When it comes to video games everyone, even if they probably don’t give it a second thought generally have a top list floating around somewhere in their mind. Maybe it’s only a top three or perhaps only a top two, but everyone has favorites. As for myself? Well of course I do! What follows is the first part of my TOP TEN NES GAMES, covering number ten through number six. When I came up with this list I had a small, but simple checklist:
1. How much did I play the game throughout my life
2. Would I still play it start to finish if I popped it in today
3. Would I recommend the game to someone else
With those three things in mind, I looked back at every NES game I played from seven years old to today. I remembered the games I loved, the games I hated, and the games I thought were just ok. In between writing notes for this list I even did pop a few in and play them. To me, these games are simply amazing. So without further ado, let us get started!
NUMBER 10: CONTRA
Who doesn’t love Contra? This was a game that helped make the Konami code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start “or Select Start if two players”) an everyday phrase for gamers growing up back then and launching even into meme status later with the birth of the internet.
The gameplay is so simplistic yet fun. You run and you shoot, but you can shoot in any direction. Shooting down item balloons will grant you power-ups such as the machine gun, flame thrower, laser, or even the powerful most coveted SPREAD GUN! Thanks to the Konami Code as it’s known now you can easily breeze through the game in an afternoon by yourself or with a friend. Or you can opt to not use the code and challenge yourself to beat the game with the stock lives.
The visuals of the game are very appealing and nice to look at. The color of the graphics will pop off the screen and you should never find yourself confused at what terrain you’re on and if you can jump here, there, or wherever. Each level has a cool design and uniqueness to it (the level with the spike walls is my personal favorite). Of course, you can’t mention the stages without also the very cool 3D stages that happen in between levels. You get a POV from behind your character running down a hallway shooting bad dudes and obstacles. Finally the music and sound are memorable and grand just as the rest of the game. The Contra “death” noise is just as well known as Mega Man’s or at least it should be.
Contra is an amazing game on the NES that hits all the right notes. If you haven’t played this classic yet then you NEED to get on it. I guarantee you will not be disappointed, and no one will shame you for using the code, we all did, and hell I still do sometimes.
NUMBER 9: STARTROPICS
Sometimes I want to call this game a hidden gem. It doesn’t seem like that many people played it, but when I meet someone who has we can’t stop talking about it until the point we’ve exhausted ourselves. While the game was developed by the one and only Genyo Takeda (same man behind Punch-Out!!) the game was never actually meant to see a Japanese release. It was intended only for the American Audience.
StarTropics has an interesting story where you play as Mike who is an all American boy! I mean he loves baseball after all and what American doesn’t? GO DODGERS!
Mike gets invited to C Island by his Uncle Dr. Jones (get it? :0 ) but once Mike arrives he gets some bad news in that his Uncle has gone missing. From that point, Mike will speak to the village chief and get his first weapon, the Island Yo-Yo and after that, you’ll proceed to what is essentially the first dungeon.
StarTropics is an interesting game in that while in towns and on the world map it’s very much like an RPG such as Dragon Quest where you walk around and talk to people. Once you go into a dungeon or level the game visuals change. Mike will be much larger on the screen and you can move in a grid formation, enemies are also stuck to moving on this grid. It has an interesting way of planning your moves and watching the enemies movies in an almost chess-like fashion, while adding in a bit of action with slapping them upside the head with your Yo-Yo (or other weapons you collect such as baseball bats!) and a little bit of platforming and puzzle solving by finding hidden switches on tiles.
The game has a lot of interesting levels, visuals, and puzzles to solve and a story that can really pull you in. One of the best parts of this game which kids today miss out on is that when you bought it, it actually came with a physical letter from Dr. Jones. At one point in the game, your robot Nav-Com (who looks an awful lot like R.O.B.!) tells you that you need to dip the letter in water to find a secret code! You actually do this with that physical letter that came with the game. On Virtual Console they had a “virtual letter” but in the ’90s if you borrowed the game or bought it second-hand you were pretty screwed.
Again visually the game is stunning, and the music is grand, I don’t feel I need to say much else on that part. StarTropics is definitely worth a playthrough if you haven’t picked it up yet. It’s an RPG’ish game though so it’s going to take some time to get through all the chapters. It is for sure a weekend jammy jams kind of game.
NUMBER 8: SWEET HOME
The first (but not the only) Famicom game on this list. It’s one game I didn’t play as a kid because even though it’s an RPG, it’s also survival horror, and with how Nintendo censored games back then there was zero chance of this game getting an English release. The game is actually based on a movie, a Japanese horror film of the same name.
Sweet Home is an interesting Survival-Horror RPG in that you don’t feel the need to grind as much as you would in the original Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy games. The entire game takes place inside a mansion and each character has an item that is in a way unique to them. For example, one character has a vacuum, this can be used to clean up broken glass that blocks your path. You can, however, find a broom in the mansion and give that to a character which does the same thing. You split your party up into two (one group of three and one group of two) you are able to freely switch between them, if you come across a locked door and the key character is halfway across the mansion you’ll have to drag his or her happy butt over to you.
The game has limited healing items and once a character is dead, that’s it, they’re dead, gone, kaput! This provides the survival aspect to the game in that you really have to conserve your items especially if the nurse character dies because they are the only one with a first aid kit. Unless maybe you find a replacement item heh heh.
Visually the game is gruesome for an NES game and can be legitimately terrifying once you find yourself deep into the game. The music helps add to the creepy atmosphere as well as making this one Famicom/NES game that you will not want to pass up if you are given the chance.
NUMBER 7: ZELDA II THE ADVENTURE OF LINK
Honestly, this game does not deserve any of the hate it gets and it’s one of the best games on the NES library. When Zelda II was developed and release there was no rule that it had to be just like the first Zelda game. Zelda II is definitely different from other Zelda games, that’s a fact, but that in no way makes it a bad game.
Zelda II is a sequel to the first Zelda game. You’re playing as the same Link, now older, and you’re saving a different Princess Zelda, one that was put under a sleeping spell a long time ago. I won’t go into too much detail in the story as I’m sure most of you know it or would rather experience it for yourself.
Gameplay in The Adventure of Link does take a different turn in that while you’re overworld is still there once you go to fight enemies it takes you do a different screen and it’s all side-scrolling action. Jumping, stabbing, crouching and stabbing. Later on, you learn the ability to stab up while jumping or down while jumping and you get a collection of various spells. I would say that Link in this game is more like a spellsword type character from an RPG than someone using a variety of magical items. Though magical items are still in the game they serve more of a support role than a combat role.
The biggest addition to the game is the magic. Spells like Jump will make you jump higher, while Shield will provide you with extra defense and allow you to take a few extra hits before death. Other spells such as Fairy will turn you into a fairy and allow you to fly over enemies or fly through the keyhole of locked doors in the palace levels of the game.
Battling through the palaces can be a lot of fun especially fighting all the different enemies and as a kid, I always got a kick out of the idea that I was really sword fighting with the Dark Nuts in the game, a true battle! The final boss battle can be a lot of fun, but difficult, well that is unless you use a little trick.
Zelda II is the black sheep of the Zelda franchise and it doesn’t deserve to be. If you haven’t played it yet, pick it up and try it for yourself. You’re honestly missing out on a great adventure with Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
NUMBER 6: MEGA MAN 3
When it comes to the Mega Man series and a few other series they really could dominate a list like this. So I tried to narrow it down into which Mega Man game I played the most, which Mega Man game gave me a lasting impression, and which Mega Man game would I pop into my NES and play right now. While Mega Man 2 is a very close contender Mega Man 3 just rises above it ever so slightly in my humble opinion.
Mega Man 3 didn’t bring the charge shot mega buster that a lot of us love today but it did bring us the ability to slide, Rush our faithful transforming dog companion, and Capcom expanding the game by having us revisit Robot Master stages and fighting the robot masters from the last game all over again before going to Wily’s Castle, this would later be dropped in favor of just having two castles in future Mega Man games.
I feel redundant mentioning that the music in this game is amazing because well I’ve pretty much said that about every game on this list and it’s Mega Man and it’s Capcom! The levels all have a cool unique style to them with fitting stage themes and the robot masters provide fun boss fights all with unique weapons to collect. Out of all the robot master weapons, I’d say the shadow blade is my favorite, a sort of re-balanced version of Metal Man’s metal blade from the previous game. Like all Mega Man games it has tight controls and you never really feel like you died due to cheapness which is prevalent in a lot of other NES titles.
Mega Man is always a blast to play and Mega Man 3 is no different. With the introduction of characters such as Proto Man and a robot master roster that really can’t be beat (until you beat them, haha) Mega Man 3 brings home everything that is great about the Mega Man franchise. If you haven’t heard me say it before I will say it again: play the Mega Man classic series, it’s amazing, it’s great, it’s solid.
So there you have it! Part 1 of my Top Ten NES games! I highly recommend picking up and playing every game on this list as they are indeed a blast and more than a half to play! Stay tuned to this blog for Part 2 coming later this month or the start of next month!