents and the challenge that awaited those that made it up the ranks kept gamers boxing for hours on end.
9. Double Dragon
Double Dragon was a major contender at the arcades. When it became available for the NES, every kid on the block wanted it. This was one of the first games I remember playing co-op with friends. Beating each other up was half the fun. Billy and Jimmy have to clean up the streets in search of their shared loved interest Marian. I’ll never forget my first Abobo battle.
8. Ninja Gaiden
Ninja Gaiden introduces the agile ninja known as Ryu Hayabusa. Ryu’s ability to scale walls was an industry first and it has been followed and imitated by other games to this very day. Players slice and dice the enemies with their katana and ninja stars in hopes of avenging his father’s death. This game was brutally difficult. In fact, the 20 levels the game comprises of are some of the toughest stages found on the NES.
7. TMNT II: The Arcade Game
TMNT II: The Arcade Game was a must have title on the NES. This game took lots lunch money and allowance at the Arcades. It was a very exciting day when it released on the NES. Being able to run through the game with friends time and time again without pumping in quarters was awesome made it one of the best co-op games on the 8 bit NES.
Castlevania was another incredibly challenging game from the NES era that ate up a lot of my childhood. It was tough work fighting the undead, but Dracula had to be stopped. Simon was armed with a whip and a few side weapons that he could throw at enemies. These tough ghouls were also armed with infinite respawning, which eventually lead to serious fits of rage and numerous broken controllers. Reaching the end and defeating the dark lord himself however, made all the deaths and countless hours it took to memorize each stage totally worth it.
Contra is one of the greatest arcade shooters found on any system. Its code for extra lives is almost as iconic as the game itself. This was memorized like scripture for gamers of the 8 bit era. Cooperative gameplay was taken to new levels of action with Contra. Explosions never looked so amazing. It was all thanks to two commandos specialized in guerrilla warfare that were armed to the teeth with firepower.
Megaman is another iconic character that originated from the NES era. It’s also one of the hardest franchises from Capcom. Megaman looked amazing showcasing bright vibrant colors and the soundtrack is fantastic. Gamers would blast their way through each brutally difficult level in order to reach and defeat the robot menaces awaiting them. These villains were created by Dr. Wily. Megaman was and still is one of the finest platformers to this very day. It is an absolute classic.
Metroid was my first sci-fi adventure in the gaming world. I still remember the title screen and eerie intro music to this day. The dark treacherous planet that Samus explored was memorizing. It begged you to push on and see what else you might find, granted you survived the journey. Samus was even featured in our Heroine of the week. Needless to say, we are big fans.
Where would the gaming world be without Link, the Tri-force and Hyrule? I still remember being home sick from school with a cold and being surprised by my dad with this game. The first thing that caught my eye was the gold cartridge. I thought certainly, this must be a special game and indeed it was better than I could have ever imagined. After entering in my name and getting a sword, I was immediately hooked and pulled into this new exciting world. Everything from the dungeons to the excellent music score found throughout the game was on another level from anything before it. Defeating Gannon with the silver arrow at the end is a battle I”ll simply never forget.
1. Super Mario Bros.
Nintendo struck gold with the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES. In short order, it became a common device in everyone’s living room. It introduced two ambitious plumbers that would quickly become Nintendo’s mascot and the number one reason to pick up this 8 bit console. Who knew jumping on mushrooms and turtles would offer so much entertainment and find such universal praise. The iconic platformer owed much to the creation of probably the most well-known villain in gaming. This is of course was the Koopa king himself, Bowser. Players would have to dodge hammers and fire, eventually reaching an ax that drops this menace from his drawbridge and into his own lava. Every day after school, I would be set on saving the princess and mushroom kingdom…all else could wait.