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2/28/2016

Top 101 NES games, #50-41

50. Mr. Gimmick! (Sunsoft, 1992 in Japan, 1993 in Europe)

Another very overlooked game, though I can't blame people for that because the game only saw an extremely limited release in exactly two regions - Japan and Scandinavia - in the twilight days of the system. It's a real shame it didn't get a wider release, too, as this may just be the most impressive game on the system on a technical level. Not only were the sights and sounds top notch, but the programming here is superb - objects actually actually slide down slopes and ricochet off objects realistically and enemies show a modicum of artificial intelligence, backstepping to evade your attacks and attempting to trap you in tight spaces when given half a chance. It's also surprisingly tough for such a cutesy-looking game, requiring you to master the finer points of the physics and your bouncing star weapon (which can also double as a platform when jumped upon) in order to collect all the hidden treasures and reach the best ending. Oh, and did I mention you can't use any continues either? ...Yeah, if you want that ending, you're going to WORK for it!


49. Arkanoid (Taito, 1986)

Another game known for its wacky plot, introducing a wireframe Moai head named "DOH" pulling Earth's space forces into a pocket dimension or some such nonsense.  It's all a bit arbitrary, though, since this never comes into play until the final stage of the game; until then, it's all about smashing bricks with a ball and paddle in a game heavily inspired by Breakout.  The gimmick that sets it apart, though, is its powerup system - broken bricks drop icons that enlarge your paddle's size, give you multiple balls to break bricks with, allow you to "catch" the ball and release it at a more favorable angle, and my favorite, the ability to shoot lasers from your paddle to break bricks and destroy enemies.  The game even came packaged with a custom-made controller that featured an analog knob, which made the gameplay much more smooth than with a standard controller.  It's a bit of a scarce collector's item these days, but if you can track one down, give it a go with this game.  It will not disappoint!

48. Kid Icarus (Nintendo/TOSE, 1987)

A relatively early Nintendo title that didn't get a whole lot of attention at the time of its release despite combining elements of several other popular games.  It had the dungeon-crawling element of Zelda, the platforming of Mario and the plethora of hidden secrets and tricks akin to Metroid, and even a side-scrolling shooting stage akin to Gradius or Life Force.  However, it was hampered by a high level of difficulty overall and some rather frustrating elements to its design (Particularly the notorious eggplant wizards and Pluton flies, which turn you into a harmless eggplant until you visit a hospital and steal your items respectively).  Still, those who could adapt found a worthy adventure to undertake, with multiple endings endings giving it some extra challenge and replay value.  It may not be the most beloved Nintendo IP out there, but Kid Icarus is still a game worth checking out.

47. Battletoads & Double Dragon: The Ultimate Team (Rare, 1993)


One of the earliest video game crossovers I remember seeing, and at the time, it was certainly one to celebrate.  One of the best beat-em-up franchises of the era alongside the ultra-tough action masterpiece Battletoads?  I was definitely on-board as a fan of both.  While the gameplay is primarily based on Battletoads, it puts a much heavier emphasis on its beat-em-up elements this time around, ensuring the gameplay is fast-paced, hard-hitting and consistently fun.  Not to say that there are a shortage of obstacle course setpieces, of course, as you get a toned-down version of the Turbo Tunnel, a top-down shooter segment that feels like a cross between Asteroids and Solar Jetman, and some rappelling segments too.  Just a fun and solidly-crafted game in general with no shortage of challenge; it's just a shame it came out so late in the system's life.

46. Bubble Bobble Part II (Taito, 1993)

Not to be confused with the relatively common "Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble II", Bubble Bobble Part 2 is one of the infamous "Taito Four", a set of four Taito-published games that were released late in the NES' lifespan in extremely limited quantities, and as a result now command outrageous prices online; it's not uncommon to see each one selling for upwards of $200. A shame in this one's case, as it's an update of Bubble Bobble with improved visuals and music and the same addictive gameplay qualities that made the original a hit. There are even boss battles added in every twenty stages and minigames that can be played to earn extra lives, giving it a slight Mario-esque feel as well. The only real letdown is the two player mode, which no longer allows for two players to take on levels simultaneously - instead you're stuck alternating turns whenever one player dies. Still, Bubble Bobble Part II is a beautiful game and very fun to play, and well worth checking out if you can get your hands on it.

45. Uninvited (ICOM, 1991)

Another game in the legendary "ICOM Trilogy" for the NES, and it's a good one alright. A horror-themed point and click adventure game that has you exploring a haunted mansion in search of your sister, it was also notable for featuring some surprisingly gruesome sights for an NES game. The animation is minimal at best, but the well-written narrative, atmospheric music and tense, dark story kept you engrossed throughout. It all makes me glad the point-and-click adventure genre is finally getting the revival it deserves in more modern times - younger gamers really were missing out on something special.



44. Ninja Gaiden (Tecmo, 1988)

The first in a legendary NES trilogy, Ninja Gaiden quickly became as well-known for its high production budget and gripping storyline (a rarity at the time) as for its absurd difficulty - enemy patterns start off relatively manageable, but quickly become downright vicious, requiring spot-on execution with jumps, attacks and special weapons to even have a chance of seeing it through to the end.  To say nothing of the final boss gauntlet, which also requires strict adherence to a pattern and punishes the player for death by sending them all the way back to the beginning of the stage.  Still, those who could persevere found a game worthy of hanging with the best in the action genre even now, almost thirty years after its original release.

43. Castlevania (Konami, 1987)

Perhaps the most well known Konami franchise for its sheer prevalence, and it all began with this gem. Well, technically it began on the MSX with "Vampire Killer", but this is the one everybody remembers, largely because it was so damn impressive for its time. Heavily detailed graphics, an excellent soundtrack, and gameplay that walked the fine line between being a ton of fun and very challenging - perfectly timed attacks and movement were the order of the day here. Particularly because your hero's weapon was somewhat unwieldy compared to most video game weapons and there was a short delay between pressing the button and landing a hit. Still, it was all worth it just to say you persevered through the challenge and beat up horror icons like the creature from the black lagoon, Frankenstein's monster, the mummy, and even the grim reaper himself. Oh, and Dracula, of course.

42. Adventure Island II/III (Now Production, 1991/1992)

Adventure Island is one branch of the Wonder Boy series that spun off into its own series of games.  While Adventure Island mostly stuck to platforming, Wonder Boy branched out into numerous other genres including side-scrolling shmups and action-RPG territory, and mostly appeared on Sega consoles and the Turbografx-16 while Adventure Island primarily appeared on Nintendo consoles.  I personally prefer Adventure Island, as they're fun, fast-paced platformers with colorful graphics and some creative gameplay elements.  2 introduced the ability to store and use powerups later on (a la Mario 3) and dinosaur buddies that can breathe fire, fly, tail whip and move faster underwater (not unlike Yoshi from Super Mario World).  3 didn't add a lot of new elements to the gameplay over 2, but it was still a lot of fun, so I'm certainly not complaining.

41. Balloon Fight (Nintendo, 1986)

It's Joust mixed with Joust and a dash of Joust on top. Well, okay, it's not a complete copy of Williams' classic arcade game; the hit detection is a bit more specific this time, requiring you to actually contact an opponent's balloons to break them rather than simply be a few pixels above them when you collide. There are also hazards like lightning, spinning bumpers and giant fish trying to eat you to impede your progress. There's also a new gameplay mode, "Balloon Trip", where the object is to make it as far as you can before you hit an electrified bumper or get eaten by a fish. It's one of the better early NES games and among the first to feature two player simultaneous play as well. So derivative it may be, but it's also quite a lot of fun.


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