30. Double Dragon (NES)

Double Dragon might have been superseded many times over in the street brawling genre (and arguably by its sequels), but Billy Lee's first outing is still a fun nostalgia trip, and worth the hour or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.

29. VS. Excitebike (NES)

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.

28. Cobra Triangle (NES)

One of Rare's earliest games, Cobra Triangle boasts addictive gameplay and strong visuals in spades. Racing over ramps, collecting items, and blasting enemy speedboats feels remarkably timeless, but it's the boss battles against the giant sea monster, crab, octopus, and shark that truly elevate this one to greater heights.

27. Fire 'n Ice (NES)

Enjoyment in Fire ‘n Ice is largely dependent on how much you enjoy logic puzzles, but while the game lacks a hint function, it does its best to ease you into the basic concepts, before eventually introducing new mechanics, like the jars that can be ignited. The framework around all of this is well done – there’s a cutesy story of an old woman telling her grandkids the story of Dana like a fairy tale, and while the visuals are simple, they’re extremely well animated. There are also an extra fifty stages beyond the initial one hundred, plus an option to make your own levels.

26. Donkey Kong (NES)

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. It's missing a level (which was eventually restored in the Original Edition), but it's arguably only once you've played the arcade version that the limitations of the home console port become apparent. Best enjoyed in short and sweet bursts.

25. Gradius (NES)

The NES port of Konami's influential shmup, what it lacks in looks it makes up for with gameplay that captures the arcade original well. Shmup fans will have played it to death in better form elsewhere, but for shmup newbies Gradius for NES could be a decent way to start exploring a large and impenetrable genre.

24. 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.

23. 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.

22. Excitebike (NES)

The existence of VS. Excitebike on Famicom Disk System made the original Excitebike somewhat superfluous, but this was the base version of the game we got in the West. Providing a deceptively deep 8-bit ride that plays beautifully with acceleration and the pitch of your bike as you land, we'd say it's definitely worth a spin. We just like VS. and its expanded modes a bit better.

21. Metroid (NES)

While it set the template of the series and pioneered the delicate mix of exploration and gradual empowerment, we have to be honest here: the original Metroid can be tough to return to, even if you played it back in the day. The audio and atmosphere it conjures remains incredible, but control refinements and quality-of-life features we're used to these days are largely absent from the Famicom Disk System/NES original and going back without the right mindset and context can be jarring.

Its biggest issue is that the fantastic Game Boy Advance remake Metroid: Zero Mission exists — truly the best way to experience Samus' first adventure. The original has its charms, though. You just need to dig deeper to find them these days.

20. Devil World (NES)

A game which fell foul of Nintendo of America's nervousness around depicting religious iconography, 1984's Devil World came to Europe in '87 but never launched in North America.

Designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka (and being the latter's first project after joining the company full-time in 1984), it’s easy to label it a Pac-Man clone given the obvious similarities, but this is a game that takes the basic formula of the arcade original and builds upon it in an inventive and unique way. It does become a bit repetitive over time due to the fact that the stages are very similar throughout and always presented in the same order. Despite this, the quirky theme and challenge will keep you coming back to this 8-bit curio.

Previously available on multiple Virtual Consoles, it's now part of Nintendo's Switch Online offering.

19. 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.

18. 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.

17. The Mystery of Atlantis (NES)

Sunsoft went bold with The Mystery of Atlantis in Japan and dubbed it, "The game that surpassed Super Mario!!" And, sure, it certainly has more levels than Super Mario Bros., but we're not sure the company managed to achieve such lofty ambitions. Its jump mechanic doesn't feel half as precise, and the strict timer can be a bit distracting. That said, there's a strong sense of place with Mystery of Atlantis — originally Atlantis no Nazo for its Japan-only Famicom release — and it's worth checking out if you're a fan of platformers in general.

16. The Mysterious Murasame Castle (NES)

A Japan-only Nintendo first-party title (although Human Entertainment was also involved in its development according to Suda51), Mysterious Murasame Castle saw its first international release on 3DS Virtual Console in 2014.

A tough-as-nails, top-down, action-focused 'sibling' to The Legend of Zelda, it introduced Takamaru — a character Western players may recognise as an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. or from the minigame 'Takamaru's Ninja Castle' in Nintendo Land — and sees you move between castles and taking down each daimyo in a linear quest to defeat an alien villain that's corrupting the castles and their lords. It's a gem in the Famicom (Disk System) library and well worth checking out if you've never had the pleasure.

15. 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.