Monday, March 23, 2015

250 NES Games Worth Playing

In my opinion, there are many indisputable classics on the NES.  I also recognize that the library contains many, many other games that may not be indisputable classics, but are worth playing.  I decided to make a list of the games I would recommend to somebody when they ask "what's a good NES game?"

One thing I wanted to do is to cover as many genres as possible.  Even though sports games are not my forte, I wanted to try and fill as many holes as possible.  There are virtually no Street Fighter II style fighting games on the NES, so what is there, if it is at all decent, gets on the list.  I did not include any casual games outside classic puzzlers, nor did I include games that typically will be categorized as edutainment.  

Some games are here solely because of their peripheral support.  R.O.B. is a waste of money and the Power Pad is extremely impractical to use, and I would not inflict the Power Glove or the U-Force on a friend.  But the Zapper was an integral part of the NES experience and there are good games for it.  Arkanoid is on this list because it is fun to play with its VAUS paddle controller.  

Some games I recommend with reservations.  If you want a 100% authentic version of the original Archon or M.U.L.E., you won't find it in these ports.  You will find the essential essence of both games, an excellent two player head-to-head game in Archon and an easy way to get 4 player M.U.L.E. for the latter.  North and South also qualifies in this.  Double Dragon II can be unforgiving to get the best ending, but add a few Game Genie codes to make it fairer.  Ditto for Ironsword and either Battletoads game.  

Usually with a game series I recommend all the games in the series.  You will see every Mega Man game here, although some are better than others.  However, there are certain entries in a series that are really weak and are not going to be on this list.  1942 is just too shrill and boring and Contra Force is too slow to stand alongside Contra and Super C.

Other games on this list just barely make the cut.  Strider for the NES does not compare to the arcade original or the Genesis conversion, but it has just enough, despite its bugs and oddness, to make the list.  WURM is almost a guilty pleasure for me, but it is one of the better games that tries to implement more than one style of gameplay (and does not have those stupid mazes like Golgo 13).  Godzilla is another, if it weren't for the excellent use of the license, it would be a very mediocre game.

Some computer game ports are on the list, others are not.  The Wizardry and Ultima series are best experienced on computer platforms, especially the latter.  I chose Swords and Serpents because it is a good and more forgiving Wizardry clone that can only be found on the NES.  Pool of Radiance has merit in that it is a less unforgiving version of the original game while still retaining the essence of it.  Maniac Mansion is far truer to its computer forebear than King's Quest V and has awesome and exclusive if repetitive music.

This list is limited to North American NES releases during the NES's official lifespan.  This includes games released from and including 1985 up to and including 1994.  Unlicensed games released during that time frame are included, but not thereafter.  There are no Famicom or PAL NES exclusives, and no homebrews or prototypes/reproductions.  The list would probably double if all those were included, but I have narrowed the list to cartridges you could actually find on this continent.  Of course, there are some expensive cartridges like Bubble Bobble 2 and Little Sampson on this list.  

There are some "classics" that won't be on this list.  The original TMNT was a top 10 seller for the NES, but I cannot recommend it over so many other games that were not colossal disappointments.  Ikari Warriors was popular, but Guerilla War and Iron Tank (also from SNK) are better than all three Ikari NES games combined.  

1943: The Battle of Midway
3-D Adventures of the WorldRunner
A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pool of Radiance
Adventure Island
Adventure Island 2
Adventure Island 3
Adventures in the Magic Kingdom
Adventures of Lolo
Adventures of Lolo 2
Adventures of Lolo 3
After Burner
Alien Syndrome
Bad Dudes
Balloon Fight
Barker Bill's Trick Shooting
Baseball Simulator 1.000
Baseball Stars
Batman Returns
Batman: Return of the Joker
Battle of Olympus, The
Battletoads & Double Dragon
Bee 52
Bionic Commando
Blades of Steel
Blaster Master
Bomberman II
Bonk's Adventure
Bubble Bobble
Bubble Bobble Part 2
Bucky O'Hare
Burai Fighter
California Games
Casino Kid
Casino Kid 2
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Caveman Games
Chessmaster, The
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers 2
Clash at Demonhead
Cobra Triangle
Code Name: Viper
Cowboy Kid
Crystal Mines
Déjà Vu
Desert Commander
Destiny of an Emperor
Disney's Darkwing Duck
Disney's The Little Mermaid
Dizzy the Adventurer
Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong 3
Donkey Kong Jr.
Double Dragon
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
Dr. Mario
Dragon Fighter
Dragon Warrior
Dragon Warrior II
Dragon Warrior III
Dragon Warrior IV
Duck Hunt
DuckTales 2
Dudes with Attitude
Dusty Diamond's All-Star Softball
Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy, The
Fantasy Zone
Faria: A World of Mystery and Danger
Felix the Cat
Final Fantasy
Fire 'n Ice
Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak, The
Flintstones: The Rescue of Dino & Hoppy, The
Freedom Force
Galaga: Demons of Death
Gargoyle's Quest II
Ghosts'n Goblins
Godzilla: Monster of Monsters
Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode
Goonies II, The
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Guardian Legend, The
Guerrilla War
High Speed
Ice Climber
Ice Hockey
Immortal, The
Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II
Iron Tank
Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu
Journey to Silius
Kabuki Quantum Fighter
Kickle Cubicle
Kid Icarus
Kid Klown in Night Mayor World
Kid Niki: Radical Ninja
Kirby's Adventure
Kiwi Kraze
Krion Conquest, The
Kung-Fu Heroes
Krazy Kreatures
Legacy of the Wizard
Legend of the Ghost Lion
Legend of Zelda, The
Legendary Wings
Life Force
Linus Spacehead's Cosmic Crusade
Little Nemo: The Dream Master
Little Ninja Brothers
Little Samson
Lone Ranger, The
Low G Man: The Low Gravity Man
M.C. Kids
Mach Rider
Mafat Conspiracy, The
Magic of Scheherazade, The
Maniac Mansion
Marble Madness
Mario Bros
Mega Man
Mega Man 2
Mega Man 3
Mega Man 4
Mega Man 5
Mega Man 6
Mendel Palace
Metal Storm
Mickey Mousecapade
Micro Machines
Mighty Final Fight
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!
Milon's Secret Castle
Ms. Pac-Man (Tengen)
NES Open Tournament Golf
Ninja Gaiden
Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
Nintendo World Cup
North & South
P.O.W.: Prisoners of War
Panic Restaurant
Pinball Quest
Pipe Dream
Power Blade
Power Blade 2
Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom
Pro Wrestling
Quattro Adventure
R.C. Pro-Am
R.C. Pro-Am II
Rad Racer
Rad Racer II
Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2
RBI Baseball
River City Ransom
Rockin Kats
Rolling Thunder
Rush'n Attack
S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team
Section Z
Shadow of the Ninja
Snake Rattle 'n' Roll
Snow Brothers
Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship
Solomon's Key
Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos
Spiritual Warfare
Spy vs. Spy
Super C
Super Dodge Ball
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. 2
Super Mario Bros. 3
Super Spy Hunter
Swords and Serpents
Tecmo Bowl
Tecmo Super Bowl
Tecmo World Wrestling
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters
Tetris (Tengen)
Tetris 2
Thunder & Lightning
Tiny Toon Adventures
Tiny Toon Adventures 2: Trouble in Wackyland
Tombs & Treasure
Totally Rad
Trolls on Treasure Island
Vice: Project Doom
Wario's Woods
WCW World Championship Wrestling
Wizards & Warriors
Wizards & Warriors III: Kuros: Visions of Power
Wrecking Crew
WURM : Journey to the Center of the Earth
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Zen the Intergalactic Ninja
Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II
Zombie Nation

Honorable Mentions:
Adventures of Bayou Billy, The
Captain Comic
Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones
Festers' Quest
Friday the 13th
Godzilla 2: War of the Monsters
Metal Gear
Mission: Impossible
Monster in my Pocket
Wizardry: The Knight of Diamonds
Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord


Jason'sBushcraft Adventures said...

Excellent list. Being the creator, could you possibly give me a list of these games you chose that do require a peripheral? I would like to omit them from this list and add on the honorable mentions to see if I can still keep the list around 250. Thanks

Great Hierophant said...

On this list only Duck Hunt and Barker Bill's Trick Shooting require a Zapper. Arkanoid came with its own paddle controller and is a better game when controlled with it but can use a standard gamepad.

Jason'sBushcraft Adventures said...