20. Blades of Steel (NES)

Blades of Steel (NES)Blades of Steel (NES)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: Dec 1988 (USA) / 23rd Nov 1990 (UK/EU)

Konami's Blades of Steel is better than Nintendo's less imaginatively-named Ice Hockey, and it's held up pretty well compared to Double Dribble, too. If you liked the game back then, or just like ice hockey games in general, this is still worth a look. Even if you're not a hockey fan, there's an approximately 50% chance during the second intermission that you get to play a minigame based on Gradius, which is pretty nifty. You don't get that in Ice Hockey.

19. Batman: The Video Game (NES)

Batman: The Video Game (NES)Batman: The Video Game (NES)
Publisher: Sunsoft / Developer: Sunsoft
Release Date: 1991 (USA) / 1992 (UK/EU)

A classic 2D platformer from a time when that was the go-to genre for any licensed game (much like 3D open world action games are these days). The reassuring subtitle 'The Video Game' promises an experience recounting the beats of Tim Burton's 1989 film, a 'movie event' that arguably birthed the modern, cross-media comic book blockbuster. Sunsoft might not have turned in the most faithful of tie-ins, but it's a tight little game with excellent music which sees an acrobatic Caped Crusader wall-jumping and punching his way through an 8-bit Gotham City in search of the Joker, and it's still a fun retro treat today.

So, have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?

18. Castlevania (NES)

Castlevania (NES)Castlevania (NES)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 1st May 1987 (USA) / 19th Dec 1988 (UK/EU)

The original and the best? Perhaps not, but Castlevania put down an enduring template that mixed Universal monster movie shlock with brilliant tunes and tight, satisfying whip-based combat. Like so many 8-bit originals, it may be jarring to return to in a modern context but the base gameplay is as solid as ever and it's a must-play if you're interested in seeing how the series has evolved since 1986.

17. Dragon Warrior III (NES)

Dragon Warrior III (NES)Dragon Warrior III (NES)
Publisher: Enix / Developer: ChunSoft
Release Date: 12th Mar 1992 (USA)

Dragon Quest III put the cap on a trilogy (at the time) of influential RPGs which would shape the genre. Set prior to the original game, it added plethora of refinements to the turn-based gameplay and open-world adventuring, including a day/night cycle. It got a Super Famicom remake which never came to the West, although an excellent Game Boy Color version did arrive in 2001.

16. Tetris (NES)

Tetris (NES)Tetris (NES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: Nov 1989 (USA) / 23rd Feb 1990 (UK/EU)

The Game Boy version of this video gaming titan might be the most iconic — and certainly more convenient to pay when you're out and about — but the ability to relax with Russia's premier block-faller on your TV wasn't to be sniffed at, either. Some prefer the Tengen version, which disappeared from stores soon after release due to a licencing snafu, but this non-controversial port is also a winner.

It's Tetris, just on the NES. 'Nuff said, really.

15. Super Mario Bros. (NES)

Super Mario Bros. (NES)Super Mario Bros. (NES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 17th Nov 1985 (USA) / 15th May 1987 (UK/EU)

So much of the foundation of the series — and the medium of video games at large — was put down in Super Mario Bros. that it's tough to evaluate all these years later without considering its historical importance. This game, perhaps more than any other in history, has passed into the popular cultural consciousness and would go on to influence countless other games and developers since 1985. It's the kind of release you use to delineate historical eras; when it comes to video games, there was 'Before SMB' and 'After SMB'.

You've played this many, many times before, no doubt, and you'll play it many, many times again. Good game.

14. 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.

13. Kirby's Adventure (NES)

Kirby's Adventure (NES)Kirby's Adventure (NES)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: HAL Laboratory
Release Date: 1st May 1993 (USA) / 12th Sep 1993 (UK/EU)

Kirby's Adventure is a vibrant masterclass of NES platforming whether you've got the 3D slider set to max in the 3D Classics version on 3DS or you're enjoying it old-school-style with just the two dimensions on NES or as part of the Nintendo Switch Online NES library offering. It's a high point in the pink puffball's illustrious career and its 8-bit visuals still look great all these years later. Even if you don't consider yourself a Kirby fan, this adventure will win you over. You might say... it sucks you in.

12. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES)

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES)Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 1st Sep 1990 (USA) / 10th Dec 1992 (UK/EU)

Arguably the finest of the NES entries, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is a prequel to the original and struck a perfect balance between the innovations of Simon's Quest and the first game's more straightforward approach. With multiple playable characters in addition to your Belmont (Trevor, this time), multiple paths, the finest audio you'll find on NES hardware (even without the extra sound channels of the Japanese Famicom version) and visuals to match, it's one of the most ambitious 8-bit games ever made and still deserves your attention three decades on. Absolutely timeless, it is.

11. Gargoyle's Quest II: The Demon Darkness (NES)

Gargoyle's Quest II: The Demon Darkness (NES)Gargoyle's Quest II: The Demon Darkness (NES)
Publisher: Capcom / Developer: Capcom
Release Date: 1st Oct 1992 (USA) / 17th Jun 1993 (UK/EU)

Although Gargoyle's Quest II does have the advantage of being on a stronger system than its predecessor, it plays things relatively safe, making some minor improvements and keeping most of the gameplay exactly the same. This, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing — the first game was great, making the similarity in this entry something to be praised and enjoyed.