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Top 120 NES Games, #72-61

72. Snake's Revenge (Konami, 1990)

After Metal Gear (and before Kojima made Metal Gear 2), Konami produced a sequel with no involvement from the original team for the NES; it never had a Famicom port either, so this is the only Metal Gear game ever created that was never released in Japan.  It's definitely a more polished game than the original on NES, with smoother animation, substantially improved graphics and music, much more variety in locations to visit and reimplementing some design elements from the original like having multiple levels of enemy alert status.  Oddly it can also be considered something of a sequel to Rush n' Attack, with several sidescrolling platforming sections where you must avoid traps and defeat enemies.  Even the story is more involved this time, with quite a few clever twists and even some pretty awesome '80s action movie cheese worked into the mix.  It may not be the most beloved Metal Gear game, but it's certainly worth a visit for series fans.

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)

A Sunsoft-developed game, which of course means it has a high degree of polish to it and some fantastic visuals and music.  Ufouria also has a pretty distinct visual style, with simple yet expressive character designs and some stretch-and-squash animation reminiscent of western cartoons.  It's also just a well-made Metroid-esque game, starring four characters with distinct abilities - Bop-Louie is a relatively fast walker and can climb walls once a certain items is found; Freeon-Leon can swim through water and tread on ice without slipping; Shades jumps high and glides slowly downward which can allow him to cross long gaps; and Gil can dive beneath the water to reach new areas and blow open certain walls with bombs.  While overall rather short and easy compared to others on the platform (and especially most Sunsoft games), the charming presentation and quirky humor it presents have made it into a cult classic for the system.

65. Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (Tecmo, 1991)

The third and final Ninja Gaiden game definitely had a much different look and feel than its predecessors, with generally slower action (including several autoscrolling segments), more polished visuals and sounds and a more beginner-friendly design, with lower damage, less cheap hits and even level passwords.  At least, that was true for the original Japanese version - in the US version the password system was eliminated, more enemies were added, damage from all sources was doubled, and for the first time in the series, you had limited continues - once you used up all five of them, the game was over and you had to start from scratch.  This made it vastly harder than both its predecessors and its Japanese counterpart, and contributed to it being considered the black sheep of the series.  But even the black sheep of the Ninja Gaiden trilogy is still a solid game; it's just not as good and addictive as the other two.

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)

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.)

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.

61. Chip & Dale's Rescue Rangers (Capcom, 1990)

One of many Disney-licensed platformers on the NES by Capcom, and one I rented many times as a kid because it was just a fun and addicting game.  Capcom's strong level design shines through here, delivering some creative stages like a kitchen (with faucets you have to turn off to pass through safely), a toy factory and treetops with attacking flying squirrels.  Some solid music and visuals also complete the package, as does a two-player simultaneous play option that makes for a fun romp, even if you tend to get in each other's way more than help.  The game is ultimately fairly short and not especially difficult to complete, but I still pop it in and play it to this day because it's a nostalgic favorite and a pretty damn fun platformer.