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Top 111 NES Games, #90-81

90. GI Joe: The Atlantis Factor (KID, 1992)

The second game based on the GI Joe license, this time published by Capcom.  Appropriately, the game also changes format, going from a mostly-linear action title to one with a free-roaming stage selection similar to Bionic Commando - visiting different areas allows you to rescue Joes (both as playable characters and assisting you with extra ammo or other benefits), collect new weapons and find caches of powerups on your way to the end.  As in the previous game, each Joe has different stats and can collect upgrades, though this time you can also upgrade your melee attack - from basic punches to flying kicks to just straight damage boosts.  It's not the most iconic NES action title there is, but it's a solid one that's worth a play if you can find a copy.

89. Snake Rattle 'n' Roll (Rare, 1990)

Rare had some hits and misses on the NES, and some games that were honestly quite good but just didn't sell very well.   Snake Rattle & Roll is one of those, and it hits all of the company's hallmarks - bright, colorful and eye-catching graphics, smooth animation, a fantastic and energetic soundtrack by David Wise, polished controls, and utterly punishing difficulty, particularly in the later stages.  The premise is simple enough - platforming through isometric stages, avoiding obstacles, defeating enemies and collecting enough "Nibbly Pibblies" to grow your snake's tail and open the exit by standing on the scale (okay, so it's not that simple), but the difficulty quickly scales up.  Strict time limits, aggressive enemies, tons of traps, very precise jumps required to cross vanishing platforms, and even some surprisingly robust physics so slopes and ice actually make you slide around and water will actively slow you down.  Still, it's well-made enough that it never feels unfair, just tough, and being able to say you finally surmounted all the challenges and completed the game is reward enough in itself.

88. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Konami, 1989)

A game which may be the focus of a lot of mockery and ridicule these days for having very loose ties to the source material and some occasionally baffling design, but one must also remember that this was the first video game based on a popular property, and weird or not, your game doesn't sell over four million copies without doing something right.  TMNT was certainly ambitious for its time, combining side-scrolling action segments with top-down, open-world exploration broken up into several stages, and the variety of enemies, sub-weapons and creative stage designs make it well worth a look.  That, plus Konami's consistently high standards for visuals and music, quickly made it into a pretty big hit.  People nowadays mostly talk about the arcade beat-em-ups, but being one of the first games I owned and played quite a lot of (but never actually finished as a kid), this one will always hold a special place in my memories.  And an occasional revisit on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

87. Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Sunsoft, 1990)

Based on the film of the same name, Gremlins 2: The New Batch was handled by Sunsoft, a company that had impeccably high standards in everything they did, even if it was a licensed tie-in.  Gremlins 2 is certainly no exception, basing its levels, enemies and bosses on the film with surprising faithfulness, large sprites and immaculate graphical detail that makes all of them instantly recognizable.  The music is equally good, lending much of the film's frantic and chaotic tone to the game, and the controls, while they take a bit to get used to, are finely polished, letting you platform, evade enemies and throw attacks with ease.  It's not an especially long experience and having level passwords and unlimited continues definitely doesn't make it one of the NES's most challenging games, but I can't complain when the end result is so fun.

86. Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu (Now Production, 1990)

Everybody knows Jackie Chan - he's not only a very talented martial artist, but one of the greatest action stars and stunt-masters in history with over 150 films to his name.  Naturally, there were also a ton of licensed properties surrounding him and even a handful of video games, and this was one of them.  It's not the most creative NES platformer there is - hop across platforms, battle enemies and giant bosses - but what it lacks in originality it certainly makes up for in polish and presentation, with large well-animated sprites, detailed backgrounds, smooth controls and hit detection and some surprisingly good music.  Throughout the game you'll also earn powerups in the form of various martial arts moves to perform, can collect orbs to power up a charged projectile attack, and get the opportunity to earn extra lives and powerups via secret bonus rounds in the form of platforming challenges or smashing statues.  It may not be one that immediately comes to mind when NES platformers are mentioned, but it's one that's well worth playing.

85. Jackal (Konami, 1988)

Konami had a reputation for making home ports of arcade games that managed to be just as good as the originals and, at times, even better.  Jackal was no exception, adding in boss battles, faster gameplay and tighter controls to round out a great action title. You play as a small unit of soldiers in a jeep and are out to rescue POWs, able to move and fire a machine gun (though only toward the top of the screen, so careful movement and positioning is mandatory) and lob grenades/fire bazooka rounds in eight directions - both to destroy enemies and to free POWs from prison buildings, which you can then evacuate at helipads for points.  Basically, a top-down shoot-em-up with the smooth movement and aiming of Contra; what's not to like?

84. Wai Wai World 2: SOS!! Parsley Jo (Konami, 1991 in Japan)

Konami was definitely one of the most prevalent and successful names in 8-bit gaming (just see all the other games on this list they've produced), and it got to the point where they weren't just cashing in on licensed properties, but they were even making fun of their own IPs.  Wai Wai World was just that - a mashup of several Konami franchises all in one cartridge, revisiting levels, characters and mechanics of all of them.  Wai Wai World 2 is more in that vein; you go through scrolling shooter stages, platforming stages and even a racing level.  Throughout it all you can collect powerups to transform into a number of Konami heroes - from Simon Belmont to Upa to Goemon to Bill Rizer of Contra fame, each with a different set of abilities to utilize.  It may not be an especially deep experience, but it's a fun and charming action game, and that's what the NES platform (and Konami) really did best.

83. Joy Mech Fight (Nintendo, 1993 in Japan)

Street Fighter II, while not the first fighting game ever made, is definitely the one that kicked the genre into high gear, and it seemed like everybody wanted to make their own version to cash in; from big companies to obscure eastern Asian pirate groups, everyone wanted a slice of that pie.  Nintendo took their own crack at it on the NES - not exactly a practical system for it owing to strict memory and graphical limitations, but they found a way.  By giving all the characters disconnected limbs, they could keep the gameplay fast and the animation smooth.  It has a fairly long single-player campaign where you face off with progressively tougher waves of robots and make your way to the big boss at the end, but of course it also had a competitive two-player mode with eight playable robots with their own distinct special moves.

82. Akumajo Special: Boku Dracula-Kun (Konami, 1990 in Japan)

Konami spoofs themselves again with a game where you play as a kid version of Dracula out to defeat a challenger to his throne; namely, the demon Galamoth.  Rather than a dark gothic feel this game is bright, colorful and silly, with upbeat takes on Castlevania tracks and some creative twists on familiar enemies and locations from the series.  Dracula himself retains several of his distinct abilities, having an upgradable fireball attack and the ability to transform into a bat to maneuver through levels, and gains several more as well, like the ability to walk on ceilings or freeze enemies in ice.  Between each stage you also get a variety of minigames to earn extra lives and power-ups.  Just a fun, light-hearted spoof of its parent franchise that pays homage to everything great about it.

81. 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 even 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.