Much of the significance of EarthBound Beginnings — of Mother — lies in its spirit and the influence of such on subsequent games. It has to be said that EarthBound (its 16-bit sequel) is by far the overall better title, and those who have yet to play either should definitely start with that. If you do enjoy EarthBound, however, then Beginnings is well worth investigating. Sticking through its older style of play, with high difficulty and occasional fluctuations in balance, will reveal a fine story and a strangely transcendental sense of nostalgia, like a letter of love written to a child who hadn't even been born yet.
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.
28. 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?
27. 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.
26. 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.
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. Metroid (NES)
We have to be honest here: the original Metroid can be tough to return to, even if you played it back in the day. Its biggest issue is that the fantastic Game Boy Advance remake Metroid: Zero Mission exists, and that is truly the best way to experience Samus' first adventure. Still, the original has its charms, even if you need to dig a little deeper to find them these days.
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.
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.
21. Super C (NES)
If at times Super C (or Probotector II: Return of the Evil Forces in PAL places) feels a bit "standard" from a modern perspective, it's only because it was instrumental in shaping all future side-scrolling run 'n' gunners; it created a template that would later stamp out classics like Gunstar Heroes and Metal Slug. It may lack the charm and personality of those later variations on the theme, but it's still well worth playing both as a classic of the genre and as a rewarding two-player game in its own right — any retro action fan will still have a great time with this run-and-gun rite of passage.