We Rank the Games of Nintendo's NES Classic Edition

We Rank the Games of Nintendo's NES Classic Edition

The USgamer team weighs in on the 30 titles included with the upcoming miniature NES, from crummiest to coolest.

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Nintendo's adorable and refreshingly capable NES Classic Edition mini-console launches in just two weeks. As we brace ourselves for this latest wave of officially sanctioned 8-bit nostalgia, I've asked the USgamer team to rank the 30 games on the system from favorite to least beloved. Do you agree with our picks?

30. Ice Climber

This cooperative platformer predates Super Mario Bros. and all the design advances it brought by just a few months, and it feels like it. Incredibly clumsy jump physics are a poor fit for a game all about jumping, and the presence of two-player simultaneous play doesn't dull the sting of this game's mediocrity. Ultimately, the most notable thing about Ice Climbers is its absence — Nintendo fans care a lot more about its protagonists' removal from Smash Bros. 4 than they do the game from which they hail, and rightly so!

29. Donkey Kong Jr.

There's one thing about Donkey Kong Jr. that seems pretty cool in hindsight: Back when Nintendo designed this game, it went against the standard thinking of arcade sequels for the era: That is, the same thing, but more of it. Donkey Kong Jr. totally broke from its predecessor's successful design, focusing on climbing more than running and jumping. Sadly, this resulted in a much less entertaining game than the original Donkey Kong, with its unwieldy hero making for a clumsy platfomer. It was a good effort on Nintendo's part, but this definitely feels the lesser of the arcade Donkey Kongs. Yeah, that includes Donkey Kong 3 (conspicuously missing in this collection).

28. Balloon Fight

Satoru Iwata famously helped salvage this game, which amounts to Nintendo brazenly ripping off Williams's Joust. His clever programming not only made for more precise aerial combat, it also helped inspire the swimming portions of Super Mario Bros. Still, this ultimately amounts to a limited early ’80s-style head-to-head arcade game... though the jaunty, memorable tune during Balloon Trip mode counts for a lot.

27. Tecmo Bowl

While regarded as an NES classic, and definitely a far sight better than any football simulation that had appeared on consoles before it, Tecmo's landmark gridiron game feels a bit limited these days. Football fans will enjoy it, but we'd much rather have seen the superior Tecmo Super Bowl instead.

26. Pac-Man

At the time Pac-Man originally came out for NES, it was by far the most accurate console rendition of game ever. Then the NES version disappeared for years due to licensing shenanigans, only resurfacing at the end of the console's lifespan. By that point, no one really cared about an accurate port of a game that was more than a decade old. Likewise, these days Pac-Man is old news — especially when it's so easy to come by truly arcade-perfect renditions rather than a pretty good NES port.

25. Mario Bros.

When two players go head-to-head with this arcade platformer, it can be a lot of fun. The constant push and pull between cooperation and conflict has basically come to define Nintendo's approach to multiplayer for the past three decades. That said, this game does wear thin pretty quickly, and we're long overdue for a true arcade conversion rather than this respectable-but-imperfect NES port.

24. Donkey Kong

A timeless classic, sure, but as much of a video gaming landmark as Donkey Kong was, this NES port is still only 3/4s of the original game... unless Nintendo pulls a fast one and secretly packs the NES Classic Edition with that ROM hack from a few years ago that restores the cement factory level. Anyway, it's a fun game, but there's not really much to it in this day and age.

23. StarTropics

Designed specifically for the U.S. market, this goofy action RPG feels like a strange cross between The Legend of Zelda and The Goonies II. Stiff, clumsy, and incredibly unfair if you lose a life and have to replenish your arsenal, StarTropics is probably best known for the amusing pack-in gimmick (inspired by Infocom's PC adventure "feelies") Nintendo built into the game as an anti-rental measure.

22. Dr. Mario

Like Tetris but less fun, Dr. Mario on NES offers one advantage absent in Nintendo's own conversion of Tetris for the platform: Head-to-head multiplayer. Otherwise, though, it's a poorly paced game with very little strategic depth. Great music, though!

21. Ghosts ’N Goblins

Ghosts ’N Goblins debuted in arcades right around the same time Super Mario Bros. hit the NES. That makes them kindred of a sort! But when it comes to NES, the one to play is definitely Mario; the console port of Ghosts ’N Goblins turned out to be a bit of a mess, and age has not been kind to it.

At least the NES Classic Edition includes save states, so who knows — maybe we'll finally be able to see this cruel adventure through to its end.

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