The Nintendo Entertainment System was a monumental video game system. After Atari caused the great video game crash, consumers weren’t ready to buy back into video games again. However, after games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda hit the mainstream, anybody who was anybody had to have one of those giant gray boxes.
For this list, we looked at the games that made the NES the legend it is today. If your favorite game didn’t make this list, let us know in the comments below!
Top 10 NES games
Back in the day, video games had a simple concept: you take your character from the left side of the screen to the right side. Metroid took that concept and threw it out the window. In this game, you navigate a labyrinth with bad guys and power-ups hidden everywhere. Once you get some of those power-ups, you can circle back to areas you’ve already explored and then uncover more secrets hidden in this world.
On the NES, there were dozens of games that mimicked Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. However, there was only one Metroid and it is still untouchable.
9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game
The first Ninja Turtles game on the NES is pretty bad, to say the least. It is notoriously difficult and almost impossible to control. Despite that game being a massive flop, the Ninja Turtles were sucking down quarters at the arcade like crazy. Nintendo decided that the best course of action was to port the arcade game to the NES.
Guess what? The game was phenomenal.
The game had much of the same moves and mechanics as the arcade game. The best part of it was that you didn’t need to put in a quarter every time you lost!
8. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
The Castlevania games on the NES were notorious for being difficult. However, people who loved these games were willing to brave through the relentless difficulty to reach the best parts of the game. From the gothic ambiance to the phenomenal musical scores, there is plenty to like about the games.
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse had all of the best parts of the previous Castlevania games, but included another great feature: three new characters. The new characters provided a breath of fresh air from the typical whip-toting Belmont boys.
If you’re willing to play one of the most difficult games on the NES, you won’t be disappointed.
UP UP DOWN DOWN LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT B A START
If you’re a gamer, you know better than anyone that the above cheat code is the secret to “eternal life.”
Well, not really. The above cheat code is the famous method players frantically inputted on their controllers to start Contra with 30 lives. Contra is easily one of the best shooters of all time. You play as a ‘roided-out soldier that’s out to thwart an alien-invasion with nothing but the gun strapped to his shirtless back.
The game was notoriously hard, and the 30-man code was absolutely necessary for first-timers. Pick this game up if you’re ready to lock and load. Also, don’t be embarrassed if you need more than 30 lives.
Punch-Out!! is a right-of-passage. You’re not much of a gamer unless you’ve watched Glass Joe hit the canvas like a sack of bricks. Punch-Out!! was one of those games that really united kids back in the day. These were the days before you could just look up on the internet how to beat a boss. Kids were reliant on playground knowledge. If you didn’t know how to beat King Hippo, you sometimes needed to have your buddy come over to show you that you needed to punch him in the mouth at the right moment.
Punch-Out!! is a legendary game. It hasn’t lost any steam in the time it has already spent on this planet, and we don’t expect it to any time soon.
5. Tecmo Bowl
In the beginning, there were jocks and there were gamers. Then, by a twist of cruel fate, there were video games about sports. Your average gamer doesn’t want to play football, baseball, or soccer when they have the option to stop an alien invasion or save the princess from a dragon. As a result, there was a huge divide in video games between those that play sports games and those that despised their existence.
That’s where Tecmo Bowl came in. Sure, it’s a sports game. However, it’s one hell of a good game. It’s easy to pick up and jump into, and playing it is wildly addictive. Nowadays, there are games like Madden that have insanely huge followings. Madden and its following would not exist if Tecmo Bowl had not paved the way.
There are games on here with wild storylines, gameplay, and trend-setting mechanics. Then there is Tetris. Tetris is a brutally simple game. If you hand the game to a three-year-old, they could figure it out in a matter of minutes. However, Tetris is brilliant because it is so simple. Any person of any age can play Tetris and be great at it. It doesn’t take any sort of special skill or knowledge to be a Tetris champ; it just takes practice.
Tetris has gone through a bunch of cosmetic changes throughout the years, but the core game has mainly remained unchanged.
Do we really need to sell this game any more to you? Tetris has been around for this long already, and we won’t be surprised if it outlives every game on this list.
3. Mega Man 2
The phrase “ahead of its time” is used so much these days that it has lost a lot of meaning. With that being said, Mega Man 2 was so wildly ahead of its time. It’s downright crazy just how complicated of a game the developers were able to fit on an NES cartridge. The game feels like it came out one or two generations earlier than it was supposed to.
Each level is so iconic from the enemies, to the music, to the boss battle at the end. Even after you beat the game, all you want to do is start over again and replay those same wonderful iconic moments.
Need more convincing? Here’s a mariachi band playing the music from the game:
2. The Legend of Zelda
What can we really say about The Legend of Zelda that hasn’t been said already? It’s one of the most iconic games ever made on top of being one of the best games ever made.
It has all of the best qualities of the rest of the games on this list, and it has so much more. So, instead of talking about why the game is great, we’ll talk about why the game is not the best game on the NES in our opinion.
The Legend of Zelda is cryptic, to say the least. It was a game that made you have to buy a subscription of “Nintendo Power” in order to beat it. There are things in the game that you couldn’t figure out on your own in a million years. The Legend of Zelda is quite literally a living legend, but it is not our top pick.
1. Super Mario Bros. 3
It’s 1989. You dragged your parents to the movie theater to see “The Wizard.” With not much time left in the movie, you’ve realized what your parents probably knew 10 minutes into the movie: “The Wizard” really sucks.
However, all of a sudden the movie takes a turn. It looks like they are showing a new game that you’ve never seen before. How could this piece of garbage movie have such a hidden gem inside? Well, it did. And man-oh-man did it blow our minds:
Movie aside, Super Mario Bros. 3 is a masterpiece. It is simply a cut above the rest, proving to be a once-in-a-lifetime type of game. You do the same stuff you do in the previous two games, but this time there’s more everything. There’s fresh mechanics, new challenges, new power-ups, enemies you’ve never faced before, a new level to the story, and a jolt of electricity in it that makes you hungry for more.
Did you agree with the list? What do you think should’ve made the list? Let us know in the comments below!