10 Best Nintendo Black Box Games
The Black Box series of NES games was an important part of videogame history, which is why we chose to do a 10 Best Nintendo Black Box list. These games were proto-games, simple arcade classics that didn't benefit from long stories or even full development teams. Their premises were simple, selling themselves not on hype, but on gameplay. All that you needed to know was the game's title and that was enough to know you were getting quality. The sprites on these games tell a story of the evolution of gaming, from simple distractions to grand works of interactive media. Before we had Metroid or Mega Man, we had these 10 Best Nintendo Black Box gaming gems.
Many of you may be surprised to see Popeye on our 10 Best Nintendo Black Box list, but there is a good reason for that. Popeye (the character, not the game), was the original inspiration for Donkey Kong, which later gave birth to Mario, who shaped gaming as we know it. This was the game that was made instead of Donkey Kong to be the official Popeye title. Imagine, if things were just a little bit different, this could have been the game that we all remember as the progenitor of the console gaming business.
Sports games weren’t all that common in the days of the NES. They certainly weren’t put out on a yearly basis as they are now. Back then, people were just learning how to start programming A.I.s and figuring out how to simulate the rules of America’s favorite sport. 10 Yard Fight was one of the first solid football games to his the NES. It actually had more in common with a squad strategy game than a football game, and it was one of the only sports games to keep an arcade score total separate from the actual game’s score, but it was still a whole lot of fun for football fans and nerds who have never touched a pigskin.
Ice Climbers normally wouldn’t have made it on this list if it weren’t for a tiny game called Smash Bros. Melee. The introduction of the Ice Climbers to a new generation made their simple vertical platforming game a curiosity to a new generation of gamers. As a result, the game sold quite well on the virtual console and is now remembered fondly by Nintendo fans everywhere. Where was this game before it hit the VC? That’s right, the Nintendo Black Box collection.
Urban Champion may be one of the first examples of the beat 'em up genre. More than that, it was also one of the closest things that we had to a fighting game in the NES era. Urban Champion was also quite rare, being hard to find in the early days of the NES and even harder to find if you are a collector. It’s a simple game with simple controls that fans remember fondly. Perhaps that’s why we have so frequently seen Urban Champion mini-games in the Warioware series.
Speaking of the beat em up genre, Kung Fu was the beat 'em up every NES fan remembers. This game had real strategy to it, as enemies came at you from all sides. Did you try to outrun the enemies, only turning around to punch and kick them in groups? Or did you mercilessly slaughter each one as you made your way toward rescuing your girlfriend? May fans can still recognize this game by its digitized HOOs and HAAs.
Excitebike was one of the first racing games we saw on the NES. Though essentially 2D and giving you control only over your speed and tilt, this game required some serious strategy to master. It was, essentially, the predecessor to physics based motorcycle puzzlers like Trials Evolution. It was also one of the first racing games to include a track creator. And it deserves to be on the 10 Best Nintendo Black Box list.
Sure, Balloon Fight is just a Joust clone, but it’s an amazing Joust clone. It had awesome music, multiplayer gameplay, a survival mode which was incredibly difficult, and tons of other bonuses that the original Joust didn’t have. You either liked this game for the challenge, attempting to go as far as you can through the game’s many floating islands, or you just popped your friends’ balloons for the lols and fed them to the giant fish.
It all started here. Donkey Kong, the most memorable arcade game since Pac-Man. Donkey Kong introduced us to Mario, to basic platforming, to power-ups, and more. We loved this game in the arcade, and we loved it even more on the NES. Though it only had three stages compared to the arcade's four, we played them over and over and over again trying to master them beyond anything our friends could accomplish. The rules of the high score board was the ruler of the game. It’s a shame high scores didn’t stick around when you turned the game off.
Duck Hunt popularized light gun games on the NES. It could be said that it popularized peripherals in general for the NES. Though it never became a franchise, this was a game that nearly everyone had if they owned an original Nintendo Entertainment System. Everyone remembers the laughing dog, the red ducks, and the unwinnable final stages. Murdering ducks has never been this much fun. (Note: We at Arcade Sushi do not support Duck Murder… unless it’s digital… then go for it.)
Of course, our number one Nintendo Black Box game has to be Super Mario Bros. This game just has so much going for it. It essentially created the modern day platformer genre. It canonized several of Mario’s power-ups. It gave us Mario’s first conflict with Bowser. It gave us the wonderful line, “Your princess is in another castle.” But more than anything else, Super Mario Bros. deserves the top slot on this list because it is still being played today, not just on emulators, not just on virtual console, but on real NES systems. Many people find old NESes or even build their own just for the ability to play this one simple platforming game. Long live Mario.