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5 Best NES Games of All Time (and How to Play 'Em)

Updated on November 8, 2015

Super Mario!

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My five favorite NES games of all time

We all have our personal favorites, from Zelda to Mario to Tecmo. I must have spent a collective year of my youth, counting every hour of every day, playing the NES. I played it more than I did any other single activity when I was a kid, including what most kids are doing around that age, and football, D&D (which I played a LOT of!), and everything else except going to school.

My personal favorites are:

  1. Mike Tyson's Punch Out
    This is an absolute classic, and it's still really, really hard to beat! I love moving up from Glass Joe to Von Kaiser to Piston Honda, then seeing Honda again, Bald Bull twice, and all the other characters all the way up to the Super Macho Man. I don't really care for that guy, although if I'm focused, I can beat him. Could I beat Tyson right now if a gun was to my head? Probably not, at least not on the first go through.
  2. Super Mario Brothers
    The original. I can beat this game without using any of the warp zones, and possibly without dying a single time. I know all the tricks, all the hidden rooms, and all the boards from back to front and back again. I know a lot of people are ridiculously proficient at Mario 1, and I am one of them.
  3. Super Mario 2
    It's hard to improve on something as good as Super Mario Brothers, but Mario 2 does it. My favorite character to play as a kid? The Princess. Today, I enjoy mixing it up with each of the characters, challenging myself to beat it all the way through with Toad (very tough) or Luigi (some boards are tougher until you get used to him again).
  4. 1943
    This is my current stress reliever. I freaking love trying to beat this game, right now, with the bullet spray (not the defensive one, the purely offensive one- so bullets still hit you). Very challenging, even today! The bosses are true 8-bit predictable, and they don't really evolve much from board to board, which is kind of what I'm looking for.
  5. Tecmo Bowl
    Talk about THE classic sports game! Tecmo Bowl allows you to be quasi-realistic with picking real team members, picking your defensive linebacker, and so on. Favorite defensive player: Reggie White (or Mike Singletary). Favorite offensive player: Barry Sanders. Every third run is a touchdown!


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The Retron

About a year ago, I lamented that I was pining for the good old days when I could play 8 bit Nintendo games on an actual console. I had tried several online emulators, and while they were fun to play, I couldn't ever get any of the plugin (USB) controllers to work for me.

Additionally, there's a flea market in my neighborhood where I occasionally enjoy taking a nostalgic time-machine trip to the 1980s. Among older comic books, VHS tapes, and ancient books, I found a real treasure: actual vintage 8-bit Nintendo games. I was able to score the original Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario 2, two of my favorite all-time games.

Around the same time, I received the RetroN 2 as a gift. Serendipitous timing? Maybe (more likely, my girflfriend was just listening to me when I went on and on about how I missed all these old games). This system actually plays the original cartridges for both NES and Super NES! I've since enjoyed Mike Tyson's Punch-Out (I don't care who you are, this is still one of the best games of all time) and Capcom's classic 1943: The Battle of Midway.
The game cartridges are just like you remember them- sometimes I blow on them to get the dust out and to make them play on the system. It actually works, just as my NES worked when I was 11 years old! If you have time to waste and are nostalgic for the 80s (and especially for the games you played on your Nintendo Entertainment System or Super NES), then this is a wise purchase indeed, and a great value. I play Nintendo on our enormous flatscreen monitor!

I pretty much wind down with 8 bit Nintendo games nowadays. I know the games so well, and they're challenging enough, but I don't have to learn how a new system works. I love having the opportunity to "decompress" a bit with something from my childhood!

What's your favorite?

What's your favorite Nintendo game? So far I've only included 8 bit games, but there's also the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System), which had me absolutely hooked with Tecmo Super Bowl at an early age. Let's not forget Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat, two of the best one on one fighting games of all time. I don't have nearly the affinity for the 16 bit games these days as I do for the simplicity of the mental relaxation that the 8 bit games provide me. How about you?

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