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Top 10 NES Games

While the Atari was great and everything, we really owe our modern day gaming experiences to the NES.  Nintendo proved that gaming at your house was not only a viable business model; it was a way of life for some.  Here are the Top 10 NES games that made that little grey box something special.

10.  Duck Hunt:  Come on, you know you're guilty.  The first time you blasted those ducks out of the sky, you started wondering what else that little red gun was capable of.  I shot at Koopa, the birds outside and my brother, all to no avail, but I was in awe of the magic Duck Hunt had created.  It turned my TV into a light-gun arcade!  WTF!  Even now, I'm blown away by that little bit of technology, and that fact that it was packaged with a little gem called Super Mario Bros. was the icing on the cake.

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9.  Tetris:  There are video games, and there is Tetris.  You may say that the "casual" game explosion came out of nowhere, but casual gamers have been enjoying Tetris for decades.  Subsequent titles have tried variations on the formula, to varying degrees of success, bow can you improve on something that is pretty much perfect?  Tetris captures the pick-up-and-play magic and easy-to-learn yet difficult-to-master gameplay that moves a title beyond mere gaming.  It created a legacy.

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8.  Contra:  Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A.  How many people have beat Contra without that particular input?  Well, if you have, hats off to you.  Besides popularizing (but not creating) the infamous Konami Code, Contra also happened to be an incredible game.  The addition of two-player co-op pushed it from incredible to legendary, and few NES games held up as well over time as Contra.  Spread shot FTW!

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7.  Super Mario Bros.:  I don't know if you guys have ever heard of this title, but this obscure release---I'm sorry, I can't do it.  What else is there to say about Mario?  He redefined video games when his titular title released in 1985, and let's face it, we just haven't been the same since.  We are still jumping on enemies heads 27 years later, and we owe it all to one overweight Italian plumber.

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6.  Punch-Out:  Half sports game, half puzzle game and all awesome, Punch-Out is one of those titles that just brings the nostalgia in truck loads.  Whether you were playing Iron Mike's version or trying to make it to Mr. Dream, the journey there is just so memorable.  Glass Joe, King Hippo and Soda Popinski are as memorable as they come, and I'm still a little bitter that, even after all these years, I've never been able to beat Mike Tyson.  One day, sir, I'm coming for you.  With earmuffs.

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5.  Castlevania III:  Dracula's Curse:  Eschewing some of the conventions of the earlier titles in the series, Castlevania III was, looking back, perhaps the first sign that the series could truly stand with the heavy hitters, and, perhaps, hinted at the awesomeness that would eventually become Symphony of the Night, one of the greatest games of all time.  Featuring multiple characters, branching paths and multiple endings, Castlevania III was years ahead of its time, and an absolute lock for this list.

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4.  Metroid:  Speaking of ahead of it time, how about Metroid?  One of the largest games in the NES library, Metroid was just massive when it came out.  It shames to admit it, but even though I've started that game well over twenty times, I've never been able to finish it.  Seriously, that game is like my Moby Dick.  But if there was one NES game that showed what video games would eventually become, it would have to be Samus Aran's romp through space.  And the revelation about her true identity still has to rank up there with the best plot twists ever.  You go girl.

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3.  The Legend of Zelda:  A lot of people consider The Legend of Zelda the greatest game of all time, and there is a totally legitimate argument that could be made for that.  Grabbing that sword for the first time is an empowering experience, and exploring that world...has here ever been a sense of exploration like that ever again?  Learning that you could drain the lake with the whistle, or burn that bush, or give the "grumble grumble" guy some meat, the land of Hyrule was just stuffed with secrets to find, and in the pre-internet era, all you had to go on was your instincts, and, of course, your friends.  We swapped Zelda secrets like currency, yo.

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2.  Mega Man series:  It would be impossible to pick just one Mega Man game, so we'll just go with the entire NES series.  My personal favorite is Mega Man 3 , but Mega Man is one of the few franchises that has managed to have so many releases without really much innovation between them, the core concept is that good.  What else do you need?  Give me eight robot masters with themed levels, and let me go kill and absorb them.  Features like sliding, power-up shots and Rush the dog certainly added to the formula, but Mega Man was just one of those perfect games.

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1.  Super Mario 3:  Has there ever been a title that held up as well over the years as Super Mario 3?  It is as fun now as it was in 1990:  The level design is still flawless, the Tanooki Suit still rocks, and Pipe World is still as infuriating as ever.  Finding the whistles was a crowning achievement in my young years, but I still remember the day I played through every single stage and finally beat that game.  I think that's the moment when video games went from a mere hobby for me to full blown obsession.  Super Mario 3 should be a textbook on good game design, and is my choice for the top NES game ever.

(Game Breakers)

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