The 100 Best NES Games

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Snake_Rattle_n_Roll_gamebox.jpg 80. Snake, Rattle ‘n’ Roll

Full of the weird humor and brutal difficulty that are Rare’s calling cards, Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll is an unusual isometric platformer about fattening up snakes. It kind of defies description. Just go play it—it’s part of the Rare Replay compilation for the Xbox One.—Garrett Martin

Tecmo Bowl.jpg 79. Tecmo Bowl

For evidence of Tecmo Bowl’s lasting influence, look no further than last year’s Kia Sorento car commercial starring Bo Jackson driving across a digital football field modeled after the 1989 game. Better than the arcade original but bested by its NES sequel. Ready, down, hut hut hut hut hut. —Jon Irwin

Zodasrevenge_box.PNG 78. Zoda’s Revenge: Startropics II

If The Legend of Zelda and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? had a baby, it would be this game. Travel through time and battle monsters in Ancient Egypt, Frontier America, and foggy England. Even Sherlock Holmes shows up. Fun Fact: The last NES-exclusive Nintendo game.—Jon Irwin

Megaman_nes_pal.jpg 77. Mega Man

Not quite the work of punishing genius that its first two sequels became, the original Mega Man is still a vital example of 8-bit platforming action at its most innovative and unforgiving.—Garrett Martin

Solstice_The_Quest_for_the_Staff_of_Demnos_Cover.jpg 76. Solstice

This isometric puzzler has two huge things going for it: some obscenely difficult brainteasers that will keep you enraptured for hours, and a fantastic score from Tim Follin. It’s main title theme is the single best composition on the NES.—Garrett Martin

Vice_Project_Doom_(cover_art).jpg 75. Vice: Project Doom

This game is a synthesis of film noir, midnight movies, racing, action platforming, and first-person shooting. It might be one of the weirdest games for this system, and it looks beautiful on top of that. It’s like if John Carpenter made a videogame. —Cameron Kunzelman

Excitebike_cover.jpg 74. Excitebike

What looks like a racing game is more like a resource-management puzzle to solve. Boost too long and your engine overheats. Land jumps perfectly to cool the engine down. An early Miyamoto joint that’s still fun today. —Jon Irwin

double-dribble-amiga-front-cover.jpg 73. Double Dribble

One of the classic NES sports games, Double Dribble was more realistic in its presentation than any basketball game had been before. With its five-on-five teams, two-player local action and vibrant cut-scenes, it was a must-own in its day.—Garrett Martin

Ironsword_cover.png 72. Ironsword: Wizards and Warriors II

With deeper RPG elements than the original, and more impressive graphics that maintain the same comic book-ish aesthetic, Ironsword is a commendable follow-up to the original Wizards and Warriors.—Garrett Martin

ghostsngoblinsnes.jpg 71. Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins

Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins might be the hardest game ever made. Not only is it six murderous levels of zombies, spooks and monsters, but if you manage to beat it once, it boots you back to the beginning and asks you to do it again. Harsh.—Nate Ewert-Krocker

Fe1box.jpg 70. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light

While it didn’t yet contain the series’ most important feature (the ability to make characters kiss), the first Fire Emblem was nevertheless a new and clever combination of strategy and RPG—creating a hybrid genre that’s been going strong for decades. —Nate Ewert-Krocker

A_Boy_and_His_Blob_(cover_artwork).jpg 69. A Boy and His Blob

Famously created by David Crane, who would go on to make the SNES game David Crane’s Amazing Tennis. You feed jelly beans to a sentient glop of alien goo that changes shape and helps you along the way. An example of the power of friendship over terrestrial physics. —Jon Irwin

Blades_of_Steel_cover.png 68. Blades of Steel

Blades of Steel did for hockey what Double Dribble did for basketball, but is even more devoted to realism. It infamously has a separate fight screen with its own pugilistic mechanics, where you can live out all your Hanson Brothers fantasies.—Garrett Martin

prowrestlingbox.jpg 67. Pro Wrestling

Sure, it’s repetitive, but Pro Wrestling was groundbreaking in its day. With a roster of grapplers with defined characters and subtly different movesets, and the ability to fight outside the ring and even do dives, it resembled real pro wrestling more than many games that came afterward.—Garrett Martin

shadowgate-usa.png 66. Shadowgate

If Shadowgate was more fondly regarded than Déjà Vu at the time, or better remembered today, it might simply come down to fantasy being an easier sell for game fans than hard-boiled crime fiction. Another MacVenture game, Shadowgate devoted the same adventure-game aesthetic as that noir classic to a tale of warlocks, demons and ancient arcane evils. Relying heavily on patience, observation and deduction, it wasn’t for every kid back in 1989, but it was massive for those players who connected with its particular rhythms.—Garrett Martin

Cobratriangle.jpg 65. Cobra Triangle

I don’t even think it’s lazy to call Rare’s Cobra TriangleR.C. Pro-Am in water with guns.” That’s exactly what it looks and feels like: you’ve got a boat, it’s got guns, you zoom around various courses and bodies of water trying to blow stuff up or save stranded swimmers. There are boss battles. It’s fun and colorful and pretty weird, like most Rare games of the era.—Garrett Martin

maxresdefault.jpg 64. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game

The original, top-down Ninja Turtles game has its charms, but the combat of TMNT 2: The Arcade Game was far superior, doing a much-improved job of capturing the spirit and art style of the animated series. With enemies more closely drawn from the show, it made itself one of the NES’s best pure beat-em-ups. —Jim Vorel

jackal-usa.png 63. Jackal

Most action games let you run around on foot, but Jackal puts you behind the wheel of a military jeep. Imagine Rambo if John never left his Humvee. It also opens with this disconcerting epigraph: “The battle will make your blood boil. Good luck!” —Jon Irwin

Gargoyles-Quest-II-The-Demon-Darkness_NES_US.jpg 62. Gargoyle’s Quest II

One of the few NES games that originated on the Game Boy. This side-story of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins franchise puts you in control of Firebrand, that red demon that hounded you as Arthur. Now you get to play as the monster. The Grendel of videogames. —Jon Irwin

Dr._Mario_box_art.jpg 61. Dr. Mario

Dr. Mario emerged as an impressive challenger to the falling-block Tetris throne, providing an even simpler take on the concept by using a set of capsules as a match-three mechanism. The result was endless hours of high-paced fun, and today Dr. Mario is still available to play on multiple platforms, even appearing as a mini-game in the Brain Age games. —Holly Green

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