NES A List Titles

With over 700 games available for the NES, there are bound to be a large number of games that are considered “classic” or A list titles. I’ve already mentioned four of them as games of the week in Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid & Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. Additional A list titles I’ve mentioned in my Black Box post (Duck Hunt, Kung Fu, Pro Wrestling), Important Games of Youth post (Tecmo Bowl), Games I’ve Finished post (Contra, Crystalis, Kid Icarus, Mega Man 2, Super Mario Bros 2, Super Mario Bros 3, Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link), Games I Nearly Finished post (Castlevania, Mega Man 3, Mega Man 4, Mega Man 5, Ninja Gaiden) and Sports Special post (Blades of Steel, RBI Baseball 3, Tecmo NBA Basketball, Tecmo Super Bowl, Track & Field) so I’m not going to talk about those again even though they are all A list games in my book.

Baseball Stars (game, manual, box) – This was the most fun I’d ever had with a baseball game as a kid. While it didn’t include MLB licensed teams and players, Baseball Stars made up for it by offering players an extremely deep franchise mode that allowed you to create and name your own team & players. The names of my players were heavily influenced by hip hop circa 1989-1990. “Now batting 3rd, Chuck D!” You had a limited amount of money at the start of the game to develop your lineup and as you progressed and won games, you would earn more money which you would then use towards improving your players skills. Baseball Stars was at its most difficult when you were just getting started & winning games required skill. By the time you were onto season 2 or 3 with the same team, every one of your batters could routinely hit 30+ home runs per season and pitchers could throw 100mph well into the 5th or 6th innings. The only complaint is the same I had with Tecmo Super Bowl regarding battery saves. There were many times when I would pop the game in to play only to find out that the battery decided that all of my (and my friend’s) progress had to go. The complete in box copy I have today is the copy I had as a kid as well. A+

Bionic Commando (game only) – A Capcom classic, Bionic Commando on the surface is a typical side scrolling action shooter but the use of your mechanical arm (hence the bionic part of the title) puts this game in more unique and interesting territory. The level layouts require you to use your bionic arm to swing over hazards and reach parts that could not be reached by simply jumping. I never owned this game as a kid but I rented it enough to know a fun and worthwhile NES game when I see one. A-

Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse (game, manual) – The third and final installment of the Castlevania franchise for the NES, Castlevania 3 ditches the RPG & puzzle solving elements of Castlevania 2 and returns to the whip and jump platforming elements of the original. What makes this entry stand out is the fact you can use one of four available protagonists while also being non-linear. Which protagonist that becomes available to you to use depends on the path you take with your main character, Trevor Belmont. Each of the 3 additional characters have their own unique powers (magic, climbing, transformation) and the path you take and which characters you use in the game will determine your ending. Not that I’ve seen the ending to this game…..it’s a long, difficult journey and while you can thankfully save your progress I was still never able to complete. This fact doesn’t damper my opinion of the game and determine it’s A list status for the NES. A

Donkey Kong Classics (game only) – Released after the original black box Donkey Kong games had already left stores for good, DK Classics is a combination of the two best known DK games. It includes the original Donkey Kong and it’s sequel, Donkey Kong Jr. Not much is needed to say about these two games as if you’re reading my blog you already know how significant these titles were for Nintendo in the early 80’s. They are both fun to play in their own unique ways and owning them both on one cart seemed like a slam dunk when I was trying to add to my NES collection many years ago. I wish I would have also bought the original black box Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr in retrospect as those two titles have gone up in price significantly while the economically priced DK Classics is still cheap to own. A

Dr. Mario (game only) – A Mario based puzzle game in the same vein as Tetris, Dr. Mario requires you to stack up different colored pills instead of fitting together shapes. You can lay the pills down horizontally or vertically and two matching colors on top or next to each other will eliminate them from the screen. This game is best played head to head and I had many pre-kids battles against my wife shortly after we got married. This is how a Tetris-clone should be done. A-

Final Fantasy (game, manual) – This big daddy of RPG’s as a franchise is still going strong today and this original for the NES released in 1990 (3 years after it’s Japanese release!) deserves its placement on this post. I have never finished this game but I know a good RPG when I see one. It has all the necessary elements, compelling plot, interesting and diverse characters and enemies, power ups and dungeons. There aren’t a ton of RPG’s available for the NES, the SNES would own that title a few years after this long awaited game was released in the U.S. Final Fantasy is a worthy addition for any NES collector. A-

Ninja Gaiden 2: The Dark Sword of Chaos (game only) – The sequel to the original standout classic, Ninja Gaiden 2 uses the same basic formula with a few additions (wall climbing, shadow ninja power up) & improved graphics while keeping the same controls and difficulty. Oh the difficulty…..in my opinion, this sequel is harder than the first game and that’s saying something. Fun but frustrating. A-

R.C. Pro Am 2 (game only) – The upgraded sequel to the early NES title, this 1992 gem uses remote controlled cars with fun power-ups and levels to enhance gameplay. You earn money by finishing races and the higher the placement, the more money you earn. You use this money to upgrade your car making it faster, better on turns and weaponized. Fun and addictive, R.C. Pro Am 2 improves on the original in almost every way. Four player option is available but I don’t know why you’d want to as players that lag behind get boosted back up with the rest of the pack in order to keep all of the cars on the same screen. A-

Rad Racer (game only) – An original “Sports Series” title, Rad Racer was released in 1987 and came with 3D glasses to enhance the gameplay. I never played this game as a 3D title so I can’t comment on that aspect. I can comment on how fun this game was as a common rental and borrow. I enjoyed the bright colors, the music and gameplay. Admittedly, I am not great at racing games so I haven’t advanced too far but it doesn’t damper my enjoyment of Rad Racer. A-

River City Ransom (game, manual, box) – River City Ransom is an odd but effective beat ’em up RPG/action adventure game released in North America in 1990. Upon first glance, the characters look like they are straight out of Renegade and not in a good way. However, the gameplay is what makes this game a stand out title. You play a high school student from River City High trying to rescue your girlfriend from a rival gang. It utilizes the open world gameplay combined with the ability to earn money giving your character improved fighting skills. You can also buy weapons to aid your quest. A fairly long game, River City Ransom allows players to save their progress and attributes with a password system. You’ll need it in order to beat this excellent title. A

Super C aka Super Contra (game only) – The sequel to the iconic Contra, Konami took the successful formula and didn’t mess with it too much while still creating a great game. Once again you battle former allies and alien forces that have re-emerged. You will need to be able to duck, jump and lay on that B button with all your finger power while desperately trying to keep the spread gun power-up. Thankfully, you can still play co-op which was always one of the best parts of the original. The Konami 30 life code no longer works with Super C so beating this game became infinitely more difficult. A

Tetris (game, manual) – The big daddy of puzzle games, Tetris was an arcade smash before becoming the game that sold millions of Gameboy’s while also finding success as an NES title. Released by both Nintendo and Tengen, I have the Nintendo version. A


 

 

 

 

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