wenty years after the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the GameSpot editors took a look back at the console that shaped gaming, in our feature Flashback NES.
As part of that experience, we asked our readers to submit their own nominations for their favorite NES games of all time. Nearly 12,000 votes were tallied to get these results, and thousands of submissions were read. Many readers cited excellent soundtracks on several games, claiming that the music was still ingrained in their memories. Other readers loved being able to play games with their friends and family and mentioned that in some instances, members of their families, such as their parents, enjoyed playing these games as much as they did. Quite a few people felt that the nature of their submission was so obvious that little needed to be said in defense of their choice.
If one thing can be said of NES games, it's that people are quite passionate about them. We've included excerpts from many of the submissions to help explain why the readers feel the way they do. What follows is an ordered list from 10 to 1 of the readers' top 10 NES games of all time.
If you want to just straight to the part where you sound off about the choices, feel free to jump right over to the comments section of our Honorable Mentions page Thanks for contributing, and enjoy!
10. Ninja Gaiden
Release Date: 1989
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Paul "Wallace" Esch
While a great deal of wonderful titles were authored for the NES, Ninja Gaiden stands out independent of the herd. Its perfect control, challenging game play, inspired level design, melodic score, and fun factor are reason enough to call it "the finest"! However, its ability to offer a complete gaming experience attached to a story that gave meaning to the action via a kind of artistic intrigue called the "cinema" gives it a special place in gaming history. Tecmo had composed an action masterpiece that few games can match, yet it's still playable even today.
Ninja Gaiden (1) was the greatest Nintendo Game because it had incredible visuals, play control, and replay value. I remember this game being the hardest Nintendo game ever because I couldn't get past the "Jaquio" for the life of me. I'd stay up all night if I had to. It was the perfect combination: Nintendo + Ninja's (which in the '80s went together like bread & butter). Pure fun! I'm still impressed when I see those old cut-scenes. The sequel showed lots more gore, but it was the story that gripped me as a tyke. I've played the hell out of this game to the point where I can do it w/o losing a single life. And in today's high res world, I still go back to my 8-bit masterpiece. They don't make 'em like this anymore.
Seriously surprised this didn't make it in [GameSpot's] top10. Incredibly fast paced and responsive for a side scrolling platformer. Everything was quick from your movement to your sword swipe to your jump. Many useful techniques to master such as climbing walls by flipping up and latching on again real fast. The ninja skills were all useful even the basic shuriken if you were a good shot. Wonderful level variation and design fantastic musical score and engrossing plot. The difficulty level was very hard but through practice you can really master the game. The second game in the series was excellent as well. Top notch.
9. Duck Hunt
Release Date: Oct 15, 1985
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You know video games can be quite influential on a young mind. Which is why Mr. Peepers' (the dog) constant mockery and ridicule for coming up short on the duck hunt drove me to push myself harder in life. Now whenever I'm presented with a choice regarding success vs. failure I just ask myself what would Mr. Peepers do I failed? He would probably laugh... And you don't want Mr. Peepers laughing at you.
David "Beyorkin" Newton
Duck Hunt appealS (as in currently) to one of the most basic human instincts - the need to hunt. This game succeeds at providing satisfaction without intense graphics or a fancy physics engine but with a single immersing controller.
I never had my own NES but remember playing the NES at friends houses. Sometimes I would want to sit and play their NES for hours. They were never too happy about this. But the only game I ever remember LOVING to play was Duck Hunt. I was amazed to see the ducks fall from the sky when I pointed the gun at them and shot. Maybe I loved it so much because I never fully understood how it worked.
Do you hunt like a blind man? Do you end up shooting your friend in the face when you go quail hunting? Does your friends make fun of you for your horrible accuracy? Well we've I've got an answer for you DUCK HUNT. I guarantee that you will kill at least 5 helpless little *digital* birds. And if you still suck just get closer to the screen. In no time your friends will hail you as the reason for digital duck exstinction.
Release Date: August 1986
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Metroid has not aged as well as some of its classic contemporaries in terms of playability, but its legacy has aged far better than most. The game was utterly revolutionary, introducing the non-linear platformer style that has carried the series for decades through such fundamental changes as a shift to first-person. The solitary, even melancholy, sci-fi tone of the game also stood in sharp contrast to the popcorn-flick sci-fi of most games of the era. And to this day, I do not believe there is a more badass female protagonist than Samus Aran.
One of the few games where you can spend an entire month playing a game and finally discover a new item without any help from guides or maps and realize how utterly worthless it is (Wave Beam anyone? :p). It was also the first "scary" game on the NES and was just damn fun.
While I wasn't born yet when the NES came out, by the time I was 5 they had dropped in price enough that my family's income could afford one. One of the great games we got at the yard sale we found the NES at was Metroid (and I still own that same cartridge). I remember being in my room playing the game till well past midnight, getting jumped from the birds coming down at me from the ceiling and almost yelling when I found I needed a new powerup to open the next door. I have rarely had an in depth experience like that, even with epics like Star Ocean or Xenosaga.
To quote Chris from Family Guy "You're a girl!!" Who knew girls could be so much fun? This game got the ball rolling for a series that is nothing short of amazing. Even though we have the fancy "first person adventure" versions of Metroid games now, nearly everyone still enjoys taking a trip back to the good ol' days. Nonlinear gameplay, multiple endings, vast world to explore, these are things that some video games still can't get right today, and that is why Metroid is THE best NES game of all time. Besides, who hasn't had a dream about Samus?
7.Mega Man 2
Release Date: Dec 24, 1988
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EVERYONE loves this game, and everyone has a different progression of how you beat the bosses. It has the best music ever. And when you jump through a door, Megaman freezes in the air 15 years before the Matrix!
This game presented the best graphics and sound seen on a home TV set at the time. It was so awe inspiring I did not even mind handing over the controller to my brother--watching someone else play was as much fun. And how can you forget the chills you would get when you finally reached the level boss, the music turning sinister and you had only a vague sense of what he would do based on his name. I also remember almost falling off my chair when I saw the giant dragon on the first level of Wily's HQ. The game is breathtaking!
Mark "Shleco" Mina
Tougher than adamantium dipped in concrete, Megaman 2 was a heck of a challenge, but it had that all important 'one more go' factor. The varied levels and bosses were a real test of your brain and your skills - which order should you tackle them in? It's not often you get a sequel which is far better than the original, but Megaman 2 manages just that. Excellent.
Metal Man's stage is the epitome of what is good about the game: variety. The stage doesn't even begin with any enemies. Conveyer-belt floors and crashing spikes familiarize the user with the game play and how our little blue hero moves. Then he moves over the drills coming out of the ground and ceiling. Gear Clowns come crashing down to run you over, and the metal slinkies pop up to knock you off the platforms. As Metal Man begins firing at you, your heart races and you just hope that you can shoot him faster than he can tear you apart.
6. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!
Release Date: 1987
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The main reason I find this as the best NES game of all time is mainly because this was the very first game I played and mastered. As a 5-year-old, I learned a lot of things from this game. I learned Timing, Quick-Reflexes, and how to chuck your controller at your wall. I love this game very much; the music, stereotyped boxers, the boxart, and of course the fact that I'm one of the few people I know that KO'd Mike Tyson and to have him later tell me that I have great finger speed. This game has to be one of the best games of all time, not to mention one of the most difficult I played to date. Glass Joe, Bald Bull, Piston Honda, Mr. Sandman, Soda Popinski, Super Macho Man, and of course Little Mac should all be names every American teenage kid should grow up with as a start to video gaming.
It captures the essence of a good boxing game, with memorable characters and one hell of a control! One of the few games you can still pick up and play even today with a smile on your face.
I believe that Mike Tyson's Punch-Out is the best NES game of all time for many reasons. Beating Mike Tyson was only half of the fun. Getting to him by beating every other boxer was what completed the greatness. I liked the fact that every boxer had their own flurry of special punches and their weakness was exploited if they were dodged, blocked, or punched in the middle of their special attack. To make a long story short, this game was truly awesome from start to finish.
Release Date: February 1988
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Classic, awesome, awe-inspiring; these are just three words to describe Contra. Contra was just one of those games that was so short, but you can just play as many times as you want and you'd never get tired of it. It's also one of those games where you can never beat it without a cheat. Of course, the enemies are never-ending and you'd always wonder why those running aliens never run out, but that's the fun of it. Whether it was by yourself or with a friend, Contra remains a classic as, in my opinion, the best co-op game there is.
I can't even describe how devoted I was to the sublime gameplay of Contra. I would always go to my friend's house and just play the game by myself. Yeah, sometimes I'd use the code, but I generally just went ahead with the standard 3 lives I was given. And I just wouldn't lose a life at all throughout the game. There was nothing better than getting the Spread Gun in the first level and keeping it throughout the rest of the game. I feel beating this game without losing any lives is one of my greatest accomplishments in gaming.
I am from China, and the game Contra was ABSOLUTELY known by every teenager in late 1980s and early 1990s. My friends and I would spend days together trying to break the game without sacrificing a single life, which was pretty hard at that time. I still remember that I was the first guy in my town to beat the game with only 1 life. The soundtrack and music of the game was unmatched, and the story was so amazing that we just kept beating the game again and again using different weapons. I succeeded in beating the game with the plain rifle provided at the very beginning of the game, or with any one of the B, F, L, and S bombs. It was just so amazing at that time and definitely the greatest game of NES...
4. Final Fantasy
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: Jul 12, 1990
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As a 6th grader captivated with mythology and legend, Final Fantasy opened new doors for my imagination. I'll always remember that summer - putting myself in the shoes of those four adventurers. Perhaps I love it for nostalgia, but look at what the game has done for RPG's in the nearly two decades since its release in Japan! The original Dragon Warrior may have come first, but I'll never forget the first preview of Final Fantasy I read in Nintendo Power. Any game where you can travel in a canoe has GOT to be good. And let's not forget the oh-so-astounding fact that the game, like so many brilliant works of literature, comes completely full-circle! Ah, the memories.
The defining quality of the Final Fantasy series has always been its storyline. Featuring one of the most complex text-based stories of its time, Final Fantasy outdid the story of Dragon Quest, which featured the traditional plot of saving the Princess from the evil villain. Of course, the complexity of the story was nothing compared to later games, but the ambitious groundwork laid by the young Square.
The story line is as follows: "The Earth is dying. Four warriors known as the majestic Light Warriors are prophesized to arrive, each with a special power to renew the world." Final Fantasy features a memorable cast of characters, who also set future guidelines for characters who appeared later in the series. Although character development is non-existent in this incarnation of the series, the characters also lack individual personalities, being identified only as their "class" or their job in battle. We have the Fighter, the Black Belt, the Thief, the Red Mage, and other character types that are either playable or non-playable character types.
Final Fantasy was more than revolutionary in the role-playing genre. Being the first game to feature enemies on the left and player characters on the right, the game also popularized turn-based battles. Much would still be developed in coming years, including the changing of certain aspects of the battle system: magic points aren't used yet, and the Active Time Battle system was yet to be implemented. Final Fantasy I was released in the USA in June of 1990, almost 3 years after it was released in Japan. By the time Final Fantasy I had been released in the US, Final Fantasy III had already been released in Japan. Nintendo, however, localized the game and published it in the United States where it actually sold more copies than in Japan!
Even though the success of this title was unprecedented for this type of game in the US, the sequels on the NES were never released in the states. This game practically created the RPG genre in the United States; its importance to the development of the genre is quite influential.
3. Super Mario Bros.
Release Date: October 1985
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Definitely the beginning of the video game era. When I was three, my uncle would come home from work and play this, and I learned every thing I know from that game. Hell, I learned how to count to 100 on that game.
Just remembering my mom play it is what stands out in my memory. Seeing how when she jump or ran with Mario and somehow thought that by moving the controller up left or right would help jump further or run faster is the funniest and best memory of mother and son sharing a hobby. Then she would hog the game up :(
Super Mario Brothers not only gave me hours of fun gameplay as a child growing up, but still gives me this same feeling of pleasure today. Although I can beat the game in about 10 minutes now that I'm older, it's a feat worth accomplishing at college parties that can still get people to be in awe. Not only for beating the game so fast, but the fact that I still own it. :)
Super Mario encapsulates everything that is still great about video games: music, characters, side scrolling, EVERYTHING. The NES IS the reason the industry is where it is today. Yes, Atari, Coleco, etc, were around first, but the NES marked the start of a widely marketed and successful system. They took it to the next level, and Mario was there the whole ride.
2. The Legend of Zelda
Release Date: Aug 22, 1987
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While my heart is with Mario, I have to crown The Legend of Zelda as the best overall game of the NES era. It had a depth and complexity you didn't expect in a game back then, mixed with a solid challenge and memorable sound and music. Just seeing the origins of one of gaming's greatest series is a thrill for old fans like me.
Everything from the distinctive theme to the heart-beat bleep of Link's declining health, everything about this game is etched on my memory and my heart. The fiendish dungeons and unrelenting jigsaw aesthetic still bring grudging admiration today. The hideous boss creations surpass almost all such attempts today, and without them we wouldn't have Shadow of the Colossus or God of War. Gaming would still be sitting in its own gene pool. Emotion in gaming would be nonexistent. It spawned the greatest series of all time. Enough said?
Why is this the best NES game? Why not, it had a large free roaming environment, interesting and unique characters...and GREAT BOSSES! This game was the first which demanded to be beaten. You couldn't just run through a few levels, you had to save the Princess, and this time she wasn't always in another castle!
I am 25 years old, and I still play both quests every 2 years or so. I wake up thinking about Zelda some mornings. The game is so open ended that you can make your own rules and challenges. Like only using the wooden sword or no sword at all and getting all the way to Ganon. (It can be done with time and lots of bombs). Or trying to beat it without anything that you don't absolutely need to solve the game. I just can't stop smoking that Zelda Crack. I seriously want to name my children Link and Zelda.
1. Super Mario Bros. 3
Release Date: Feb 12, 1990
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Not only is it a blast and a challenge, but it's also fun with a friend - something that my other choice (Zelda) doesn't have...although you can make a drinking game out of anything with your friends nowadays, multiplayer or not. Anyways, it's a timeless classic that anybody who plays will not only fall in love with but will also remember fondly.
I never actually had an NES, but my neighbor did, and I'd spend most of my free time at his place. When he got the game, it was the only one we'd play! It kept us entertained for hours on end, even after we'd finished it for the umpteenth time. I see it as platforming gameplay in its purest form--Nintendo had really outdone themselves with this game. The music and graphics simply blew me away. I'm 19, and I still play it to this day (at a friend's place).
This game was the best game that ever came out on the NES. It is a masterpiece that always remains entertaining and is very long. It is fun, colorful, and even has two-player opportunities! You can play a two-player (not co-op but still fun) game with another friend and that even furthers what this game is capable of entertainment-wise. It is the best NES game around, and it was so much fun that I think I'll go play it now. (Yes, it is still that fun!)
SMB3 is a superior example of a work of art in entertainment. Who as a kid growing up in the NES age didn't play this game through at least a couple dozen times? I can still hum the tune and remember the levels. A hundred years from now, this game will still have relevance and entertainment value. There are few games one can go back to and truly enjoy--SMB3 will live on forever as one of them.
Bionic Commando was unique. It was the best NES game for me because it was in this game that I found my gamer's niche. When my friends came over, I could show off my effortless swinging and chuckle as they fumbled with the buttons trying to find a way to jump. Initially, the game frustrated me, but I held on, waded through humiliating failures, and eventually learned how to finesse the grappling hook and time my swings to give me some thrilling aerial lifts that let my imagination soar. It rewarded your efforts with surprising story developments and some cool weapon upgrades. Here's hoping the game will be remade in its tried-and-true side scrolling style.
The labyrinthine and diverse maps could prove frustrating at times, but smooth gameplay, rewarding exploration, and an ubergadgety tank make this an addicting title. No other game matched the same level of satisfaction when finally seeing the ending credits.
Crystalis is an incredible game with graphics and sound ahead of its time. It has a swordsman that uses 4 elemental swords, monsters ranging from vampires to giant bugs, an evil empire, and a floating tower. The storyline is simple, with its 'save the world' mentality, but complex and serious, with its plot twists and character deaths. Crystalis is a decent challenge, which makes the game very entertaining. It is also not a very long game, so players will find themselves playing the game more than once. Crystalis is an action RPG you can not miss.
This game was tough but not like the typical "I have no idea what I am supposed to do here" tough. It was all about hand/eye coordination. EXCELLENT music, addictive gameplay, excellent graphics (for its time), and smooth playability make this game a 10 in my book. Life Force is probably the most memorable game from that era.
"The president has been kidnapped by ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to get him back?" That's either pure genius or completely stupid. I'm not sure.
Have you already voted but will never tire of talking about the NES? Did you not get a chance to vote but want to sound off about your own favorites? Feel free to talk about the GameSpot's Top Ten list, the Readers' Choice Top Ten list or anything NES right here.