40. Duck Hunt (NES)

Duck Hunt (NES)Duck Hunt (NES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Release Date: 18th Oct 1985 (USA) / 15th Aug 1987 (UK/EU)

A cheeky lightgun 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 lightgun fun for the whole family; that is, as long as the wanton murder of countless digital waterfowl while a sniggering bloodhound watches don't put you off.

39. Double Dragon II: The Revenge (NES)

Double Dragon II: The Revenge (NES)Double Dragon II: The Revenge (NES)
Publisher: Aksys Games / Developer: Technōs Japan
Release Date: 15th Jan 1990 (USA) / 1990 (UK/EU)

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.

38. Mega Man (NES)

Mega Man (NES)Mega Man (NES)
Publisher: Capcom / Developer: Capcom
Release Date: Mar 1988 (USA) / 13th Dec 1989 (UK/EU)

The first outing for that bluest of bombers, the formula laid out in Mega Man may have been refined in its immediate sequels, but the irresistible mix of run-and-gun platforming and tight controls were there from the get-go. If you're looking to get into the series, this 8-bit beginning is still a good place to start and will give you an appreciation of the subtle improvements Capcom implemented over the first three NES entries.

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

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 1st Dec 1988 (USA) / 26th Sep 1988 (UK/EU)

A radical departure from the template of the first game, Zelda II has enjoyed something of a reappraisal in recent years. It's an inscrutable game and one about which we wouldn't feel bad in the slightest using the rewind function, but it's worth persevering with. In a series that, in the past, risked turning into a by-the-numbers adventure through slavishly sticking to a formula, this first sequel was anything but a repetition.

36. StarTropics (NES)

StarTropics (NES)StarTropics (NES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: Dec 1990 (USA) / 20th Aug 1992 (UK/EU)

A game which stands apart in Nintendo's back catalogue, StarTropics melds elements of Zelda, the Mother series and classic RPGs to make something different. It isn't entirely successful and is let down by its controls, but it's well worth making a trip to C-Island via Nintendo Switch Online, if only to see a rare game from Nintendo which didn’t get a dozen follow-ups (although it did get a single sequel).

35. Mega Man 6 (NES)

Mega Man 6 (NES)Mega Man 6 (NES)
Publisher: Capcom / Developer: Capcom
Release Date: Mar 1994 (USA) / 11th Jun 2013 (UK/EU)

Probably the worst thing you can say about Mega Man 6 is that it plays it safe. It follows the same basic idea of eight Robot Master stages followed by castle stages and doesn't really bring any big new gameplay features to the 8-bit Mega Man formula. The level design (save for Plant Man's stage), music and everything else are all pretty good, but if you've played all the previous entries, you can't help feeling that the sixth game is a bit by-the-numbers.

Capcom didn't really go out with a bang with this final NES Mega Man game, then, but it did create one final enjoyable entry on the console which birthed the series. And a 'just good' Mega Man is still better than most other video games, so mustn't grumble.

34. Blaster Master (NES)

Blaster Master (NES)Blaster Master (NES)
Publisher: Sunsoft / Developer: Sunsoft
Release Date: Nov 1988 (USA) / 25th Apr 1991 (UK/EU)

Blaster Master is yet another example to prove that Sunsoft was at the very top of its game on NES. With tight controls and eight varied levels, Blaster Master still manages to satisfy in the 21st century (so much so that Inti Creates have brought the series back with two excellent sequels in recent years).

33. River City Ransom (NES)

River City Ransom (NES)River City Ransom (NES)
Publisher: Aksys Games / Developer: Technōs Japan
Release Date: Jan 1990 (USA) / 1992 (UK/EU)

River City Ransom mixes basic brawling with comedy to great effect, and its cute visuals still exude tons of character all these years later. Throw in a second player — plus a delicious frosty beverage or two — and you've got a great Saturday night ahead of you.

32. Galaga (NES)

Galaga (NES)Galaga (NES)
Publisher: Bandai Namco / Developer: Namco
Release Date: 9th Apr 2007 (USA) / 9th Mar 2007 (UK/EU)

There is a compelling amount of single-screen bug repellent replay value if you approach Galaga with a target high score in mind, and allow it to wangle its insect-like hooks in you. Once you learn alien flight patterns, uncover the extra life scoring system, maximise challenging stage bonus points, and balance the dual fighter risk of granting a Boss Galaga to capture your ship, it rockets beyond the template of Space Invaders. As an addictive relic descending from gaming’s primeval wave of shooters, there is a historical context to Galaga that adds to the temptation of tackling the most retro of retro games.

31. 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)

This follow-up famously reskinned another game entirely with Mario and co. for release in the West (where Nintendo of America feared gamers wouldn't be able to cope with the punishment of The Lost Levels). 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 to what came before and after. With four playable (and very different) characters to choose from, we highly recommend a playthrough.