N-Europe's Top Ten NES Games
Posted 07 Apr 2019 at 13:20 by Glen O'Brien
Gaming lists tend to be subjective. What may be the pinnacle of gaming for one person might not even be considered by someone else. I mean, I guess the fairest way of making a list would be some kind of voting process. A people’s vote, if you would. And with that forced political reference out of the way, I’ll be asking the members of the N-Europe forums to nominate and vote for games on a wide variety of Nintendo consoles and over the next few months, we’ll find out what games are the pinnacles of Nintendo’s library. And we’ll be starting with the NES.
The Nintendo Entertainment System is easily one of the most important consoles in the history of gaming. Originally known as the Family Computer in Japan, the NES was the biggest factor in repairing the damage that the 1983 North American Video Game Crash caused. This console kick started some of the most famous franchises that gaming enjoys these days, so it certainly is no small task to narrow its extensive library down to ten games. But that’s what we did anyway. We’ve even got some comments on what makes these games so great from members of the forums who voted for them.
The NES certainly had its fair share of arcade ports over its life, but out of all of them, Bubble Bobble was one of only two games that made it to our illustrious Top 10. Our heroes, Bub and Bob, have had their girlfriends kidnapped and been transformed into adorable dragons that spit out bubbles. Instead of realising that this is totally awesome, they decide to go break the curse by traversing through 100 monster infested levels using their bubble powers.
Bubble Bobble is one of the earliest examples of a game with multiple endings. It also has some solid co-operative gameplay and an annoyingly catchy soundtrack. Seriously, it’s stuck in my head for the rest of my life and I can’t get rid of it!
“Pure arcade style FUN. Getting the parasol and watching you zoom past half a dozen levels felt magical at the time.” – Ronnie
“It’s one of those “ok, one last level!” games and the music is superb. The co-op was also excellent, especially during its time. Would love those little dragons to be playable in Smash!” – markderoos
Known as Mother over in Japan, EarthBound Beginnings stands out in this top 10 in that it never released over here originally. Europe would have to wait almost 26 years for this game to be officially released when it arrived on the WiiU Virtual Console in 2015. The game is notable for its remarkably complex story, something almost unheard of from games at the time. That’s probably thanks to essayist and voice actor Shigesato Itoi’s remarkable input.
The player’s job is to guide subtly named Ninten through Eagleland in a journey to discover the source of strange paranormal occurrences happening throughout the country. The game is heavily inspired by fellow NES RPG, Dragon Quest. However, EarthBound Beginnings bucks traditional RPG tropes by being set in a more modern urban setting, wielding bats instead of swords and utilising psychic abilities instead of casting magic.
EarthBound Beginnings may not have been the biggest seller, but it was the game that would start a series that would cement itself as a cult hit, even if we did get it really late.
“Without delving into the realm of spoilers (as the statute of limitations probably hasn't worn off yet!), it offers a contemporary and yet surprising tale that will be enrapture and encapsulate your inner child; A motherly story that will bring some tears to even the most manly of eyes. All the more fitting that The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening should be getting a remake this year; as it owes a hell of a lot of inspiration to Earthbound Beginnings.
Its gameplay is of its day, but like the best Dragon Quest games that inspired it, it strikes just the right balance of gameplay mechanics, set pieces, dungeon design and difficulty to drive the gameplay forward; but it is perhaps its utterly bizarre sense of humour and gravitas that is its biggest draw. Put down your copies of Undertale and Pokémon and discover their primordial inspiration! (Besides, your Wii U is feeling a bit lonely and could do with some company anyway).” – Dcubed
Video Game tie-ins with other media tend to not be so great, but Capcom’s range of Disney games continually defied that trend and DuckTales is by far their best example. Tasked with guiding Scrooge McDuck around the globe (and space) in order to find treasure and become the world’s richest duck. The game sports non-linear progression, tight controls, hidden treasure to find and multiple endings based on your performance. DuckTales remains one of the most beloved games on the NES.
“From a time when Disney games were good in quality & hard in difficulty. The pogo stick felt fresh & was fun to use, while the music was so good that nearly 20 years later, they recently used one of the tracks in a recent episode while giving it lyrics!” – WackerJr
One of the strangest entries in the Mario franchise, Super Mario Bros. 2 started life as a game that had nothing to do with Mario at all. Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic was a game that tied in to Fuji Television’s expo. The characters in the original game reflected the expo and Nintendo naturally came to the conclusion that it would fly over the heads of the Western audience and changed the aesthetics to fit closer to the Mario series. Suffice to say, it was a good decision, as Super Mario Bros. 2 was a massive success.
While it definitely plays differently from your average Mario game, this game would have a big influence on future Mario games, with its multiple playable characters with different abilities, improvised weapons to pick up and throw and some enemies that would become mainstays of the series. Super Mario Bros. 2 remains an absolute dream to play, even if it caused me to make that horrendous pun.
“Wart > Bowser” – markderoos
Our second arcade title is a charmingly simple game of endless replayability. Balloon Fight provides two modes to waste your time with. The main mode where you (and a friend) can work together to pop a never ending supply of avian menace’s balloons to go for that high score, or fight each other and ruin your friendship, that’s just as fun!
As well as that, you can go on a Balloon Trip and see how long you can survive before you inevitably end up in the drink. Balloon Fight boasts unique gameplay with easy-to-learn controls and pick-up-and-play goodness.
“A simple game that controls beautifully offers an impressive representation of physics and hides a substantial amount of depth. 35 years on and Balloon Fight is just as entertaining, addictive and infinitely replayable. A testament to the legendary Satoru Iwata, his programming genius, sense of fun and love of video games.” – RedShell
“Iwata San's masterpiece. I love sticking this game on every so often just to see how far I can make it in Balloon Trip before inevitably dying. Perfectly encapsulates early Nintendo, fun to pick up and play, difficult to master.” – Nicktendo
No-one can deny that Super Mario Bros. is the most famous game on the NES. No, wait. It’s safe to say that Super Mario Bros. is one of the most famous games ever. It’s the game that made Mario a household name, popularised the side-scrolling platformer and helped to make the NES the sales juggernaut it would become.
From the impeccable controls, the amazing music to the expertly crafted level design, Super Mario Bros. would go on to define a whole genre of games. Seriously, you can’t call yourself a gaming enthusiast unless you’ve played this game. So go play it now. This article will still be here when you get back.
“Most of the platformers that came before controlled like arse, with awkward running, stilted jumps, weird hitboxes and stiff movement in general. Super Mario Bros. actually controls fluidly, like an extension of yourself. Mario can both walk and run, and running has traction (which is why landing on a single block is so terrifying), his jumps' height can be controlled and have a natural feel to them (he rises slower than he falls, which feels intuitive) and you can even play with the environment, what with smashing blocks and turning enemies into turtle shells that you can then slide around and use as a weapon. In some ways, this was the closest anyone had ever gotten at producing a virtual sandbox (if I may be so bold) to play in.” – Jonnas
“Without this game, gaming as a whole may not have evolved into the form it is today.” – GenericAperson
A rare example of a sequel to a Game Boy game coming out on the NES, Kirby’s Adventure continues the concept of a platformer game that provides an easier challenge than what most NES games were known for. Despite this, Kirby’s NES outing has deceptively deep gameplay thanks to the introduction of Kirby’s trademark copy ability, allowing the pink circle access to a huge variety of abilities to tackle the game with.
Kirby’s Adventure oozes charm and gameplay unlike anything else on the NES and only the coldest of hearts would not smile while playing this utter gem.
“What is regarded as one of the better Kirby games, and I can't disagree. No time limit to complete the level, exploration of each level, and a variety of powers to help (or hinder) your chances of clearing each level. The little ending game to get to the "1" spot is wonderful.” – Jimbob
Don’t let the dodgy box art fool you (No, seriously, why is Mega Man holding a pistol?), Mega Man 2 absolutely earns its status as best NES game from Capcom. After the disappointing reception of the first game, Capcom pulled out all the stops with its sequel and it resulted in a masterpiece of game design. A wide variety of weapons that you can blatantly steal off of Dr. Wily’s Robot Masters provide you with all sorts of ways to get yourself out of trouble.
Honestly, my favourite thing about this game is its rocking soundtrack! It’s so good that composers positively tripped over themselves to get a chance to remix them for the fourth Smash Bros. game. The Blue Bomber will forever be a glorious part of the NES’s history thanks to this game.
“Second Mega Man is best Mega Man. Why? Improved on EVERYTHING from the first and has the GOAT video game soundtrack” - Nicktendo
“I feel like I gush a lot when it comes to MM2, but I suppose, what puts Mega Man 2 above Super Mario Bros., is that Mega Man 2 feels like the properly realized potential of the 2D platformer. It's a near-perfect game, and it manages to achieve this by providing the player with every fun idea it can muster, wrapped up in a simple-yet-effective progression system, and accompanied by clever level design. None of these aspects are easy to accomplish, and yet, Mega Man 2 passes with flying colours.” – Jonnas
Much like Super Mario Bros. before it, The Legend of Zelda is a genre defining game that shows a dizzying amount of innovation unlike what gamers had ever seen. Tasking the player with exploring the humongous world of Hyrule to find the 8 pieces of the Triforce to defeat Ganon. The first title in the long running series introduced a lot of the mainstays of the series, such as its wide pool of items and the focus on puzzles. It can certainly feel like a product of its time these days, but you’d have to be bonkers to not respect what this game does. Because it does it extremely well.
“Gamers experienced a wonderful sense of awe & excitement when exploring & fighting their way through this sprawling open world adventure.” – WackerJr
“"It's Dangerous to Go Alone, Take This". The first line of a franchise that has spawned a fan favourite series. You start with no indication on which way to go, what to do or anything. You are left to your own devices, which for a game like this was a new experience. Breath of the Wild returns to the roots of the first Zelda, back to exploring the world and do as much or as little as you like. – Jimbob
“Ahead of its time in a multitude of ways, so much so that it even necessitated hardware development! The Legend of Zelda is unequivocally the most influential video game of all time. It has inspired numerous generations of players and creators alike, and the impact it had on the industry can still be felt to this day.” – RedShell
Super Mario Bros. may have started the platformer genre phenomenon, but its second sequel would go on to truly show how it can be done. I could go on about why this game deserves the top spot, but I can just let the voters tell you that.
“The culmination of the original games, takes all the good elements, none of the bad and just evolves everything to near perfection.” – S.C.G
“Took the original Super Mario Bros formula and improved on it in pretty much every way. Precision platforming and a fun map to explore. The oppressive atmosphere of World 8, particularly on the map screen, still hasn't been bettered to this day.” – Ronnie
“Expanded on the original and introduced many of the great ideas that would later go on to define the series and platform gaming in general.” – Nicktendo
“An amazing evolution to the foundations laid in the first Super Mario Bros game. So many memorable moments & variety throughout its 8 worlds. Who can forget finding your first warp whistle or taking to the skies in 1-1. Just incredible!” – WackerJr
“Redefined the Mario formula into something more substantial with more player freedom.” – GenericAperson
“One of the strongest Mario titles created, and one that pushed what the NES could do to the limit. Mario returned to something similar to the 1st NES title, after Super Mario Brothers II went down a new route akin to Zelda II, but still keeping its platforming routes. Some levels can be a bit unforgiving, but none the less a great game.” – Jimbob
“This was probably my first example of a sequel in my young life. I’d played Super Mario Bros a load but when I got my own NES, it came with this bad boy. An all-round marvel of a platformer with an insane catalogue of levels and a huge wealth of secrets.” - Shorty
“Spanning 8 worlds (no, the warp zone doesn't count, smart arse!), 90 levels and roughly 2.5 years of development (that's longer than what Super Mario World got by the way!); it is the product of blood, sweat and 8-bit love. It's the absolute apex of the NES' lifecycle and still stands as one of the greatest games of all time. Many games act as cheap promotional tie-ins to big budget Hollywood movies. Super Mario Bros 3 was so good that it got the opposite treatment!” – Dcubed
“This was a HUGE deal back in the early 1990s, and with good reason. It took what made the original Super Mario Bros. so great and then cranked everything up to 11! The graphics, the sound, the gameplay, the entire package was improved beyond recognition. It was as if the game was running on a different system!” – RedShell
Yeah, you should probably play it.
If you'd like to be part of N-Europe's Top Ten game lists, then check out the thread on our forum as while it's too late to choose for the NES titles, we're down to the shortlist for the original Game Boy so why not stop on by? Even if it's only to relive a few old memories of some classic Nintendo games.