One thing you may have noticed, if you're a regular visitor to Nintendo Life, is that we're more than happy to wear our retro-enthusiast, rose-tinted spectacles as often as possible. A merger with VC-Reviews in April 2009 is an important part of our history, and we often share entertaining blasts from the past and wax lyrical on retro classics. It's also one of the big appeals of being a Nintendo gamer, in that there's a lot of history to call upon, providing a significant context to why some of us are such keen gamers on the big N's consoles.
Of course, thanks to the Wii and 3DS Virtual Consoles, you don't need to be of a certain age — or a dedicated retro collector — to enjoy the best of what Nintendo's older systems have to offer. With that in mind, this is the first of a new series where our increasingly diverse and sizable team votes on its favourites from a variety of retro games systems. There'll be a focus on Nintendo hardware, of course, but we will indulge ourselves and dive off into other Virtual Console territories as well.
All members of staff were invited to submit their favourite 10 NES games, in order; there were no limits on sequels — no "one game per franchise" rule here — and we've tallied up the scores for the results below. In total 47 games were nominated by 14 staffers, showing that we weren't short of contenders.
Below are the results, and in some cases the scoring was close enough to prompt tied positions; it was a fierce contest.
Kicking off our countdown is the final part of the NES Castlevania trilogy, a title that moved back to the action-focus of the series debut, but threw in multiple playable characters to shake things up. It's a gruelling, challenging title, and is in our view the best of the NES titles in the franchise.
Very much a representation of arcade action/puzzle gameplay at its best. It's simple but challenging, with power-ups for variety, along with a catchy audio loop to drive you slightly mad when you can't get it out of your head...
Although this one has had the 3D Classics treatment on Nintendo's latest handheld, its NES original was still angelic enough to earn some votes. A rather tough platform puzzler that'll take every chance to seize your lives, it had plenty of references in the recent Kid Icarus: Uprising — quite right, too.
A few Mega Man titles were in the running, but it was the first sequel that blasted its way into the top 10. It was a marked step up from the series debut — which was nevertheless excellent — and set the tone for the series as a whole. Packed with classic robot monsters and memorable moments, it's a welcome place in the list for the Blue Bomber.
With this we refer, of course, to the sequel that we received in the West, not what would become Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, which was the Japanese sequel. Its origins as Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic are evident in just how different this is from all other Super Mario Bros. titles, but that does nothing to stop it being an excellent NES game.
The title that started a major franchise and introduced the world to a new heroine, which was a surprise in a time when female lead characters weren't exactly common. Its successors on more powerful hardware are perhaps regarded with more fondness, but that says nothing against what's still a worthwhile experience on the 8-bit system.
Considering the votes were taken before news of Ducktales: Remastered emerged, it shows that this title is there on merit rather than as a result of keeping up with the times. Its non-linear action platforming and classic music make it a must for those yet to dive in.
Kirby as a character may not have originally been considered a potential star when first conceived — the story goes that he was a placeholder, initally — but he's become an iconic Nintendo mascot. This NES adventure has also had the 3D Classics treatment, and though some may consider it "easy", it has an effortless charm and fun factor that fully merits its status as our fifth favourite NES title.
While its original title had the name of infamous boxer Mike Tyson, his misdemeanors led to a rebrand as Punch Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream; its name isn't particularly important, but what matters is the fact that this is a compulsive, addictive game that demands quick reflexes and sharp "twitch" memory. Easy-peasy at the start, brutally difficult by the time you go for the big prize, and full of iconic characters and moments,
A title that arguably, like no other, solidified the early success and appeal of the NES when it was released in the West. It can easily be used as a Platforming 101, which went a long way to define the sidescrolling genre that would take over gaming for multiple generations of consoles. It's the game that made Mario a star, and is still a blast to play today.
A classic that started one of Nintendo's best-loved and prominent franchises, The Legend of Zelda needs no introduction. In an era where many games took place over a few screens, it provided gamers with a large, fantastical world to explore. Its place in gaming and pop-culture lore is guaranteed due to its various quirks and memorable moments, while laying the foundations for diverse, bold adventure titles on the system.
If Super Mario Bros. is the iconic beginning of the famous franchise, this title came along to take that starting point and expand it with a large set of worlds, diverse level designs and a whole new outlook on the genre. With levels going left, right, up and down at will, secrets to discover and a significant list of innovative and delightful power ups, this truly is a game that defined the 8-bit generation. Typically rated as one of the very best Mario games, of any kind, and a runaway winner in this staff poll.
So there you have it, our favourite NES games here on Nintendo Life. You can vote for your own choice from this list in the poll below; be sure to keep an eye on the site in the coming days, as you may very well get a chance to vote for your own community favourites in the near future.
Which of the NL Staff's NES list is your favourite? (263 votes)
Super Mario Bros. 3
The Legend of Zelda
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. 2
Mega Man 2
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Sorry, I can't vote for any of these...
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