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Top 111 NES Games, #60-51

60. 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.

59. 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.

58. Super C (Konami, 1990)

The strangely-titled 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.

57. 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.

56. 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 for the soon-to-be-retired NES; 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.

55. Dragon Warrior IV (Chunsoft, 1993)

The Dragon Quest series, despite its relative lack of popularity overseas, remained a very highly regarded one with a dedicated fanbase; Nintendo and Enix definitely went above-and-beyond with a high quality translation (much better than most other NES games of the time) and even included enormous manuals that would walk you through a big portion of the game, if not the entire thing.  Dragon Warrior IV was the last to be localized for nearly a decade, but it retained the series' trademark polish and was definitely a very epic RPG for the NES.  A grand tale spanning five chapters, starring eight central characters and a substantial supporting cast certainly gave it no shortage of story beats.  It was certainly more streamlined as well, as you could only control the main character's actions directly in the final chapter, but the AI on your allies was surprisingly competent, so it wasn't as much of a downside as you might think.

54. Moon Crystal  (Hect, 1992 in Japan)

A rare and expensive title from a relatively unknown developer, but that doesn't mean it's not a good game.  Moon Crystal might just have the most impressive presentation of any game on the platform, with some really good music tracks, large and fluidly-animated character sprites, cutscenes between stages reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden, and even some impressive effects like parallax backgrounds and multi-plane scrolling.  Moon Crystal feels a bit like Prince of Persia gameplay-wise, with the player able to grab onto ledges and pull themselves up and a somewhat more methodical approach to action and platforming - your smooth animation comes at the cost of having a substantial delay in things like ducking, turning and jumping, so planning and executing moves to avoid obstacles, dodge enemy attacks and land hits is a challenge in itself.  You do get some help in the form of powerups that increase your attack range, boost your health bar for the rest of the stage or enable double-jumping, though, which does help prevent things from getting too frustrating.

53. 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 localization.  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!

52. Dragon Warrior III (Chunsoft, 1992)

Probably the premier JRPG series, the first game was hugely popular in its time and the franchise has continued to be an unstoppable force in Japan, with most stores even refusing to sell the games on weekdays so kids don't skip class to go buy them.  Among them, Dragon Quest III continues to be regarded as the best of the NES era, and for good reason - it keeps the defining charm and simplicity of the series while working in a Final Fantasy style customization element, letting you pick from several classes to tweak the game's difficulty to your liking.  About halfway through the game you can even change their class, letting them carry over some stats from their original jobs while branching out into an other discipline to become even more powerful.  Story wise it also serves as a clever prequel to the first two games, with a lot of events that are only told in legend there becoming reality as you venture across the land and conquer the evils in it.  Like Final Fantasy 1, though,you may want to play one of the remakes over the original nowadays, as they all have various balance tweaks and added content like new weapons and classes. 

51. 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!