72. Snake's Revenge (Konami, 1990)
71. Monster Party (Human Entertainment, 1989)
Monster Party probably isn't remembered by most as one of the best-playing games on the NES, but it is certainly one of the most memorable. This is in no small part due to featuring some surprisingly gruesome imagery, including even some blood and gore, as well as some of the most creative and outlandish bosses seen in any NES game. From a bubble-spitting pitcher plant to a transparent mummy to a cat that throws smaller cats to a giant bouncing onion ring, Monster Party has panache and weirdness to spare, as well as giving the player clever means to fight them; either transforming into a winged gargoyle-like creature to launch fireballs or utilizing a short-ranged baseball bat to deflect their own projectiles back at them. One of those games that still stands out today just based on the merits of the imagination employed in its design.
Fun fact: An unreleased Japanese prototype of the game reveals that many of the bosses within are actually parodies of famous films, from Planet of the Apes to Alien to Gremlins to The Thing. Unsurprisingly, most of these were changed in the US version because of copyright concerns.
70. Guerilla War (SNK, 1987)
Named "Guevara" in Japan and appropriately starring Che Guevara and Fidel Castro as they waged a two-man battle to liberate Cuba, SNK (quite wisely) decided to remove all real-life references when they brought the game to America in both arcade and NES form. The arcade version of the game featured a rotary joystick that allowed the player to move in one direction and fire in another at the same time, something they attempted to recreate in the first two Ikari Warriors games on NES with pretty terrible results. Thankfully, the port of Guerilla War abandons this idea and just has four-directional movement and firing, as well as considerably quicker gameplay speed. It's great, fast-paced fun, especially with two players blowing up everything in their path.
69. Crisis Force (Konami, 1991 in Japan)
The Konami shmup legacy continues, and Crisis Force is arguably one of the best they've ever done. It's a unique one too in terms of design, with a technological ancient Egyptian theme and some huge, detailed sprites every step of the way. Your ship could also transform into three different configurations - one that fires multiple guns forward, one that fires forward and backward and one that fires in three directions simultaneously, allowing you to adapt to your challenges, and one could even collect parts that would combine both players' ships into one large and very powerful one for a short period. Really fun stuff, though it does tend to get laggy when the action gets intense (especially in two-player mode). Unfortunately, being released so late in the system's life also ensured that not too many people played it even in Japan, making it a rare and spendy title nowadays.
68. Double Dragon (Technos, 1988)
Definitely one of the most popular beat-em-up franchises of the 80s, Double Dragon was nothing short of an institution at the time. It had several sequels and home ports to just about every platform imaginable, a live action movie and even a cartoon series. Probably the most well-known and successful port of the time was the NES version, which was a very different beast from the arcade (and pretty much every other home port, for that matter). Much different levels and a unique leveling system tied to unlocking new moves made it a distinct experience, as did a two-player versus mode well before the age of Street Fighter II. It was also notoriously buggy and lacked a two-player mode owning to the developers' inexperience with the hardware, but that didn't hamper its enjoyment factor at all. A great version of a classic.
67. Mega Man (Capcom, 1987)
Mega Man is probably better remembered today for its infamously terrible box art than for the game itself, but it shouldn't be; it kicked off a fantastic series of action-platformers and was a fine title in its own right. It laid the groundwork for the series, featuring a protagonist who could defeat bosses and then take their weapons for himself, not only making later levels easier to deal with, but making him better prepared to take out other bosses who were weak against that particular weapon. Bombs, fireballs, whirling scissors, lightning, an ice beam that could freeze enemies in place and, perhaps coolest of all, the ability to pick up and throw blocks bigger than himself to clobber foes. It wasn't the most refined game ever - some bosses were monstrously difficult and it lacked several later series refinements like a password system or post-hit immunity protecting from spikes - but it was a great game anyway.
66. Ufouria: the Saga (Sunsoft, 1991 in Japan, 1992 in Europe/Australia)
64. Zoda's Revenge: Startropics II (Nintendo, 1994)
One of the very last games officially released for the NES, and it was quite a good one. A followup to Startropics - a game curiously programmed by a Japanese development team but only ever released in the west - Startropics 2 featured tighter controls, crisper graphics and a new plot involving Mike travelling through time searching for the seven magical Tetrads. Oh yes, Nintendo had the Tetris license at the time and they wouldn't let you forget it.
Another welcome change was the general softening of the difficulty curve - while still very challenging, cheap shots that took off a third of your health bar were now a thing of the past, and making contact with the bosses wasn't an instant death sentence - you simply lost a large chunk of your health. Just a touch more of the problem-solving aspect and solid narrative of the original and this may very well have surpassed it!
63. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (Konami, 1988)
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.)
62. Final Fantasy (Square, 1990)
It's a story well-known to any serious RPG fan - Square was on the brink of financial ruin and they had one last chance to turn things around, so out came "Final Fantasy", its name chosen for that very reason (and also because their first choice, "Fighting Fantasy", was already taken). It ended up being a big hit and even found a dedicated audience abroad, kicking off a very popular franchise that continues to get sequels, spinoffs, remakes, remasters and reimaginings to this day. The original, like many JRPGs of the era, was heavily inspired by Wizardry, with a relatively simple story but complex dungeons, having to decipher clues from townspeople, and even letting you customize your party with four characters and six classes (which could later be upgraded to "prestige classes" that had more impressive powers). The NES version definitely isn't the best - a lot of spells and items just plain don't work as intended, and having to manually target each enemy so you don't waste turns was a pain. Still, it's a defining classic and worth a look, though I'd say get one of the newer versions instead if you want to do a full run-through.