30. Life Force (NES)

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.

29. Mega Man 5 (NES)

When people ask about the best Mega Man game on the NES, Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3 tend to get the lion's share of love. However, Mega Man 5 deserves attention, too. It doesn't quite reach the stellar highs of the blue bomber's earlier outings, but with a host of novel additions to its levels — gravity switching, and even a vehicular section — it's another fine entry in Capcom's series. Yes, it might be 'just' more Mega Man, but who doesn't fancy a bit of that?

28. R.C. Pro-Am (NES)

Arguably the game that put Rare on the map for Nintendo gamers, R.C. Pro-Am sets itself apart from other NES racing games with its isometric viewpoint. But it's also a fantastic racing game in its own right, immersing you in the full 'radio-controlled' experience, with excellent visuals, catching sound effects, and a continuous loop of tracks that you'll want to master. It may lack multiplayer on NES, but Rare's racer is absolutely worth checking out.

27. Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers (NES)

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.

26. Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)

Super Mario Bros. 2 (or Super Mario USA when this famously reskinned, plumberised form of Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic made its way back to Japan), was the follow-up to Super Mario Bros., with platforming mechanics quite different from the original. 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 and ability to play as different characters 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. 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.

25. Dr. Mario (NES)

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.

24. Ninja Gaiden (NES)

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.

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

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)

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. Mega Man 4 (NES)

Following on from the classic one-two punch (or should that be two-three punch) of its direct predecessors, this fourth entry is still a very good game, even if it can't quite live up to the two previous entries. The game seems to alternate between perfect refinement of the formula and a lack of care or inventiveness, and its soundtrack is another area where it doesn't compare favourably to its forebears. That doesn't make it bad at all, but 'not as good as 2 or 3' is hardly something you'd put on the poster, is it?

Mega Man 4, then — 'a very good Mega Man game'. Yep, that's better.