Unique in the Mario canon for being the only game to make the plumber the antagonist, Donkey Kong Jr. can't measure up to the original game, but it's worth a play just to see Mario guarding a caged Donkey Kong. You'll need a hefty dose of nostalgia to get much more out of it, though.
Balloon Fight is essentially Nintendo's version of Joust, and while it was very much a case of the company copying someone else's homework back in the day, the resulting game is a strong one. Personally, we like to blast through the Balloon Trip mode every so often, if only to listen to the cheery tune that plays. The game is showing its age, but that's no crime - Balloon Fight's definitely worth a smidgen of your time.
27. TwinBee (NES)
A vertical-scrolling shoot 'em up that didn’t originally release in the West, Konami's Twinbee is worth checking out if only for that reason. It's a cute little Famicom shmup that spawned a successful series and fans will probably enjoy going back to the beginning more than newcomers. Still, it's worth a look.
26. Tecmo Bowl (NES)
Tecmo Bowl strikes a lovely balance between pick-up-and-playability and depth of gameplay that characterises the best sports games (scratch that - video games in general). There's a chance that even non-football fans might enjoy this one, and it has aged far better than many sports titles in the NES catalogue. Hut!
Simply put, Ghosts 'n Goblins ain't no Ghouls 'n Ghosts. And Ghouls 'n Ghosts ain't no Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. What we're trying to say is that if you're jonesing for a challenging 2D platformer from Capcom, this NES entry in the series probably shouldn't be your first port of call. It's not bad by any means, just distinctly primitive and a little more frustrating than it needs to be.
24. Rygar (NES)
Rygar for the NES bears little resemblance to the side-scrolling arcade original, but is an impressive action adventure game in its own right. With tight controls and a character that grows stronger as you play, it's a fine example of a quality third-party NES release and worth investigating if you're into non-linear, fantasy-style 8-bit games.
Known to a whole generation as the extra mode that came tacked on to the Game Boy Advance Super Mario Bros. series ports, Mario Bros. is a slight, flavourless offering that doesn't hold up too well these days. It's passingly diverting with two players, but you'll soon be wishing you were playing the one with 'Super' at the start.
Double Dragon might have been superseded many times over in the street brawling genre, but Billy Lee's first outing is still a fun nostalgia trip, and worth the hour or two it'll take you to breeze through it.
Offering an improved track editor over the original Excitebike along with various other bells and whistles, you probably know what to expect from VS. Excitebike. It's a decent ride and definitely the pick of the 8-bit Excitebikes, although even with the improvements of this version (which originally released for the Famicom Disk System), it will probably struggle to hold your attention beyond a single evening.
20. Crystalis (NES)
This was one of the best Zelda-eqsue games on the NES back in the day. It’s a more linear experience than you might expect, but it features a cracking soundtrack and mixes the faux-medieval fantasy of Hyrule with a dose of sci-fi. If you’re after some authentically 8-bit action RPG adventuring, this is an excellent option.
While the NES version might not compare favourably side-by-side with the arcade original, this Donkey Kong port captured the spirit of the cabinet version very well indeed. Back in the day this was a remarkable feat, and for many kids who may not have been old enough to venture into arcades, it was here that they first met DK and the plucky plumber. Best enjoyed in short and sweet bursts.
18. Kid Icarus (NES)
Kid Icarus is a game filled with idiosyncrasies (like several first-party NES titles which didn't spawn a series with dozens of entries) and while it's got its share of flaws, this game still has a certain spark despite its missteps. It makes you wonder what could have been if Nintendo doubled down on Kid Icarus rather than, say, Zelda. Check it out.