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Hit Replay: The Top Five NES Games for the Virtual Console

Updated on October 7, 2013
No school like the old school!
No school like the old school!

Having recently finished Super Metroid, I've had the warm, fuzzy coat of nostalgia wrapped around me for the past few weeks. With the Nintendo Wii giving the ability to download and play these classic games, it would seem a shame to ignore them. The games of old still hold up today, even after remakes and next-gen jumps. Since my best gaming days are behind me, it helps to look back and see what can still keep me playing today, along with the SNES and N64.

I've decided to look back to my first video game console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, affectionately referred to as the NES. I can't remember how old I was, probably four or so, but this console was my gateway to entirely different worlds. The five games I'm listing are some of the best available, so you if can only download one from Virtual Console, make it one of these.

And so, it begins...
And so, it begins...

Super Mario Bros.

The first on the list is the first video game I ever played. Long before I got lost in Hyrule or helped a prince through Persia, I fought to save the princess from a fire-breathing dragon. The first Mario game is a marvel to behold, standing the test of time even today. It's simplicity has been its boon, keeping it from feeling dated by being platforming to the core. For a game that will keep you happy as you play, you'd be hard pressed to find a better choice to download.

Some may disagree with me of my choice. When it comes to the NES, you have three Mario games to choose and all of them are worth playing. While third game often gets the most praise, it all starts here. No raccoon tail will ever top my first power star.

I beat the eight robot masters!
I beat the eight robot masters!

Mega Man II

If you wanted a NES game for its soundtrack alone, Mega Man II would be your best choice. Each stage is scored with the best tunes of the generation and they still live on through OverClocked Remix. As an action/platformer, it's one of the best. Each level is based around the eight robot masters you must fight, giving you their very powers. The stages can be incredibly difficult, but they're rewarding and have some of the best 8-bit charm of the era.

The robot master are the real stars of the game, each providing enough personality and power to keep you hunting and excited for the next. You can go after whichever one you want at the moment, giving you plenty of possibilities for replay. Want to start the game with Metal Man's blades? Give it a shot and tear through the rest of the game! Other Mega Man games have come and gone, but this one has the power to keep you coming back!

Castlevania? More like Funvania...No, Castlevania is better.
Castlevania? More like Funvania...No, Castlevania is better.


One of my favorite games of the old system is also the father of one of my favorite series. I've found a lot to love with Castlevania's portable entries and it's all thanks to this game. Luckily, for those of us looking to boot up the old NES, the original is still as good as before.

Sure, it's a bit simple compared to later entries, but you can't compare it to the changes that came, only to those that were around at the time. Castlevania has moody graphics, monsters that drop powerful weapons, and a rocking soundtrack. Hunting vampires is as fun as it should be but difficult as well. This game will make you work for victory, but you'll be stronger for it.

Slice like a ninja, cut like a razor blade!
Slice like a ninja, cut like a razor blade!

Ninja Gaiden

When I bought a NES on eBay years ago, I was able to find a copy of the original Ninja Gaiden. I never played the game when I was a kid, so I got to experience the game firsthand with all my mental capacity. Surprise awaited me as it turned out to require more than that to win; this game is hard. I made it all the way to the seventh chapter, died and was sent back to the first level. You want a game that will rekindle those feelings of throwing a controller through your television? This is it!

Still, throughout the frustration, this game was ahead of it's time. With wallgrabbing, ninja stars, and big, mean bosses, the game also features cutscenes that tell one of the cheesiest 8-bit stories you'll find. Considering how few games back then worried about stories, it's great to find a classic action game that set up the violence with purpose.

Warriors of Light...Assemble!
Warriors of Light...Assemble!

Final Fantasy

Speaking of cutscenes, this game doesn't have any but spawned a whole series that would be famous for telling stories. The first game in the series is simple; it doesn't have a roman numerical But it is one of the best roleplaying games you can find on the original Nintendo. It features airships, great music, atmospheric dungeons and a customizable party. Even though it's a Final Fantasy game, it has a strong Dungeons and Dragons feel that only makes it better!

For pure, turn-based combat, Final Fantasy does little wrong. The hero classes aren't complex, but finding the right combination can keep you coming back. There's something special about these older games, they capture the time of their release but still last today. This game has great monsters and you'll be cheering in victory after you defeat each boss. If your looking for a RPG on the old NIntendo to download, give this one a try.

Choosing favorites is hard!
Choosing favorites is hard!

Where's Zelda?

Of course, I've left out some great games; Mike Tyson's Punch Out and Metroid didn't make the cut, but are still worth checking out. For those wondering where The Legend of Zelda is, don't be mad at me! I like the game fine enough, but it was never my favorite on the system. But that's the great thing about the original Nintendo, it has so many great games, it's almost impossible to pick five!

So, there you have it, Wii shoppers. Get on you're virtual store and play these games! You'll be rocked by the past like Marty McFly and not regret it!

Going back isn't always so easy...


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    • Willsummerdreamer profile image

      Will English. 4 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

      Great picks, dude. Love them all.

    • Eric Mikols profile image

      Eric Mikols 4 years ago from New England

      Hurray for Ninja Gaiden indeed! That game is still tons of fun and as frustrating as ever! Thanks for reading!

    • NornsMercy profile image

      Chace 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Love your list. I didn't really like the first Zelda game much, either. I didn't dislike it, but there were so many other games that I (still) would rather play. Hurray for Ninja Gaiden!

    • Eric Mikols profile image

      Eric Mikols 5 years ago from New England

      Back on the NES, Donkey Kong was still Mario's antagonist. It wasn't until the SNES that he became more heroic and the DK we know today.

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      Great selections Eric!! I played all those game growing up and they were the best of the best. The majority of those franchises still exist and are still very profitable for Nintendo (Final Fantasy for Sony). Was Donkey Kong not around during the time? I know he and Mario had it out, but don't know if he had his own game or not...?