Presented here for you are the top 50 Nintendo Entertainment System games according to Markham Asylum, in random order. Each entry includes a soundtrack video, release date, genre information, screenshots, and info on what made the game worthwhile. Each post will include 10 games. A sixth post will include an index of all 50 games in alphabetical order and a bonus section with Honorable Mentions.
Let us continue with Part 2…
Release Date: December 1990
Genres: Adventure, Puzzle
Anyone who liked Zelda would have probably like StarTropics. Though very linear, StarTropics had an overworld, dungeons, and special weapons, and even used hearts to comprise and extend the life meter. The similarities continued with puzzles that were often difficult, such as revealing invisible ghosts via a limited-use item so that they could be defeated and new pathways could be opened.
StarTropics contained a very original, though half-baked, mechanic: At one point the player was prompted to dip a letter in water, which referred to a physical letter that came packaged with the game. Unfortunately, most gamers borrowed or rented the game, had no idea there was an actual letter, and got stuck. Even many who had a copy of the letter didn’t make the leap of looking outside the game. Though a neat idea, this was probably one of the biggest sticking points in video game history.
Letters aside, StarTropics was as fun and difficult as the original Zelda. Any Zelda fan who hasn’t played StarTropics should give it a shot.
Release Date: December 1991
Genre: Football (American)
I’m not really much into watching sports, let alone playing them, let alone playing games based on them. Given that standpoint, you can guess that Tecmo Super Bowl has something special to have made this list.
One of the big draws to Tecmo Super Bowl was that there were no penalties and it was easier to break tackles than in real-life football. This kept the game moving at a fast pace. Also, you could edit your playbooks and substitute players, keeping the gameplay strategic and varied.
Tecmo Super Bowl had a strong “it” factor that still resonates with many fans today. For example, an annual tournament is held in Madison, WI for the game to this very day; details can be found here.
(If you like that song, check out the remake from Metroid: Zero Mission.)
Release Date: 1986
Genres: Platforming, Adventure
Metroid followed the first story of bounty-hunter Samus Aran as she chased down and destroyed space pirates and their leader, Mother Brain, who were bent on exploiting the parasitic metroids for profit. Metroid was one of the first games in which you got to kick ass while playing a female character.
Metroid was a technological marvel when it was released. The programmers made the game larger than prior NES entries by using a reference system that allowed the same screens to be used multiple times without each screen being stored in memory more than once. Coupled with great level design, the reuse was perfectly acceptable. Metroid also, like its sister game Kid Icarus, implemented a password feature for saving progress.
Metroid made the idea of “this area is closed off until you get a certain item” very popular, influencing future games series such as Castlevania (notably Simon’s Quest and Symphony of the Night) and stand-alone titles like Shadow Complex.
Metroid has become one of the most successful video game series and Samus definitely deserves her place in the spotlight.
Release Dates: December 1988, April 1990, June 1991
Rarely does every game in a trilogy pull its own weight, but that’s exactly what each Ninja Gaiden game did on the NES. They all had the same fun gameplay, the same use of cinematic cutscenes, and the same great pacing.
Ninja Gaiden introduced a fast-moving, ninja-sword-slashing character named Ryu Hayabusa. Ninja Gaiden II added the ability to climb up and down walls instead of just clinging to them, plus the power to create invincible clones that would mimic everything Ryu had just done. Ninja Gaiden III allowed Ryu to hang from pipes by his arms and move along them.
All three Ninja Gaiden games were brutally difficult, requiring many replays to learn the locations of upcoming enemies and what special weapon was best for a given area. The great story in each game drove you to keep trying, though.
This trilogy was so successful and highly regarded that it was re-released on the Super Nintendo as a single cartridge.
Release Date: January 1990
Genres: Beat-‘em-up, RPG
River City Ransom improved on the Double Dragon formula. In addition to walking through stages with a friend and punching/kicking bad guys senseless, defeated enemies dropped money. This dough could be used to replenish health and purchase or upgrade different fighting techniques, allowing you to customize your character. Whether you wanted to become specialized in one type of fighting move or mix it up, the choice was yours.
River City Ransom also had a good sense of humor, such as some enemies being called “The Generic Dudes.” Another example is that bad guys would sometimes yell “BARF!” when defeated.
River City Ransom included a password system for saving progress.
Release Date: July 1990
Genres: Adventure, RPG
Crystalis was Zelda-style game that focused more on fighting than on puzzle-solving and allowed you to purchase armor and shields. Through the course of the game you obtained four elemental swords: Wind, Fire, Water, and Thunder. Enemies were weaker against certain swords and each sword could help you get past environmental obstacles. Near the end of the game you obtained the fifth sword, Crystalis.
Crystalis had great music and utilized an on-cartridge save system.
Release Date: 1983
Bomberman’s formula was pretty simple: Drop bombs to blow up obstacles and enemies. The catch was that any bomb could kill you, even your own, and bombs could set off other bombs. Combine that with powerups that made bombs have larger blast areas and things got dicey pretty quickly, requiring precise movement and careful bomb placement.
It’s doubtful that the team that made the first Bomberman game could have foreseen how popular the series would become. With over 10 million games sold in the entire franchise, Bomberman is one of the most well-known and loved series of multiplayer games in history.
Release Date: December 1988
Blades of Steel is, besides Tecmo Super Bowl, one of the few sports games that I liked on the NES. Compared to real hockey, Blades of Steel had no rule against offsides and fights only resulted in a 2-minute penalty instead of 5. The only other rule was that icing was not allowed. With so few penalties recognized, the game’s pacing was increased and goals were more frequent.
Blades of Steel included a fun mechanic that if you checked the player with the puck three times, a fight would break out (in the game, not real life, though that could certainly have happened as well). The players would throw off their gloves and engage in a series of high and low punches, requiring you to guess which way to block. The best part was that the loser of the fight got a 2-minute penalty, whereas the winner got to return to play.
Release Date: April 1989
Genres: Platforming, Adventure
Legacy of the Wizard was one of the first NES games to give the player multiple characters to use, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The game started in a house where all seven family members were present, including the lizard-like family pet. Five of the members were playable, as the elderly two were used for password retrieval and input.
Legacy of the Wizard was a large game that required much exploration, memorization, and experimentation. Each playable character had to be used to reach certain key areas in the game, so figuring out where to use each one took a lot of trial and error.
Though often a frustrating game, each success in Legacy of the Wizard was rewarding.
Warning: There is a 92% chance this music will get stuck in your head.
Release Date: 1986
Genres: Platforming, Puzzle
Bubble Bobble put the player in control of a little bubble dragon. While these tiny guys would have been shish-kabbobed by even the lowly kobold a Dungeons & Dragons game, they held their own against the denizens of Bubble Bobble. They could trap enemies in bubbles, then either ride the bubble as it rose or kill the helpless bad guy by bursting the bubble with their spiky backsides.
Bubble Bobble’s cutesy appearance belied its difficulty, especially late-game, but it never grew too challenging. All 100 levels were well-designed, fun to figure out, and often artistic. You could even play it co-op.
What else made the list?
Only 30 more games made the list! Stay tuned for additional installments.
Other Image Source: ControllerTweet
About the Author
|Markham Asylum is a founding member of Delta Attack. His tier-1 favorite genres are role-playing, puzzle, and strategy. His tier-2 are adventure, shooter, and platformer. He strives to provide spoiler-free postings whenever possible.
Markham Asylum has written 398 posts on Delta Attack.