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

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!

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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