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The 25 Bestest NES Games of All the Times: Part II

Updated on January 2, 2011

Congraturation! This Story is Happy End.

We've reached the not-so-long-awaited conclusion to my NES countdown, dear readers. I'm certain that both of you who read the last post enjoyed it immensely and just couldn't wait to see how it turns out. Well, today is finally the day! I'm not in the mood for much exposition, so let's just get on with it.

Let the listing begin!


#12 - Ninja Gaiden (Tecmo, 1989)

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Ninja Gaiden is yet another arcade title that underwent more than a few nips and tucks on its way to the NES. The coin-op. was your standard (read: boring) side-scrolling beat 'em up. The home version, in contrast, was a wild, edge-of-your-seat, tougher-than-a-two-dollar-steak action/platform title that was as unforgettable as its title was impossible to pronounce. Well, for most kids anyway.

My best friend swore up and down it was pronounced "Ninja Gayden," as did many others. To the best of my knowledge, it's pronounced "Ninja Guyden," but I've been known to be wrong before. Take that with a grain of salt, friends.

However the heck you want to say it, Ryu Hayabusa's quest for revenge on those who supposedly killed his father and stole a demon-possessed statue is worth a run-through today, no matter your gaming persuasion. But be warned: this is one of the hardest games on NES, so prepare yourselves for the inevitable release of epithets so salty they'd make a drunken sailor with Tourette's blush. Oh, and go buy an extra controller, too. There's a good chance at least one of your game pads will wind up in pieces before you ever see Jacquio.

#11 - Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (Tecmo, 1990)


Here's another case where my opinion of a game puts me squarely in the minority: Yes, Ninja Gaiden II is better than the original. The storyline is more interesting (it features the same super cool cinema screens, too), the graphics are better, the difficulty is a tad more forgiving... even the memorable music is better. All of that is one very tall task for any game to game to accomplish, but Dark Sword of Chaos does just that.

The best new addition to this entry is the "shadow ninja" power up, additional Ryu's that will save your stealthy skin more than once. This one little change is especially helpful with boss encounters which, yes, are just as punishingly tough as the original game's.

Anyway, though I'm probably outnumbered by Gaiden I supporters, that shouldn't stop you from downloading this masterpiece to your Wii or hopping on Ebay to get a real-deal NES copy. While you're there, pick up the first game too. Both are incredible and each contributed quite a bit in making the NES the unbelievably awesome machine it was.

#10 - Mega Man 3 (Capcom, 1990)

I've had it with these mothereffin snakes on this mothereffin stage!
I've had it with these mothereffin snakes on this mothereffin stage!

When Mega Man hit the NES for his third adventure in the fall of 1990, it was clear he'd already settled into a formula. The Mega Man series never experienced the sweeping changes Mario and friends underwent, but, as I explained in my write-up on the first game, it really didn't need to. Of course, Mario never needed any changes either, and those experiments were the whims of one Shigeru Miyamoto - someone whose ideas you just don't question. The Mega Man series, on the other hand, stayed the same for one main reason: it worked.

The only real new additions to this game are the implementation of a new slide move and the introduction of Rush, Mega Man's transforming robot dog. Other than the requisite eight new baddies to tangle with and a few fleeting appearances by Mega Man's "brother," Proto Man, it's really just a fresh piece of lettuce on a reheated burger.

But it's a tasty burger that's just as fun and memorable as it's two prequels. Mega Man 4 may well have been the Blue Bomber's "jump the shark" moment, but part 3 is all good and refreshingly shark-free. Don't miss it.

#9 - Tetris (Nintendo, 1989)

If ever a game lived up to it's tagline ("From Russia With Fun"), this was most certainly it. Nowadays, you can play Tetris on your cell phone or your internet browser, happily stacking oddly-shaped blocks whenever you want. But for a great many of us, our first turn at turning those endlessly falling blocks just the right way happened via our NES. Challenging, fun, almost hypnotic in a way and accessible to virtually everyone, Tetris is gaming at its simplest... and finest.

When I was growing up, this was the only videogame my Mom would touch, and she still loves it to this day. For someone who can't tell a Game Boy from one of those old Tiger Electronics LCD games, that's pretty darn impressive. It's also a testament to the game's lasting, universal appeal.

I love it, too. In some weird form of Pavlovian classical conditioning, just the sight of those bricks makes me hum some Russian folk songs... and slobber all over myself. And that, kids, is why I always play this game alone.

#8 - Super Mario Bros. 2 (Nintendo, 1988)

Not pictured: Toad. This is because Toad sucks and no one likes him. Or her. Or whatever he/she/it is.
Not pictured: Toad. This is because Toad sucks and no one likes him. Or her. Or whatever he/she/it is.

It's been called a sham and a lie, but there's really only one way to describe Super Mario Bros. 2: freaking awesome! Nintendo knew that we NES gamers were probably far too pansy-arse to ever complete the "real" Super Mario Bros. 2, a wickedly difficult Japan-only release that was better off staying in the Land of the Rising Sun, so they gave us this modified version of an entirely different game. We never knew it at the time and were certainly grateful for more Mario of any kind, but years later the truth came out... and some people were a little pissed.

No, I don't know why. I guess some folks just like to have something to complain about. Japan's SMB 2 felt more like a bad Rom hack than a real Mario game; while our version (a re-skinned Doki Doki Panic) was a fun and unique experience that was much lighter on frustration. Regardless of its roots, our Super Mario 2 really is the superior game - one that's nearly synonomous with the system itself.

And that's no lie.

#7 - Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (Konami, 1990)

Trevor Belmont: Keepin' capes cool since 1476.
Trevor Belmont: Keepin' capes cool since 1476.

Actually a prequel to the two previously released NES Castlevania titles, Dracula's Curse returned the series to its more straight-forward action roots. As a result, this game is very similar to the original, but as I've already explained, that's not such a bad thing.

This game also introduces a new protagonist (Trevor Belmont) and marks the debut of Alucard, Dracula's estranged son, who would go on to star in everyone's favorite 'Vania, Symphony of the Night. The level design is amazing as well, featuring branching paths that lead to many different areas, along with two other "helper" characters to complement Trevor and Alucard.

It's really the complete Castlevania package and it's simply the best in the 8-bit trilogy.

#6 - Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! (Nintendo, 1987)

More about timing and pattern recognition than anything resembling actual boxing, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! is a classic despite the lack of real pugilism... and the title's unnecessary, excessive punctuation. I love exclamation points as much as anybody, but one is enough, Nintendo. Anyway, if you go into a match throwing punches with reckless abandon, you'll wind up just like Peter McNeeley. Don't remember him? That's okay. No one does.

But few can forget this game or the troubled, former Heavyweight Champ who endorsed it - in most copies anyway. Though later cartridges were released sans "Iron" Mike, we all knew who "Mr. Dream" was intended to be. And years later, Tyson would prove to be plenty crazy enough to stand alongside the rest of the oddball, shockingly stereotypical cast we all grew to love. It may not be politically correct, but it's pretty darn fun nonetheless.

#5 - Contra (Konami, 1988)

Best remembered for its dissemination of the "Konami code" (due in no small part to the game's ridiculously high challenge level), Contra is still the best run 'n gun shoot 'em up ever made. That's high praise, but sit down with this game for 30 seconds and you'll surely see it's justified.

One of the NES' most beloved classics, I don't need to offer up any description of what Contra is all about. This is one of the games that will instantly spring to mind anytime someone mentions the old-school Nintendo. Everyone played it, a great many were lucky enough to own it, and no one will ever forget it.

Like its "Super" sequel, Contra is best played with a buddy, especially one who's kind enough not to steal your extra men after biting the dust. That was wrong 20 years ago and it's pretty much criminal today.

This manly game is awesome on it's own, but if you really want to have a great time, I recommend pretending Player 1 is Arnold Schwarzenegger and Player 2 is Sylvester Stallone. To complete the experience, make sure Player 1 shouts out random Arnie lines like "Get down!" and "Shoot, you idiot," while the chap holding controller 2 can throw in some of Sly's indiscernable mumbling every now and then.

Your mileage may vary, but this is the sort of thing my friends and I do for fun. And believe it or not, we're single, ladies!

#4 - The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo, 1987)

Link's first adventure is the stuff of videogame legend, and the more than two decades since it's release have done little to diminish this game's greatness or its undeniable impact on videogames as a whole. Nintendo got it right the first time with this one, and if Link had never gone on another adventure, this classic would still be held in the highest regard we nerds are capable of. In case you're wondering, that means this game is adored by geeks on a level seldom reached by anyone not named Patrick Stewart or Luke Skywalker. In other words, it pwns... and stuff.

All dorky name-dropping aside, picking up this game and running through Hyrule's multitude of varying landscapes is every bit as fun as it was in 1987. It's a timeless, perfect design that hasn't aged a day after all these years. Sort of like Bob Costas.

#3 - Mega Man 2 (Capcom, 1989)

After the original Mega Man's only modest retail success, Capcom Japan was rightfully iffy on a sequel. Even in the '80s, the videogame business was all about the Benjamin's, so after the first game's disappointing sales figures came in, Mega Man's future was seriously in doubt. Thanks to the perseverance of Keiji Inafune (and his extremely talented programming team), a sequel got the greenlight, one that met the necessary sales quota and far exceeded any gamer's expectations.

Mega Man's 2nd NES outing was so successful it spawned exactly 848 million sequels and spin-offs, putting the Blue Bomber in some pretty elite company: only Mario stars in more games.

But if you really want to see what Mega Man is all about, just boot up this masterpiece. Without question the best game in the ubiquitous series, Mega Man 2 is that rare gaming experience that never gets old. The level design puts to shame almost everything else on the NES, the control is perfect, the graphics are charming and memorable and the soundtrack is legendary. In short, Mega Man 2 is as good as videogames get.

#2 - Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo, 1985)

Packing in Super Mario Bros. with virtually every NES system is right up there with free checking and frozen pizza in the pantheon of humanity's greatest ideas. Nintendo knew they had something pretty darn special with this one, so Trojan-horsing it into homes all over America was a no-brainer. It was a decision that ultimately helped lead the NES into around 30 million U.S. households, with Mario and Luigi coming along for the ride with nearly every one.

How much of an impact did Super Mario Bros. have on the gaming industry? Well, turn to the nearest person and ask them to hum the game's theme. I guarantee he or she will do it with an ear-to-ear smile that only nostalgia can bring about. Such is the indelible impact of this game. Aside from helping revive the toe-tagged, dead-as-a-doornail videogame industry (almost by itself), the first Mario game crept into every nook and cranny of pop culture, so much so that just mentioning the word "videogame" almost universally brings this game to mind. Everyone knows and remembers Super Mario Bros., from the most "hardcore" gamer to that unfortunate person who's never picked up a game controller.

That's the sort of unshakable association any industry would clamor for, and it's only part of what makes Super Mario so great. The rest? Go play it again and see for yourself.

#1 - The Adventures of Bayou Billy (Konami, 1989)

This epic masterpiece clearly deserves the top spot on this list, as it's not only the best NES game of all-time, but also the greatest game for any system ever. Amazing graphics, awesome digitized voices, driving, shooting, and a soundtrack that's so cajun you can almost smell the gumbo... how could this not be number 1?

Okay, I'm joking. Clean off the Pepsi you just spit all over your computer monitor and calm the hell down. Laugh a little bit. It makes life so much better. :)

The REAL #1 Bestest NES Game of All the Times: Super Mario Bros. 3 (Nintendo, 1990)

Like you didn't see this one coming. Virtually everyone's list of best NES games puts Mario's magnum opus in the top spot - and deservedly so. After more than two decades, this is still as close to perfection as any game has ever gotten. It's also one of gaming's biggest blockbusters, moving over 18 million copies on the NES alone. That's a lot of satisfied customers.

And who wouldn't be? There are over 90 entirely different action stages, tons of crazy costumes, three different mini-games, dozens of new characters... I could go on and on, but time spent reading this is time that could be better spent playing it.

It's enough to simply say that Super Mario Bros. 3 is everything a videogame could be and should be - something so perfect that after more than 20 years and four gaming console generations, no one has topped it.

And it's doubtful anyone ever will.

A Wiener is You!

 It isn't nice to call people names, but if you feel the need to hate all over my list, fill up the comments box below with your own picks and various hurtful insults. Mad about no Final Fantasy? Go ahead and tell me all about it. I can take it. I'm a doofus for not adding Dragon Warrior? I've been called worse.

At any rate, as you all know, 25 spots isn't nearly enough to list every great NES game. I could have easily made this a list of 200, but just occasionally, I have a life and other things to do. So it's 25... my favorite 25.

I hope you enjoyed my NES tribute. Thanks for reading, and keep keepin' it old-school, especially when it comes to videogames. Otherwise, game companies will continue subjecting us to crap like this:

Or making impossibly stupid, sexed-up, trashy commercials for refuse like this:

Where have you gone, common freaking sense, good taste and fun? Come back 'cause we miss you.

Play Nintendo!


Posted October 23, 2010


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    • tommylop profile image


      4 years ago from Colorado.

      All right that was a cool troll you did for number 1. Bayou Billy is one of the worst games Konami has ever made. Bad controls for the fighting, light gun stage sucks unless you make sure you choose the option not to use the light gun. And yes the driving is one of the worst vehicle stages around. There is another game that has a driving, shooting, action all in one combo called Vice Project Doom that is worth checking out.

    • brentbrown98 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, United States, Earth

      Just a hubber, you need to hit up your closest retro shop and complete your NES collection. I guarantee awesomeness in all my picks. :)

    • Just a hubber profile image

      Just a hubber 

      7 years ago from Arkansas

      Dang, 6/13. Looks like I need to go to GamePoint.

    • brentbrown98 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, United States, Earth

      Thanks for the comment, Chase. Super Mario Bros. 3 will probably always be my favorite videogame... unless there's ever a sequel released for Bayou Billy. :)

    • chasemillis profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm glad you kept Super Mario Bros 3 at number one. That game is just too fun.

    • Christian H. profile image

      Christian H. 

      7 years ago from College Station, Texas

      Hey Brent,

      This hub inspired me and I made a top 25 list for the SNES. I'd be interested in seeing if you agree with my choices. If you get a chance, drop by.

      I didn't play too much on Genesis, myself. I've only played a couple of games, and I'm sure I didn't get to all the really awesome ones. I think about all I played was Sonic 2, Sonic Pinball, and a Power Rangers game.

    • brentbrown98 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indiana, United States, Earth

      Thanks for the read and the comments, Christian! No, you didn't miss any "awesomeness" in Bayou Billy, though I have to admit that I get pretty nostalgic over that game. :) As for those systems that play multiple classic games, I agree: they are pretty much the best thing ever. If you're like me, you'll probably agree that the best games ever made came out during the NES/Master System and SNES/Genesis days. They don't make 'em like they used to, unfortunately. :(

    • Christian H. profile image

      Christian H. 

      7 years ago from College Station, Texas

      I did a double take when I read Bayou Billy. I owned that game back in the day, and I was wondering what hidden gems of awesomeness I'd missed in it. ;)


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