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Best NES Games - Greatest Games for Nintendo Entertainment System

Best NES Games – Here are the greatest games for the
Nintendo Entertainment System Classic:

Nintendo harbors some of the most popular games for kids and adults. Whether you are looking at classics or new releases, Nintendo video games are characteristic of their action-packed adventures and irresistible feats. However, it is the classic Nintendo Entertainment System that has shaped Nintendo and video games to what they are today.  It was the console that changed the lives of children everywhere in the 80s, the Nintendo Entertainment System is a classic home video game console that sparks nostalgia in multiple generations regardless of actual experience with the machine. Fans of most modern Nintendo franchises have the NES to thank for being the origin console for many of those games such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Final Fantasy. Through a simple combination of 8-bit graphics, streamlined controls, and evocative game premises, the NES stands up to the game consoles of today, evident through Nintendo’s release of the NES Classic Mini in 2018. 

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A few of the classics in this list of best NES games are some of the most unique ones ever created. From unexpected storylines to unique characters, these games stand out in Nintendo history. They have transformed what platformers and RPGs used to be and have formulated the ultimate gameplay for all players today.

Super Mario Bros.

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Entertainment Earth Many people automatically associate the Nintendo Entertainment System with Super Mario Bros. The iconic plumber character belongs to arguably the best classic NES game of all time. While playing as Mario, your goal throughout the game was to save Princess Peach from your enemy, Bowser, while collecting items such as power-ups and gold coins along the way. Despite such a straightforward storyline, Super Mario Bros. transformed the gaming world and Nintendo as a company. With the numerous locations and levels available in the video game, you were kept challenged. The varying levels of difficulty throughout this classic game kept both the inexperienced and experienced players entertained which is a feat not many games are able to do which asserts it as one of the best nes games of all time. Not to mention, the iconic visuals and recognizable music of Super Mario Bros. has also helped it become a huge fan favorite.

The Legend of Zelda

Opening Zelda Game in 1986

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

One of the best NES classic games is The Legend of Zelda. In this game, you played as a character named Link who strove to save a princess named Zelda. This was not a typical fighting game, however. It consisted of challenging and unique puzzles and obstacles that kept you thinking about your next move. With such a large virtual world to explore and numerous challenges to win, it was difficult to get bored. The Legend of Zelda’s level of interactivity has kept people playing for many years. Compared to the other games of its time, The Legend of Zelda brought a new level of complexity and variety that outcompeted the others which were rather simple and generic. Because of such creativity in a Nintendo video game, The Legend of Zelda has become a role model when it comes to action-adventure gaming and RPGs. To prove its popularity, this video game remains relevant as it is also available on the Nintendo Switch Online.

Mega Man 2

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Mega Man is one of the classic Nintendo Entertainment System games; however, it was not well received by the public. Mega Man 2, on the other hand, was a different story. In the sequel, gamers played through a series of battles, with a boss battle at the end of each series. If you defeated the boss in the end battle, you obtained the boss’ weapon which meant better chances of winning in future battles. The strategic use of incentives throughout this game constantly encouraged players to continue battling in order to advance and to receive more. In Mega Man 2, new weapons were available, more levels were offered and the aesthetics supported better quality gameplay. It was such an upgrade from the first version that it was difficult to resist trying out. In addition to the quality features, this classic NES game was the only game to have a difficulty setting at the time. This allowed players of varying skills to enjoy it. With its high-energy music, unforgettable details and top-notch design, Mega Man 2 exceeded its own original version as well as many others in the 1990s and forward.


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Most games during the 1980s consisted of a single goal that players aimed to complete in order to advance. However, Metroid was different. This classic NES game was the first to revolve around exploration in addition to defeating your enemy, a space pirate leader known as Mother Brain. Players were encouraged to go about exploring the virtual world at their own pace, making every player’s experience different. One of the notable features of this video game that supports the idea of exploration was that all locations in the game were interconnected into one complex network. This made the adventuring aspect seemingly endless and always unpredictable. The collection-based missions and upgradable features of Metroid actually laid down the foundation for future RPGs that we know of today. With these innovative features, the sequel, Super Metroid, was expected to be even greater. Super Metroid did not disappoint as it has been known for its improved upon controls, detailed environmental visuals and even more adventures for all players.

Dragon Warrior (also known as Dragon Quest)

Dragon Quest image description
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Dragon Warrior, also known as Dragon Quest, was not a reckless fighting game. Although you fought to save the kingdom of Alefgard from the Dragonlord, this Nintendo Entertainment System classic game required patience and skill to succeed. As an RPG of technique, Dragon Warrior was more for strategic players. This video game required attention to detail, strategic moves and resource management in order to level up and advance. Dragon Warrior was a NES game that laid the foundation of RPGs today through its in-depth narrative storyline feature. Games nowadays typically utilize storylines to not only make the experience more interactive but to create life within a virtual world. This technique is known to effectively draw in players which explains the popularity of Dragon Warrior.

Final Fantasy

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Final Fantasy is a Nintendo classic, but it was also known for having tried to emulate and improve upon Dragon Warrior. It replicated the idea of turn-based combat embedded in unique storylines. Final Fantasy also required strategic planning and gameplay, which was huge in Dragon Warrior. Although this NES classic game shared many similarities with previous games, it also set the groundwork of future RPGs with some key features. Final Fantasy allowed players to choose characters of different classes to fight with. This brought a new dynamic by allowing gamers to assemble teams of varying skills and strengths. New and varying challenges kept people entertained and wanting more. In addition, Final Fantasy featured new methods of navigating through the virtual world. At the time, aerial transportation in video games was a new concept and this ability in Final Fantasy made the NES classic stand out amongst the others. Many of the unique features in Final Fantasy are now common in video games which proves how much of a game-changer it was.

R.C. Pro-Am

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The Nintendo Entertainment System classic R.C. Pro-Am changed the nature of racing games. Before it, racing video games were about coming in first place by sheer speed and by dodging your opponents. Thanks to R.C. Pro-Am, the attack features we are familiar with in such games exist. This NES classic was the first to feature the ability to use bombs, missiles and their signature speed-boosting strips to attack opponents. Racing games were not just about speed and acceleration anymore. R.C. Pro-Am introduced the ability to strategically utilize weapons to advance your place. These features went on to inspire many other Nintendo games, notably Mario Kart. Aside from the unique attacking abilities, the great controls and high-energy music made the video game even more addictive for all players.


Contra game
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Contra was known to be one of the best shooting action video games. In the NES classic, players had 3D-like views and third-person perspectives which gave it a more holistic experience. No other game at the time featured such angles which only made the video game more intriguing. As a shooting game, Contra also offered various levels of difficulty that catered to both the inexperienced and experienced players. Overall, the game was a good challenge. However, for those less skilled, Contra offered the Konami Code which gave you thirty lives to play with which was especially favored by many players. On the more difficult rounds, playing with a friend was recommended. Team plays allowed gamers to communicate, cooperate and plan which are always good skills to work on even through a NES game. This multiplayer feature was very popular as it brought new entertainment and challenge that was heavily influenced simply by who you play with. This was a smart asset of Contra as it constantly brought new experiences to players without much effort on the company’s end.

Bubble Bobble

Photo credit: Flickr.com Bryan Ochalla https://www.flickr.com/photos/bochalla/14815194620

Bubble Bobble is an iconic Nintendo Entertainment System game. In this classic, you played as a dragon in the Cave of Monsters. Your objective was to trap all enemies with your bubble gum and to collect food and trinkets along the way. At the beginning levels, Bubble Bobble may have seemed like children’s play. However, the many levels up ahead progressively got more challenging and required deeper strategizing to complete. There were many hidden aspects of this game that not many people realized but were quite exciting if you did figure them out. For example, your score was indicative of different bonuses you could unlock in each round. The great depths behind a seemingly simple classic has kept players entertained and addicted for years. In this NES game, you also had the option to play in single-player mode or multiplayer mode. However, it was recommended to play with a friend as it gave you access to extra stages and alternate endings which meant there was always something new to discover in Bubble Bobble.
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Jackal was a NES classic. It was also one of your well-known combat video games where destruction solved all of your problems. In this game, your character drove a Jeep and you utilized an array of weapons to rescue prisoners of war while defeating enemies along the way. What made this NES classic game different was the strategy required to win. You were able to upgrade your weapons, but doing so strategically made all the difference. Having the patience to upgrade your tanks into larger and more destructive tanks or for your grenades to upgrade into missiles at the right time allowed you to rise over your opponents. This aspect of Jackal brought strategy and planning into play. Another notable aspect of this NES game was how cooperative gameplay with a friend meant larger and more effective destruction of your enemies. The multiplayer mode required you and your teammate to strategize complex rescue missions and destruction plans in order to secure a win. Carrying out your own role while supporting your team was crucial in effectively attacking the enemies and in rising to the top.

Kirby’s Adventure

kirby image description
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Hailing from the stars with a smile on his doughy face, Kirby is a character many would be hard-pressed to dislike, especially as he is in the second game of the franchise Kirby’s Adventure. The first Kirby game to come in color, Kirby’s bright pink body jumps, crouches, and swallows up rouge enemies in this charming side-scrolling platform game. In fact, Kirby’s Adventure is the game in which his iconic copy ability is featured, where Kirby gains new abilities by eating certain enemies. The premise of the game involves using our main hero to travel across Dream Land to collect pieces of the broken Star Rod and repair the Fountain of Dreams. Initially, Kirby chases down King Dedede, his penguin arch-frenemy. However, the true enemy of the game is Nightmare, and Kirby takes to space to rescue his homeland’s peaceful dreams. Despite its simple and cutesy design, critics commented on how complex the gameplay could get and admired how, despite coming out at the end of the original NES’s reign, Kirby’s Adventure made full use of the console’s capabilities. Still acclaimed as one of the best Kirby games and best NES games, Kirby’s Adventure is available on the NES Classic Mini and Nintendo Switch Online.


Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Selling 8 million copies on the NES alone, Tetris is the puzzle game that everyone and their grandmothers have played at least once in their life. Out of the best Nintendo games, Tetris stands out with its simplicity and difficulty. Addictive and memorable, this Soviet Russian made game has inspired waves of knockoffs ever since its inception. Although it was the Nintendo Game Boy that skyrocketed the Tetris franchise into international glory, the NES version still included the main elements of the game that make it recognizable for anyone: The I, O, T, S, Z, J, and L blocks. Technically, there were two versions of Tetris on NES as well: a legal release from Nintendo that came in color and offered no 2-player options, and an illegal release from Atari through its Tengen branch, which did offer a side by side 2-player option. However, Nintendo ended up emerging victorious from the ensuing legal tangle, forcing Atari to recall their versions from the shelves and destroy them. However, the Tegen NES version of Tetris is now a valuable collectors’ item—Tetris in general remains as popular a franchise as it did at its inception.

 Metal Gear

Although Metal Gear was initially released for the MSX2 computer, the video game debuted in the United States as an NES game. The NES port of the game, due to the limitations of the console, involved a few technical changes: ‘Metal Gear,’ the final boss, was replaced with a Supercomputer manned by four guards, the layouts of levels had to be combined and switched around, and there were a couple of iconic grammar mistakes too. However, despite these alterations, Metal Gear sold 1 million units in the US and for good reason too. Metal Gear is the origin of stealth video games, with its steely-eyed protagonist Solid Snake infiltrating the fortified state Outer Heaven to destroy a walking, nuclear missile launching tank called Metal Gear. With a simple premise gussied up with badass names and an interesting mechanic of avoiding fights rather than pursuing them, it’s no wonder the franchise has lasted as long as it had. While Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain released in 2015, is lauded for its stunning graphics and complex story, fans of Metal Gear should also turn to the original for a game that is, while simpler, the metal solid skeleton of the entire franchise.


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Castlevania is a gothic horror video game created with a gothic horror film touch. One of the grittier games made available for the NES, the game’s protagonist is Simon Belmont, a human-vampire hunter who fights not with fireballs and lasers, but with a trusty whip, holy water, and a remarkably complex platforming mechanic. Players can navigate Simon through fights with classic horror monsters such as werewolves, mummies, and, of course, the main boss Dracula himself. The NES was also home to the game’s sequel, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, and the prequel, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Each of the games offers something new built upon the original premise, Castlevania II putting an RPG spin on Simon’s Quest and Castlevania III pairing the platformer aspect with a non-linear plotline. Nevertheless, while the modern games offer an augmented gameplay experience with large, explorable maps and a wide array of items and abilities, the original Castlevania game still holds up as a compelling and challenging game—perhaps due to its lack of complexity, rather than not.


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Tongue in cheek and mysterious, Mother was only ever released in Japan on the NES. Despite its North American localization never making it into an official release, Mother has an immense cult following within the US due to Mother’s effective use and parody of 80s Japanese RPG games. Mother’s game mechanics are similar to Dragon Quest’s, but its set in the late 20th century United States and features a young boy, Ninten, as its main character. Ninten’s weapons are simple boyhood objects such as baseball bats, yo-yos, and toy guns, but he also gains psychic abilities from the research his grandfather complied long before he was born. The player fights both basic household items and gigantic water-suspended space aliens. The game is both a story about saving the Earth from total destruction, but also about the day to day magic imbued in a child’s imaginative life. While Mother is not as critically acclaimed as its sequel which did hit the United States, EarthBound, Mother is remarkable as an underdog game who, despite its limited reach, managed to touch the hearts of children and adults alike all over the world.

Kid Icarus

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Kid Icarus is more of a cult classic than it is a record-smashing hit, but it is still a franchise that has withstood the test of time. At its release, Kid Icarus was criticized for its simple graphics and high difficulty level but praised for its music and mixture of platforming mechanics with an RPG-styled map. The plot involves the protagonist Pit’s quest to find three sacred treasures (the guard crystal, flaming arrows, and holy bow) and utilize them to rescue the Grecian Angel Land and its ruler and goddess Palutena. There are three total worlds: the underworld, overworld, and sky world. Each world contains levels that either have Pit climbing towards the top of the map or moving left to right. Within each map there are seven types of chambers Pit can enter. To top it all off, there are a total of five endings that the player can achieve, from Pit being transformed into a humble farmer to becoming a full-fledged angel blessed with a kiss from Palutena. It’s no wonder than fans of the series love the game so much and consider it one of the best NES games; despite its simple exterior and difficult controls, it has a depth and complexity that begs for replays.

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out

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Released at the peak of celebrity-endorsed video games, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out is certainly a video game that has left a surprisingly long impression in the industry. The game follows the journey of boxer Little Mac as he fights his way through professional boxing circuits, with each fighter he knocks out bringing him one step closer to becoming the champion of the world. Most notable in this version of Punch-Out is that, well, in the final Dream Match Little Mac gets to fight a fictionalized version of Mike Tyson. Recognized as the hardest final bosses in the entirety of video game history, losing this fight means that the player loses the entire game, period. While in future versions Mike Tyson’s likeness is replaced with Mr. Dream due to legal reasons, those players who managed to get to the Dream Match and win a fight against Mike Tyson himself must feel damn good.


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It is polished, critically acclaimed, and described as one of the best NES games of all time. It has impeccable game mechanics, perfectly charming 8-bit music, and beautifully rendered graphics. This game, the pinnacle of NES game design, only has one sequel. It’s not even a Nintendo franchise. It’s a licensed product. Yes, that’s right: DuckTales, an action platformer based off the Disney cartoon with the same name, is the NES game that reigns supreme over many others in terms of sheer playability. Created by a team that also worked on Mega Man, DuckTales is a game both simple enough for young players to comfortably finish but complex enough that more experienced players can feel a sense of accomplishment when acquiring the Great Ending for the game—clearing all the levels with all the hidden items and a whopping $10,000,000 minimum in the bank. DuckTales is a great game that’s sure to play well at any time, in any place, on any available platform.

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