Remember, this is a dynamic list that's updated in real-time according to each game's User Rating in our database. If you haven't rated the ones you've played, feel free to rate any of the games below and potentially alter the ranking. Enjoy!

The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES (ness? nezz? enn-eee-ess?), is the archetypal home video game console. Sure, earlier machines such as the mighty Atari 2600 pioneered the basic concept of an under-the-TV console with interchangeable software and controller accessories, but the utilitarian design and hardware innovations of Nintendo's 8-bit system set the stage for modern console gaming.

NES Classic Mini
Image: Nintendo Life

Following the video game 'crash' of 1983, the NES (or Famicom in Japan) defied naysayers and singlehandedly brought the industry back stronger than ever thanks to canny marketing and — more significantly — an excellent software library. In the early days, solid ports of hits like Donkey Kong gave players a taste of the arcade in their homes, and game design innovations (and the introduction of on-cartridge chips) further enhanced and expanded the potential for developers making games on the humble NES. Compare 1983's Donkey Kong port to 1988's Super Mario Bros. 3 and it's hard to believe they're running on the same system.

Below you'll find a list of the top 50 NES games ever made. As with many of our other Top 50 system lists, the ranking below is governed by User Ratings submitted by Nintendo Life readers, so this list is not set in stone. The ordering will continue to evolve automatically according to each game's User scores (from 0-10) on the Nintendo Life game database. Disagree with the order? Have your say by scrolling down and rating them now! And if you've rated them already? Thank you kindly — sit back and enjoy.

If there's a game bubbling under the top 50 that you'd like to rate, feel free to find it using the search tool below and give it a score out of 10. Otherwise, scroll down and enjoy our round-up of the very best NES games ever...

Note. In order for games to become eligible, they need a minimum of 25 User Ratings in total.

50. Battletoads (NES)

Battletoads had more than a whiff of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles about it, but with developer Rare at the helm, this side-scrolling beat 'em up had more than enough quality in its art, audio and gameplay to elevate it above the status of 'knock-off'.

In fact, despite their high level of difficulty, we'd say the rough 'n' tumble adventures of Rash, Zitz and Pimple are even more fondly remembered than the 8-bit TMNT games. Insanely unfair hoverbike sections aside, there's still plenty of co-op comedy and fun to be found in this series.

49. Wizards & Warriors (NES)

Rare's 1987 follow-up to its debut NES game Slalom was a 'thou'-filled action-platformer that saw you guiding knight Kuros (the titular warrior) on a quest to defeat Malkil (the titular wizard) and — surprise — rescue a princess from a castle. On the way you collect treasure from chests, deliver steely-bladed justice to all manner of beasties, and leap about the place in an impressively vertical, uncharacteristically forgiving 8-bit adventure.

Wizards & Warriors launched in Europe much later, in January 1990, by which time the range of available NES software was much broader, so this arguably got a little lost. Worth digging up, though; it's not one of Rare's all-timers, but it's a decent-looking, underrated little game with the ever-reliable Dave Wise on composing duties.

48. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)

A radical departure from the template of the first game, Zelda II has enjoyed something of a reappraisal in recent post-Dark Souls years. It's an inscrutable game and one with which we wouldn't feel bad in the slightest using the rewind function if you were playing via Nintendo Switch Online, or save states elsewhere, but it's worth persevering with. In a series that, in the past, risked turning into a by-the-numbers adventure by slavishly sticking to a formula, this first sequel was anything but a repetition — a deeper combat system with RPG levelling elements and side-on platforming villages and dungeons made this a very different experience from the original.

You could argue that too much of its sense of adventure and 'wonder' is lost to frustration, but no more so than in other challenging 8-bit games. If you've bounced off The Adventure of Link in the past, we'd urge you to give it another go.

47. Darkwing Duck (NES)

Darkwing Duck owes a great deal to Capcom's own Mega Man franchise, borrowing many core elements that make this a solid recommendation for NES fans. Released at the tail end of the console's lifespan, this is particularly evident in the stunning visuals and high production value. While it may not dethrone the Blue Bomber as the quintessential platform shooter for the NES, Darkwing Duck is nevertheless well worth a look.

46. Adventure Island II (NES)

Adventure Island II is quite similar to its predecessor in many ways, but with its slightly better control and handful of gameplay additions, it's just that little bit more entertaining. It's also a lot more accessible due to the reserve item system and the shorter stages, compared to the rather brutal original game.

45. Faxanadu (NES)

No, not that '70s film with Sean Connery in a red mankini (that's Zardoz). Faxanadu is a spin-off of Nihon Falcom's Dragon Slayer series and the title melds the words 'Famicom' and 'Xanadu' (that's Dragon Slayer II) into the sort of fun portmanteau we love to say out loud.

Fortunately, the game itself is a thoroughly enjoyable 2D action-RPG and something of an underappreciated gem in the NES library, so we often have cause to speak its name. Developed by Hudson Soft under licence from Falcom, other medieval-feeling side-scrollers might grab all the attention, but Faxanadu is quietly one of the console's best games.

44. Double Dragon II: The Revenge (NES)

This beat 'em up sequel came complete with the all-important two-player component missing from the first game on NES, and while Bimmy and Jimmy's brawling is unlikely to stick with you for long, the ability to get a friend involved in the fight makes Double Dragon II: The Revenge the pick of the pair.

43. Adventure Island III (NES)

This entry went unreleased in Europe, but it's business as usual with this Adventure Island sequel. Hudson turned in another very solid, colourful, and varied platformer with some minor tweaks and advancements to the previous entry — hey, Master Higgins can now duck! A welcome addition, but hardly a transformative one. Still, Adventure Island III is a great 8-bit time. A great-bit time!

Oof, we're banking that one.

42. Duck Hunt (NES)

A cheeky light gun shooter brimming with personality, many players experienced this as it came bundled with their NES and Zapper (on a dual cart with Super Mario Bros., no less — not a bad deal at all). Duck Hunt offers simple, wholesome light gun fun for the whole family; that is, as long as the wanton murder of countless digital waterfowl while a sniggering bloodhound watches doesn't put you off.

An official Wii U Virtual Console release in 2014 reworked the game to function on modern non-CRT televisions with a Wii Remote and an on-screen cursor. As of the end of March 2023, that version is no longer available to buy.

41. Snake Rattle 'n' Roll (NES)

One of the most unique games on the NES, Snake Rattle 'n' Roll's isometric puzzle platforming is a delight to play even now. The balance of eating enemies to get bigger while avoiding bombs and navigating levels is addictive, and it's all tied together well with David Wise's excellent soundtrack and bright, colourful visuals for the time. If you're up for a challenge and a good time, you can't do much better than this underappreciated gem from Rare.