REVIEW: Top 10 NES games of all time

Josh Rouse

There are days when I feel like I’m a very old-fashioned soul… particularly when it comes to gaming. While I love playing up-to-date sports games or the latest Call of Duty game just as much as the next person, something about playing classic video games just brings me back to my childhood and delivers so much more than an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 game ever could.

Because of my affinity for old games, I’ve decided to make lists for the Top 10 games for old systems. This week’s system is the classic Nintendo Entertainment System, which launched in North America in 1984. This 8-bit gaming system transformed video games forever, and in 2009 it was named IGN’s greatest gaming system in history.

10. Duck Hunt – “I wish I could just shoot the dang dog!” Every kid raised in the ’90s has uttered this phrase multiple times while playing “Duck Hunt,” an NES classic that features crazy ducks flying around the screen and a dog that gets a mad case of the giggles if you miss.

This 1984 hunting game, which was one of the two original games that came with the system, and had a very simple premise¾ shoot the duckies! The system came equipped with a laser light gun, which the gamer aimed at the on-screen ducks and pulled the trigger to shoot. The game offered three very simple modes: one duck, two ducks or clay shooting. Of course, accuracy with this game had less to do with skill and more to do with how close you sat to the television screen.

Because of its place in pop culture (almost everyone had a copy of “Duck Hunt” back in the day), the innovative shooting game made its way on the Top 10 list. Today’s arcade shooting games use similar gun-shaped controllers.

9. Mega Man Capcom’s original badass Mega Man makes the list at No. 9, thanks to the undeniable difficulty of the first game. This 1987 platformer centers around a humanoid robot named Mega Man, who was created by two scientists named Dr. Wright and Dr. Wily. When Dr. Wily takes six of his other robots to assist him in his plans to take over the world, Dr. Wright tells Mega Man to go destroy the other robots.

The game, which was one of the first to feature a non-linear level style option, became wildly popular, eventually spinning off into a U.S. cartoon show in the ’90s. However, North American sales were quite low after its initial release thanks to poorly designed art on the box, which made Mega Man look like a 40-year-old crackhead with a handgun instead of a cannon for an arm.


8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game – If you visited a Chuck E. Cheese in the 1990s, you undoubtedly played this game. Riding on the popularity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television franchise, Nintendo’s second try at making a TMNT game turned into overnight gold. This side-scrolling fighter, which was the first to feature product placement thanks to Pizza Hut, centered around the four mutant reptiles as they attempt to save their friend April O’Neil and their rat mentor Splinter, who have been kidnapped by the evil Shredder. Along the way, you must battle a variety of bosses and the much easier Foot Soldiers.

The second TMNT game, which was released in 1990, improves greatly from the first one, with better graphics, movement controls and fighting combos.

7. Pac-Man – Originally an arcade game made in 1980, the hungry yellow circle made his way to NES in 1984 along with Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde, his ghost enemies.

Pac-Man was immensely popular from the get-go, but bringing the arcade game home vaulted the title to a whole other platform of popularity, and it is still considered one of the most recognizable titles ever.

6. Excitebike – A launch title for the NES in 1985, Excitebike was one of the first racing games ever. The game included three modes of gameplay¾ a solo race play, human vs. CPU play and a design mode, where the players could build their own tracks and obstacles to race on.

Excitebike lived up to its name, providing exciting gameplay and revolutionizing racing games and becoming one of the first games to allow saves, although this feature was available only with technology sold in Japan that allowed saves to cassettes¾ essentially the first memory card.

5. Donkey Kong – Originally released in 1981 as an arcade game, this classic game introduced two characters that would turn the video game industry upside down¾ a plumber named Mario and a giant ape named Donkey Kong.

In this game, Mario (originally called Jumpman) is supposed to climb up ladders and jump over barrels thrown by Donkey Kong to save a damsel in distress (though not a Princess). Both the main characters were spun off into multiple sequels, including the popular Super Mario Bros. series and Donkey Kong Country.

4. Tetris – In the 1980s, there weren’t exactly a ton of Russian exports hitting U.S. soil. Oh sure, there was Dolph Lundgren… but for some reason Americans didn’t seem to trust anything Soviet in the ’80s. However, there was one major Russian export that seemed to catch America by storm: Tetris.

This 1984 puzzle game, created by Moscow-native Alexey Pajitnov, is based on a type of puzzle called a polyomino, more specifically a tetromino. A tetromino is any shape made up of four cubes, and the goal of the game was the fit these tetrominoes together in such a way that an entire line across the screen would be filled up. Once the line filled, it deleted itself, which added to the complexity of the puzzle. Despite its simplicity, the game placed second on IGN’s 100 greatest video games of all-time and is one of the most replicated games in the world. Almost every gaming system has Tetris or a variant to it.

3. Super Mario Bros. 3 – The third game in the Super Mario Bros. series has to fit in the third spot. Despite having improved graphics, plot and gameplay over its predecessors, it is still not the original.

In the third SMB, there are a few new features. For instance, Mario can FLY! No kidding. An unlockable suit in the game allows Mario to completely fly through an entire level. Rather than a linear style, the game follows a fairly non-linear map style which allows gamers the ability to play some levels out of order or completely skip some, if they choose. The game is also known for having secrets, including hidden whistles which allow you to warp to different locations in the game.

The third Super Mario game, complete with water and cloud levels, adds a whole other level of depth from the first game and makes up for the disappointing Super Mario Bros. 2.

2. The Legend of Zelda – Nowadays, the original 1987 Legend of Zelda game doesn’t pack the wallop of the Nintendo 64 version, but at the time it was one of the deepest and most innovative games of its time.

The Legend of Zelda’s free-roaming style, which inspired several of today’s genres such as adventure, actions, RPG and puzzle games, was revolutionary at a time when linear side-scrolling games were the biggest thing around.

It was one of the first games to introduce multiple useable items for a character, including the boomerang and a magic flute, and the ability to save. It also became the first game to sell over 1 million copies, selling more than 6.5 million, and is the fourth highest selling game for the system, following the Super Mario series.

1. Super Mario Bros. – Let’s face it, if it weren’t for this game, video games would be nothing like they are today. They might not even be around anymore.

The original Super Mario Bros. was the best-selling video game for more 24 years, before Wii Sports took over the top spot in 2009. Few realize, however, that it is not the original Mario game. Following Donkey Kong, Mario and his brother Luigi were featured in a 1983 arcade game called “Mario Bros.” In this version, players must flip enemies on their back before jumping on them, which is most easily done by using the “POW” block. A version of this game is playable on Super Mario Bros. 3.

However, no platform game has ever stood up to what Super Mario Bros. has done, and the characters have become the faces of Nintendo.