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4/21/2020

Top 101 NES Games, #60-51

60. Mario Bros. (Nintendo, 1985)

The original Mario Bros. one gets a lot of flak from retro and modern gamers alike, and I'm really not sure why. Sure, it hasn't aged quite as well as the legendary sidescrolling platformers that succeeded it, but it's still a pretty entertaining game in its own right. Bump enemies, dodge fireballs and icy floors, collect coins, shove player two into that enraged shellcreeper coming for your blood, rush for the panic POW block when things get too crazy... what's not to love here? It's easily among the best of the black box era games, if nothing else. Hell, it even spawned a pretty fun little two-player competitive minigame in Super Mario Bros. 3, so it must be good!




59. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (Konami, 1988)


The sequel to the original classic Castlevania, which, like Zelda II, tried to change up its action-driven format into something more akin to an RPG.  Also like Zelda II, it wasn't quite as well-received by fans for a number of reasons, chief among them being its lackluster translation that made a number of essential clues much more difficult to decipher.  Still, those who could persevere through that found a game with a lot to offer- the same high-quality presentation that became a series trademark, a number of dungeons to explore, a couple of big bosses to fight, and a lot of creative upgrades and sub-weapons to unlock throughout.  It may not be regarded as one of the franchise's best by many of its fans, but it's certainly worth a look for fans of action-adventure titles.

(Fans of ROM hacks may also want to check out "Castlevania II Redaction", which addresses several criticized elements of the game - notably speeding up the text and day/night transitions and rewriting much of the dialog to provide useful clues.)

58. Gradius II: Gofer no Yabou (Konami, 1988 in Japan)


Another great homeport of a kickass Konami arcade game never got released elsewhere.  But at least I have an answer for why it didn't in this case; on the Famicom, this game utilized a custom memory mapper that the NES lacked, and it would be a lot of effort to covert it over to NES hardware, so they just didn't bother.  Those who got to play it were in for a treat, though, as it was another great game in the series.  Now employing vertical scrolling as well as horizontal, as well as plenty of crazy stages where you're travelling between suns battling giant dragons and other crazy eye-popping sights.  As per series norm, it is also an exceptionally tough experience, requiring much practice and impeccable power-up usage if you want any hope of seeing your way to the end.


57. Super C (Konami, 1990)

The somewhat strangely named sequel to Contra (so named because Konami didn't want to associate themselves with the Iran-Contra scandal of the time), Super C wasn't quite as memorable as the original game, but still a very worthwhile run-and-gun title in itself.  Several of the less-prestigious weapons of the original were powered up - the Flamethrower in particular now fires an exploding shot and can be charged to deal more damage, for example.  The over-the-shoulder view levels were also replaced with top-down shooting segments, and levels became more dynamic in general, with segments like an elevator and a falling ceiling that can severely hamper your movement.   Konami were masters of making home ports of arcade games that somehow surpassed the originals in quality, and Super C is another fine example of that.

56. Summer Carnival '92: Recca (Naxatsoft, 1992)


Recca is a game known for three things: Giving the Genesis's Blast Processing a run for its money with the fluidity in its gameplay and animations, being extremely rare (only seeing limited release as part of a Japanese competition) and its monstrous difficulty.   From beginning to end this game's action is utterly relentless, with constant swarms of enemy ships and bullets flooding the screen amongst a plethora of flashy visual effects and intense, pulse-pounding music, and it all blazes along at speeds the hardware doesn't even seem like it should be capable of at all!  If you want a game that will push your reflexes and shoot-em-up skills to their limits (and if you can find a copy), look no further than Recca, because it is truly one-of-a-kind.


55. Mega Man 6 (Capcom, 1993)

Considered one of the weaker entries on the platform by a lot of fans, Mega Man 6 certainly showed signs of being rushed; it came out late in the system's life and Nintendo, in the role of producing this title, was clearly banking on it being a send-off game; the level quality and challenge definitely suffered as a result.  However, it did also have some unique quirks to set it apart.  Instead of calling in Rush, you now morph with him into two forms - Rush Power (which can smash through walls and deal damage with short-ranged punches) and Rush Jet (serving as a jetpack that allows flight for short distances).  It also had some great music as per series norm, proving that if nothing else, Capcom was striving to make it memorable if not one of the best.  It's a ton of fun to play in spite of its faults, and hey, classic Mega Man at his weakest is still better than most game franchises at their best.

54. Willow (Capcom, 1989)


Another high-quality tie-in title from Capcom.  Based on the film of the same name and following its plot pretty closely for the most part, Willow's gameplay was clearly modeled on Legend of Zelda, though it also worked in a few elements of Zelda II.  As you defeat enemies you'll gain experience and level up, bolstering your stats, and you'd unlock numerous spells and new pieces of equipment along the way to aid you.  Many of these are used offensively (like the ability to throw acorns that paralyze enemies), while others have more supportive uses - healing Willow, blowing enemies offscreen so you don't have to fight them, or quickly returning to past towns, to name a few.  Sprites are large and detailed, and I like the fact that the wind blows whenever combat starts, making all the trees and grass on-screen shake.  Some well-composed music rounds out the package, making for a fun and entertaining title on the whole.

53. Dr. Mario (Nintendo, 1988)

While I'm not a huge player of competitive puzzle games, there's no denying that Dr. Mario has that good old addictive charm to it. There's a true sense of frantic challenge as you try to clear an entire screen of colored viruses, trying not to let your pills fall in the wrong place and create obstacles that will take a significant amount of time and effort to clear (and probably gum up your efforts even more as you do so). Hell, there was even a two-player competitive mode, which couldn't be said for Nintendo's version of Tetris. I also both praise and curse it for having one of the catchiest tunes in all of gaming; I first played this game over twenty years ago and I still have that Fever tune stuck in my head...


52. Blaster Master (Sunsoft, 1988)


Sunsoft was another big name to many NES gamers, creating quite a few high-quality games in their time (including more than a few licensed tie-ins of surprising quality).  Blaster Master is one that's fondly remembered by many; known as much for its solid gameplay and design as its silly translation.  The Japanese version was a tale about an alien invasion in a distant world while the US version was reworked to be about a kid searching for his pet frog, mutated into giant form by radiation.  Either way, though, the game is a solid one, having you control both the protagonist in top-down shooter sections and the tank in side-scrolling ones, defeating bosses and finding numerous upgrades in order to progress.  From jet thrusters to driving up walls to upgrading your tank's artillery, it's a game with quite a lot to experience.  The only downside was a lack of any kind of save or password feature, so it was a game you had to not only get good at, but beat in one long session!

51. Final Fantasy III (Square, 1990 in Japan)


The last of the Final Fantasy games released for the Famicom, and definitely the best one it had there.  After the relatively unpopular second entry tried to change up the gameplay and design (with not-so-great results), Final Fantasy III goes back to basics a bit, reintroducing the class system and overall aesthetic of the first while giving it a major upgrade in visual and sound fidelity.  The class sytem is much more in-depth now, though, including nineteen classes in total.  All the classics from the first return and many new ones are introduced that would become series mainstays, like the Ranger, Geomancer, Bard and Sage classes.  A much larger world than the first two games is on display too, as are plenty of dungeons and hidden secrets to find.  It's not regarded by too many people as one of the best in the franchise, but it's certainly the best you're going to find on the original Famicom.