Whilst it wasn’t my first machine for gaming, the NES was one of the most significant gaming systems I ever owned. Over its many, many years of loyal service I played a lot of games on it, either owned or borrowed. Some stuck in my memory for various reasons, some good, some bad. The games below are the ones I remember playing far more than others over those formative years, for better or worse. Take a look!
The Legend of Zelda
Alright, let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way here. I loved this game and played it so many times. Yes, I opened the map that came with it for if you were stuck. Yes, I used the “Zelda” cheat. And yes, I needed a guide to get to the end of the game. But damn was it a great journey at the time.
The features of this game shaped pretty much every subsequent game in the series, with a focus on dungeons that introduced new items with associated puzzles, a gradual increase in strength as you explored the land, and of course the now iconic boomerang. Pretty much everything here set the stage for a series that will likely be remembered for as long as the hobby exists. It still holds up surprisingly well to this day, and there are certain areas, bosses, and moments that are forever etched in my memory.
Kabuki: Quantum Fighter
This is a less well known one, and wasn’t actually all that good in hindsight. But at the time I loved this game! It’s a platformer (because of course) in which you are sent inside a computer that it trying to take over the world or some such nonsense. Obviously your avatar inside the virtual world threw computer chips at enemies, or attacked by whipping your long red hair at them. It made no sense. Enemies ranged from ninjas, to giant alien hell beasts for seemingly no reason, and the levels seemed to be completely unconnected.
But I loved it for some reason! Maybe it was because each level presented you with a new weapon to play with, or due to the fact that it was fairly short so the end was always in sight (although it took me forever to finish it). Either way, the shonky graphics, silly theme, and slightly off controls didn’t manage to stop me from playing a hell of a lot of this game.
I hate this game and also love this game. My sister and I played this to death for some reason. It wasn’t good as such, but it had that addictive quality that so many arcade games managed to include. The concept was simple: guide your marble through the obstacles to the goal before time runs out!
Firstly, time carried over from level to level (6 in all) meaning you had that constant feeling of pressure. Those early levels needed to be perfect for you to have enough time later on. Secondly, the obstacles in your way were hard as hell. Blowers would launch you off cliffs, enemy marbles would bash you around, and for some reason waves would send you flying off course. Finally, the isometric view combined with the momentum your marble had made control very difficult, but without feeling unfair. The sense of satisfaction of rolling around a corner with perfect pace was wonderful! I think I only finished it once in spite of playing it countless times…
Super Mario Bros. 3
Another obvious one. Well it’s obvious for a reason as this is often referred to as one of the best platformers ever made. I actually don’t remember getting this, but I remember playing it a lot. I remember being amused by the frog suit, impressed by the world map, and confused about being able to transform into a statue. I never found that especially useful. Anyway, there was so much variety here!
The levels were impressively varied too, with all your standard sand, ice, grass, etc. levels having their own spins. Maybe the enemies would be giant, perhaps you’re be on an airship, or there was always the possibility that the sun would try to murder you. There were secrets! Mini games! Different bosses (well, different-ish)! I finished this one more times than I can remember, and I’d love to see it on the Switch. Come on, Nintendo. Where’s that virtual console?
Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles
I’ve mentioned this one before. This game crops up on various lists, normally talking about how damn (aha!) annoying one of the levels is. In spite of the difficulty, I played this a lot. I don’t remember finishing it, but I remember loving it to bits, even during that horrendous underwater level. The turtles were all different enough thanks to their weapons (Donatello being amazing, Raphael being useless), and the levels suitably different to each other.
I loved that fact that if one of your turtles was defeated, you had a chance to find them tied up in one of the later areas, giving you a chance to rescue them. I’d never seen something like that before. There was a map to explore with buildings and sewers to find. Then there was that super catchy overworld music then gets stuck in my head for hours at a time. When I get my games room with the NES hooked back up, I’m going to want to play this one again.
This was a tricky one to write, as there were quite a lot of games to choose from. Mega Man4 was finished over and over again (thank god for that password system). Burai Fighter was an odd scrolling shooter that felt pretty unique to me at the time, and one I don’t hear referenced very often these days. Rad Racer and Duck Hunt got their fair share of action too. I could go on, but I won’t waste any more of your time apart from to ask you what your favourite NES games were. What did you play over and over again? Let me know!