I started this project exactly five months ago yesterday, and today marks the conclusion to my first console venture. I’m not really sure how to write this post, hell, part of me wasn’t sure I’d even have to. I guess I’ll start it off just like any other…
My earliest memories are of me playing my NES, on my little TV in my little red plastic chair. My mom worked at a video store when I was young, and during the summer I’d go with her and sit behind the counter, plugging in rental systems and picking games off the shelf. For a tiny gamer I was truly living the dream. I also meant I got first crack any new games that were coming out, notably Sonic 2 and 3.
I remember my mom looking at the game boxes, and the on screen warning, telling me to MAKE SURE I tell her immediately if I start experiencing any muscle spasms or eye twitching or… seizures… These were interesting times.
When I wasn’t lining up empty rental boxes like dominoes I was almost exclusively playing NES games. Everything from GI Joe to Base Wars, a baseball games wherein your team was comprised of giant robots who would sometimes fight.
At home it was all Mario and Mega Man, with a bit of Kickle Cubicle mixed in for good measure. My whole family played games. Before we had a NES in the house my parents would sit and play Master System games like Ghostbusters and Fantasy Zone. The memory alone has me shopping around for a Power Base Converter, if not a Master System itself. We had an NES around the same time we had a Sega Genesis, and while my parents would whip out the notebook for Might & Magic: Gates to Another World on Sega’s console, my cousins and I were would be held up in the bedroom taking turns on Super Mario 2. I think, in that regard, I was lucky, as even now my family has a reasonable understanding of my
Sadly, once we got an SNES in the house and my dad and I discovered the unparalleled joy that is Super Mario World, the NES was forever relegated to dust collection duty…
I was actually probably more excited going into the NES than I am going out. I am SO ready for some 16-bit gameplay at this point. Still, I wanted to go in and find some gems that I missed as a child, and I definitely accomplished that! I knew I’d be spending the back half of this one playing most of the games I remember growing up, and may have even played recently, but it was the front half that I was hoping would deliver.
What I wanted in the NES were some fun games that ranked low in complexity. I knew all about “NES Hard” going into this, and that held true for sure.
Finally, I wanted to go into this hoping to prove to myself that “retro” didn’t have to mean “quaint”. We all like to talk about these old games and how AMAZING they are compared to today’s selection, but the reality is most of us wouldn’t really be all that entertained if all we had to play was Super Mario and Legend of Zelda. I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone I didn’t hate to play Final Fantasy I over, say, 4 or 6.. or 5… 3… maybe 2…
I remember being so legitimately excited to jump into RBI Baseball. I’m not much of a sports guy, and by extension not much for sports games. Still, I know Nintendo has a why of making them enjoyable, and the NES’s simplicity tends to add to that. I also remember how horribly disappointed I was when I actually got around to playing it.
Luckily, Faxanadu was right there, ready to pick me up! I’d never heard of this crazy game before, and if not for this project probably never would have. It’s no Castlevania to be sure, and getting into was a slight challenge, but boy was it worth it. Between the amazing music, the fun hack and slash gameplay, and the satisfying boss fights, this was truly my first gem… Too bad I had to follow that up with Qix.
Ice Hockey seemed to be setting the trend for Sports games, and the Wii bastardization of Duck Hunt didn’t do much to lift my spirits. Batman, however, was a great little platformer. Sure I never really felt much like the Dark Night, what with the rocket launcher and all, but for a licensed game it was quite good.
A Boy and his Blob was probably the first game on this list that I found myself beating out of spite. Even still, its charm is undeniable, and I can see how it tends to be remembered so fondly by those who did play it back in the day.
Wow I played a lot of games that month, and it was a short month, too!
Dodge Ball was a fantastically refreshing change-up for the NES sports genre, and I had a great time playing it. Micro Machines was a fantastic follow up as well! Oh! And freaking Tecmo Super Bowl! So much fun to be had!
Battletoads was the first game I played know full and well going in I wasn’t going to be beating it, and that held true. Still, it was incredibly fun playing through it and the “co-op” almost landed me a divorce…
Unfortunately for all the great games this month there managed to be a couple stinkers. In this case it rush Rush’n Attack (Which I now call Run’n Stab) which, while not horrible definitely didn’t live up to the Konami pedigree I was expecting. Ninja Turtles was so-so, as the NES port just didn’t quite capture the magic of the arcade original. Kid Icarus just… I mean it’s supposed to be a classic right?
I don’t understand Kid Icarus. When I could be playing Metroid, Mario, Mega Man, or any other halfway decent game on the console why would I ever play this game? I feel like it has nothing really to offer. Everything it does, someone else does better, and worst of all it’s just not fun. I wanted so badly to love this game, instead I’m just bitter.
Don’t even get me started on the pile of WTF that was Cobra Triangle… Such an amazing name wasted on such a… ugh, moving on.
Oh right, I almost forgot about Rygar… which is kind of the problem with Rygar. Yes, I beat it, but most impressive thing I can remember about it is how indifferent I am to have played through it.
Let’s talk about better games! Super C played BEAUTIFULLY and beating it was a glorious surprise. Co-op was also fantastic in it. StarTropics was another game I had no idea what I was really getting myself into, but I sure was glad I did. This was the first game where I really felt like the creators new what they were doing between the control scheme, inventory system and level design. Brutally difficult at times, but I could not put the controller down on this one.
Adventure Island, the first game I had to stop playing before I literally assaulted my TV. It was a lot of fun, and I could care less about the whole Hudson “situation” and this game vs Wonder Boy. Adventure Island was a fine platformer that I’ll never play again… because I have anger issues.
Excitebike and Dr. Mario both provided fun distractions, as expected. Unfortunately Bubble Bobble was not quite what I was hoping. For all the hype I just found in incredibly boring, and the same could actually be said of Bomber Man. I love the series now, but its first entry was just so… boring. Double Dragon II managed to be a major let down as well. Maybe beat ’em ups aren’t my thing, but I found this game to just be frustrating for all the wrong reasons.
Luckily, Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania and Duck Tales picked up the slack this month. Even though I could only beat one of the three, they all proved incredibly fun to play through. Blaster Master was the odd one. I didn’t love it, I certainly didn’t hate it. While it had a lot going for it (Basically Metroid in a tank) its inconsistencies, as well as just not being my ideal genre, ultimately left me not inclined to finish it.
Then there was Final Fantasy… I’m not going to type another essay on Final Fantasy, you can reference the original post for that. I will say that it was an experience, I’m very glad I beat it, and I never want to play its NES incarnation ever again.
Let’s continue the trend of grouping by genre!
RC Pro Am and Tetris round out the casual games with one being great and the other being terrible. I don’t know what it is about 8-bit Rare games but of the two I’ve playing, I’ve hated both of them, and don’t understand their place on the list. As for Tetris, while this is definitely the version to play, there’s no way I can go out and spend $70 on TETRIS! I prefer the “attack” variants anyway. Call it blasphemy, I don’t care! I suppose we can throw Super Punch-Out!! in here as well. I had a lot of fun with this one, but all it really did was make me all the more anxious to play the SNES version, and now I’m out looking for the Wii version as well.
This month also saw the conclusion of Final Fantasy, and the beginning of Link’s Adventure. I went in to Link’s Adventure feeling like I wasn’t going to love it, and while I made all attempts to change that, it ended up holding true. I don’t know why, and maybe it’ll get better when the technology gets better, but mixed genre games just don’t really do it for me. Except, of course, for River City Ransom! I heard the hype, and I was really excited to see it hold up.
This month was also platformer heaven. Contra, while fun, proved to be a bit less exciting than its sequel, which I think I’d choose over the original to play any day. Also beat was Mega Man 3 which was just as hard, or actually harder, than I always remembered it. Ninja Gaiden II and Castlevania III were just as hard as their earlier entrees and, just like those, I came close but could not beat either of them… Okay I didn’t even come close to beating Castlevania III.
Also this month came Super Mario Bros. and Kirby’s Adventure, one of the first and last games made for the console! Playing through Mario without warp pipes was actually a new experience for me, and one I’m glad I had. Before this project I barely knew what worlds 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 even looked like. Now I can say I played through the game all the way through to the end… even though I couldn’t clear World 8…
Kirby was just fantastic, really showing what this console could be capable of when pushed to its limits. It also benefited from 16-bit era gaming trends, resulting in a perfect difficulty curve and an incredibly intuitive and straightforward gameplay system.
Breaking into the top 10 was something I really needed at this point, as 8-bit gaming had really been wearing on me up til now. A combination of seeing the end of the tunnel and having some great games to look forward to along the way really helped,
While Metal Gear and Mario 2 were just about as unexciting as expected, the Top 5 more than made up for it!
I had a lot of reservations going into Bionic Commando. A Capcom platforming shooter without a jump button? Imagine my surprise when it ended up being one of my favorite games on the console, and the one most likely that I’ll actually be playing again soon!
Metroid and Legend of Zelda are both series that I’ve never really loved. I mean, Ocarina of Time is one of my favorite games, but I could never get into Link to the Past. However, once I actually got myself playing both games (with guides!) I found myself enjoying them considerably more than I was expecting! So much so that I’m actually looking forward to Super Metroid and Link to the Past now!
Mega Man 2 proved to be just as fun as I remember, though much easier as well. I actually found little challenge in it compared to Mega Man 3, but also had a better time playing through it.
Finally, Super Mario 3 proved it deserves it’s #1 spot! I was actually quite happy to see how much I didn’t appreciate this game as a kid. I mean it was always fun, but it wasn’t until sitting down with it now that I realized just how impressive and influential Super Mario Bros. 3 really was.
It’s a bittersweet goodbye to the NES. While I’ve greatly enjoyed my trip through late 80’s video game history, seeing what was really just got me excited for what will be. While most if not all games of this era were flawed, they went to great lengths to lay the groundwork for the next, arguably perfect, generations of games, establishing trends that are still seen in modern gaming.
It’s incredible to play game franchises from nearly 30 years ago like Mario and Zelda, and realize just how close they are to their roots still today, or at least how far their traditions have carried on through the years.
There’s no question that the NES is probably the most important home console of our generation, and while it may not be the single console I’d choose to take with me on a desert island (with a TV, electricity, food…) it’s library has definitely earned its place on my shelves. With that, here’s my final Top 10 list for the NES based on the games I played for this project:
My Top 10:
1. Super Mario 3 | 84 2. Legend of Zelda | 80 3. Mega Man 2 | 77 4. Metroid | 77 5. Kirby's Adventure | 76 6. Super Mario Bros. | 76 7. Bionic Commando | 76 8. Mega Man 3 | 74 9. Castlevania III | 73 10. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! | 72