30. Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers (NES)

Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers (NES)
Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers (NES)
Publisher: Capcom / Developer: Capcom
Release Date: Jun 1990 (USA) / 12th Dec 1991 (UK/EU)

A classic co-op romp that looked and sounded incredible, Capcom made a habit of surpassing expectations on the NES — not too difficult considering the general standard of licenced tie-ins (have you tried playing Bart vs. the Space Mutants recently?) — but Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers really is a title worthy of standing alongside the console's finest platformers. The chipmunks' ability to pick up and throw items gave the game a unique flavour, and we personally rate it right up there with Ducktales.

29. Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)

Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)
Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 9th Oct 1988 (USA) / 28th Apr 1989 (UK/EU)

Super Mario Bros. 2 (or Super Mario USA when its plumberised form made its way back to Japan), was the follow-up to the original Bros., a famously reskinned version of the Mario-less Japan-only title Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, with platforming mechanics quite different to the original Mario game. It introduced the ability to lift and throw objects and a screen that scrolled left and right and up and down.

The verticality of levels was a profound change from the first game, but despite being the odd one out in its homeland, Super Mario Bros. 2 ended up having an enormous influence on the iconography of the series as a whole. The game is definitely worth revisiting — Nintendo Switch Online is the easiest place to find it these days — if only to remind yourself just how different it is from what came before and after. With four playable (and very different) characters to choose from, we highly recommend a playthrough.

28. Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (NES)

Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (NES)
Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (NES)
Publisher: Tecmo / Developer: Tecmo
Release Date: Aug 1991 (USA) / 23rd Jan 2014 (UK/EU)

It's another NES Ninja Gaiden game and just like the two before it, Ninja Gaiden III is tough but a lot of fun to play. The story is complete guff but impressive visuals and decent music compliment the excellent gameplay. Deciding to tweak, rather that fix what isn't broken, Tecmo provided a game quite similar to its predecessors but with the ability to swing up on to platforms and mix things up a little. Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (and indeed the whole NES trilogy) is a challenging gaming experience worthy of your time.

27. Bionic Commando (NES)

Bionic Commando (NES)
Bionic Commando (NES)
Publisher: Capcom / Developer: Capcom
Release Date: Dec 1988 (USA) / 26th Oct 1990 (UK/EU)

Capcom's Bionic Commando gave players a grappling hook to help negotiate its side-on platforming levels by athletically swinging across gaps and scrambling around with a bionic arm that gave a fresh take on the 2D platforming genre. It might not be top-tier title, but its style and game design ambition made it an admirable addition in any NES library.

26. Life Force (NES)

Life Force (NES)
Life Force (NES)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: Aug 1988 (USA) / 22nd Nov 1989 (UK/EU)

If you're itching for some cooperative old-school space shooter action, Life Force will scratch your itch like a kind old friend you've known for years. It's a fairly standard side-scrolling shooter with enough twists on the formula – alternating vertical/horizontal levels, a unique stacking item system and some trippy level designs – to make it stand out in the crowd, a natural step up for veterans of the original Gradius. Life Force doesn't have the immediate name recognition of some of its peers, but it's well worth the time for any fan of the genre.

25. Ninja Gaiden (NES)

Ninja Gaiden (NES)
Ninja Gaiden (NES)
Publisher: Tecmo / Developer: Tecmo
Release Date: Mar 1989 (USA) / 15th Aug 1991 (UK/EU)

Known as Shadow Warriors in Europe (because the word 'ninja' was considered far too violent and controversial at the time), this is the game that inspired modern classics like The Messenger. Ryu Hayabusa, the titular ninja, feels as acrobatic and responsive as he did over three decades ago, and if you're interested in finding out about the inspiration behind dozens of today's indie platformers, you owe it to yourself to give Ninja Gaiden a try.

24. Dr. Mario (NES)

Dr. Mario (NES)
Dr. Mario (NES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Release Date: 1st Oct 1990 (USA) / 27th Jun 1991 (UK/EU)

Mario's first outing as a healthcare professional, this block-falling puzzler might not have the following or cache of the mighty Tetris, but its colour-matching gameplay caught on with puzzle fans. Despite not being able to compete on the level of Alexey Pajitnov's puzzling titan, there's a reason Dr. Mario has stuck around in some form for over thirty years: it's simple and addictive.

23. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)
Publisher: Ultra Games / Developer: Konami
Release Date: Dec 1990 (USA) / 14th Nov 1991 (UK/EU)

As the name suggests, this was a NES port of the arcade TMNT game given sequel status on console thanks to Konami's existing 8-bit Turtles title. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game was a fine 8-bit port with extra levels and new bosses thrown in for good measure, not to mention plenty of Pizza Hut product placement for that authentic early '90s feel.

16-bits of processing power would enable the SNES to more closely replicate the look, feel and sound of the arcade experience, but this NES port was pretty remarkable in its day and sticks in the memory as one of Donatello, Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo's finest console brawlers.

22. Bubble Bobble (NES)

Bubble Bobble (NES)
Bubble Bobble (NES)
Publisher: Taito / Developer: Taito
Release Date: Nov 1988 (USA) / Nov 1988 (UK/EU)

With Bubble Bobble’s simultaneous two-player gameplay, a hundred stages of increasing difficulty, and manic platform gameplay, Taito's arcade classic is one of the NES' top-tier titles. The bust-a-move gameplay is fun to pick up and play for a quick session, and the password system lets you make steady progress with Bub and Bob. Bubble Bobble has been released on multiple platforms over the years, and the NES version is still a fine one.

21. Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II (NES)

Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II (NES)
Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II (NES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: Mar 1994 (USA) / 10th Jul 2009 (UK/EU)

Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II is a sequel that could have been absolutely great, and almost did everything right by improving on a clunky control scheme to make the action sections more fun. Sadly, its overworld and characters are disappointingly unimaginative in comparison to the first, leaving us with an adventure that's mechanically improved but creatively lacking. We still think it's definitely worth checking out, and perhaps by any other name we'd have even been less harsh, but any entry in the StarTropics franchise has some rather big and charmingly silly shoes to fill. Let's be honest here; it just isn't the same without the yo-yo!