NES Games: My Top Ten Favorites
(With two runner-ups)

Runner-up: Bubble Bobble Part 2

A very obscure and rare title indeed, for it came out in 1993 (two years after the SNES' debut) and was only sold to rental stores, further limiting its distribution.  Which is quite a shame, as this game takes an already great title and improves upon it in numerous ways.  With new items, boss stages, minigames, and a surprising amount of challenge, not to mention graphics and music that can rival most early SNES titles, it's a true masterpiece of the system.  The only thing it lacks is two-player simultaneous gameplay.  If you can find a copy, I say check it out.

Runner-up: Double Dragon II: The Revenge

The first Double Dragon, while a pretty good adaptation of the arcade classic, was criticized for having a lot of odd bugs and not having two-player simultaneous action, save in its odd head-to-head competitive mode.  Technos acknowledged these problems for its release of Double Dragon II, and what we got was (and still was) one of the best two-player experiences on the system.  High in challenge but never dull or frustrating to play, it's a true classic.

10. Contra

I don't think a single person I know hasn't played and loved Contra.  Konami's arcade classic received an excellent home port with only minute changes from the original version.  Run-and-gun action at its finest, and it even supports two-player simultaneous gameplay - a very big deal at the time.

9. Teeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project

TMNT 2: The Arcade Game was another great arcade port by Konami, but it was their next title, an original game made just for the NES, that took the formula to perfection.  With an excellent soundtrack, large and colorful sprites, intense battles and creative gameplay, this title surpassed its predecessor in every way possible and became not only one of the best brawlers on the system, but of all time.

8. Ninja Gaiden II

Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden trilogy is doubtlessly a classic franchise, well remembered for its excellent presentation, high challenge and fast-paced boss battles, and Ninja Gaiden II is probably the best known of the three.  The most creative new gameplay mechanic here is that up to two "shadows" that follow behind your character and minic his attacks, allowing you to attack enemies without putting yourself in harm's way (something that becomes very, very useful as the bosses start ramping up in difficulty).  Of course, the series is also known for its brutally difficult stage obstacles and awkwardly-placed enemies that knock you right into pits, but hey, that's just part of the challenge, right?

7. Battletoads

Probably better-known to most as "the game with the impossible third level", Battletoads was notorious for its extreme difficulty, requiring perfect reflexes and a fair amount of level memorization, as well as the fact that one or two hits from almost anything will kill you flat and make you start the current section (or stage) over.  But if you can manage to tough it out and make your way through the game, you'll find a title that has a lot to offer in terms of gameplay variety.  Combining platforming, brawling, and a lot of brutally difficult obstacle courses together into one game, Battletoads really did have a lot to offer; it's just a shame that so many people never got to see most of it.  The fact that having a second player around only makes the game much MORE difficult certainly didn't help matters either.

6. Kirby's Adventure

Another late release for the platform, but this one seems to be much more widely known, and with good reason - it's one of the best games on the system.  A fairly unique mechanic of the game was Kirby's ability to swallow enemies and copy their powers, which not only allowed him to plow through weaker enemies (and even most bosses) much more easily, but were necessary to solve some puzzles and unlock secret areas and items.  Combine that with the fact that there are plenty of hidden secrets to find, some very fun and creative bosses, and graphics and sound that could easily rival most SNES titles (yes, they're that good), and you have a shining example of what the NES hardware was really capable of when pushed to its limits.  It may be one of the last NES games released, but it's certainly not one of its least.

5. River City Ransom

A unique combination of a side-scrolling brawler and a nonlinear RPG, River City Ransom is a concept that was never seen before and has almost never been seen since.  You defeat enemies to get money, and money goes toward buying food items to boost stats and recover health, and manuals to give new moves.  The game also supported two-player simltaneous play, which managed to be fun in spite of some pretty bad slowdown.  Its only real weakness was its endlessly confusing password system - 30 characters long, consisting of uppercase, lowercase, puncutation, and even apostrophes that would float over a given symbol instead of being counted as a seperate character!

4. Startropics

A lot of NES fans will tell you that Zelda, Metroid or Crystalis was the peak of action-adventure gameplay on the system.  While all of those are excellent games, my personal favorite game of this type has to be Startropics.  Unique for its modern setting, the game also featured platforming elements and a high degree of challenge, with enormous boss monsters and some lengthy and at times outright diabolical dungeons (some feature empty rooms that merely entering will cause you to fall down a pit and lose a life).  It also has a very intricate and involved storyline, something which was fairly unknown to the NES at the time.

3. Maniac Mansion

Maniac Mansion remains my favorite adventure game of all time for three reasons.  First is its soundtrack, which Lucasarts really pushed the NES' hardware to its limits for; it's hard to imagine beats this complex and catchy on an 8-bit console, but they managed to pull it off.  Second is its odd sense of humor, being a parody of horror movies and the numerous cliches employed within (such as a talking tentacle that wants to form his own rock band).  Finally, and unique to almost every adventure game since, is the fact that it's actually non-linear; you pick a team of three characters out of a roster of seven, and regardless of whom you choose, the game can still be completed; you'll just have to employ different means to do it.  The game also has numerous endings depending on the characters used (and the survivors at the end), which further enhances its replay value.

2. Mega Man 2

Fans of the series could debate for days on end about which Mega Man game was the best, but my personal vote goes to Mega Man 2, a game that improved upon its predecessor's gameplay style in every way
and included some of the craziest music on the system to boot.  While still plenty challenging for the handful of people that had completed the original, it also had numerous features that made it more accessible to newcomers, including energy tanks to refill Mega Man's health, two difficulty settings, a password system, and special "items" that could be used to surpass many of the more difficult obstacles (such as the long stretches of disappearing platforms over lava).  Not only one of the best games on the system, it gets my pick for one of the greatest games of all time.

1. Super Mario Bros. 3

Take the game that kickstarted the system's popularity and viability and improve upon its gameplay style tenfold, and you get this.  With a huge variety of levels, powerups, enemies, and even a two-player mode that can be played either cooperatively or competitively (your choice), not to mention some of the best graphics and music on the platform, it's the system's top game, and to date is probably the single greatest Mario game ever made.  Hell, it's even inspired some pretty excellent ROM hacks that manage to be just as fun, varied and unique.  Long Live Super Mario Bros. 3!

2010 Spoony