For this list, I've imposed only two rules: The games must still be fun to play today, and only games which were commercially released during the NES's heyday are considered. That means no pirates, ROM hacks, bootlegs of unreleased titles or contemporary homebrews are eligible.
114. Marble Madness (Atari/Rare, 1989)
The first game in the legendary Dragon Quest franchise, which was (and still is) a huge hit in Japan. It never got anywhere near as big in the west but it is remembered by many because of Nintendo Power, who gave away some 400,000 unsold copies of the game as a subscription incentive. While it's not the best of the series on the platform, I do have some fondness for this one as it was the very first RPG I ever played. It had quite a lot to offer for an early example of a console RPG, too - you actually had to talk to townspeople and follow their clues to find important places and objects, it had a surprisingly solid storyline with a high-quality translation, and despite its simple graphics and minimal animation, it looked and sounded surprisingly good too. Like many RPGs of the era, it's a bit of a slog today because of its heavy emphasis on grinding experience and gold, but regardless, it's a game I will always have good memories of.
peripheral that allowed it was never brought over and Nintendo never implemented an alternate option). I did consider including it on the list, but after playing the Famicom Disk System exclusive VS. Excitebike, I can't do it in good conscience. The quality contrast between the two versions is night and day - VS Excitebike includes a more exciting single-player mode (having to qualify for time in a solo run before you're allowed to run a race against the CPU, plus truck-jumping bonus stages), two player competitive play, music during gameplay, and the ability to save custom tracks directly to the disk. It's criminal that this version was never localized until the Wii U rolled around, as it makes the original game look terrible by comparison!
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!
(There is also an enhanced advertisement-laden update on the Disk System called "Kaettekita Mario Bros" if that's your sort of thing.)