Trev’s Top Ten NES Games

The NES Top Ten list has pretty much been done to death and most of them are very similar with few surprises, though I tend to disagree with the choices. Its an opinion thing, so everyone's lists are going to be at least slightly different so I thought I would compile my own. Some of the games on my list might surprise you. I haven't played every game on the NES and I am still finding new gems to this day, but I have certainly played a lot of them.

10. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest

DEVELOPER: Konami

PUBLISHER: Konami

GENRE: Action RPG

RELEASE DATE: December 1988

I may catch some flack for this one. A lot of people see Castlevania II: Simon's Quest as the black sheep of the trilogy but I disagree. This game was of course published by Konami and released in December of 1988. It is a big departure from the original Castlevania which was strictly an action platformer with linear levels. Castlevania II on the other hand takes on a non-linear style with RPG elements while maintaining all the action and platforming elements. This means you have to figure out the adventure, which apparently most people did not want to do. Sure, the game is super cryptic and the townsfolk don't have anything helpful to say, but figuring it out is half the fun. I will admit that as a kid, I could not figure this game out one bit. My friend's dad had bought it for himself and my friend and I would play it almost every time I went over to his house. We would struggle for a while then ask his mom to enter a code she got from some unknown source and then spend hours killing monsters with the flame whip. Nintendo Power would have helped, but I sadly did not have a subscription. The bottom line is that the game play, control, graphics and atmosphere of this game are incredible and the music is beyond all that. It is my favourite soundtrack on the NES. I feel like a lot of people pass on this game expecting it to suck based on its reputation without even giving it a chance. A bonus is that it is the cheapest and most common game in the Castlevania trilogy so just get it and play it with an open mind and maybe you will see it as a gem like I do.

9. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

DEVELOPER: Nintendo R&D 4

PUBLISHER: Nintendo

GENRE: Action RPG

RELEASE DATE: December 1988

This game is criminally underrated. Obviously developed and published by Nintendo, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link hit the North American gaming market in December of 1988. This is the second game in The Legend of Zelda series and is a direct sequel to the original game and takes on a completely different style. Instead of a top down adventure game what we got here was a side scrolling action RPG platformer.  For some reason most people don't like this direction choice because it is seen as so different from the rest of the games today but everyone seems to forget this is only the second Zelda game ever made. Was Nintendo supposed to make the same game over again? No! So they went in a new direction and I for one think they created an amazing game here. The control is perfect, the plot albeit simple, is good and the graphics are oustanding. When I first played this as a kid at my cousin's house I was blown away by the way it looked. I was used to the simple block graphics of the original game. I really like the RPG elements included such as leveling up your strength and attack power. This was also the first Zelda game to include a magic meter and there are loads of interesting and useful spells to learn along the way. If you have overlooked this classic like many Zelda fans do, do yourself a favour and give it a shot. It's not as hard as every thinks it is.

8. Mega Man V

DEVELOPER: Capcom

PUBLISHER: Capcom

 

GENRE: Action Platformer

RELEASE DATE: December 1992

What NES Top Ten list is complete without at least one game from the Mega Man series? Mega Man 5 published by the almighty Capcom in December of 1992, and is not often considered to be the best of NES Mega Mans. It is usually overshadowed by Mega Man 2 but I feel that number 5 is the best in the series and one of the greatest games ever made. I feel that this game has the perfect amount of challenge and reward. The game play is fun and intense and the control is perfectly responsive. It also has a neat little password system, something that the original game was missing so you don't have to destroy all of Dr. Wily's Robot Masters in one sitting. One thing that sets this game apart from the rest in the series is the "BEAT" power up. In each of the first eight levels there is a letter to find. Sometimes its out in plain sight, and other times it is hidden. Collect all the letters to spell "MEGA MAN V" and you will be equipped with the best weapon, BEAT. Beat is a little robotic bird that flies beside you and kills enemies for you. He is awesome, and extremely effective on one boss in particular... The music in this game is also some of the best on the system. If you ever get your hands on a copy of the game, its a pricey one, give it a try.

7. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

DEVELOPER: Konami

PUBLISHER: Konami

GENRE: Action Platformer

RELEASE DATE: July 1990

Konami outdid themselves with this one. In July of 1990 they released the third game in the Castlevania series, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. This has got to be the best horror based game of the 8-bit era. This game stars my favourite vampire hunter, Trevor Belmont on a quest to rid Europe of Dracula once and for all. In the year 1476, with nowhere else to turn, the Church reluctantly calls on the current wielder of the legendary Vampire Killer to put a stop to Dracula's reign of terror. After Castlevania II: Simon's Quest Konami ditched the RPG elements and returned to a more linear style of level based gameplay but they didn't remove all the exploring elements. As you progress through the stages you find branching pathways that take you to different areas leading to more than one way to finish the game. You can also find companions to join your quest as playable characters lending you different abilities like climbing on walls and flying. The graphics and music are astounding in this game and the music is even better in the Japanese version, Akumajō Densetsu.  The Famicom has an extra sound channel that the NES is missing and this game takes full advantage of it. Listen to it on YouTube sometime and it will blow your mind. All Castlevania games have their challenge but this one is quite possibly the hardest. It took me several weeks of practice to beat but once I did, I was on top of the world. The different characters and pathways make the replay value of this title extremely high for me.

6. Final Fantasy

DEVELOPER: Square

PUBLISHER: Square

GENRE: RPG

RELEASE DATE: July 1990

When I was a little kid beating this game was my final fantasy.  I am proud to say I did beat it, eventually. It took me about 15 years to do. This incredible RPG was published and developed by Square and released in North America in July of 1990. There is a rumour that Square thought that this game would be their last as they were facing possible bankruptcy and that is why they named the game Final Fantasy, but this has never been proven. As we know now, the game was a huge success and the series and Square (now Square-Enix) are still going strong today. To this day I am amazed at how much they were able to cram into a NES cartridge. The game's plot and world feel huge to me. There are so many different monsters to fight and character classes to choose from so the replay value is enormous. This RPG does require a lot of grinding but if you go to the right spots on the map it isn't too painful to get through. It is too bad that the two following sequels in the series were only released in Japan on the Famicom but there is hope for those that need more NES Final Fantasy action. Square fully developed an English prototype of Final Fantasy II that wasn't released and the ROM can easily be found on the internet along with a fan translated ROM of Final Fantasy III. So if you have a flash cartridge or even an emulator on your PC you can get your fix. As for the original Final Fantasy it is an all around superb game that falls into the "must play" category in my books.

5. Power Blade 2

DEVELOPER: Natsume

PUBLISHER: Taito

GENRE: Action Platformer

RELEASE DATE: October 1992

The original Power Blade is a perfect 10 game in my books and would have made this list if it weren't for the sequel being even better. Power Blade 2 released later in the NES life cycle, in October of 1992. Natsume along with Taito really showed us what the NES was capable of with this title. The graphics and gameplay are absolutely superb. In this game you take control of the protagonist Nova, a member of the U.S. Department of Defense sent on a mission by the President to destroy the Delta Foundation. This game as well as the first Power Blade allows you to play the stages of the game in any order similar to a Mega Man game. You also fight robots along the way and gain awesome new powers like in Mega ManPower Blade 2 improved on every aspect of the original creating a game that went well beyond my expectations. There is one major problem with this game however. Power Blade 2 cartridges have become extremely rare and sky rocketed in price over the last few years. After playing the first game and loving it I decided had to have the sequel. I sold loads of games in order to buy this one and it is actually the most expensive cartridge I own to date. I don't regret buying it though because it is just that good.

4. Shatterhand

DEVELOPER: Natsume

PUBLISHER: Jaleco

GENRE: Action Platformer

RELEASE DATE: December 1991

Shatterhand is a Jaleco published, Natsume developed masterpiece of side scrolling action. It was released in North America in December of 1991 and is one of the most under rated NES games ever made. This game is so unbelievably good, it boggles my mind that it isn’t held up amongst the rest of the NES kingpins as being one of the all-time greats. You play as Steve Herman, a New York City cop who was given bionic arms after losing his in a battle with Metal Command, a group of military radicals. This game has one of the coolest power-up systems I have ever seen. Throughout each stage you collect tiles that display either the Greek letter α or β. You can choose what the tile says by punching it and when you collect three tiles, you get a robot side kick that helps you battle through the stage. The robot you receive depends on what combination of tiles you get and each combination yields a different robot. Each robot has its own abilities, can take damage for you and can even fly you up to high platforms. Try to get the same robot twice in a row for an awesome surprise, which I found to be crucial to beating the game.

3. Ninja Gaiden II

DEVELOPER: Tecmo

PUBLISHER: Tecmo

GENRE: Action Platformer

RELEASE DATE: May 1990

By far the most intense game on the list is Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos published by Tecmo in May of 1990. The Ninja Gaiden trilogy is known for being overly difficult and nearly impossible to beat. The box for Ninja Gaiden II literally says "HARD TO BEAT!" on it, though they are probably referring to the game's quality here. It is true that these games are tremendously hard but I have managed to beat the trilogy.  The third game is ridiculous and beating it is by far my best gaming accomplishment to date.  The original Ninja Gaiden is known for being one of the first games to have cinematic cut scenes in it, and they look amazing. The graphics and sound were also great for the time. I put the second game on my list because it improves on all aspects of the first one without being as hard as the third one.  The graphics are better, the special weapons are better, the story is better and the cut scenes are absolutely out of this world. Playing through Ninja Gaiden II is stressful to say the least and if you attempt it I suggest you have a sweat towel near by. It is very difficult, but not so difficult that you just want to quit. It makes you want to keep trying. Also, the music in these games is out of this world and again, some of my favourite on the NES.  The cover art is awesome as well.  I obviously think a lot of this game to make it my choice for third best on the system, only being surpassed by two juggernauts that top nearly every NES Top 10 out there. This one is pretty cheap to add to your collection too so if you are up to the challenge pick it up next time you see it in your local game shop.

2. Super Mario Bros. 3

DEVELOPER: Nintendo R&D 4

PUBLISHER: Nintendo

GENRE: Platformer

RELEASE DATE: February 1990

Quite possibly the best platformer ever made is Super Mario Bros. 3 published by Nintendo in February of 1990. I have no idea how many times I have played through this classic but I am sure it is more than twenty. It is legendary. The platforming genre was perfected with the release of this game. What can I even say about this game that hasn't already been said? The level design is so good and I now have an even greater appreciation for its smart design since the release of Super Mario Maker on Wii U. This game revolutionized the Super Mario Bros. series with its well thought out power ups like the Raccoon Suit, the Tanooki Suit, the Frog Suit, and my personal favourite, Karibo's Shoe. Super Mario Bros. 3 was first revealed to North American audiences in the Nintendo produced promotional movieThe Wizard starring Fred Savage and Christian Slater of all people. If you are a die hard Nintendo fan and have never seen that movie, you should really see it. It is quite a ride. Anyway, this game is so influential and such a huge part of so many people's childhood that you can be talking about great games with just about any gamer when you mention Super Mario Bros. 3 the just smile, say "Oh yeah..." and nod in acknowledgement of this game's perfection.

1. The Legend of Zelda

DEVELOPER: Nintendo R&D 4

PUBLISHER: Nintendo

GENRE: Platformer

RELEASE DATE: July 1987

Coming in at number one on the list is the first entry in what I consider to be the greatest series of video games of all time. The Legend of Zelda was published by Nintendo and released in North America in August of 1987. This title brought gamers an adventure like no one had ever experienced in a video game. It throws you into the fantasy land of Hyrule as you control Link trying to reassemble the Triforce and rescue Princess Zelda from the evil Ganon. As a kid, I remember wanting so badly to beat this game. I would take notes, draw maps and call my older cousins who also had the game for advice when I was stuck. No other game had ever made me care enough to be that committed and the first time I saw Ganon burst into red ash, my life was changed forever. Today, The Legend of Zelda is a huge franchise with a cult following like no other and it is all thanks to this game. It doesn't have the best graphics the NES has to offer but the control is fluent and the game play is enthralling. It is a perfect example of how better graphics don't make a better game. Nintendo's core has always been about the game play which is why their video games are so fun and timeless. Just look at the cartridge... it's gold, like the Triforce or a first place prize. It shines so bright my camera had difficulty focusing on it. If you have for some reason never played this one, for the love of Miyamoto, do it now.

2 Comments

  1. Hans Delbrück on September 6, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    Kid Kool should be in place of Adventure of Link. The controls are much tighter, and the story is clearly superior. But otherwise, I like the list.

  2. E Leonard on November 27, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Great List!

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