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Nintendo's All-Time Greats: Our Comprehensive Guide to the Best NES Games

A comprehensive video guide to the best games of the NES, from 1985 to 1994, with helpful advice on where to find these classic masterpieces legally!

List by Jeremy Parish, .

We've been looking back at the best games of the NES's lifetime, breaking it down in groups of two years at a time so it doesn't end up being the same Top 20 list of the same games every publication praises.

At long last, our video series wraps up with the the final years of the NES's life: 1992-94. With the Super NES available worldwide and the 16-bit wars underway, great NES releases slowed down considerably in those last few years... but the best creations for the system were as good as anything you could play on the more advanced competition.

Relive the rose-tinted pinnacle of the NES's life with our video looks back at these classics, and read on for info on how to most easily and cheaply (and, ahem, legally) play them today. Because frankly, you're probably going to want to go play them all.

The Best NES Games of 1992-94

Bucky O'Hare

Konami | Jan. 1992
Where to find it: Only available via the original NES cartridge.

Dragon Warrior III

Chun Soft/Enix | March 1992
Where to find it: While the NES version has never been reissued in the U.S., you can find the Game Boy Color remake for a decent price or grab it on iOS.

Gargoyle's Quest II

Capcom | Oct. 1992
Where to find it: Rejoice! It's available now on Wii U and 3DS Virtual Console.

Dragon Warrior IV

Oct. 1992
Where to find it: Only available via the original NES cartridge, though you can pick up remakes on Nintendo DS and iOS (as Dragon Quest IV).

Little Samson

Takeru/Taito | Nov. 1992
Where to find it: Sadly, it's only available as a shockingly expensive NES cart (we're talking $500 or more). Those who wish to brave Japanese auction sites might be able to find a copy of the Famicom version (Seirei Densetsu Lickle) for closer to the $100 range.

Bomberman II

Hudson | Feb. 1993
Where to find it: Surprisingly, the NES version of Bomberman has never been rereleased.

Fire 'n Ice

Tecmo | March 1993
Where to find it: Only available via the original NES cartridge.

Kirby's Adventure

HAL/Nintendo | May 1993
Where to find it: It's on Virtual Console (take your pick) and on Kirby Dream Collection for Wii. An enhanced 3D remake is available as part of Arika's 3D Classics series for 3DS.

Mighty Final Fight

Capcom | July 1993
Where to find it: Capcom has reissued Mighty Final Fight on Virtual Console for Wii U and 3DS, and a slightly squashed version can be found on Capcom Classics Collection for Game Boy Advance.

Mega Man 6

Capcom | March 1994
Where to find it: You can pick up Mega Man 6 on Virtual Console for both Wii U and 3DS, and it's also available in the Mega Man Anniversary Collection for PlayStation, Xbox, and GameCube.

Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II

Nintendo | March 1994
Where to find it: While it hasn't shown up on Virtual Console for 3DS or natively on Wii U, StarTropics II can still be downloaded on Wii's Virtual Console.

The Best NES Games of 1991

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

Kid/Taxan | Jan. 1991
Where to find it: You'll need to find the original cartridge, as this game has never been reissued.

Metal Storm

Tamtex/Irem | Feb. 1991
Where to find it: Again, original cart only.

Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom

Hudson | Feb. 1991
Where to find it: Rejoice! This cult favorite is available on Virtual Console for Wii and Wii U.

Kiwi Kraze

Taito, March 1991
Where to find it: While the NES version of this game has never been compiled, you can find the original arcade classic (The NewZealand Story) on Taito Legends for PS2, Xbox, PSP, and PC. A DS remake (New Zealand Story DS) is also available for pocket change.

Battletoads

Rare/Tradewest, June 1991
Where to find it: Surprisingly, this hyped-up classic has never been reissued. But it's always fun to call GameStop and ask to preorder it.

Tombs & Treasures

Rare/Tradewest, June 1991
Where to find it: Like many NES releases of this era, Tombs & Treasures can only be played in its original incarnation.

Adventures of Lolo 3

HAL, Sept. 1991
Where to find it: Bizarrely, this Lolo remains the only entry not to have hit Virtual Console. It's available on the original cart only.

Gun-Nac

Compile/ASCII, Sept. 1991
Where to find it: Original cart only.

NES Open Tournament Golf

Nintendo, Sept. 1991
Where to find it: Nintendo has reissued this classic on Virtual Console for Wii, Wii U, and 3DS. Hat trick!

Rockin' Kats

Atlus, Sept. 1991
Where to find it: Only on the original cart.

Uncharted Waters

Koei, Nov. 1991
Where to find it: Original cart only, though the excellent Super NES sequel has appeared on Wii and Wii U Virtual Console.

Batman: Return of the Joker

Sunsoft, Dec. 1991
Where to find it: Original cart only.

Tecmo Super Bowl

Tecmo, Dec. 1991
Where to find it: Unlike the original Tecmo Bowl, this entry is not available on Virtual Console. But in addition to the NES release, a visually superior version also appeared on Sega Genesis and costs practically nothing on eBay.

The Best NES Games of 1990

Clash at Demonhead

Vic Tokai | Jan. 1990
Where to find it: Unfortunately, this game has never been reissued; you can only play it legally with the original cartridge

Double Dragon II: The Revenge

Technos/Acclaim | Jan. 1990
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms)

River City Ransom

Technos | Jan. 1990
Where to find it: Virtual Console (Wii, 3DS), River City Ransom EX remake (GBA)

Batman

Sunsoft | Feb. 1990
Where to find it: Original cartridge only

Super Mario Bros. 3

Nintendo | Feb. 1990
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms), Super Mario All-Stars (Super NES, Wii)

Code Name: Viper

Capcom | March 1990
Where to find it: Original cartridge only

Final Fantasy

Squaresoft | May 1990
Where to find it: Virtual Console (Wii), various remakes (PSP, Game Boy Advance, iOS)

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos

Tecmo | May 1990
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms)

Crystalis

SNK | July 1990
Where to find it: The original cart or the Game Boy Color remake

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Konami | Sept. 1990
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms)

Maniac Mansion

LucasArts/Jaleco | Sept. 1990
Where to find it: Only available as the original cartridge, though the very similar original DOS version is fairly easy to come by.

Mega Man 3

Capcom | Nov. 1990
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms), PSN (as PSOne import classic "Rockman 3"), iOS

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game

Konami | Nov. 1990
Where to find it: Only as the original cartridge, unless you bought the Wii Virtual Console release before it was delisted (presumably for licensing issues)

The Best NES Games of 1988-1989

Contra

Konami | February 1988
Where to find it: Unlockable as a bonus mode in Contra 4 (DS)

Double Dragon

Technos Japan/Tradewest (Million) | June 1988
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms)

Life Force

Konami | August 1988
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms)

Super Mario Bros. 2

Nintendo | October 1988
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms)

Bubble Bobble

Taito | October 1988
Where to find it: Virtual Console (Wii)

Blaster Master

Sunsoft | November 1988
Where to find it: Virtual Console (Wii, 3DS)

Bionic Commando

Capcom | Dec. 1988
Where to find it: Capcom Classics Collection Mini Mix (GBA)

Tecmo Bowl

Tecmo | February 1989
Where to find it: Virtual Console (Wii, 3DS)

Ninja Gaiden

Tecmo | March 1989
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms)

The Guardian Legend

Compile/Brøderbund | April 1989
Where to find it: Original cartridge only

Mega Man 2

Capcom | June 1989
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms), PSN (PS1 import classic "Rockman 2"), iOS

Dragon Warrior

Enix/Nintendo | August 1989
Where to find it: As NES or Game Boy Color carts or on iOS

The Best NES Games of 1985-87

Super Mario Bros.

Nintendo | Oct. 1985
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms), Super Mario Bros. DX (Game Boy Color), Super Mario All-Stars (Super NES, Wii)

Castlevania

Konami | May 1987
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms), NES Classic series (GBA)

Rygar

Tecmo | July 1987
Where to find it: Original cart only

Section Z

Capcom | July 1987
Where to find it: Original cart only

Solomon's Key

Tecmo | July 1987
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms)

The Legend of Zelda

Nintendo | Aug. 1987
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms), NES Classics series (GBA)

Metroid

Nintendo | Aug. 1987
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms), NES Classics series (GBA), unlockable in Metroid Prime (GameCube) and Metroid Zero Mission (GBA)

Punch-Out!!

Nintendo | Oct. 1987
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms), giveaway item in Animal Crossing (GameCube)

The Goonies II

Konami | Nov. 1987
Where to find it: Original cart only

Mega Man

Capcom | Dec. 1987
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms), PSN (PSOne import classic "Rockman")

The Best NES and Famicom Games from Before the U.S. Launch

Donkey Kong

Nintendo | June 1983
Where to find it:

Lode Runner

Brøderbund | July 1984
Where to find it: Original cart only for NES version, but the original Lode Runner has been widely ported to numerous platforms

Excitebike

Nintendo | Nov. 1984
Where to find it: Virtual Console (all platforms), 3D Classics (3DS), unlockable in Animal Crossing (GameCube)

Tower of Druaga

Namco | Aug. 1985
Where to find it: Original cart for NES import only, but the original arcade version is available on multiple Namco Museum volumes

Star Force

Tecmo | June 1985
Where to find it: Original cart only for NES version, but the original arcade version is available on Virtual Console Arcade (Wii)

The Portopia Serial Murder Case

Enix | Nov. 1985
Where to find it: Original cart for NES import only

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Comments 69

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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #1 Stealth20k 4 years ago
    Out of all of them the one that made the biggest impact was Dragon Warrior.
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  • Avatar for Vinheimer #2 Vinheimer 4 years ago
    @Stealth20k Yeah, but Dragon Quest isn't really worth playing today. Dragon Quest III is really the place to start. It essentially contains Dragon Quests I and II within it, plus much, much more content.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #3 kidgorilla 4 years ago
    My brothers and I bought our NES in 1989, and Life Force and Ninja Gaiden were the first two games we got. I love them both dearly, so it's always nice to see them highlighted in one way or another
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  • Avatar for Hubertron #4 Hubertron 4 years ago
    Jeremy, that was perhaps the best explanation of bubble bobble ever. Now to go play some classics.
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  • Avatar for pdubb #5 pdubb 4 years ago
    Oh man Tecmo Bowl is responsible for my love of the NFL. Yeah yeah yeah video Bo and all that, but I loved Chicago, and nothing made me happier when I was 8 than throwing bomb after bomb to Willie Gault. Sometimes the simpler the better.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #6 hal9k 4 years ago
    @Vinheimer I agree with this statement. All due respect to Dragon Quest as a pioneer of console RPGs, but I just couldn't get into it as a kid. The one-on-one battles were just never that compelling, and I didn't go back and finish the game until many years later out of sheer stubbornness. I've always found Dragon Quest to be a little too grind-heavy for me. It took Final Fantasy, which had so much more flexibility (mostly due to the party of 4), better visuals, and a relatively more intricate plot to turn me into an RPG fan.

    Also, I'd like to mention RC Pro-Am and Ice Hockey as two of my early NES favorites from 1988. RC Pro-Am was a fun little racing game with the ability to shoot missiles in front and drop bombs out the back to impair your opponents, which I now think must've been an early influence on Mario Kart. I also can't think of another racing game with an isometric perspective off the top of my head (I guess that was common for Rare games of the time). Ice Hockey was also really fun - skinny guy, medium guy, and fat guy are all the depth you need in a sports game, right? Three large and one medium to handle the puck worked best for me.

    There were also some excellent sort of early Metroidvania type games in that period. Specifically, some great examples were Zelda 2 (one of the first NES games I played, and I still think it deserves more praise than it gets), Faxanadu, and Battle of Olympus. I love that last one, it's one of my all-time favorite games. I remember being disappointed that God of War wasn't just a Battle of Olympus remake, because that's all I really wanted. That Labyrinth was pretty confusing, but I guess that's why they call it a labyrinth.Edited 2 times. Last edited August 2014 by hal9k
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #7 SigurdVolsung 4 years ago
    Dragon Quest (Warrior) made the most impact on me at the time, and the most impact on me over time as well. Frankly, I love grind heavy console JRPGs then, and still love them now.
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  • Avatar for shurn #8 shurn 4 years ago
    @hal9k Dragon warrior grind heavy? it has a level cap of 25 and its super short, caught you frontin.
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  • Avatar for jjmahoney3 #9 jjmahoney3 4 years ago
    What, no Dragon Power?!

    Man that game sucked. I didn't know any better though.
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  • Avatar for mobichan #10 mobichan 4 years ago
    How far from making the list were Zelda II, Battle of Olympus and Ducktales? I can see how these 2 years would be a tough time to pair down. Even Faxanadu was a pretty great release.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #11 hal9k 4 years ago
    @ZenRain All of those are true. Dragon Warrior requires you to replay the same sections repeatedly, each time getting a little stronger until you eventually make it through. Some of the later DQ games I've played still do that, but they at least have some interesting systems (like 5) or art (like 8) to keep me motivated. Groundbreaking though it was, the original didn't really have that - it's pretty much the model of "fight-fight-heal."

    Not to complain too much, I'm glad I played it as a kid and went back to finish it as an adult. But when I say DQ was grind-heavy, I'm referring more to how tedious it felt, not how long it was. I can be an impatient person, and I had even less patience for incremental progress when I was 10 years old or whatever. It's the same reason I can't get into roguelikes now - I get that they're popular, and I wouldn't take that away from anybody. It's just not for me.Edited August 2014 by hal9k
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  • Avatar for logangrant54 #12 logangrant54 4 years ago
    what is this an ad for nintendo virtual console?? why the hell would you pay for all these games when you can just emulate them on your computer for FREE nintendo made hundreds of millions of these games through out the consoles life they should give them away on their store
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  • Avatar for Sturat #13 Sturat 4 years ago
    This list really illustrates why these were some of the best years to be a gamer. Most of the best Master System games (Wonderboy III, Phantasy Star, Power Strike) came out during this span, too.

    It's a little sad that Castlevania II and Zelda II didn't make the list. I think it was the right choice to leave them off since I find the games on the list to be more fun, but it leaves that awkward transition between 1987 and 1988 where the big games were 2nd wave Famicom Disk sequels that were totally different from their predecessors represented solely by Super Mario 2.

    My favorite NES games from the period that didn't make the list are Jackal, Ducktales, Faxandu, Legacy of the Wizard, Willow, Super Dodge Ball, Baseball Stars, and Blades of Steel, but my top twelve would be almost identical to this one. (Thanks for giving the Guardian Legend a chance to shine!)
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  • Avatar for lindseyhaddix76 #14 lindseyhaddix76 4 years ago
    Dragon Warrior was VASTLY inferior to Sega's Phantasy Star in every way possible.
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  • Avatar for IPA #15 IPA 4 years ago
    I beat Blaster Master in 1989 when I had the chicken pox. The "Pause Trick" and chamomile lotion, forever tied up in my brain. For more TMI sharing, check back with your pal IPA in another US Gamer column.
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  • Avatar for samuelevans09 #16 samuelevans09 4 years ago
    How old are you? Have you ever played a NES Tape? I have not... I have never even seen a game TAPE. WTF is that? Now a NES cartridge I played hundreds of those! And to claim the best of the best? now thats a feat out of about 1000 nes games lol. I beat dragon warrior but I have to add Crystalis to this list and remove ummm super mario bros 2.. How in the hell is that a best the 1st one and the 3rd one were both way way better! Geeez my head is spinning lol. Hack a PSP slim and emulate them just remember to buy the ones you play lol.
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  • Avatar for samuelevans09 #17 samuelevans09 4 years ago
    Oh and im sure lots and lots agree this list is crap
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  • Avatar for Stevegasm #18 Stevegasm 4 years ago
    It was quite a surprise to see The Guardian Legend here. It seemed to be a title that few have really heard of. I played the hell out of that game as a kid. It was probably the first game that really made me pay attention to the soundtrack in a game. I always thought it would have been a good game to bring back, or at least something like it into a more current 3-D game. With all that happened to Compile and their staff since, I can't even figure out who owns this IP today.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #19 hal9k 4 years ago
    @ZenRain Agreed, a lot of the games here still stand up. I'll admit that most of the old games I play are 16-bit. I just like that era's style the best, and for a while there I was a little afraid to go back to 8-bit...

    But then I played Sweet Home recently, and it changed my mind. Released in Japan in 1989 (relevance!), the best way to describe it would be Resident Evil as an RPG (for those who may not know, it was a big influence on that series). The battle system is close to Dragon Quest, but with a party and a lot of exploration. The game emphasizes teamwork in and out of battle while frequently forcing your characters to split up to explore a haunted mansion, thus ratcheting up the tension. Due to permadeath and limited health refills, you end up feeling very vulnerable, especially when characters get cut off from each other and some genuinely disturbing stuff goes down. Not to gush, but Sweet Home was probably the creepiest game I've ever played and the best thing I've played this year - and I usually don't even like horror. It really showed me how great NES/Famicom games can still be.
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  • Avatar for himuradrew #20 himuradrew 4 years ago
    My favorites: Contra, Double Dragon, Ninja Gaiden, and Mega Man 2 - oh Mega Man 2!!

    I got the chance to play it when a friend of mine let me that game in exchange for my copy of The Legend of Zelda. Well, he never liked it - complained that it was too hard, didn't know where to go etc - he still hates RPGs until today.

    As for me, I had the most glorious time with MM2 - right now I can still hear the boss theme in my head. I need to replay this again on my 3DS! Oh and MM2 > MM3 ;)
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #21 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    There's just too many great NES games! It's really hard to pick favorites!

    Battle of Olympus, Zelda II, Jackal, Ducktales, Faxanadu, Legacy of the Wizard, and Willow are all amazing games that didn't make this list. And I'm sure there's more. That being said, most of the games on this list are stellar games as well that are worth playing. I would have probably substituted Bubble Bobble and Tecmo Bowl for Faxanadu and Zelda II.

    And maybe Dragon Warrior for Willow, despite how important Dragon Warrior is. It's just a little too primitive compared to later Dragon Warrior games, and doesn't hold up as well as Willow which is an excellent Zelda: Link to the Past style game made years before Zelda: Link to the Past.
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  • Avatar for mganai #22 mganai 4 years ago
    @Sturat Castlevania II was definitely spotty, but I'd argue Zelda II holds well enough today, certainly better than Double Dragon. (I imagine the franchise itself would be better represented by its sequel, and for RPG-tinged beat-em-up hijinks, River City Ransom.)

    But yeah, the absence of DuckTales highlights the sheer amount of awesome of this period. (Life Force is in there, so I'm pleased.) But given the rapidity of evolution and ambition already on display, there's little surprise there.
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  • Avatar for Hubertron #23 Hubertron 4 years ago
    I think 1990 might be the best year in gaming history for me. Castlevania 3, Megaman 3 and a million other classics. That is crazy!
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  • Avatar for Sturat #24 Sturat 4 years ago
    It totally makes sense to do 1990 in its own video; it was a very different year from 1991. 1990 saw a bunch of sequels that were at least as good or better than the top games from previous years, (my favorite that didn't get a nod on your list would have to be Super C,) but it also saw publishers more confident to release quirky games like Dr. Mario, Star Tropics, River City Ransom, Maniac Mansion, and the US release of Final Fantasy. In 1990, it didn't matter if you had a 16-bit system, the NES couldn't be ignored, but the NES line-up from 1991 showed that resources were clearly being diverted away from the NES: Power Blade, Vice Project Doom, Metal Storm, Rockin’ Kats, Shatterhand, Tiny Toon Adventures, and Adventure Island II were all good, but they were the kind of games you would only rent and/or buy used later while saving up for a Super NES. (Gun-Nac is a really solid NES game from 1991, but even though I was a big fan of Guardian Legend, I never tried Gun-Nac until much later because I didn't realize it was from the same developer.) Unfortunately, the high-quality of games from 1990 also led my family to buy some games at full price without renting them first, and we were very let down by Double Dragon III and Battle Toads in 1991.
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  • Avatar for justinfinkbeiner65 #25 justinfinkbeiner65 4 years ago
    Why was Final Fantasy II shown in the video?
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #26 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    Very nice list! I agree with almost all of your choices. The only huge omission I see is Startropics. Personally I think this deserves a spot on the list over Code Name Viper, but that's just me.

    1990 was a great year though, and there's a whole bunch of other solid contenders for runner up: Solstice, Super C, Little Nemo, Roller Games, Street Fighter 2010, Gremlins 2, Conquest of the Crystal Palace... all really great games. Any of those could easily be on the list as well.
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  • Avatar for jeffcorry #27 jeffcorry 4 years ago
    @justinfinkbeiner65 I think it was actually Final Fantasy III (JPN)...and it was a translated ROM since FFIII was never actually released in its NES form in America.
    But I wish it was. Because that's the version I would love.
    Anyway.
    There were a lot of these games I never played from 1990. But I have played: Final Fantasy, Crystalis (went through just over a week ago...only took two days...a few hours at a time. Such a great game.), SMB 3, and Mega Man 3. Three of these games are some of my all time favorites: Mega Man 3, Final Fantasy, and Crystalis. Sorry, as much as I enjoy SMB 3, it is not my favorite Mario game. That honor goes to Super Mario World.Edited October 2014 by jeffcorry
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #28 jeremy.parish 4 years ago
    @brionfoulke91 Honestly, I thought StarTropics was a clumsy attempt to imitate Zelda even back in the day, and time really hasn't been kind to it. I'd love to see the series revisited with less hostile controls and design.

    As for the Final Fantasy III excerpt in the video... our production process still has some kinks in it. Someone put the wrong footage in, and I didn't notice until too late. Sorry about that.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #29 hal9k 4 years ago
    @brionfoulke91 It's nice to see some love for StarTropics, I've also always thought that was a bit underrated. It was basically the original Zelda with jumping - not a bad concept to start with. As@jeremy.parish said, the controls were finicky, but I thought the graphics were nice and I liked the setting. I also think the radio frequency printed in invisible ink on the map stands next to the Psycho Mantis bit as the most memorable 4th wall-breaking gimmick in gaming. I still remember getting to that part in the game, and explaining to my mom why I was dunking part of the instruction manual in the sink.

    My own favorite underappreciated NES game from 1990 is Rare's Solar Jetman. For those who haven't played it, you fly a highly customizable space pod around caverns on different planets, tractoring salvage back to the mothership. Gravity and momentum are the primary obstacles, though there are also plenty of traps and space critters to fight. The graphics are decent and the opening theme is catchy as heck. It's tough (again, controls take some practice, and some salvage is quite massive) but fair - until you get to the very end, that is. The run up to the final boss switches to a Gradius-knockoff horizontal shooter format unrelated to the rest of the game. I had a lot of trouble with it, but someone better at that sort of shmup would laugh.

    Also, as the video says, the Mega Man 2 vs. 3 debate is ancient, and both are excellent. I like sliding but not charging, so MM3 is the sweet spot for me. I also like Rush, but I acknowledge that the robot masters, their lairs, and their weapons are more iconic in MM2. Choosing between them is impossible.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #30 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    @jeremy.parish Gonna have to disagree with you there. I love the mechanics in Startropics, the tile based jumping puzzles are really unique, while also being fun and interesting. I'd like to see some new games revisit those mechanics. Also I think the game had incredible music, really solid dungeon design, and great bosses. It has a lot of really good humor too, in a similar sort of style to Earthbound. Personally I think Startropics holds up very well.
    @hal9k Solar Jetman is another good one that I forgot to mention. I wouldn't have put it in my top 10, but I do like the game a lot. It's a very challenging and fun game.Edited October 2014 by brionfoulke91
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  • Avatar for seanmitchell #31 seanmitchell 4 years ago
    i still randomly sing bubble bobble to this day!
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  • Avatar for orient #32 orient 4 years ago
    Awesome. I'd love to see the same thing done for Master System games, but maybe just split into "early life" and "late life" vids or something because there weren't as many games. Unless it's already been done...I do recall some type of SMS video from USG, but I couldn't find it.
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  • Avatar for pennybags #33 pennybags 3 years ago
    Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu is the best NES platformer IMO.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #34 hal9k 3 years ago
    I just looked through a list of '91 NES releases, and that was a strange year. The ones on this list show quite a bit of variety, which of course is a great thing.

    Strangely, I had a lot more trouble with the snakes than the speeder bikes in Battletoads - I still haven't finished that game, and don't think I ever will. I was lucky enough to make it up to and get wiped out by a boss with a machine gun once or twice, and that's my high water mark. My little time with Tecmo Super Bowl taught me about the unstoppability of Bo Jackson (there was a 30 for 30 rerun about him just the other day that mentioned his awesomeness in the game).

    Personally, I spent the most time that year with ports of Smash TV and Sid Meier's Pirates! The NES port was my first exposure to that game, and it was probably my favorite game that year - I still can't hear that Handel piece (also used in the Frugal Gourmet) without thinking of looting. I also enjoyed the JVC-published Star Wars game. I remember it being a fairly ambitious platformer with some vehicular sections, but I'm not sure how well it holds up now.
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  • Avatar for dmckean44 #35 dmckean44 3 years ago
    I should probably go back and play some of these 1991 games. By the time all these came out, I had already moved on to the Genesis.
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  • Avatar for Active-ate #36 Active-ate 3 years ago
    Lots of DW1 grind non-fans here. Of course the game is grindy, repetitive, and archaic today, but some young minds like mine couldn't get enough grinding. I loved watching numbers grow -- two or three at a time -- as the hours ticked on. I still get a little Pavlovian reaction when I hear the DQ level up chime.

    *DODO DO DO DOOT DOOOOOOO*

    Whoops, gotta go.
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  • Avatar for StevieWhite #37 StevieWhite 3 years ago
    NES Open is probably the last time I really dedicated myself to a golf game. I'm happy to see it on this list.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #38 jeremy.parish 3 years ago
    @hal9k I made a conscious effort not to just make the 1991 list a bunch of platformers!
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  • Avatar for sean697 #39 sean697 3 years ago
    Out of all them Castlevania 3 is Probrably my favorite. In fact probrably my favorite NES game of all time.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #40 SargeSmash 3 years ago
    Definitely an eclectic mix of games there. I'm not sure I really like the inclusion of Rockin' Kats, I'm just not a big fan of the game. Not a huge fan of Uncharted Waters either, but that's on account of me just not getting into it. Or even just getting it, I suppose.

    That really was a weird year for the NES, though, and I can understand your wanting to keep the list diverse. The NES is positively swimming in quality platformers, and I'd recommend the following games to folks in addition to what's here:

    Vice: Project Doom: A really awesome Ninja Gaiden clone with driving and shooting segments as well.
    Shatterhand: One of my absolute favorite platformers. Feels a lot like Shadow of the Ninja, and has some absolutely kickin' music.
    The Lone Ranger: A tough-as-nails multi-genre game, combining first-person shooting, Metal Gear-style action segments, Castlevania-style areas, and a little bit of RPG as well. Just watch out for that difficulty.
    Ninja Gaiden III: It's another game in the series, and it's still quite good.
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  • Avatar for shawnhirman07 #41 shawnhirman07 3 years ago
    there is a version of Tecmo SuperBowl available for PSN (probably XBLA as well). Zelda was also available in the Gamecube Zelda collection.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #42 jeremy.parish 3 years ago
    @shawnhirman07 True, but I didn't mention TSB Throwback because it's a remake, not the original NES version.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #43 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    Good list. I'm glad you included Battletoads, one of my favorite games of all time. When it comes to the best made challenging games of all time, I think Battletoads has to be #1... I love it's level design, every level is a different challenge. It's so full of creativity. It's a game I still go back to and continue to play, more than any other NES game.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #44 SargeSmash 3 years ago
    @brionfoulke91 : I'm actually trying to beat Battletoads this year. My best run to this point is to get all the way up to the end of Stage 11, the Clinger-Winger level. I've done an emulation run, so I've "beaten" it, but I need to get good at 1-up farming in the second stage, and I think I'll have it down.
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  • Avatar for ryanandrew28 #45 ryanandrew28 3 years ago
    Friday the 13th
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #46 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    Of course, you haven't actually "beaten" it until you've done it without save states/cheats. But using save states to practice is a good idea. Getting extra lives on level 2 is key, for sure. The hardest levels are 10 and 11... if you can get those mostly down, then winning it should be within reach.

    I'll tell you a little trick for level 11 that makes it a lot easier. Try pausing at every corner. It makes switching directions instant, which is a big help for this level. Trust me, it will help you a lot.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #47 SargeSmash 3 years ago
    @brionfoulke91 : Now that I'm using a better controller, I can clear Stage 11 on my second life. I got all the way to the last stage with all my continues... and burned them up. Doh! Still, I have no doubt at this point I can pull it off, and I plan on doing so!

    (And actually, the race itself isn't so bad, I just didn't have the right pattern down for the boss. I think I managed to suss that out this go-'round.)
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #48 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    @SargeSmash If you can handle Rat Race and Clinger Winger, then you're very close to beating the game. Those are the two levels where memorization can't carry you through... the most important thing is technique. Both of those levels measure how precise you are at controlling your character, if you aren't very precise then you simply cannot pass. No amount of memorization will help.

    On the other hand, level 12 can be beaten by simply memorizing the level, and learning the correct strategies for all the tricky parts. If you practice it with save states, you'd get it down in no time.

    I'll give you a tip for the Dark Queen battle too... try headbutting her just below her sprite. It's the safest place to hit her.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #49 jeremy.parish 3 years ago
    @SargeSmash The one and only time I beat this game, I made it to the last level with two lives left in total and won on sheer adrenaline.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #50 SargeSmash 3 years ago
    @jeremy.parish @brionfoulke91 : Guys, I did it. I actually freakin' beat it. I even pulled out my original system to do it. No codes, no Game Genie, and somehow, no continues! I'm absolutely ecstatic right now.

    I've gotten through without that pause trick, but man, now that I know the course, the Clinger-Winger stage is ridiculously easy with it. It also gives me a chance to reseat my thumb on the d-pad correctly.

    http://imgur.com/YR9MSR6
    http://imgur.com/RtH8RBa

    Ugh, can't get pictures to do quite right. Links to screenshots for legitimacy!Edited 10 times. Last edited January 2015 by SargeSmash
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #51 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    @SargeSmash Congrats! You just beat one of the top 5 hardest NES games, Battletoads, and the #1 hardest game worth playing! Pause trick is amazing, isn't it? It makes a brutal level like Clinger Winger so much more manageable.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #52 SargeSmash 3 years ago
    @brionfoulke91 : Yes, absolutely amazing. I was skeptical when I'd first heard about it, but when you mentioned it as well, I had to give it a shot. I was getting through most times without, but with it? It might be one of the easiest levels in the game!

    The other super-secret thing I figured out earlier was in the Rat Race stage. I didn't realize that you don't have to double-tap to run once the rat shows up. That helps to start with. Knowing the headbutt-bounce trick, of course, is the only way to complete that last segment, as far as I know. (I actually didn't die in that stage, first time I've done that!)

    I'm utterly shocked that I managed to pull off the tower ascent with only losing one life on that run, and even that was right at the end, with the cloud trying to blow me off the platforms. I actually jumped the right way the second time. :)
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #53 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    @SargeSmash Interesting thing about Rat Race is that auto-dash only starts when the Rat fully appears. It's not active when he's "spawning" (when the white dots are converging.) Knowing that, you can gain a tiny bit of time by manually dashing on the first two beams while he's spawning. After that, you can just auto-dash, thankfully.

    The auto-dash thing is a good example of how Battletoads is actually pretty smartly designed.

    You can absolutely beat the third segment of Rat Race without headbutting the rat. You just have to run a really good race. The key is to weave through the zig-zagging holes near perfectly and to take the corners on the long beams as tight as possible. Headbutting the rat also works, but you have to do a chain of successful headbutts and one screw-up means a death. What I usually try to do is to start out trying to run a near-perfect race, and if I know I'm not going to make it I resort to headbutts.

    The reason why the pause trick works so well on Clinger Winger is because of Clinger Winger's hidden difficulty: pressing a diagonal makes you slow down. In order to take a corner perfectly on Clinger Winger, you have to switch directions instantly on the d-pad... if you hit the diagonal for even a fraction of a second it ruins the speed advantage you're supposed to get on the corner. In practice, this makes it really hard to do all the corners flawlessly. That's why the pause trick is so effective... it lets you switch directions instantly, every time, with no chance or ever doing a diagonal by mistake. Then it's all just down to timing, making sure you pause exactly on the corners.

    Battletoads is a pretty interesting game. Each level has it's own unique strategies and intricacies, that's what I love about it.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #54 SargeSmash 3 years ago
    @brionfoulke91 : You know, your top-five hardest comment has me wondering, which ones would you consider to be in that set? Maybe I should target them next. :)
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #55 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    @SargeSmash Look up the top 30 hardest NES games by Electric Frankfurter, I believe this is a fairly accurate list.

    I think Ikari Warriors 1 is the hardest NES game. But I wouldn't bother challenging it, it's a broken mess of a game, and really not much fun to play. There's plenty of other quality hard NES games, like Ninja Gaiden 3, or Gimmick (try to get the secret ending.)
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  • Avatar for metalangel #56 metalangel 3 years ago
    @hal9k I had Nintendo Power's "review" (which, as per their policy, was a detailed walkthrough with maps) and so had the complete layout of the snake pit including the routes each would take. Once I'd learned it, it was a fairly easy and indeed fun trip to the top.

    Robo-manus at the top, however, was indeed a bastard. Each of his machine gun rounds was two health blocks, and the impact was enough to knock you back and up, so if the first hit you, the other two would as well, meaning death. He'd bounce off the walls when he jumped, and owing to his size, this meant it was easy for him to land on you. Landing on you was also death. I think I beat him once, maybe twice. I forget which level follows - probably the clingerwingers or the race against Scuzz the rat - and with no time to prepare or practice I was soon very dead.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #57 SargeSmash 3 years ago
    I figured out a pretty good trick with Robo-Manus, but he usually smacks you towards the end because he gets so fast. It's usually that last hit that proves elusive.

    Nintendo Power during that time period was awesome. I loved all the maps and walkthroughs and such. I still have that issue!
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  • Avatar for starsintodreams #58 starsintodreams 3 years ago
    Sweet list, but you've got to refine this@jeremyparish

    For instance, Ninja Gaiden II is not on all VC platforms and Dragon Warrior can also be found on the Google Playstore (not just iOS). You had me truly excited for a few of these games when you printed 'All platforms'... but alas.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #59 jeremy.parish 3 years ago
    @starsintodreams I've cross-referenced everything here with at least one source, sometimes more. Which entries are incorrect?
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  • Avatar for Compeau #60 Compeau 3 years ago
    Such a great list. While I'd love to see you move on to the best system of all time (the SNES, of course), it'd be cool to see some lesser-known systems get highlighted. Maybe the Sega Master System or Turbografx 16.
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  • Avatar for Punk1984 #61 Punk1984 3 years ago
    Man I want Bucky O'Hare, I had to play my NES when I was at y Dad's place. (Mom bought us a Genesis) Even as late as 1995 I was renting NES titles from the video store. I loved, loved, LOVED Buck O' Hare.
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  • Avatar for robludwig36 #62 robludwig36 3 years ago
    I always forget there were NES games still being made in 94. I was knee deep in the SNES by that time.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #63 SargeSmash 3 years ago
    That '92-'94 list is pure gold. I don't see a single game that could even be considered slightly questionable for its appearance on the list.

    For the record, Dragon Warrior III & IV are still two of my favorite RPGs of all time, Kirby's Adventure is my favorite NES platformer, and Zoda's Revenge was a fantastic action-RPG.

    Also, Bucky O'Hare is brutally difficult. It's good, but man. At least they're nice enough to give copious amounts of checkpoints.
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  • Avatar for abaddonapollo #64 abaddonapollo 3 years ago
    Just type NES roms on Google.

    FCEUX and Nestopia are two of the best emulators.
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  • Avatar for jeremyparish #65 jeremyparish 3 years ago
    @abaddonapollo The point of this entire thing is to avoid piracy.
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  • Avatar for jasonronzani84 #66 jasonronzani84 3 years ago
    The Guardian Legend! No "best of NES list" is complete without it. Nice to see it included.
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  • Avatar for kantaroo3 #67 kantaroo3 3 years ago
    This series of articles was very enjoyable. Could we see another for other systems? For example Ithink the Genesis library could also be split by year as games evolved significantly over the 6-7 years it was on the market. The SNES library would be cool to see broken down like this too.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #68 hal9k 3 years ago
    Awesome project! To follow up on a previous post, one late-period NES release that I enjoyed at the time but probably can't recommend now was JVC's Empire Strikes Back. Compared to Star Wars, I remember it adding some interesting force powers like levitation and the ever-popular lightsaber hurl. I hope I'm not hallucinating this, but I also believe it was the only NES game I played that included a voice sample. Of course, it was in service to a lame Star Wars pun.

    Bringing up the force powers menu would play a garbled voice (it might've been a Yoda impression, but I couldn't even tell) saying, "Luke...chooose the force," followed by the cantina tune. Sadly, there are worse Star Wars experiences...
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  • Avatar for unoclay #69 unoclay 3 years ago
    Amazing lists here, and nice spin on the idea to do it year by year.
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