Thursday, December 2, 2010

25 NES Games Every Gamer Should Beat Before They Die

In honor of my working through my 1001 Albums I Must Hear Before I Die project (check my progress - I have come up with a list of 25 NES games that every gamers should beat before they die.  While some of these are ridiculous in terms of difficulty, the reward of defeating some of the most challenging of games will outweigh the burden of dealing with, what has become known as, "NES tough" games. 
 1.) Bionic Commando - A fabulous shooter from Capcom that uses a grappling hook as the means of maneuvering through levels.  And, herein lies the challenge.  Getting the controls down is essential to working through the game (most worthless advice ever but true).  After 15 years I still find myself swearing at the TV because I'm swinging uncontrollably trying to go from platform to platform.   If you ever wonder what Hitler's face burning off Raiders of the Lost Ark style would look like, then finishing this has become even more of a priority for you.

2.) Blaster Master - It is a classic tale of a boy and his frog who jumps down a hole and gets very large after touching radioactive materials.  (I discuss this storyline more here  So our hero goes to rescue his frog in this part side-scrolling part overhead shooter.    To me some of the overhead was a little much but the game overall is as fun as any NES title out there.  Not too hard and not too easy, this one falls in the "just right" category.

3.) Castlevania - I have nightmares about the last level of this game.  After a bunch of times working to fight Dracula I had finally beaten him, with little life left, just to have him turn into a big ass monster that whooped me in seconds.  Then I had to start the whole process again.  Yet, the game was fun as hell.  It hosts a great storyline, great gameplay, and the beginning of a franchise that still around today.

4.) Castlevania II: Simon's Quest - I know the Angry Video Game Nerd hated this game because of the whole night/day thing.  I will admit, this game does have its flaws.  But I think that the good does outweigh the bad.  I love the storyline and it is a fun adventure game.  Do have the Internet available because there are parts that it isn't possible to figure out just through trial-and-error.  I was thankful to have Nintendo Power back in the day.

5.) Castlevania III - I just got around to beating Castlevania III recently and it was a tough, tough game to beat.  Goes back to the tradition of the first game but with better…well, everything.  This time I was prepared.  I beat Dracula and was ready for the second monster this time.   And, sure enough there was one.  Took care of that and now I am done.  Nope, another monster.   "Oh, come on," could be heard echoing through the house.  A great, great, challenging game. 

6.) Contra - Yes, we all know up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start.  Try beating it without it, a tough challenge to say the least.  However, I suppose we can give a pass seeing as you do get the experience with 30 lives without possibly injuring your TV, your little brother, or yourself.   For those daring, work through it without the cheat, for those who are weak - cheating is the only way to go.  And, it is always fun to shoot a very large organ whether it be brain or heart at the end of a challenge (a trend that is lost in later consoles). 

7.) Double Dragon - I have dogged on Double Dragon before on here because of its lack of two-player ability (check it out here - but the NES Double Dragon is still a fun game.  Hell, the opening music to it is my ringtone (as if you care).  The story is a little farfetched (sarcastically thinking, "shocker for an NES game").  You have to go through hell to rescue your woman who was kidnapped, by your brother in the NES game.  In comparison with the other games on here, not as tough but still an enjoyable fight to the end.  The last stage is always a challenge.  For anyone old enough to remember playing this on the NES, am I the only one who thought I was brilliant by finding the glitch walking up the wall in the first stage and leaving the ninja at the top of the platform in the second?  To find out later that the whole Internet knew about it really deflated my ego.    

8.) Dragon Warrior - Ahhh…Dragon Warrior, a classic.  The first RPG released on the NES and a damn good one to boot.   It is fun and simple with a good storyline that makes the whole game engaging.  It is worth your time to sit down with it.  And, unlike current RPGs, it won't take you 100+ hours to beat it.

9.) Final Fantasy - Merely coincidence that right after I discuss the first RPG for the NES is Final Fantasy, which many argue is the best RPG for the NES.  And, who am I to disagree.  Who would have known a college drop-out named Hironobu Sakaguchi would have changed RPGs forever by creating Final Fantasy and turning it into a colossal RPG franchise.  It is a great, challenging RPG that will run much longer (for me at least) and more compelling than Dragon Warrior (which was this carts influence).   

10.) Kid Icarus - When I was a child in the Chicagoland 'burbs, this game was impossible to find.  I am not sure why.  I would make it a habit to look for it everywhere I would shop.  I ended up finding it at a Woolworth after nearly a year of searching.  I know that some circles feel that Kid Icarus is overrated, I am not one of those.  Built on the Metroid engine, it is just a solid adventure game with some great twists throughout.  And, with a new Kid Icarus coming out for the Nintendo 3DS, this would be as good a time as any to take this one out.

11.) Kirby's Adventure - One of the best games on the NES and was missed by so many who had already abandoned the 8-bit era for the more powerful Genesis or TurboGraffix.  Kirby was stylistically one of the best games and was a blast to play.  While the game really isn't hard, it is fun and that was what made the NES a great system, the games were fun.  A straight-up platformer where you cotrol Kirby through different levels with lots of interesting enemies and some nice mini-games.

12.) The Legend of Zelda - For some reason when I was young I resisted Zelda.  I am not sure why, it just didn't seem to appeal to me when I would see it in Nintendo Power. Then, when I finally caved and bought it, I realized how misguided I was.  A fabulous, challenging game that I could easily make an argument should hold the title of best game over the (mostly) mutually agreed upon Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES.   It is a fun quest with all kinds of great enemies and different twists.  Unlike Castlevania II, I would recommend playing this without any help from the Internet, you should be able to figure everything out and it will make it a longer and more enjoyable experience.  Also, don't forget about the second quest.

13.) Mega Man 2 - Tough but not too tough is the best way to describe Mega Man 2.  It falls as my favorite of the series for the NES and should be relished and enjoyed.  It basically took everything good from Mega Man and made them better.  A challenging game with great graphics, sound, and game play.  It is worth going through and shouldn't take you too long to beat.

14.) Mega Man 3 - Not too much more to say here that I didn't say about Mega Man 2.  The Mega Man series are all solid titles.  When putting this list together I wasn't positive which ones to even put on here.  I liked 2 and 3 the best and since it is my list, that is what we are going with.  A great game - like all of them.

15.) Metroid - If you live in a cave and have never played through Metroid and have no idea of the secrets behind it I won't ruin it for you (especially since you are the one person left on this earth who had been stranded below ground for the last two decades) but will tell you to try to go through the game quickly.  A great shooter/adventure game.  I talked about Kid Icarus earlier and while they are similar, Metroid is the much better game and should be played through first.  It hosts fun power-ups and some challenging level design.  In junior high, this was the first game that I actually drew out the maps to find where I was going; you spoiled young kids now have that Internet.

16.) Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! - When I was in 8th grade I beat Mike Tyson.  It was an absolute pain to do but I did it.  And, no one believed me.  It wasn't that beating Tyson was impossible but it is not easy.  The first half of the game is pretty easy but it does bring some challenges later in the game.  If you really want to add some challenge, don't use the Internet and try to learn the different patterns of each of the boxers through trial-and-error.

17.) Ninja Gaiden - Somewhere The Simpsons Comic Book Guy is saying, "hardest…game…ever."    Man, this is one unforgiving title.  Just when you think you have it figured out and get a little cocky a giant bird will knock you right out of mid-air.  This is the one game that I honestly feel I beat because of luck more than because I was just that damn good at it.  I played through it in high school and just kept at it until I made it through.  This is "NES tough" personified.  That being said, it is a great story that is just fun to play.  You will curse, you will spit, and you will possibly maim someone or something while playing it but in the end you will be happy you did it.

18.) Ninja Gaiden II - For whatever reason, I didn't find Ninja Gaiden II to be as tough.  That isn't to say that it was easy because it isn't.  It just seems the team over at Tecmo tried to take it a little easier on us.  Some have referenced that it is the fact that it is easier as a negative against Ninja Gaiden II.  I don't though.  I do agree that I like the first one better, but I found Gaiden II to be solid.  It is definitely worth the time and effort to beat as it is no cake walk, just not AS ridiculous as its predecessor.  

19.) River City Ransom - Another beat-em-up but not just another beat-em-up.  River City Ransom meshes a regular street fighting game with some RPG qualities and then gives it a sense of humor.   While not the hardest game on this list, not a simple walkthrough either, especially later in the game.  When I was kid, I remember having a very in-depth conversation on the school bus about the potential of a River City Ransom and Double Dragon combination taking the best elements of each and merging them into one game.  Now, I look back and think I was a fool seeing as this game (and Double Dragon for that matter) stands up perfectly well on its own.  "BARF!"

20.) Star Tropics - I know what you are thinking, "Star what now?"  Star Tropics didn't get a whole lot of love in the NES days.  In fact, I didn't sit down with it until 15 years later when it came in a lot of games I picked up on eBay.  I instantly fell in love with it.  It is just a unique adventure game that has a strong Zelda feel to it.    Graphically it is superior to a great deal of NES carts and just everything about it was good.  I loved the tropical setting and enjoyed the entire adventure.

21.) Super Mario Bros. - The classic game.  There really isn't much to say.  I do recommend beating the game without warping.  I know that will add a bit of time to the experience but you will enjoy it more.  If you have beaten it and would like to run through it again, perhaps try to do it without continuing.  There are challenges that remain.

22.) Super Mario Bros. 2 - I am not going to lie, I didn't want to put this game on here.  I am not a huge fan.  See and and you will understand.  But, I can't not put it on here either.  It was a staple in the NES library and it was one of the best selling games so I can't recommend not beating it.  I just hate the ending and the fact that we were not allowed the real game because we were thought to be not good enough to handle Nintendo's tough game.  But, graphically and sound are great.  There isn't much of a challenge to it, in my opinion, but worth a completion anyway.

23.) Super Mario Bros. 3 - The king of NES.  This one does truly have it all - great graphics, great gameplay, a high level of difficulty, fun levels, and all kinds of little intricacies.  Hell, I remember I paid actual money to see The Wizard in the theater just because they were going to show the game for the first time.  I have mentioned a few times on here that this has been considered by most Internet experts (i.e. self-proclaimed experts) to be the best game on the NES and while you can make arguments for some others, there is no denying that this is a top 2 game and needs to be on this list.

24.) Tecmo Super Bowl - Tecmo Bowl was a classic and Tecmo Super Bowl took everything that was great about its predecessor and made it better.  Pick your favorite team (may I suggest the Bears) and play through to the Super Bowl.  Just a classic, fun way to play football before Madden would come out on the Genesis a few years later and change everything.

25.) Zelda II: The Adventure of Link - A good adventure game that I have beaten now on the NES and GameBoy (just grabbed it on GameBoy recently that is why I mention it).  I will also mention a quick story of why I had to play through it twice on GameBoy.  I believe I was in castle six or seven and I grabbed a key and unlocked a door.  I ended up having to fight a knight who ended up pushing me into the lava killing me (yeah, I suck).  When I went back the door was back but the key was gone.  The game glitch made it so I wouldn't be able to finish the game.  Not that I hold a grudge, but I will never forgive that game for that.  Anyway, the game itself is great.  It can run a little long and annoying with having to gain experience but it also has a prostitute who lives in each town, and how many games pre-1993 can claim that.  Definitely worth your time especially if you are a fan of the series.  And make sure to say, "hi" to Error for me.

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome! How has no one left a comment on this?

    Thank you for your list, good sir. Always nice to see a fellow NES lover on Blogger.