Narrowing this list down to the 25 Best NES Games was no easy task. The Nintendo Entertainment System is a legendary piece of hardware, one that inspired the imaginations of millions and helped reinvigorate a floundering industry. While most gamers have moved on to bigger hard drives and better graphics, there's still plenty of great NES games from yesteryear that any gamer, young or old, pro or noob, can play and enjoy. So sit back and check out this list of the 25 Best NES Games.
Ducktales — woo hoo! Part of a massive '80s/'90s franchise based on the Carl Barks comic of the same name, Ducktales for the NES is a perfect storm of gaming: animated characters, varied locales, responsive gameplay, and great music. For many gamers, one of their earliest memories of gaming is the first time they popped in Ducktales and found themselves at the level select screen. The Amazon? The Moon?! With so many fun levels to pick between, how was a kid supposed to choose?
Before Squaresoft and Enix were Square Enix, there was a little game called Dragon Warrior. It's an RPG with graphics about as simple as they come. Spells and attacks don't even really have animation, enemy sprites just flash to indicate what happened. Even though the graphics were small, the adventure is big. You have an entire kingdom to explore, dungeons to crawl, and spells to master, all while constantly checking back in with the king for level ups and his kingly approval. Know what the king would approve of? Dragon Warrior being on our 25 Best NES Games list.
A two-player beat 'em up with surprising depth and a sense of humor was hard to find in the '80s. How many games let you and a friend team up to beat up thugs whose death cry was "barf?" You'll face off against gangs with names like "The Generic Guys," and, "The Squids." You'll learn new moves and level up attributes, both of which were unusual gameplay features in action games of that era. Though the game wasn't an initial success, River City Ransom is, today, considered quite the cult classic due to its quirky, but surprisingly deep gameplay and sense of fun.
Starring Michael Biehn as Solid Snake, Metal Gear is a top-down game of tactical espionage action. Avoiding guards, acquiring equipment, and not getting mauled by dogs are your primary goals, along with defeating a walking nuclear battle tank, codename ... Metal Gear. Though the first entry in the legendary Metal Gear Solid series is quite different from its contemporaries due to the graphical limitations of the time, it still has the same deliciously tense fun of playing as a secret agent and sneaking around an enemy base.
For a young baseball fan, Baseball Stars was a home run of pure sweetness. The game came equipped with a surprisingly robust memory, allowing for custom teams and players, stat tracking, and some light role-playing elements like having your team "level up" by earning fame and money. Fortunately, the game wasn't just a glorified fantasy baseball stat tracker -- the actual gameplay was a blast, too.
Few games have induced as much controller-smashing rage as Battletoads. First of all, it’s a co-op beat ‘em up, but you can hit your partner, costing your team lives and dragging everyone down. Secondly, the game is hard. Like, really, really hard. In fact, it’s known as one of the hardest games of all time. Seriously, just look up Battletoads hoverbike level on Youtube and watch that insanity. So why did people play such a brutal game? Because it was brutally fun, too, with animations so lively you couldn’t help but laugh whenever your partner accidentally wrecking balls your butt right off a cliff.
There’s a debate that’s existed on the internet since before time began: which are better, ninjas or pirates? If Ninja Gaiden is any indication of what being a ninja is like, I’m going with them. In it you play as Ryu Hayabusa, jumping, slashing, and ninpo-magicking your way across several levels in order to rescue your girlfriend and prove what a badass ninja machine you are. The game utilized anime-esque cutscenes, providing a thrillingly cinematic experience that was unusual for the time. It’s also hard as balls, with some cheap enemy and trap placement and boss fights so unforgiving you’d think you were in actual ninja training.
Tecmo Bowl is a fast and furious football frenzy, something which easily secured its spot here on the list of 25 Best NES Games. The sports strategy elements are somewhat pared down compared to the games of today, but this seemingly simple game had a surprising amount of depth to it. Plus, Tecmo was unable to get the NFL license for the game, but it did feature player rosters representative of the teams. So, in choosing Los Angeles, you’d get Bo Jackson, Chicago, you’d get Walter Payton, and so on. I have no idea who these guys are, but Tecmo Bowl/NFL fans sure as heck do, and getting to play as them in such a fast-paced game was a treat.
R.C. Pro-AM was the precursor to the modern kart-style racing game. In it, you control a remote controlled toy car and whiz around a track, grabbing power ups and trying to outmaneuver the other racers. The controls were kept simple, and as a result more young gamers were able to pick it up and race with the big boys.
Rescue the princess? Bah! Young hero Jason is out to rescue Fred, his pet frog, and does so using a battle tank named Sophia the 3rd. Blaster Master’s gameplay splits between two distinct types of levels: 2D platforming sections where you primarily control Sophia the 3rd, and top-down sections where you run and gun as Jason. In addition to the cute take on the typical, “damsel in distress” story, Blaster Master’s sharp graphics, varied gameplay and memorable music help seal it as a classic, deserving its place on our list of the 25 Best NES Games.