Top Ten Tuesday 03

My Top Ten NES Games

Disclaimer: There are many top ten lists, but this one is mine. If you think a game is missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I just hate you.


Pre-List Notes

As mentioned in My Gamer History, the original Nintendo Entertainment System was my first console I ever owned, at the tender age of seven-ish. These began the days of weekly game rentals from Blockbuster or the local grocery store, and I ended up playing lots of different games, but actually beating very few of them. Like all Firsts, the NES holds a special place in my heart.


Top Ten

10) Solomon's Key

A little known puzzle adventure game that I was totally addicted to. Picture some of the trickier Zelda dungeon rooms, and make that the entire game. Except instead of a sword, your goofy looking character had a wand that could create and destroy blocks. Not only did you have to properly navigate the maze like rooms, you had to avoid a myriad of enemies, all of which kill you in one hit as I recall. Brutally unforgiving, but I loved it.


9) Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II

One of the first games I would get for the NES after the initial Big Three when I first got the system (which I'll expound on later). If shirtless Fabio on the cover doesn't already sell you, some awesome platforming and action gameplay definitely should. Levels that stretched from volcanoes to underwater to up in the clouds provided a lot of variation, and though our intrepid knight is armed with a sword, he ends up learning a lot of cool spells along the way, many of which are necessary to tackle the game's giant elemental bosses.


8) Jaws

In no way should a Jaws game be fun: Getting on a boat and hunting a giant shark, using 8-bit graphics and simplistic mechanics. This game eschews any real story, instead tasking your diver to drive your boat from one port to the next, gathering upgrades, all while stopping at random locations in between to battle various sea creatures, from jellyfish to sting rays. Occasional smaller sharks, which we kids dubbed "Baby Jaws" would periodically attack you as well. Collecting crabs, conch shells and starfish acted as currency, which would be used to purchase upgrades in the ports. The first upgrade would give you an echo receiver that would beep when the big bad shark was close. Each subsequence one would simply up your attack power. When fighting Jaws you would do as much damage as you could, without getting eaten before he would flee. Interestingly, the damage on Jaws would be cumulative, essentially making the unique game one long boss battle that you constantly prep for. I don't know why I loved it, maybe the underwater battling or the switch from top down to side view to first person at various points in the game, but it will always be one of my favorites.


7) Ducktales

I didn't know this at the time, but Ducktales is essentially a Mega Man clone, which made it really awesome. You could choose from a variety of stages all over the world, from Amazon jungles to Egyptian deserts and Scrooge would blast through all of them with his really fun cane attacks where he would use it as a pogo stick to jump on enemies or reach higher ground. The controls and mechanics were simple but tight, and the non-linear gameplay gave a ton of replayability back in those days. As a bonus, Ducktales has one of the inexplicably greatest NES tracks ever conceived by man. I give you...The Moon.


6) Batman

I can't even tell you the number of times I rented this game. While it played out like most 2D beat 'em ups of that day, Batman's unique abilities were his staggering arsenal of weapons. From batarangs, to batdisks, to...some kind of Predator-like speargun, Batman had a host of weapons to take down all the criminals around him. Although the controls weren't all that tight and fluid, Batman also had the unique ability to wall jump, which I found endlessly satisfying. The various levels, taking place in factories and caves were all suitably dark and moody. But mostly, you got to play Batman in a good game, what more could a kid want?


5) Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers

There were a surprisingly large amount of awesome licensed games on the NES, as this list no doubt proves. While I enjoyed the action packed cartoon show, the video game was above and beyond anything I was expecting. Up to two players could play simultaneously as the titular chipmunks and battle classic enemies from the cartoon in wildly inventive platforming levels. Especially fun was the ability to pick up your partner in crime solving and fling them off a ledge, much to the screams of your co-op brother. When they died they'd appear again floating on a balloon, not unlike the mechanic in the modern co-op Mario game on the Wii. The chipmunks relied on picking up objects from the world to fling at enemies, and with boxes could go all Solid Snake and hide in them, waiting for unsuspecting enemies to get close. An SMB3-like overworld was icing on the cake, and you'll be humming that damn theme song for days.


4) Double Dragon 2: The Revenge

The first of my Big Three games I first owned and played on the NES, Double Dragon 2 was my introduction into the world of side scrolling beat 'em ups, an extremely popular genre that would continue well into the next console generation. DD2, however, was also really good, allowing for two players to battle co-operatively, and even allowing a setting for friendly fire. Billy and Jimmy Lee punched, kicked, and kickpunched their way across a ton of urban settings, including a memorable level on a helicopter. The final levels got ridiculously difficult as they required a huge amount of platforming skill with rotating gears over instant-kill spikes, and their jumping wasn't near as good as their punching.


3) Super Mario Bros.

Obviously one of my Big Three games, I had the version that also came with Duck Hunt. While that *** laughing dog would forever haunt my dreams, Mario's tight controls, simple mechanics, and varied levels ensured I would be a gamer for life. It's no coincidence that the original Super Mario Bros. is at the top of everyone's NES lists. Regardless of the fact that Mario and the NES singlehandedly saved the video game industry in the mid to late 80s, SMB is just a really great game that hundreds of 2D platformers have drawn from since. From its classic theme songs to concepts such as power-ups, secrets, and New Game+, Mario set the bar for video games.


2) Shadowgate

The last of my Big Three was a game unlike anything I'd ever played. Shadowgate was a traditional first person adventure game set in the spooky castle of the same name. I was fascinated with the number of items and puzzles in the game, as well as the dark-humored atmosphere of the castle. The haunting soundtrack had me enthralled, while the constant need to find torches just to stay alive kept up the tension. At several points the castle opened up with several paths filled with multiple puzzles, some involving monsters, some riddles, and some brain teasing logic puzzles. I heard some classic riddles for the first time, I learned not to help that chick in chains because she's really a werewolf, I learned to always grab the shield first in the dragon's lair, and I learned that Death can be a really smarmy b*tch. Mostly, I learned that I love adventure games.


1) Super Mario Bros. 3

The reigning king of the Nintendo Entertainment System blessed us with the greatest game ever made on the system. While SMB2 was a very different, odd game not at all like its predecessor (later we learned it was an entirely different game, simply renamed and reskinned as SMB2 after the original's success), Super Mario Bros. 3 was hyped as a glorious return to the series' roots, only with more everything. More levels, more power-ups, more enemies, and new awesome gameplay mechanics like the overworld, the wandering hammer bros, multiple castle levels, and those evil auto-scrolling airships. SMB3 was easily the greatest game I'd ever played up to that point, and I only wish social sites like Raptr were around back then to see exactly how many dozens (hundreds?) of hours I sunk into it over the years. I remember specifically learning the location of one of the three magic whistles (super awesome items that allowed you to skip entire worlds) on the back of a cereal box, and nearly losing my *** over it. This was before the internet, and the only information we had was from outdated magazines, or school yard word of mouth. To this day, I can't remember all the state capitals, but I can remember the secrets to acquiring each magic whistle in SMB3. I don't know what that means, but I love video games, and Super Mario Bros 3 is one of the best.


Wrap Up

Now, I've already admitted to never playing Zelda II in My Gaming Confessions, and for whatever reason the original Legend of Zelda never got its hooks into me. Mega Man games were way too hard, and I never played the Castlevania games much. These were the games that young impressionable me found the most enjoyment with, whether playing co-op with friends or big brother, discovering my love for new genres like puzzle and adventure, and playing lots and lots of Mario. NES, you were one of the good ones.

Next Week: My Top Ten Favorite Game Designers!