The NES era is the period of gaming that truly started it all. Not only did the NES introduce us to gaming, but it introduced us to characters that established some of the biggest franchises in gaming history. From The Legend of Zelda’s Link to the iconic plumbing duo Mario & Luigi from Super Mario Bros. The NES console changed gaming forever. In recognition of the impact the NES had on us, here are our top 10 games from the NES era!
Duck Tales is easily one of the best action platformers on the NES. If it wasn’t for the little blue bomber we know as, Mega Man, it could be argued to be the best. In fact, the team behind Duck Tales featured prominent members of the Mega Man team including Mega Man’s designer, Keiji Inafune. It even borrowed gameplay mechanics from Mega Man, including the ability to select your stage after defeating a boss. In Duck Tales, you take on the role of Scrooge McDuck as you travel around the world in search of treasure. After collecting the 5 treasures, Scrooge McDuck makes his way back to Transylvania where he takes on Dracula Duck for the final piece of treasure. Duck Tales is a fun adventure with memorable characters from the 90’s cartoon and The Moon music is still one of the recognizable tunes in 8-bit history.
Dragon Warrior may have been one of the first great Role Playing Games to hit the NES, but Final Fantasy took the formula and improved it. Final Fantasy allows you to choose a team of four characters and customize their class-type between warrior, monk, thief, black mage, white mage, and red mage. All classes later upgrade to become much more powerful. Final Fantasy went on to span dozens of games and remakes and has become synonymous with masterful storytelling and iconic characters. The original Final Fantasy is an amazing introduction to a genre that has gone on to evolve into even grander adventures as well as two Massive Multiplayer RPGs.
Contra has a long and established history in gaming with over a dozen titles across various platforms and is iconic for what we know today as The Konami Code. In Contra, you play as either Bill Razer (the red soldier) or Lance Bean (the blue soldier) as you take down Red Falcon Organization and an evil alien horde. With various power-ups to use along the way, Contra had us dodging and weaving legions of enemies and bullets in order to avoid death. This side scroller shoot-em-up was clearly inspired by 80’s action films and brought the feel of arcade games into our living rooms. As a result, Contra went on to inspire many games like the Metal Slug series.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out
‘Iron’ Mike was in his prime when Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out came out for the NES. The famous boxing game introduced us to Little Mac, an up and coming boxer from the Bronx, NY who is 17 and only weighed 107 lbs. He may have been ‘Little’, however, he went on to conquer his challenger regardless of their size. Punch-Out’s catchy tune and interesting roster of characters had him fighting against boxers with magical abilities like Great Tiger, the rampaging Bald Bull, and ultimately facing Mike Tyson. Who, with a single punch, knocked you down for the count. The journey to fight Mike Tyson is an exhilarating test of wits, muscle memory, and reaction. Punch-Out went on to have a few sequels, but none compared to the original that started it all.
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. is the game that made the NES popular for most people. It not only introduced the iconic plumbers Mario and Luigi, but it’s where many fell in love with gaming. Mario and Luigi set off on their adventure through the Mushroom Kingdom to find and rescue Princess Toadstool who later became known as Princess Peach. This 2-D side scroller went on to inspire thousands of games and characters that would take the SMB core gameplay and expand on it in various and unique ways. Therefore, making SMB an iconic game.
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
Doing away with Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest’s open world, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse went back to its roots with expanded gameplay. Not only did you get to play as Trevor Belmont, the games’ main protagonist, but you also got to play as multiple characters such as the pirate Grant Danasty. A dhampir with the ability to turn into a bat, and the now-iconic Alucard, Dracula’s son. Breaking up the linearity of the original, at various points in the game, Dracula’s Curse allowed you to choose branching paths in the story and along with it came different levels to traverse through. Thus allowing you a pseudo choose your own adventure style of play. Castlevania has become an historic series that spans dozens of games and even a Netflix animated series.
In the late 80’s we were introduced to one of the most iconic protagonists in gaming, Samus Aran, as she traveled to the mysterious planet of Zebes. Metroid allowed you to explore Zebes at your pace. A planet that is riddled with secret passageways, power-ups, and danger at every turn. This side-scrolling adventure game is among the best you can find on the NES. Metroid’s open-world exploration went on to inspire dozens of games like the Castlevania series. Thus the term Metroidvania was coined. Often used for games that use similar mechanics and gameplay styles to that of the Metroid and Castlevania games series.
Mega Man II
The Blue Bomber is as big of a gaming icon as Mario, Link, or Samus. It is considered to be the best of the NES releases and one of the best action platformers on the NES of all time. Mega Man II begins where the original classic left off. This time against 8 new robot bosses to defeat the evil Dr. Wily. Mega Man II features not only some of the best level design on the NES but also some of the most memorable 8-bit tunes in gaming history. From Quick Man’s insane killer beams to Dr. Wily’s Castle you’ll be jumping and shooting your way to stop the evil Dr. Wily.
The Legend of Zelda
The original Legend of Zelda game for NES is a grand adventure that put us in Link’s shoes as he set out to rescue the infamous Princess Zelda in the massive land of Hyrule. A land riddled with secrets, dungeons, and a menacing evil overlord known as Ganon. The open-world nature of The Legend of Zelda gave players a chance to explore and unlock Hyrules’ secrets. However, this was long before the days of internet walkthroughs. So finding important items like the legendary Master Sword or where the secret graveyard dungeon relied heavily through word of mouth. The Legend of Zelda went on to become one of the biggest gaming franchises in history.
Super Mario Bros. 3
There isn’t a more perfect game on the NES than Super Mario 3. Often considered the best NES game and one of the best games of all time. Super Mario Bros. 3 takes us on an adventure across 8 unique worlds, showcases a slew of new characters. Including the Koopalings, Bowser’s seven children, and the raccoon and Tanooki suit which gave us the ability to fly! Super Mario Bros. 3 presents the story as a play. In its introduction you see curtains being drawn open, revealing the game behind it. Every time Mario or Luigi finish a level they walk off the stage. From the memorable music to its masterful levels, Super Mario Bros. 3 is the pinnacle of game design on NES.
And there you have it. Our top 10 games from the NES era.