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


Top 120 NES Games, #96-85

96. Wario's Woods (Nintendo, 1994)

The NES's only appearance of Mario's evil doppelganger, it also holds the distinction of being the only NES game rated by the ESRB, as well as the very last licensed NES game released in North America - in December of 1994, no less.  It was also a fairly unique take on puzzle games, having you control a character on the play field (Toad!) who would have to climb around, move monsters and bombs around (either picking them up and dropping, or just punting them into place) and try to clear the board as quickly as possible.  Boss fights get added in too, with enemies who like to disrupt your setups and quickly fill up the screen, requiring you to stay sharp and sneak in hits whenever possible. It's not the most talked about puzzle game on the NES, but it's a unique and fun one once you've gotten used to it. 

95. Fire N' Ice (Tecmo, 1993)

A late-comer to the NES scene, which of course means it fetches insanely high prices on the secondary market these days.  It's also the sequel to Solomon's Key, though for whatever reason they decided to downplay this fact when they localized it.  The fact that they don't really play much alike may have been a factor, though - while the original was an actiony puzzle-platformer where you tried to uncover secrets, capture fairies and avoid hazards on your way to the exit, this is more of a straight puzzle game, having you create icy surfaces (though only in diagonal spaces below you) and extinguish all the fires in the level by pushing ice blocks into them or dropping them on top.  There are also 'boss stages' of sorts with mechanics like scrolling screens or moving fires that require some extra strategy to extinguish.  A fun little puzzle game with some deceptively deep mechanics.

92. 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.

93. Ai Senshi Nicol (Konami, 1987 in Japan) (FDS)

Ai Senshi Nicol ("Love Warrior Nicol") is a surprising one - a high quality Konami game that never got a cartridge release, let alone a localization.  Moreso because it's built on the model of games like Zelda and Metroid with its large open stages.  Each one is many screens tall and wide, and has you collect powerups to bypass certain obstacles, blast enemies and finish each stage with a big boss fight.  All with surprisingly good graphics for the time period - it came out in 1987 and yet looks and sounds almost as good as NES games from the 90s.  The latter also uses the extra sound channel on the Disk System to provide some nice music that the base hardware simply wasn't capable of.  A very cool and overlooked game that's well worth your time if you can track down a copy and the hardware to play it on.

92. Kickle Cubicle (Irem, 1990)

A relatively unique and well-crafted puzzle game by Irem, where you play as a snowman-esque character named Kickle who can create ice pillars and freeze enemies with his breath to turn them into cubes.  Said cubes can then be pushed into the water to create floors, or pushed into other enemies to eliminate them, or ricocheted off of springs or hammers to redirect their motion (though they can easily clobber you as well, so you must be careful).  Your goal in each stage is to collect the three "dream bags", though as in any good puzzle game, this quickly becomes a daunting task - avoiding enemies, being careful not to trap yourself and setting up pillars in the right time and place to avoid hazards are all skills you will have to master (especially in the bonus stages, unlocked after completing the main game).  There are boss fights too, which require some quick movement and reaction speed to overcome.

91. GI Joe: The Atlantis Factor (KID, 1992)

The second game based on the GI Joe license, this time published by Capcom.  Appropriately, the game also changes format, going from a mostly-linear action title to one with a free-roaming stage selection similar to Bionic Commando - visiting different areas allows you to rescue Joes (both as playable characters and assisting you with extra ammo or other benefits), collect new weapons and find caches of powerups on your way to the end.  As in the previous game, each Joe has different stats and can collect upgrades, though this time you can also upgrade your melee attack - from basic punches to flying kicks to just straight damage boosts.  It's not the most iconic NES action title there is, but it's a solid one that's worth a play if you can find a copy.

90. Snake Rattle 'n' Roll (Rare, 1990)

Rare had some hits and misses on the NES, and some games that were honestly quite good but just didn't sell very well.   Snake Rattle & Roll is one of those, and it hits all of the company's hallmarks - bright, colorful and eye-catching graphics, smooth animation, a fantastic and energetic soundtrack by David Wise, polished controls, and utterly punishing difficulty, particularly in the later stages.  The premise is simple enough - platforming through isometric stages, avoiding obstacles, defeating enemies and collecting enough "Nibbly Pibblies" to grow your snake's tail and open the exit by standing on the scale (okay, so it's not that simple), but the difficulty quickly scales up.  Strict time limits, aggressive enemies, tons of traps, very precise jumps required to cross vanishing platforms, and even some surprisingly robust physics so slopes and ice actually make you slide around and water will actively slow you down.  Still, it's well-made enough that it never feels unfair, just tough, and being able to say you finally surmounted all the challenges and completed the game is reward enough in itself.

89. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Konami, 1989)

A game which may be the focus of a lot of mockery and ridicule these days for having very loose ties to the source material and some occasionally baffling design, but one must also remember that this was the first video game based on a popular property, and weird or not, your game doesn't sell over four million copies without doing something right.  TMNT was certainly ambitious for its time, combining side-scrolling action segments with top-down, open-world exploration broken up into several stages, and the variety of enemies, sub-weapons and creative stage designs make it well worth a look.  That, plus Konami's consistently high standards for visuals and music, quickly made it into a pretty big hit.  People nowadays mostly talk about the arcade beat-em-ups, but being one of the first games I owned and played quite a lot of (but never actually finished as a kid), this one will always hold a special place in my memories.  And an occasional revisit on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

88. Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Sunsoft, 1990)

Based on the film of the same name, Gremlins 2: The New Batch was handled by Sunsoft, a company that had impeccably high standards in everything they did, even if it was a licensed tie-in.  Gremlins 2 is certainly no exception, basing its levels, enemies and bosses on the film with surprising faithfulness, large sprites and immaculate graphical detail that makes all of them instantly recognizable.  The music is equally good, lending much of the film's frantic and chaotic tone to the game, and the controls, while they take a bit to get used to, are finely polished, letting you platform, evade enemies and throw attacks with ease.  It's not an especially long experience and having level passwords and unlimited continues definitely doesn't make it one of the NES's most challenging games, but I can't complain when the end result is so fun.

87. Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu (Now Production, 1990)

Everybody knows Jackie Chan - he's not only a very talented martial artist, but one of the greatest action stars and stunt-masters in history with over 150 films to his name.  Naturally, there were also a ton of licensed properties surrounding him and even a handful of video games, and this was one of them.  It's not the most creative NES platformer there is - hop across platforms, battle enemies and giant bosses - but what it lacks in originality it certainly makes up for in polish and presentation, with large well-animated sprites, detailed backgrounds, smooth controls and hit detection and some surprisingly good music.  Throughout the game you'll also earn powerups in the form of various martial arts moves to perform, can collect orbs to power up a charged projectile attack, and get the opportunity to earn extra lives and powerups via secret bonus rounds in the form of platforming challenges or smashing statues.  It may not be one that immediately comes to mind when NES platformers are mentioned, but it's one that's well worth playing.

86. Jackal (Konami, 1988)

Konami had a reputation for making home ports of arcade games that managed to be just as good as the originals and, at times, even better.  Jackal was no exception, adding in boss battles, faster gameplay and tighter controls to round out a great action title. You play as a small unit of soldiers in a jeep and are out to rescue POWs, able to move and fire a machine gun (though only toward the top of the screen, so careful movement and positioning is mandatory) and lob grenades/fire bazooka rounds in eight directions - both to destroy enemies and to free POWs from prison buildings, which you can then evacuate at helipads for points.  Basically, a top-down shoot-em-up with the smooth movement and aiming of Contra; what's not to like?

85. Wai Wai World 2: SOS!! Parsley Jo (Konami, 1991 in Japan)

Konami was definitely one of the most prevalent and successful names in 8-bit gaming (just see all the other games on this list they've produced), and it got to the point where they weren't just cashing in on licensed properties, but they were even making fun of their own IPs.  Wai Wai World was just that - a mashup of several Konami franchises all in one cartridge, revisiting levels, characters and mechanics of all of them.  Wai Wai World 2 is more in that vein; you go through scrolling shooter stages, platforming stages and even a racing level.  Throughout it all you can collect powerups to transform into a number of Konami heroes - from Simon Belmont to Upa to Goemon to Bill Rizer of Contra fame, each with a different set of abilities to utilize.  It may not be an especially deep experience, but it's a fun and charming action game, and that's what the NES platform (and Konami) really did best.