Released in 1983 in Japan and 1985 in North America, the Nintendo Entertainment System changed video games forever. As a result, rounding up the best NES games seems like an impossible task.
Thankfully, yours truly is always up for impossible tasks. Here are, presented in no particular order, the 25 best games for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Super Mario Bros.
The one that started it all. From its iconic soundtrack to the legendary and still addictive gameplay, Super Mario Bros. revolutionized gaming.
Every other game on this list owes itself to the path forged by the original Super Mario. Its impact and legacy are still seen even today.
Super Mario Bros. 2
By now, everybody knows the truth about Super Mario Bros. 2. Released in Japan as Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, the gameplay vastly differs from other NES Mario games.
Yet its unique experience helped influence future titles in the Super Mario series. Not to mention that its unique platforming helps it stand out from other similar titles.
Super Mario Bros. 3
As legendary as the original is, Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the best games ever made. Fans argue between it and Super Mario Bros. World as the best in the series.
Nintendo was able to balance the foundation of the original while adding a host of new ideas and challenges to the equation.
The Legend of Zelda
The success of Breath of the Wild is due to the original Zelda. It drops players into the world of Hyrule, asking them to explore all its secrets.
What’s most impressive is that the game doesn’t do much handholding for the player. Instead, The Legend of Zelda trusts you’ll find the right path. That helps make the experience even more enjoyable.
Like Zelda, the original Metroid drops players into the games and trusts them to do the right thing.
Metroid changes things by mixing platforming, action, and exploration to perfection.
While subsequent releases would take the series to new heights, you can’t deny how impressive the original Metroid is.
Mega Man 2
Some will argue that this is the best NES game ever made. Capcom takes the original’s magic and delivers a follow-up that exceeds every possible expectation.
From the soundtrack, the challenging gameplay, and memorable boss battles, everything comes together in a way that other games can only dream of.
Mega Man 3
The only thing holding back Mega Man 3 from its predecessor is a slight lack of polish. Still, it’s deserving of its spot among the best NES games.
This is the pinnacle of 8-bit platforming action. They truly don’t make them like they used to.
Few side-scrollers, if any, can match the quality of Contra.
The gameplay is as legendary as the cheat code itself, which is still a part of gaming pop culture today.
Duck Hunt is magical because it captures the true essence of video games: immersing the player in the virtual environment.
Duck Hunt is far from a complex game, but trust us: it never gets old using that light gun, even today. And yes, we still hate that dog’s smirk.
Tecmo Super Bowl
Modern sports games are a mixed bag. More often than not, they’re not worth the price of admission.
Tecmo Super Bowl is the opposite, a game so well designed that it still sees play today. The concept is simple, and the execution is flawless. There’s a reason why people still play the game with current rosters.
The original Castlevania may not be the best in the series. It’s certainly one of the best NES games, though.
While later entries would perfect the formula, the original lays the foundation for what will come. The game is still a treat to play through today.
One of the best licensed games ever made. Capcom’s Duck Tales combines the magic of the classic cartoon with solid platforming.
What’s impressive for its time is that the game features non-linear gameplay and even multiple endings. As a result, fans enjoy experiencing Duck Tales even today.
One of the greatest games of all time. Tetris remains an absolute blast in modern releases such as Tetris 99 and Tetris Effect.
Yet nothing beats the original. Very few imitators have matched the quality of the original.
One such imitator that does work is Dr. Mario. It takes the concept of Tetris and simplifies it while simultaneously adding a new host of challenges.
This leads to addictive gameplay that reminds difficult to put down.
The NES adventure borrows elements from classics such as The Legend of Zelda and other iconic RPGs of the time.
Like Earthbound, a certain uniqueness and charm help the game stand out. It’s brimming with personality and is worth checking out on Nintendo Switch Online.
While time hasn’t been entirely kind to the original Final Fantasy, it’s still worth playing to enjoy a trip down memory lane.
At the time of its release, the gameplay and world were revolutionary and helped move the RPG genre forward, allowing it to reach the heights it has today.
Before Final Fantasy, there was Dragon Warrior. The old-school RPG helped put the genre on a map and delivered a sleeper hit for the NES.
Dragon Warrior’s claim to fame demands attention to detail from its players. So you need to make sure you’re prepared to tackle new and challenging areas and enemies.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
While the Super Nintendo sequel may be a better game, the original is more iconic.
Punch-Out!! delivers satisfying and challenging boxing action while presenting the near impossible challenge of defeating Mike Tyson himself.
Blades of Steel
The iconic hockey title is one of the best NES games, thanks to its breakthrough technology and design. Many remember the game’s impressive voice work, but the gameplay helped Blades of Steel stand out.
The combination of an authentic, realistic hockey experience and a satisfying one-on-one fighting gameplay that could satisfy every NHL goon made this one of the best sports games ever.
There’s a lot to see and do with this fantastic puzzle game. Bubble Bobble offers an impressive amount of challenging content.
Best of all, the game actively encourages cooperative play. Playing with a friend is far better than going it alone.
At a glance, a platformer without jumping seems destined to fail. Yet Bionic Commando’s hook of swinging around the level more than makes up for it.
Once you get used to the controls and gameplay, Bionic Commando runs smoother than a hot knife through butter. It blends the best of Nintendo’s classic titles into a delightful experience.
Before Dark Souls and FromSoftware, there was Ninja Gaiden. The Tecmo side-scroller is known for its brutal difficulty and satisfying action gameplay.
The first adventure starring Ryu Hayabusa still holds up today thanks to borrowing gameplay elements from other classic NES titles and polishing them to perfection.
River City Ransom
While it never rose above other similar titles like Double Dragon, River City Ransom deserves a spot on our list of the best NES games.
It blends aspects of several genres, delivering an incredibly enjoyable and deep beat ’em up experience.
A launch title for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Excite Bike delivers an impressive amount of replayability.
Racing through the game’s levels is always enjoyable. The cherry on top is the custom track designer, adding endless hours of playable content.
R.C. Pro Am
The Rare racer remains one of the most popular racing games today. In addition to being a solid racing experience, there’s also the addition of vehicular combat.
Future racing games like Mario Kart find their inspiration from R.C. Pro Am. The game is still worth playing today for a trip down memory lane.
That does it for our list of the best NES games. Do you agree with what we have? Disagree and think something else should have made the list? Let us know in the comments below, and keep the conversation going!
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