Top 5: NES Games

5. Bubble Bobble
Taito | November 1988

Bubble BobbleDinosaurs release bubbles in a journey to rescue their girlfriends…okay the premise of Bubble Bobble is ridiculous but the gameplay is king. Each stage contains enemies and platforming for Bub and Bob to overcome. They accomplish this tasking by releasing bubbles to capture enemies and then pop the bubble. Enemies outside of a bubble, hurt dinosaurs; enemies inside a bubble die to dinosaurs—it’s a simple premise that creates dynamic risk/reward situations in combat. The bubbles also act as launch pad to help the duo reach higher areas of the stage. BB is at its best when played cooperatively, the game is enjoyable alone but it truly shines with a friend in the room. Players can work in tandem to clear a stage, create platforms and progress or try and sabotage one another. The game sports over 100 stages, and a good ending which can only be reached by knowing someone who already beat the game (or having a friend with an uncle who works at Nintendo…remember when that was a thing).


4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II
Konami | December 1990

TMNT 2The arcade experience in the comfort of your home. If you visited an arcade in the 80’s chances are you dropped a few dollars on the TMNT machine and were lucky to get past the fourth stage. With the console port players were able to progress further (also, thanks Konami code) and not waste a stream of quarters. This side scrolling beat-em-up game allowed players to control one of four turtles to defeat wave after wave of foot soldiers. Each level culminated in a boss battle that would require hundreds of hits to cause his body to start blinking orange, and then more hits to ultimately slay him. For fans of the show, this was the closest they could get to being a Turtle. A second player could jump in and assist with the battle…but they never were allowed to pick Leonardo because he was my favorite.



3. Mega Man 3
Capcom | November 1990

MM3He’s fighting to save the world. He’s fighting to gain eight additional powers by defeating robot masters with an multi-talented robot dog, named Rush. He is Mega Man, the blue bomber (or Rockman to my friends across the pond). MM3 is the best in the series, introducing important elements, such as Protoman, to the mythos and pushing the already stellar series forward. Mega completes eight varying stages by blasting foes, avoiding incoming fire and solving environmental puzzles. Each ‘screen’ is marked with a clearly visible exit, be it ladder, hole in the ground or moving right, that players must solve. Every section is as much a puzzle as it is an action / adventure segment. After defeating the standard eight robot masters, an additional set appear for battle. These new challengers are remixed versions of bosses from MM2 and an excellent fan service. Players can jot down a code after completing each stage but must make the final push of Dr. Willy’s punishing castle in a single sitting. MM3 remains a perfect example of challenging gameplay and tight controls today.


2. The Legend of Zelda
Nintendo | August 1987

ZeldaBefore talking fairies, players learned through gameplay. Legend of Zelda did not hold the players hand, it expected gamers to learn while they explore. And they did. This top down view had a hub world where players would explore each area looking for the next dungeon. Once inside, players would go through rooms in search of additional weapons and a piece of the Triforce. Each weapon greatly expanded Link’s arsenal (and would be useful in the upcoming boss battle) or his ability to explore the land and unlock new areas. The dungeons were numbered, but could be completed in any order the player wished. After defeating Ganon, or entering “Zelda” as the hero’s name, gamers would gain access to a second quest where everything was in a different layout. Maybe this game should be on the Top 5 list twice…



1. Super Mario Bros. 3
Nintendo | February 1990

SM3If you owned a Nintendo, you owned this game. If you never played this game, you still probably know a lot about it. SM3 took the format of Super Mario and powered it up to over 9,000. Players control Mario and Luigi throughout 8 worlds (a NES magic number) with varying themes; giant, dessert, ice, water and more. The over world map would display the available paths, but the most obvious route did was not always the fastest, rewards were available off the beaten path. Within each stage, Mario could fly thanks to the power leaf and raccoon suit. This created a true sense of verticality within the game and introduced a reoccurring theme of powerups to the Mario franchise (the mushroom and fire flower were first…but these new variances expanded the arsenal and full potential). Each stage beautifully captures the feel of the entire world. Background elements in certain sections could be interacted with to discover extra secrets. SMB3 excels at being an amazing platformer, containing deep layers of gameplay options and being one of the greatest games Nintendo (or anyone) ever created.

Level Up, Friends!