Inspired by this video from Billy of The Game Chasers citing his top 20 favorite NES games, I thought it might be fun to compile my own top 10 list.
…which was honestly hard for such a nostalgic system because there were just so many games that I wanted to include in the list just because they were classics – almost merely out of obligation!
But I tried to limit that wherever possible and instead focus on the games that I built up such incredible memories playing as a kid because I can still fire up just about any of these games today and be instantly transported back to my elementary school days where weekends were spent playing whatever NES game I had picked out to rent for $2 while my Mom went grocery shopping. 🙂
10. Megan Man 2
Admittedly this is one game that I’m just terrible at today, I was the master of this when I was, like, 8 years old! MM3 had more unique bosses and built on MM2, but this was the game that I cut my teeth on, for sure.
9. Base Wars
I’m not a sports fan at all, but baseball played by robots with guns and rocket launchers?! I would play entire leagues of this game set to two player with the second player empty just so that I could earn tons of money and build a team of the best robots available. The whole baseball part was just a backdrop. 😉
When I worked at summer camp, for some reason Excitebike was the go to game played in our cabin whenever any of us had five minutes of free time. It’s such a simple game, and it’s honestly not even that good, yet somehow that’s also what made it GREAT!
As Billy mentioned in his own video, Battletoads was ridiculously hard, but I loved how in the very first level there were little secrets like being able to ride the fire-breathing pigs. Plus, it was an added challenge to be able to hurt the other player whereas most other two player games before it had you invulnerable. Also – they’re toads, and they fight! It was by far one of the most unique, creative games of its time!!!
6. Super Mario Bros 3
This was kind of one of those classics, but it was also amazing and revolutionary and the commercial was beyond exciting. I remember we got the game by a friend of my Dad picking it up at a Toys ‘R Us downstate and mailing it to us because this was before video games were available everywhere. The game itself, of course … wow. Giant World. Cloud World. Bowser’s Kingdom. So many rich levels to explore – it’s really no surprise that it’s the #1 game by almost any standard … I honestly just threw it anywhere here to give the rest of my top 10 a fighting chance!
5. Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy 2 (IV) for the SNES is probably my favorite game of all-time, but the original Final Fantasy was one of my first introductions to RPGs. The grind was always tough trying to earn enough money for all of the weapons and armor and spells that you wanted/needed, but I loved as you got farther in the game and started getting items that keyed into special traits like Ice Armor vs fire creatures, etc… Plus, the class change was pretty cool.
4. Life Force
It’s like Contra, but in space! I was introduced to this game by one of my older cousins and it was cool because we could play together … plus, the Konami code made it a little easier when you didn’t know what you were doing. I’ve never really gotten into the rest of the Gradius series that this game technically fits into, but this is a personal classic for sure.
3. River City Ransom
I wasn’t big on beat ’em ups, but the way this game combined fighting + RPG elements was intriguing to me. I loved trying all of the different foods to see what they did to your stats, and the fighting power ups learned via lore were neat, too!
This is a fantastic game! Rich, expansive maps with a bunch of towns to explore, weapons and armor that have different abilities, and even the four elemental swords have their own power-ups. Even the soundtrack is really good – I remember getting chills as I would approach bosses or key story points because they would cue changes in the music. Crystalis was one of the more complex games that I played as a kid, but it really offered a great world to explore.
1. The Legend of Zelda
THE NES classic, at least for me! I still play this game on a whim all of the time – it’s great to play through while we’re sitting watching TV in the evening because I have most of the game memorized at this point, though admittedly I still need help once I finally get to Death Mountain. One of these days I want to try a swordless run or Zelda randomizer because I think either one would add a neat, new challenge to a game that I first played 30 years ago! Regardless, I can pick this game up just about any time and get lost in Hyrule all over again… 🙂
Honorable Mention – Super Mario Bros
And last but certainly not least … I can’t make a list of great NES games without including the very first NES game that I ever played.
The original Super Mario Bros is the game that started it all for so many retro gamers, and despite the levels being repetitious for the most part, it was still an incredible introduction to this new medium of entertainment on the TV.
Atari and the even more primitive consoles were a little before my time, but this plumber’s quest through the Mushroom Kingdom to rescue the princess kicked off a lifelong adoration for video games. I honestly don’t play this one very much anymore because I still don’t think I’ve ever beat it 100%, but it’s fun to play for a few levels here and there to warm up the old chops before moving on to something else! 😀