Hello and welcome to the first installment of a new series! Nintendo has been making systems for decades and there are countless great games for them. With the votes of both readers and Nintendo Enthusiast staff members, I will be counting down the top ten games on each of Nintendo’s systems.
First up is the system that made Nintendo one of the most powerful companies in gaming: the Nintendo Entertainment System. Redefining gaming with Super Mario Bros. and saving the North American console market, no console has so thoroughly dominated its generation — in North America, at least. This meant a large amount of games and a long lifespan, with everyone wanting to get in on the system’s success. While this naturally led to plenty of terrible games, it also meant a lot of great ones.
Number 10: Kirby’s Adventure
One of the last big NES games released, Kirby’s Adventure had a level of polish that was rare for first-party NES games. The second Kirby game, Kirby’s Adventure introduced series staples like inhaling powers from enemies, Kirby’s pink color, and the game being more than twenty minutes long. The graphics are among the most detailed on the NES and the game has a substantial quest with plenty of secrets and mini-games. With so many powers to choose from, you’ll never get tired of the game. Still one of the best in its franchise, Kirby’s Adventure is a must have for any NES library.
Number 9: Contra
This game is far more than a cult reference. Still the most iconic run-and-gun shooter, the intense, unforgiving, but always fair action is just as great now as it was in the 80s. Contra lived up to the promise of blasting through aliens and military machines that so many licensed games attempted but failed to deliver. Unlike many of the NES games known for their difficulty, it has great control and doesn’t require memorization — just skill. The game is great to play again and again, co-op or single player, thirty lives or three. For pure action, Contra is probably the best choice on the NES.
Number 8: DuckTales
Go listen to the theme song one or twenty times. I’ll wait. Okay, onto the NES game: one of the most beloved licensed games of all time, DuckTales is not only a great platformer, but it has its own style. Uncle Scrooge gets mileage out of his cane, bouncing around on it like a pogo stick and sending items flying like golf balls. The levels are designed for exploration, filled with money and secrets that Scrooge will naturally want. Combined with some of the best music on the system, it’s easy to see why the game is so remembered. Even with the remake, DuckTales is still a classic.
Number 7: Metroid
There was nothing else like Metroid when it was released. When gamers were still getting used to games that were more than a couple screens, Metroid’s completely open world and constant upgrades for your character were mind-blowing. Being completely alone in a consistently tense and alien atmosphere was an adventure that few gamers had experienced before. Even in 8-bit, the atmosphere and music work today. Although everyone knows it now, Samus’ gender was one of the first big plot surprises in a game. Not every aspect of it aged well, but the game is still one of the most memorable on the NES.
Number 6: Mega Man 2
The original Mega Man was certainly better than the infamous North American box art would indicate, but the series really took off with its sequel. Mega Man 2 improves on the original in every way, with more levels, better weapons, gigantic bosses that are stunning for NES, and some of the most beloved video game music of all time. With the great control and weapon system that all Mega Man games share, Mega Man 2 is one of the best platformers on the NES. No matter what the future holds for Mega Man, we will always have this game.
Number 5: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!/Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
Whether you were working your way up to Mike Tyson or the despised Mr. Dream, Punch-Out!! is one of the most memorable games on the NES. The amount of personality in your opponents was huge for the time of the game’s release. In a pre-Street Fighter II world, having all your opponents developed to such an extent was rare. Playing almost nothing like actual boxing, each national stereotype you battled was basically a boss fight. Defeating boxers as the aptly named Little Mac feels satisfying, no matter how many times you do it.
Number 4: Mega Man 3
Mega Man 2 added a huge amount to the series, but there was still plenty left for its successor to introduce. Mega Man 3 introduced the slide, Rush, Proto Man (or, as he was called at the time, “Break Man”) and Wily pretending not to be the villain. The level design was as good as ever — until you entered the clearly unfinished end levels, anyway — and the controls were, as always, perfect. The robot masters were still creative and you were even able to fight the Mega Man 2 ones as well! This is definitely one of the stronger Mega Man games on the system.
Number 3: The Legend of Zelda
Like Metroid, the original Zelda was unlike anything most gamers had ever seen when it was released. It was a game so massive that the cartridge version introduced battery back up to free us from the tyranny of passwords. With nothing but a wooden sword and some badly translated advice, it was up to you to find the pieces of the Triforce and defeat “Gannon.” Iconic Zelda enemies made their debut and Hyrule was at its most open. With a whopping eighteen dungeons, counting the second quest, the game is one of the most massive on the NES. While not every aspect of the game aged well, the impression it made on those who played it will last forever.
Number 2: Super Mario Bros. 2 (North American version)
As everyone knows by now, the game known as Super Mario Bros. 2 outside of Japan didn’t start out as a Mario game. While the deception initially turned people off to the western Super Mario Bros. 2, formerly Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, the game’s quality has prevailed and the game is more popular now more than ever. With large, excellently designed levels and a surprising amount of things that would become Mario staples, Super Mario Bros. 2 deserves the renewed love. Picking up enemies turned out to be just as fun as stomping on them and Doki Doki Panic proved its worth as a Mario game.
Number 1: Super Mario Bros. 3
I think that everyone saw this coming. The number one game on the list by a wide margin, Super Mario Bros. 3 was arguably the first game to show what Nintendo was truly capable of. It did everything perfectly, with flawless controls, a gigantic amount of levels, great power-ups, some of the best music and graphics on the system, and a huge variety of world themes and enemies. There are few games on the system that aged as well as SMB3 and none that match its quality. One of the best games on any Nintendo system, Super Mario Bros. 3 is every bit as good today as it was decades ago. It truly deserves its spot as the best game on the Nintendo Entertainment System.