Released in 1986, the Nintendo Entertainment System – or the NES as it is often called today – was the best-selling video game console of its time. While its simplistic graphics have gone from gorgeous to bad to charmingly retro over the past thirty years, one fact remains: there are many great games in the system.
Everything from Legend of Zelda to the original Super Mario Bros makes the NES a revolutionary platform. It doesn’t matter if you are revisiting an old classic or experiencing it for the first time, these are the best NES games of all time.
Also, be sure to watch the video below on our YouTube channel where we take a look at five of our favorite NES games.
Super Mario Bros
This is the game that started it all. Counting all ports and re-releases over the years, the original Super Mario Bros. sold a staggering 40.2 million copies, making it the best-selling Mario game of all time.
In fact, as the flagship of the NES, Super Mario Bros is more than just a fantastic platform game that has grown into a franchise: it represents a renaissance for the video game industry as a whole. It was definitely considered one of the best NES games of its time. After the video game crash in 1983, the NES brought the floundering industry back to the brink, and Super Mario Bros helped boost the system’s sales.
The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda was the first of the series to grace any console and brought with it many of its beloved enemies: Moblins, Lynels, and even Darknut. It also spawned the famous line: â€œ It’s dangerous to walk alone. Take this . “
If you have never encountered The Legend of Zelda, you must immerse yourself in the world and save the kingdom from Ganon and his abuse of the Triforce of Power. When exploring Hyrule, which may be the first time, be sure to look for secrets: the game is loaded with them, and this element will become the main one in the series.
Metroid introduced the first half of the two-game formula that would become Metroid-vanias. This is the classic formula where you start out weak and explore a vast world in search of weapons and abilities that will allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas, defeat bosses and complete the game.
Samus starts off with beam weapons and then finds famous bonuses such as Morph Ball and Bombs. The NES version of Metroid also introduces the recurring bosses Ridley and Craid.
Castlevania is the second half of Metroid and vania’s winning combination. A challenging platformer in which Simon Belmont explores Dracula’s castle in search of an evil vampire. While it lacks all of the same elements found in subsequent games in the series, it sets the standard for core gameplay that will continue with each successive iteration.
It’s worth noting that the original Castlevania is available for the NES Classic, just like Metroid. If you like Metroidvania, check out the two games that started the genre.
NES Final Fantasy was, like many others on this list, the first of a massive franchise. The game was released in 1987 and spawned the series that many people love today.
However, there is something of a unique story behind this name. Presumably Square was on the brink of bankruptcy, and the launch of Final Fantasy was their game that they decide. If this fails, the company will have to close its doors.
Clearly that didn’t happen, and Final Fantasy is now considered one of the best NES RPGs of the time. It features turn-based combat, different roles for different characters, and many elements that were there before their time.
Kirby’s Adventure isn’t the first Kirby game, but rather a sequel to the Game Boy Kirby’s Dream Land. Kirby’s Adventure improves on many of the best features of the first game and introduces Kirby’s signature trick of absorbing enemies and copying their abilities.
This was the first game in which Kirby was shown in color, which surprised many; nobody knew it was going to be pink, especially since the original Game Boy was black and white. In Kirby’s Adventure, players battle it out at level 41 across 7 different worlds.
Contra is a top-down shooter known for its non-stop action and brutal difficulty, as well as another truly classic element: the Konami Code.
For those unfamiliar, the Konami Code (Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A) gave players an extra 30 lives to help them overcome the extremely high chance they would lose during a Contra working. And since Contra was played the day before the save state, “game over” means starting from scratch.
No list of the best NES games would be complete without the original light cannon duck hunting game. The premise is simple. Ducks fly across the screen and you aim and shoot them from the sky using the attached peripheral. Back side? If you miss, the overly sarcastic dog will laugh at your failure.
It’s also a multiplayer mode that many people don’t know about. The second controller maneuvers the ducks! Of course, light cannon technology requires a CRT TV to work, so you’ll need to find an older TV to play today.
The Mega Man series is another long-standing franchise that started on the NES. Blue Bomber battled Dr. Wiley and his robot masters on level after level of bullet hell platformer encounters. Each Robot Master grants a new ability, and that ability is another boss’s weakness.
Fighting enemies in the right order makes the game a lot easier, but Mega Man can be played in any order. It’s a great way to experience many of the original gameplay elements that are still present in the Mega Man series today.
Which NES game do you think is one of the best? Forgot a name that deserves a mention? Let us know in the comments below.