Since i can remember, i have always been obsessed with video games. I still remember hogging my moms Nintendo (which she got as a christmas gift from my dad) when i was a kid and saving up my weekly chore money to buy cheap used NES games from Funcoland. I miss this place terribly and loved the fact that you could play whatever game you wanted before you bought it. Every day my friends and i would walk to the local arcade, which was located at this sketchy as hell flea market about 2 miles away. This is where we first got our taste of classic gaming (what would turn into a long standing addiction) and what is now an unfortunately dead scene ( rip arcades ). We loved the excitement and updated graphics of playing the arcade versions of games we owned, and of course ones we didn’t. We couldn’t get enough of the original Mortal Kombat. It was the most intense fighter out at the time and everyone would always huddle around the machine, pop their quarters around the joystick and wait for their chance to take on the victor. This is where my roots in gaming come from and i think a lot of us would agree that it hasn’t been the same since, but that doesn’t mean gaming isn’t great these days, just different.
I decided to compile a list of all my Favorite Games from childhood for the Nintendo entertainment system. Some titles you may know and love, others you may remember reading on the Funcoland newspaper game list and skipping, but these titles are classics in my mind. Their ideas, visionary direction, excitement, style, music, and challenges may have shaped me into the person i am today. I feel that in order to appreciate the modern gaming world one must have an appreciation and respect for where it all started. So without further a due, not including the obvious classics….My top 10 childhood classic NES games you should have played.
This is probably one of the most interesting and difficult games on the NES. Faxandu is a side scrolling action rpg and takes place in a fantasy world, where you play as a wanderer who stumbles into the town of Eolis. On your arrival your are briefed by the King, who informs you that their village will ultimatley be destroyed by a being known as “The Evil One”, who’s resides deep in the “World Tree”. The “World Tree” is where the game mainly takes place and where you spend most of your time slaying demons and goblins and finding new items to help you along in your journey. This game is very challenging when first playing it, you start with minimal health and pretty shitty weapons, but as time goes on you getting better items and a better feel for the game and it starts to become easier to tackle. Interaction with NPC’s in town as well as on your journey will give hints to the progressive storyline. Make sure to always stock up on items while in town or you will have a tough time moving forward in this one. Overall the challenge and music associated with this game are great. The music is at times cryptic, as if you are truly alone against all odds. This is definitely a diamond in the rough and if your sword and shield/magic 8-bit fan, it may spark your interest.
NARC was a controversial action side scroller released in 1988 for arcade and ported in 1990 for NES. The game was extremely violent for it’s time, and has the players running around city streets mowing down and arresting drug dealers in an attempt to put a stop to “Mr. Big”, the leader of the drug ring responsible for the rampant drug problem. This game was also featured in arcades across the US with much better graphics and better blood animations. Players could either choose to arrest drug dealers for more points, blast the hell out of them with their sub-machine guns, run them down with their hot rod, or fire rockets and watch their bodies turn into human goulash! Every NARC arcade machine was equipped with a “SAY NO TO DRUGS!” logo on it. The primary intention of the game was to keep kids off drugs, but the means of conveying that message was a little unorthodox for some. The game got a lot of flack from parents everywhere because it sends a mixed message to the youth, by claiming the only way to clean up the streets is through extreme violence. At the end of the day, the game was really fun to play and was at times overwhelming, sometimes battling 30 enemies on screen at once. You fight through multiple city stages ranging from, porn shops, drug labs, and subway stations where you come into contact with junkies who throw heroin syringes at you, meth addicted clowns with knifes, and shady fat guys in trenchcoats ;). The end boss of the game is hilarious (like most NES games), this boss’s physical form is (of course) not what you expect. I love this games sheer look, fun factor, and 80’s drug violence. NARC has a special place in my heart and for a game that portrays the “War on Drugs” of the 80’s, this game is a piece of video game history for the social context we can draw from it, looking back. Just remember kids, next time your peer pressured to do drugs, just shove your grenade launcher into your friends mouth and just say NO!
Smash TV is an arcade classic ported on the NES in 1990, who’s theme resembles that of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film “The Running Man“. Essentially, you are a contestant of a violent futuristic television program, where you are forced to fight to survive against waves upon waves of enemies (like billions), and after tearing through thousands of bloody bodies, finally fighting crazy difficult bosses. This game is in a traditional arcade, top-down, 360 degree shooter, which requires the player constantly be on the move firing in all directions because one hit means the loss of a life. Throughout the game you can collect different weapons that do various type of damage to enemies, like spread fire and grenade launchers etc. As you travel through the TV studio killing everything in your path, you are assaulted by tons of different enemies, mocked by the host, winning prizes like new toasters and cars, and just trying to survive this entertainment onslaught. Nintendo also release SUPER Smash TV which had boosted graphics and enemies, but was essentially the same game. Smash TV is the ultimate Co op game and requires you to watch your friends back at all times, it’s often impossible to make it through some of the levels with two players. Smash TV deserves all the credit it deserves and has certainly found its way into my hall of fame not only as a classic NES game but an Arcade classic as well.
Everyone knows this one, if you’ve had a controller in your hands you’ve played Contra in some way shape or form. Since Super Contras release in 1988, its 2d run and gun style has essentially defined the genre as well as being the best in its class. The only honorable mention still going strong in the genre is Metal Slug. Super C is a two player game that is based around surviving through tons of different stages filled with gun turrets, aliens, commandos, tanks and tons of other disgusting creatures waiting to put your skull on their mantle. The story takes place a few years after the first game, where you are on a mission to destroy an alien race that has taken control of your allies military station and made it their own. Your mission is to recapture the station, destroy the alien threat, and save the world! You collect tons of different weapons like, spread guns, flame throwers, lazer guns, and grenade launchers along the way from flying pods to help you more efficiently kill your enemies. The boss battles in this game are really challenging and some times require multiple plays to defeat. This game gives you tons of ways to shoot the shit out of aliens and other commandos, and its way fun! Their have been so many more Contra games following Super C (Hard Corps (my fav), Alien Wars, Legacy of War, Shattered Solider, Contra 4, Neo-Contra, Contra Uprising etc), most of which have kept the aesthetic of the past alive and some of which who have steered away from it (Uprising). The music in this game as well as the action keeps things fresh. If this title isn’t a classic i don’t know what is!
No you don’t have a special attack that allows you to bite off your opponents ear, as much as we’d all like to! This game was made way before iron mike developed a taste for blood. Mike Tysons punch out is one of the most well known boxing games ever created. You start out as a young boxer trying to make a name for himself in the light weight divison. As you proceed further by knocking the hell out of your (often times unique opponents) you move into higher divisions and fight harder boxers. Some of the boxers you fight include, Soda Popinski, Don Flemenco, King Hippo, Mr Sandman, and of course the last fight Iron Mike himself! Despite Tyson’s lack of ability to pronounce the letter S, This game is super fun to play and anyone can pick it up and learn the controls quick. Learning the patterns of all the different boxers takes time but winning a long drawn out fight is the most satisfying experience ever. Definitely a massive classic and another one for the record books. People will be talking about this game for generations to come!
The game that started it all! I had to add this to my list because i may be one of the few people in the world to actually beat it. Metal Gear (1987) may be one of the best and hardest games for the NES simply because of its length and terrible saving system. A 20 something character long password was required whenever you died in the game and usually had you start at an annoying checkpoint not very close to where your objective was. I remember having a notebook with all the passwords that id use every day i got out of school and that’s how i inevitably beat it. Metal Gear is of course the first of what turned into the Metal Gear Solid series, one of the best action/stealth/conspiracy/espionage series ever created. The Metal Gear Solid games essentially take the same ideas from its NES original and just bring them into the modern world. In the original you can still sneak around in boxes, smoke cigarettes, and use special gadgets to get through each map. The most challenging part of this game is overcoming obstacles without the use of any weapons or tools. When you start the game, you have nothing but cigarettes in your pack, so a reliance on stealth is required. If you are spotted like in later games, tons of enemies are alerted and your basically on the run or dead. Aside from some bad japanese translations and a few really tough spots, this game is solid. Metal Gear is none other then a classic and im glad to say i own it :)
Capcom’s golden boy – Mega Man. That little blue ladykiller and his pal rush have become icons over the last 15 years. The Mega Man franchise has spawned tons of other great games based around the characters, many of which do not resemble the standard side scrolling adventures of the 80’s, but i’ve heard many of them to be great. MM 2 pits Mega Man once again against Dr Wilys band of 8 evil douche bots sent to make yours and the lives of others, a living hell. In short, its your job to stop them! The beauty of Mega Man is in its expansive level designs and controls, this can also be it’s biggest drawback (if you suck). I’ve always thought of MM as a game for the veteran player. The controls are stiff, the game is insanely difficult, enemies pop out at inconvenient times resulting in your death and you don’t get many continues. So you really have to make the most out of your time playing. The game is about precision, not taking damage, and utilizing your brain by using the correct powers against the right bosses for maximum damage. MM2 also sports some of the greatest music on the NES as well. This is 8-bit sonic goodness at its best. The cover art of MM2 is kind of strange because it features quick man and crash man but what is that in mega mans hand? a pistol? I guess the artists designing the cover didn’t really get a good look at this game before creating the box art! I’ve heard that Mega Man 2 is kind of rare to own so im also proud to own a copy of this game myself. Ill always have a soft spot for MM forever, even if all his games are insanely frustrating and super difficult ;)
Another 1988 NES classic, Bionic Commando is a classic side scrolling shooter, where the player uses a bionic arm to catapult their way across different military installations in an attempt to infiltrate the opposing “Empire”. In this game you play as Ladd Spencer, a solider sent by the federation to rescue “Super Joe”, an operative sent in to investigate the creation of a super weapon known as the “Albatros Project”. Super Joe is captured and it is your job to rescue him, while taking out as many opposing enemy douche bags as possible. The music in the game is stellar and creates that military feel with 8-bit drum rolls almost reminiscent of classic Vietnam war movies like full metal jacket or platoon. The music really attempts to capture the feel of action sequences usually found in 80s war films. You cannot jump in this game so using the bionic arm to climb around to each platform is key. Sometimes well timed swings are required to get through difficult areas as well. You also come into contact with new weapons like shot guns and rocket launchers which are really useful when it comes to bosses. Overall this is an excellent game where you can spend hours exploring each stage because they are pretty vast, and just finding new ways to attack enemies and proceed further and further. They also created a remake of this game available on xbox live arcade which features online co op mode, called Bionic Commando Rearmed. If you like the original, check it out, you will not be disappointed!
Created in 1986, Metroid is a side scrolling action adventure game which chronicles the exploits of Samus and her missions to wipe out threats to the Galactic Federation presented by Space Pirates and their attempts to harness various biological weapons such as the Metroids and Phazon. As Samus fights her way through the labyrinths of planet Zebes on her quest to stop the Space Pirates from using Metroids as a weapon, she finds upgrades to her Power Suit on statues left behind by the Chozo. Using these upgrades, Samus fights her way through Brinstar, a region of Zebes, to find Kraid’s hideout. This NES classic is the first of 11 future Metroid titles and has definitely paved the way for games of this genre for years to come. Offering you little direction, the game forces you to explore your surroundings, endlessly searching for hidden passages or new weapons to help you navigate through the map. Metroid combines the enjoyment of a well balanced side-scroller with the adventure an exploration of a game like Castlevania. I think one of the most influential aspects of NES’s Metroid is it’s atmosphere. Samus’ mission lands her on an unexplored planet, with no knowledge of what to expect, and droves of disfigured enemies at every turn. The environments are dark, grim, an lonesome. The music reflects the feeling of isolation and at times their is no music at all. I believe this to be intentional and to really convey the feeling of detachment and confinement. Throughout her assignment, Samus comes across many upgrades which have become staples for the franchise. The ice beam, missiles, jump boots, energy tanks, and morph ball all made their appearance in the first Metroid and have continued to show up in games to follow. If you haven’t played the original, it is a great place to start because of it’s classical approach and originality for its time; but i would recommend the remake on gameboy advanced – Metroid Zero Mission. It’s basically the same game with a few graphic and weapon upgrades. The maps are essentially the same, this version just puts a modern spin on the original. Every side scrolling Metroid game in my opinion is excellent in it’s own way, my favorite being Metroid Fusion or Metroid 4. Overall, i feel this game has made such a huge impact on the gaming world, for it’s creative ideas an visual direction, as well as control balance, challenge, fun factor, and positive reward for exploration. Metroid stands only amongst a few others in it’s genre but it stands alone as a never ending classic in the minds of gamers.
This sci-fi action platformer has a great fighting system and has one of the best soundtracks ive ever heard in an NES game. The story of the game as the opening cutscene suggests, that you are an ex-martial artist turned scientist known as Ken. You used to be the champion of the “street fighter” circuit and now your invention which you had created with you best friend Troy has been stolen and Troy killed in the process. Your quest to find Troys killer and the bastards who stole your invention “cyboplasm” begins here. Throughout the game you take on various air born and platformed enemies, collecting as many “cyboplasm upgrades” as you can, as they make your attack reach greater lengths and make fighting a bit less taxing. This game is extremely challenging (and plays similarly to ninja gaiden) requiring you to jump, climb, and fire your fist beam in multiple directions. The enemies in the game are annoying, sometimes up to 4-5 enemies are on you at once. On some stages the screen actually moves and if you are not fast enough will crush you into “black space” ending your life. This game keeps you on your toes. The stages in this game range from futuristic cities, to trippy inter dimensional portals where you are attacked by some of the most obscene looking aliens ever. The Angry Nintendo Nerd did a funny review on this game, hating at first, but after playing it for a while actually started to enjoy it’s challenge, and despite it’s title, claimed it could’ve been an underrated NES classic. I can completely agree with this statement and think this may be one of the biggest underrated NES classics out there. Here’s a sample of the gameplay and music from the game! (this guy makes it look like preschool).
Honorable Mentions to this List: