Check out my other site, RPGreats, for honest RPG reviews!


Top 120 NES Games, #84-73

84. Metal Gear (Konami, 1988)

Metal Gear on the MSX2 was a pretty amazing and surprisingly fresh experience for 1987, incorporating elements of stealth gameplay, quite a lot of character dialog for storytelling and some surprisingly adult themes despite the technology of the time.  The NES version is looked down on these days for changing up several elements of its design and significantly cutting down the dialog to fit on a 128k ROM, but it's still a pretty solid port, especially considering it was converted in only three months with no assistance from the original team.  It's still got plenty of puzzles to solve, a storyline that tries to throw a few clever twists at you (as well as some sly fourth-wall breaking) and plenty of outlandish bosses to fight, so it still fits the mold of a Metal Gear experience.  It may be just a curiosity for today's gaming audience now that the MSX2 version is widely available on several compilations, but for the only version we had access to in North America for sixteen years, it was more than passable.

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.

80. Deja Vu: A Nightmare Comes True! (ICOM, 1990)

Part of the so-called "ICOM Trilogy" for the NES, Deja Vu was a slightly more realistic take on the point-and-click adventure genre. As an amnesiac framed for murder, it falls to you to recover your memories, clear your name and uncover the real culprits behind the crime. As with the other two games in the series, some puzzle solutions are a bit obtuse and it's possible to get stuck in an unwinnable state if you're not careful, but the solid, atmospheric soundtrack and tense narrative make it an unforgettable experience regardless. Deja Vu also had a sequel was never released on the NES; however, it did eventually get a Game Boy Color port in late 1999.

79. Lemmings (DMA Design/Sunsoft, 1992)

Lemmings was an enormously popular puzzle game back in the early '90s, spawning numerous sequels, spinoffs and ports on just about every platform you could think of.  Sunsoft did a great job on the NES port too, retaining the same gameplay as well as the high-quality animation and music that made it a hit on various computer platforms.  The goal of the game is a simple one - get a quota of lemmings safely to the goal - and to that end you assign a few of them tasks like blocking the others from walking into hazards, giving them umbrellas to safely drop long distances, digging through dirt or building staircases to clear a path.  Sounds simple enough, but it quickly becomes very challenging, with later levels requiring very careful planning and precision to complete.  Still, Lemmings is a classic puzzle game, and is definitely worth a look if you somehow haven't played it already.

78. GI Joe: A Real American Hero (Taxan, 1991)

The first of the two NES GI Joe games, and it was a fine representation of the franchise, letting you pick a team of three characters as you completed various missions.  Mostly in the form of side-scrolling platforming stages and boss fights with the franchise's iconic villains, but throughout you'd also have to infiltrate bases and plant bombs, then defeat the boss and make your escape before they detonated, which was quite cool to see.  Each team member also had different abilities - Snake Eyes could jump the highest and had relatively long melee range with his sword, Duke and Gridiron are relatively well balanced, while Rock&Roll has overall low stats but the most powerful weapon in the game when fully powered up.  The final stage also lets you take control of General Hawk, who flies around with a jetpack, adding another layer of fun.  A solid, well-made game that for some reason never got much attention.

77. Journey to Silius (Sunsoft, 1990)

Journey to Silius is another highly-regarded title by Sunsoft, and it isn't hard to see why just from a screenshot - the game looked absolutely phenomenal for 1990.  Large, stylish sprites, detailed backgrounds, polished mechanics and high quality music showed up too, all of which helped cement Sunsoft as one of the NES's premiere developers.  A slightly less savory element to their games, though, was the punishing difficulty, and Journey to Silius is definitely no different there.  Enemies require some very well-honed tactics to get past, ammo for your special weapons is rare to come by, health even moreso, and dying at any point (even at the stage boss) forces you to redo the entire gauntlet from the beginning.  Bosses are no slouches either, often requiring extremely precise pattern-dodging and firing to get through intact.  It's an impressive and very polished game, but it certainly feels like punishment at times too.

76. Dr. Mario (Nintendo, 1988)

While I'm not a huge player of competitive puzzle games, there's no denying that Dr. Mario has that good old addictive charm to it. There's a true sense of frantic challenge as you try to clear an entire screen of colored viruses, trying not to let your pills fall in the wrong place and create obstacles that will take a significant amount of time and effort to clear (and probably gum up your efforts even more as you do so). Hell, there was even a two-player competitive mode, which couldn't be said for Nintendo's version of Tetris. I also both praise and curse it for having one of the catchiest tunes in all of gaming; I first played this game over thirty years ago and I still have that Fever tune stuck in my head... 

75. Solar Jetman: Quest for the Golden Warpship (Zippo Games/Rare, 1990)

The sequel to Rare's "Lunar Jetman", and a much different game overall, as it's based much more heavily on exploration and physics simulation.  The player visits thirteen planets with differing gravity and hazards and seeks out various treasures and items.  Some upgrade the player's pods with new weapons or additional capabilities like shields and thrusters, while others simply provide money to spend at the shop in-between rounds.  The goal on each world is to fuel up your mothership and collect one of the pieces of the Golden Warpship; collecting them all will allow you to enter the final stage and defeat the boss at the end.  Some amazing graphical effects and music (provided by the legendary David Wise) round out the package, making it a game that plays as good as it looks.  The only thing holding it back from greatness was its extreme difficulty level.

74. Life Force (Konami, 1988)

Known as "Salamander" in Japan, Life Force is a spinoff of the Gradius franchise, featuring both side-scrolling and top-down scrolling gameplay and a similar power-up system.  It definitely plays up the horror influence too, taking place in the body of a giant alien and having appropriately creepy, fleshy environments and bosses to square off against.  The NES version, in addition to being heavily reworked from the arcade, was also notable at the time for featuring two-player simultaneous co-op, and surprisingly it shows little slowdown during it even when the action really heats up.  But of course, Konami pulls no punches with the difficulty either - if you don't memorize the ins-and-outs of every battle and plan your movements carefully, you're not going to be able to finish this one.

73. M.C. Kids (Virgin Games, 1992)

M.C. Kids is a game that's frequently overlooked, but I can't give people too much crap for that.  Between its late release and being an advergame for McDonalds, it's one that few people paid any mind to in the 90s and most who learned of it later dismiss immediately.  However, those who gave it a chance found a highly polished and fun platformer that takes several cues from the Super Mario Bros series.  One can pick up and throw blocks to defeat enemies or weigh themselves down to spring higher on springs, flip their own gravity and traverse stages upside-down, and of course find a huge plethora of secrets and bonuses in each level.  Even the visual style is similar, with some smoothly animated characters and detailed sprites.  Virgin would go on to make several highly-acclaimed games (most notably Aladdin on the Sega Genesis), but M.C. Kids never quite got its due.