#40 – 21


40- Dr Mario
North American Release Date: July 1990
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Over the years I’ve known a number of plumber pharmacists.  Well really they’re just drug dealers.  They always claim they’re going to fix something in my house but then we get high and…well nothing gets done.
The premise of Dr. Mario is similar to Tetris in that objects float down from the top of the screen which you can rotate and push into place.  In this game, there are viruses already on the screen that need to be destroyed.  This can be accomplished by matching the color of the pills Mario drops to the color of the virus.  While a classic in it’s day, it was definitely improved upon by later games like Puyo Puyo, Columns, or even Candy Crush.  So playing it now the gameplay feels a bit underwhelming.
Along with Tetris, this is the only game that as a kid I saw an adult play.  And while I was simply amazed they knew how to play at all, I was even more amazed at how obsessed they became!  I tried my hardest to get my Mom and Dad to play Astyanax or Spy vs Spy but they just never seemed to get the hang of it.  If only I’d known the true parent kryptonite was Dr. Mario I would’ve had them hooked!
Sydlexia – #31 Review
IGN – #51 Review
Gamefaqs – #39 Review
Complex – #35 Review
Satoshi Matrix – #92 Review

39 Blades of Steel
North American Release Date: December 1988
Genre: Sports
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
As games have evolved over time, newer games have really fixed a lot of the gameplay faults of their earlier predecessors.  Chrono Trigger on the SNES for instance is a thousand times more fun to play than Dragon Warrior because they fleshed out the characters, story, and most importantly they made everything much less tedious.  Alternately, a game like this that is waaaaaay simple in comparison to modern sports games is still really fun because of its simplicity.  It’s kind of like playing shuffleboard vs driving go-karts: depending on your mood or personality they can both be really fun for very different reasons.
Blades of Steel has totally awesome gameplay (with fights!), awesome music and sound (BWADES OF STEAUH!), and fluid controls all of which for me makes Blades an improvement over the earlier mentioned Ice Hockey in every way. 
There’s even a point during intermission where you can briefly play Gradius.  A game within another game?  For an NES game that’s pretty impressive!
Sydlexia – #49 Review
IGN – #24 Review
Gamefaqs – #53 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #58 Review
Complex – #45 Review

38 Faxanadu
North American Release Date: November 1989
Genre: Action RPG / Adventure
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Love, love love this game.  Faxanadu has really creepy enemies and environments that give the game an atmosphere wholly unique amongst NES games.  This atmosphere is augmented by a truly killer soundtrack that fluctuates between uplifting and chilling..  The NES has a bunch of good music, and Faxanadu is up there with iconic game soundtracks like the Castlevania or Mega Man series.
Overall it has every element that makes an action RPG fun and memorable and is definitely up there with Zelda II and Crystalis.  That is, except for a save feature.  The passwords system for Faxanadu is one of the worst for the Nintendo.  I owned this game growing up and would painstakingly hand write every letter and no matter what I’d eventually confuse a lower case “l” for and uppercase “I” and not be able to continue.  Fuck that.  Nowadays I can take a photo of the screen because I’m a big boy!
I talk a bit more about this game in the My First Games section.
Sydlexia – #51 Review
IGN – #36 Review
Gamefaqs – #46 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #45 Review
Complex – #44 Review

37 Micro Machines
North American Release Date: 1991
Genre: Racing
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Camerica
This is the only unofficial game to make this list.  Micro Machines was made by Codemasters and came in a gold cartridge similar to Legend of Zelda except that it has one of those weird switches on the back to make it compatible with European Nintendos.  The purist in me probably wouldn’t include this game here because it’s unlicensed, but fuck it Micro Machines is actually pretty good.
Micro Machines is a racing game like Galaxy 5000 or R.C. Pro AM except you race a variety of different vehicles like sports cars, jeeps, boats, and even helicopters.  The gameplay doesn’t really change at all between vehicles, but it is pretty cool.  You race your miniature toy over tiny sized courses like a kitchen table, a pool table, or between tomato plants in a garden.  After each race you collect the Micro Machine you used in an adorable little shelf.  Awwwwwww.
I wouldn’t say it’s a better racing game than the aforementioned R.C. Pro Am or Galaxy 5000, but it is pretty cool especially for a bootleg NES game.
If you don’t remember the toys, just watch this commercial real quick.
Sydlexia – #99 Review
IGN – #31 Review
Gamefaqs – #66 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #32 Review
Complex – #64 Review
Satoshi Matrix – #29 Review

36 Life Force
North American Release Date: July 1986
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Life Force is often considered the best shooter on the NES and truly it is pretty damn good. The gameplay alternates between Gradius style side scrolling and Gun-Nac style vertical scrolling and it does both of them very well. Obviously I’m still terrible at it, but even playing it as much as I can it’s pretty easy to tell it’s a cut above. There’s a level where both floor and ceiling are made of fire, and giant half circles of flames erupt out and engulf most of the screen. It’s pretty damn impressive.
Life Force is also the only shooter on the NES that you can play with 2-Players simultaneously. It’s a really cool feature, but unfortunately the NES has it’s limits and two people playing at once leads to lots of sprite flickering and slow-down which makes it very difficult to play.
IGN – #38 Review
Gamefaqs – #51 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #13 Review
Complex – #65 Review
Satoshi Matrix – #50 Review

35 Castlevania II
North American Release Date: August 1987
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
This game tends to get derided a bit these days and while it’s not as fun as Castlevania or Castlevania III it’s still pretty good.  The design and a lot of the gameplay elements (like the day to night mechanic for instance) were pretty groundbreaking for their time and it’s influence can be seen in a ton of games that came later on. 
Unfortunately to play it today, it’s a little boring.  The clues are cryptic as hell and figuring out where to go or what item does what is less fun than it is tedious.  Also, unlike Castlevania or Castlevania III where the action was extremely difficult, the action part of Simon’s Quest is a total breeze.  Furthermore, for some reason the dungeons are EXTREMELY easy with only a few push overs for boss opponents.  Seriously, the Grim Reaper is so easy you can just walk right past him.  No fight, nothing.  This means that the only real challenge is deciphering where to go and monotonously killing enemies to get hearts which in turn let you buy the items you need.
All that being said, it’s worth playing for the same reason as it’s worth watching Holy Mountain: it looks cool, it’s interesting, it’s perplexing and a little loose on logic, and in the end it’s kinda dull.  Not amazing, but definitely worth checking out.
Sydlexia – #34 Review
IGN – #25 Review
Gamefaqs – #23 Review
Complex – #23 Review

34 Dragon Warrior
North American Release Date: May 1986
Genre: RPG
Developer: Chunsoft
Publisher: Nintendo
Dragon Warrior is basically THE turn based role playing game from which all others spring.  If you’ve never played this kind of game let me summarize: basically there’s a simple plot to go save something or someone, you walk around an overworld map until you randomly encounter an enemy, you fight by choosing a command (attack, magic, item etc.) and you and the enemy take turns hurting each other, you collect gold and random items but most importantly experience points which make your character stronger, you use that gold to buy better weapons.  Especially in the NES games of this style, you’ll do this on repeat for days.
Unfortunately, the entire game is spent grinding away in simple and repetitive turn based battles and it is extremely tedious by today’s standards.  And there’s no way around it, if you want to beat the game you’ve got to monotonously trade blows with enemies over and over again until you’re ready to fight the final boss.  Of all the genres on the NES, the turn-based rpg has aged the least gracefully.  Sure, there are platformer games out there now that are better than Duck Tales, but I would still argue that it’s fun in spite of it’s age.  Dragon Warrior on the other hand was improved upon ten billion fold by later rpgs to the point that it’s almost unrecognizable against say Final Fantasy 14.  I’d seriously rather watch paint dry than play this game because at least the fumes would get me high.
Sydlexia – #40 Review
IGN – #8 Review
Gamefaqs – 22 Review
Complex – #31 Review

33 Metal Gear
North American Release Date: June 1988
Genre: Action / Adventure / Stealth
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Ultra
If only for spawning Metal Gear Solid, this game belongs on this list, but play this today and you’ll probably find it a tedious, frustrating, clunky mess that just wasn’t adapted very well to the NES. In fact, “clunky” is the word that best describes Metal Gear.
Metal Gear was originally designed for the MSX2, a Microsoft computer only available in Japan. The NES version is basically a crappy conversion of the MSX2 game and somewhere along the line they completely fucked it up. The translation from Japanese to English is pretty awful and while the story’s not the most important part, it’s a sign of what’s to come. The “stealth” style of gameplay that you’ll find in later Metal Gear games is completely flawed here. You’re supposed to be able to avoid enemies depending on where they are on the screen, what they’re doing, or which way they’re facing but most of the time it doesn’t matter at all and they chase you regardless. Then there’s the levels themselves. Because the onscreen design is flawed, you’re constantly running into tiny bushes or you’re not able to pass through what look like huge gaps. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if you were just walking around checking stuff out, but most of the time you’re running away from bad guys and getting stuck in places that are a sure fire way to die.
For me the most annoying thing about this game is that every time you die you start back at the beginning of the game. EVERY TIME. Alternately, you can enter a password which in turn starts you back exactly where you left off. Sounds great except that the password is 25 characters long and entering it takes the same amount of time as starting all the way from the beginning. Seriously, WTF?
However, if this list was about best Engrish in NES games, this game would definitely crack the top 5. “I Feel Asleep” is right up there with Pro Wrestling‘s “A Winner is You”, and Simon’s Quest‘s “You now prosess Dracula’s Rib”.
Sydlexia – #19 Review
IGN – #26 Review
Gamefaqs – #32 Review
Complex – #19 Review


32 Kid Icarus
North American Release Date: July 1987
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Pit, the hero in Kid Icarus, was a character on the show “Captain N: The Game Master” along with Simon Belmont (Castlevania) and Mega Man. Along with The Wizard, this show was the other great Nintendo commercial disguised as entertainment. It’s actually not that bad all things considered and even though I hadn’t played a lot of the games that the show referenced I was still way into it as a kid. Along with King Hippo (Mike Tyson’s Punch Out), Mother Brain (Metroid, here portrayed with some of the most outrageous and disturbing voice acting ever. She’s kind of like a video game version of Tyler Perry’s Madea.), and Eggplant Wizard (Kid Icarus).
Speaking of Metroid, Kid Icarus was created at the same time as that game and features a lot of similar enemies and design, but otherwise they’re very different games. Personally, I really love this game. It’s kind of a weird amalgam of a platformer, and adventure game, and a shooter. Sort of like Clash at Demonhead mixed with Gradius. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an extremely hard game, but some reason here I find the challenge to be more fun than frustrating.
One of my favorite thing’s is that Pit says “I’m Finished” every time he dies. It always makes me think of the last line from “There Will Be Blood” which I think was echoing the the last words of Jesus (depending on the book) “It is Finished”.  Anyway…
Awesome design, classic music and gameplay, difficult as fuck. It’s a classic, but it’s hardcore.
Sydlexia – #35 Review
IGN – #20 Review
Gamefaqs – #34 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #91 Review
Complex – #15 Review

31 Startropics
North American Release Date: December 1990
Genre: Action / Adventure
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Startropics is basically a Legend of Zelda clone mixed with a Zelda II clone but with even more focus on puzzle solving over straight up action.  You’ve got an overworld map where you can walk to towns and talk with people and then there’s dungeons where you jump around and slap enemies with your yoyo.  The control takes a little getting used to and the gameplay is a ton of fail until you succeed, but ultimately it’s a lot of fun. 
One of the most remembered things about this game is that one of the puzzles is interpreting this message “Evil aliens from a distant planet….” “Tell Mike to dip my letter in water….” It refers to a piece of paper included with the game box and instructions that when soaked in water reveals a hidden code.  It’s a really cool idea that I’ve unfortunately never seen because if you owned this game you already ruined that piece of paper.  Finding them on Ebay these days is pretty difficult.
The sequel, Zoda’s Revenge, was one of the last games released for the Nintendo, but it’s not quite as good as the original.
Sydlexia – #15 Review
IGN – #35 Review
Gamefaqs – #27 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #66 Review
Complex – #50 Review
Satoshi Matrix – #96 Review

30 Tmnt 2
North American Release Date: 1990
Genre: Beat Em’ Up
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Ultra
Ever notice the ads for Pizza Hut in the game?  I wonder if this came about as a result of the rivalry with Capcom who also made a pizza game for competitor Dominos called Yo! Noid.  Nah probably not.
Don’t get me wrong, TMNT II is an excellent 2-Player Beat-Em-Up for the NES but I would eternally argue that the third installment is the best.  It’s kind of like the Mega Man 2 or 3 argument in that yes both games are similar but both are equally fun with great music, sound, graphics, and gameplay. 
Nah fuck that, TMNT III is waaaaaaaayy better.  Play one, then the other, then go back to the first.  If you can’t tell the difference in gameplay then you sir or ma’am are on that pipe for real.
Sydlexia – #11 Review
IGN – #41 Review
Gamefaqs – #20 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #84 Review
Complex – #30 Review

29 Dragon Warrior 3
North American Release Date: June 1991
Genre: RPG
Developer: Chunsoft
Publisher: Enix
I gotta say, I never played Dragon Warrior II – IV growing up.  I watched a friend play the original and I’m sure I probably knew someone who played Final Fantasy but outside of that I wasn’t really exposed to any rpgs.  I didn’t even play one until Playstation One came out with the epic Final Fantasy VII.
Sooooooo, with that in mind all I can say about Dragon Warrior III is that it’s pretty primitive and I know you could say the same thing about every NES game but here it’s especially true.  It was revolutionary at the time most definitely, and a lot of what was implemented in this game influenced countless games to come but honestly I’d rather learn to crochet than try and sleep my way through this game again.  So you liked the first Dragon Warrior and want to try out the sequels?  Well III has choices of gender <yawn>, classes <eyelids so heavy>, and ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ <I feel asleep>.
Sydlexia – #29 Review
IGN – #96 Review
Gamefaqs – #31 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #6 Review
Complex – #21 Review

28 Dragon Warrior 4
North American Release Date: October 1992
Genre: RPG
Developer: Chunsoft
Publisher: Enix
Same deal, but Dragon Warrior IV has multiple story arcs, air travel, and a “Tactics” system.  At least that’s what Wikipedia tells me, I’ve never actually turned this game on.
One thing I really like about the NES is that it doesn’t take up a lot of my time.  Other than Legend of Zelda any maybe a few others, I can pretty much play any game for 5-20 minutes which is awesome.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played longer more engrossing games, but I just don’t have time for it these days.  When I watched my business partner chop wood for 3 hours in Skyrim I pretty much turned my back on the idea of modern – life absorbing – gaming.
So to punctuate my point, I certainly wouldn’t want to devote 40 hours of my life to games like Dragon Warrior I -IV where I’m either bored or frustrated the whole time.  Not hating if this game is your thing, it’s just not mine. 🙂
Sydlexia – #53 Review
IGN – #39 Review
Gamefaqs – #24 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #26 Review
Complex – #38 Review

27 Maniac Mansion
North American Release Date: September 1990
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Developer: Lucasfilm Games
Publisher: Jaleco
Maniac Mansion is a point and click adventure where a house full of crazy people have kidnapped your girlfriend and you and your buddies have got to go in and rescue her.  You can choose two of six characters to accompany you on this adventure, and the game has several endings based on which characters you choose, certain decisions you make, or whether any of your friends die along the way.
I used to play point and click games like King’s Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, or Hugo’s House of Horrors back in the day.  The goal is to basically guess your way through a mostly static environment using basic commands (Push, Pull, Open etc) and then hope you chose the correct combination of commands and objects in order to progress.  On the NES, the concept doesn’t work quite as smoothly without a mouse, but it doesn’t totally handicap the game either. 
The main difference between playing these types of games now and 25 years ago is that back then we had a lot more patience.  King’s Quest IV for instance took me a couple years and the collective efforts of several other friends playing it to make my way through an incredibly cryptic game.  I’ve heard Maniac Mansion is both fun and funny, but honestly I don’t just don’t have what it takes these days.
Sydlexia – #17 Review
IGN – #61 Review
Gamefaqs – #37 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #12 Review
Complex – #49 Review

26 Mega Man
North American Release Date: December 1987
Genre: Action / Platformer
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
God damn this game is hard.  Capcom had to have realized this because the sequels have lots of extra items to make the game more palatable to the non-masochists out there.
It’s a classic right?  It gives us one of the most iconic video game characters, excellent sound and design, superb controls, and the ability to choose between levels which was a significant innovation for the time.  But with that in mind, I’d say this is the worst of the series.  Even as boring as Mega Man 6 is, I’d still rather play that than this tortuously difficult game.  All the enemies just seem destined to hit you with no way to avoid them.  It just feels like you’re constantly getting punched in the face over and over again and if you’re really lucky somehow you’ll make it the stage boss with just enough life left to get immediately annihilated. 
Here’s some suggestions for things to do that replicate the experience of playing Mega Man: train a puppy for months on end only for it to bite you and shit all over your rug, date someone for years only to have them stand you up at the altar, and get an English degree and upon graduation not be able to get a job.  FUN TIMES!
Sydlexia – #20 Review
IGN – #30 Review
Gamefaqs – #36 Review
Complex – #25 Review
Satoshi Matrix – #60 Review

25 Battletoads
North American Release Date: June 1991
Genre: Beat Em’ Up / Action
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Tradewest
Infamously noted as one of the most difficult games ever made, Battletoads is also one of the best designed games on the NES.  Tons of variation in gameplay, great graphics and animation, and then of course the soul shattering challenge.  First you’re just beating the shit out of everyone and it’s pretty great.  Weeeeee!!!  Take that, boot!  Then you’re scaling down this cave and you’re like “Hmmm, this is hard but y’know whatever”.  And then you’re on those bikes and holy shit, now it’s on.  I’ve never made it past this level, but from what I understand it only gets crazier from there.
Pop it in and see for yourself.  After the crippling frustration sets in you should just watch some nerd god on Youtube magically fly through the whole game like it’s no big deal.
In 2-Player mode your characters can hurt each other, and it happens unintentionally and constantly.  Then, when one of you dies, you both get a game-over screen and have to start the level over.  Not only that, but if you were about to die right before your buddy did you’ll start over with the same amount of health.  It’s incredibly frustrating and it’s the only time I would say that a game is more difficult with two players. 
On the plus side, Battletoads has the greatest pause music EVER.  Seriously, click that link and keep that shit on loop.  It’s infectious.
Sydlexia – #9 Review
IGN – #40 Review
Gamefaqs – #38 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #38 Review
Complex – #27 Review

24 Tecmo Super Bowl
North American Release Date: December 1991
Genre: Sports
Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Fuck yeah Tecmo Super Bowl!  Y’all can have year after year of Madden because this is the greatest football game ever made.  It’s super fun and challenging, has awesome cut-scenes including PG-13 cheerleader panty shots, and has probably the most replay value of any game on the NES.  
This game is way ahead of it’s time.  Each player and each team are weighted based on their perceived strength which was an incredibly innovative feature at the time.  In season mode, every game played that year is simulated so 9 times out of 10 the overpowered New York Giants will beat the lowly Cleveland Browns.  So if you want more of a challenge, you’ll pick one of the crappier teams and try to reverse fate by becoming a football god.
Thanks to this game, my beloved Atlanta Falcons finally won the 1991 Super Bowl.  I just had to reset the game about 100 times to beat the absurdly good San Francisco Giants.  I wanted to link to the screen image of the Falcons winning but I can’t find it anywhere which I can only assume means I was the first person ever to do it.  If you didn’t think I was cool before, clearly this fact has confirmed it.
Sydlexia – #54 Review
IGN – #53 Review
Gamefaqs – #10 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #21 Review
Complex – #14 Review
Satoshi Matrix – #85 Review

23 Ninja Gaiden 2
North American Release Date: April 1990
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
God damn it.  Yet another game I cannot get to work.  I tried and tried and tried but to no avail.However, here’s a great chance to explain why I don’t really fuck with roms. 
For those that don’t know, pretty much every game exists as files called roms which can be played with programs called emulators.  They’re essentially what MP3 files are to vinyl or AVI files are to DVDs.  I tried to play Ninja Gaiden II online just because I didn’t want to write another section about a game I couldn’t get to work.  You can play it, but for a precision game like that using your keyboard is impossible.  IMPOSSIBLE.  On the first stage, I tried to make what would be an easy wall-jump and couldn’t do it.  Fuck that.
Again, I’ll have to come back to this guy later to give a more informed impression. 
Sydlexia – #83 Review
IGN – #43 Review
Gamefaqs – #35 Review
Complex – #33 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #11 Review
Satoshi Matrix – #22 Review

22 Duck Tales 2
North American Release Date: September 1989
Genre: Action / Platformer
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Holy shit I used to love this show.  I just watched the first couple episodes where Uncle Scrooge and his lads go looking for this lost Mayan treasure and wow, it was still pretty damn good.  Some awesome face put all of the episodes online so check em’ out if you’re bored or stoned.
Other than Super Mario 3, I think this is the best platformer on the NES.  It’s challenging but not difficult, the pogo control is really fun, the music is AMAZING, and there’s lots tons of secret locations and treasures that give it plenty of replay value.  The sequel, Duck Tales 2, is pretty rare but just as fun as the original.  If you can find a copy, definitely pick it up.
Sydlexia – #28 Review
IGN – #10 Review
Gamefaqs – #43 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #59 Review
Complex – #57 Review
Satoshi Matrix – #24 Review

21 Ninja Gaiden
North American Release Date: March 1989
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
I mentioned in section #80 – 61 that those games were really hard, but they pale in comparison to the unholy trilogy described on this page: Mega Man, Battletoads, and of course Ninja Gaiden.
First, the positives.  This game looks and plays amazing.  The story cutscenes are awesome and the music is badass.  But then, there’s the difficulty.
Ryu has a life bar which is great in the first level as you’re getting hit by bad guys while walking down the street.  After level 2, most of the boards have pits in them and seemingly every bad guy is designed or placed in order to knock you into a hole.  So at that point it doesn’t matter how many times you get hit because you’re only going to die by falling to your death.  EVERY TIME.  It’s the exact same design as Castlevania: getting hit means you fly back and when you fly back your ass is falling FOREVER.
I think I can use the same description for a lot of old-school games: cool graphics, fun gameplay, badass music, soul-crushing level of difficulty.  Still a classic, but frustrating as all hell.
Sydlexia – #16 Review
IGN – #17 Review
Gamefaqs – #16 Review
Retro Sanctuary – #57 Review
Complex – #10 Review

5 responses to “#40 – 21

  1. Pingback: Who wants an update? #40 – 21 !!!!! | Snow Way Bro's Top 100 NES Games List

  2. Christopher Infinito Quinn

    Duck Tales! You know I love the feel of that game! One of my prized possessions.when I was a wee laddie. I would still knife a bitch for it today.

  3. Sir Andrew Hillsbury

    Simon’s Quest was my shit, but I do remember it took me days and days to figure out the correct way to kneel at some wall…

    • I played it not too long ago and took that ferry back and forth a million times before I read online you were supposed to give the ferryman a gift to make him go to an entirely new location. Cryptic as fuck.

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