Tag Archives: Top 100 NES

Top 100 NES Countdown: Final Thoughts

Wanted to thank everyone who followed this countdown.  It was a blast to do and I think I feel satisfied now that I’ve given the NES the due I hoped to give it when I dreamed of playing of every game.  I didn’t play every game, but enough.  My blog is just over a year old now and I’ve gained some followers who don’t know me personally.  My site is mostly about me, and I’m glad some of you have found it entertaining and contributed.

Tomorrow I will introduce the next phase of Death By Troggles.  Today, I’d like to hear some of your stories.  I know some of you have shared stories in the comments, but I’m guessing there are some that haven’t been mentioned yet.  So, are there any epic moments you’d like to share?  Did you throw a controller through the window?  Did you form any new friendships because of the system?  Propose to your wife during a game of Anticipation?  Heck, just say something.

Top 100 NES Games: Statistics

So who were the best developers for the NES?

Appearances in the Top 100 (more than one game)

Nintendo: 13
Konami: 12
Tecmo: 9
Capcom: 7
Rare: 6
Chunsoft: 4
HAL: 4
Technos: 4
Tose: 4
Atari: 3
Taito: 3
Data East: 2
ICOM: 2
Natsume: 2
SNK: 2
Square: 2
Sunsoft: 2
Tokai: 2

Nintendo is first, but they also created more games than any other company.  How about we take a look at their cumulative rankings?  Points are awarded on a reverse order basis.  For example, Bubble Bobble was #100, so Taito will receive one point for that game.

Total Points (top 10)

Nintendo: 871
Tecmo: 527
Konami: 523
Capcom: 436
Chunsoft: 306
Rare: 272
HAL: 254
Technos: 233
Tose: 194
Square: 159

Nintendo still reigns supreme, thanks to having four games in the top 10.  Tecmo, despite three fewer appearances on the list, jumps ahead of Konami thanks to three appearances in the top 10.  Chunsoft jumps ahead of Rare despite two fewer games thanks to my love for the Dragon Warrior series. Square also jumps to the top 10 thanks to its only two games being in the top 30.

1: Tecmo Super Bowl

Genre: Football

Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Year: 1991

Basic Idea: Ready! Down!  Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut!

Review: It feels kind of weird putting a sports game at the top of the countdown, but Tecmo Super Bowl is more than a sports game.  It’s also an arcade game that at times feels like an action game. And it’s so incredibly addicting.  I am not exaggerating when I say I have spent at least 2,000 hours playing this game. It’s tapered a bit over the years, but not completely.

I remember the first game I played.  My brother and I faced off, Chicago vs. Minnesota.  I was down by four points with only a few seconds left.  Using the reverse/flea-flicker, I launched a 50 yard bomb to Anthony Carter, who leapt over two defenders in a brilliant cinematic display, caught the ball, and gave me my victory.  I was hooked.

Every thing about this game was programmed with the idea of making every moment fun for the player. The extensive, detailed, thrill-inducing cinema shots enhance nearly every play.  The sound effects, from blocking to kicking, to the ball whistling through the air all make the game pop.  And, of course, being rewarded with a “Touchdown!” call is the icing on the cake.

But the game is more than all the arcade effects.  The play control is impressive, with the ability to dodge and cut with ease depending on the skills of each player.  My only critique of the control is that fighting off tackles has more to do with your ability to rapidly press the buttons than the strength of your player.  This put me at a disadvantage against most everyone I played with, as I just don’t have a fast finger.

The computer A.I. is pretty easy to figure out, so there’s little challenge there.  But there’s endless possibilities for friends to play against each other.  And we did.  Not only did we go through the entire 1990 NFL season multiple times with different teams, we also would use a second cartridge to play fantasy football on.  We’d draft teams, skip the games, count our points, and down lots of Mountain Dew.  This is the game I’ve played at 3 a.m. more than any other.  I also admit to playing many season using the coach function, just to give myself a challenge.

I am still crazy in love with the rosters. Randall Cunningham. Barry Sanders. Christian Okoye. David Fulcher. Wayne Haddix. Lawrence Taylor. Derrick Thomas. Ronnie Lott. Bob Nelson.  And, of course, Bo Jackson. I’ve changed my mind: Bo Jackson is my favorite boss on the NES. Finding ways to stop him, Cunningham, or Lott were the cause of friction. We would handicap each other. You can only run for a first down with Cunningham on 3rd down.  You could only use Lott once per four downs. Of course, if it weren’t for tackling being often dependent on button mashing, things may have been different.

This was also the first game to keep extensive statistics.  For a guy who loves numbers and records, this was a dream come true.

Add in awesome, awesome music, crushing injuries, a great halftime show, and a solid ending, there’s no other game I’d rather play.  The sequel on the SNES fixes a lot of minor issues with the game (e.g. no touchbacks, no blocked punts, clock issues) and adds some features (e.g. weather), but when push comes to shove I usually pick the original.  Tecmo Super Bowl, even today, remains a beast and as far as sports/arcade games go, has yet to be equaled.

2: Dragon Warrior IV

Genre: RPG

Developer: Chunsoft
Publisher: Enix
Year: 1992

Basic Idea: Rescue missing children, help a princess become a warrior, run your own shop(!), rescue the father of a fortuneteller and a stripper, and if you have time, save the world.

Review:  A rare and mostly forgotten game in the NES library, Dragon Warrior IV should not be ignored by fans of classic RPGs.  While, like its predecessors, it remains underwhelming in the graphics and music department, it more than makes up for it with a tight, epic story.

The game is incredibly long, straining the memory capacity of the system.  There are five separate chapters to the game.  The first four, where we meet (and plays as) all of the ancillary characters, is close to the length of Final Fantasy.  The fifth story is where the game really opens up, slowly merging all of the stories together while starting you on a rewarding journey.  While there are more in-depth characters in future RPGs, this is easily the most impressive story line in an RPG for this system. There are also some rewarding sidequests that don’t dominate the main story.

One significant change from Dragon Warrior III is that once the game merges, you only fight with one character. With your other party members, you must assign general tactics (e.g. aggressive, defensive, conserve magic) and the A.I. takes over the rest.  At first, this annoyed me, but I came to enjoy this change immensely.  The A.I. does what I would have done 90% of the time, and can actually respond quicker to healing needs than I can.  It also negates the need for endless menu scrolling during battle, making them quicker, less tiring.  And, unlike previous games, there is little need for endless level-building as long as you don’t run away from most enemies.

One aspect of the game I always loved (which was in the previous game as well) is the monster pit where you can wager on which monster will win in a face-to-face battle.  Nothing like betting on the slime to beat two more powerful monster at 80:1 odds and somehow coming out victorious.  This game also adds a casino where you can gamble your hard-earned gold as well.  Unlike the last game, the purpose here is not to win more gold, but to win tickets in order to purchase some rare, exceptional items.  They’re not necessary to win the game, but can be a fun diversion.

Despite this game being ranked #2 on my list, there is no need to play this version of the game.  Find it on the Nintendo DS under the title Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen.  It markedly improves the graphics, music, and interface while leaving all of the great parts fully intact.

3: Ninja Gaiden

Genre: Platformer

Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Year: 1988

Basic Idea: Get shot and watch everyone you care about get kidnapped or murdered.  Including yourself.

Review:  The only game in the top 10 that can be really considered difficult, Ninja Gaiden remains to this day my favorite platformer.  Granted, I stopped playing platformers in about 1992, but bear with me.  People seem to be equally divided as to whether they prefer this game or its sequel.  I’m in the former camp, obviously.  I think the primary reason is that it just came easier to me.  The learning curve is more gradual, though by the end of the game it is significantly more difficult and to be honest, unfair.  But since the first three-fourths of the game was less frustrating, I fell in love.

The opening cinema is amazing.  I still get chills watching it today, thanks in part to the game’s perfect soundtrack.  The plot itself is a pretty standard vengeance story, but it’s done incredibly well considering how mediocre the dialogue is during each cut scene.  My favorite scene during the game is the one where Ryu is taken by the CIA and explained what he’s being asked to do.

And if I say no?

You know the answer to that…

Even the ending is pretty solid, bittersweet.  Nearly every game that had been released to this point had a story no more important than that of a pornographic film.   Tecmo decided to up the ante by providing the gamer with a full experience and they hit a home run.

The action is intense.  Ryu moves with grace that is still noticeable today.  The main annoyance is the kickback and subsequent falling deaths, much like in Castlevania.  Memorization of enemy patterns, especially that of the eagles and the bats is necessary.  The only thing that makes it palatable is Ryu’s responsiveness.  And, of course, the music.

I’ve never won Ninja Gaiden without a game genie.  The last level is just too damn hard for me.  I think one time I made it to Jacquio, but I couldn’t beat him once, let alone the three times you have to do it. And, irritatingly, if he defeats you, you go all the way back to the beginning of the level.  I was able to win the game one time with a game genie, but even that took tons of effort as there was no “infinite energy” code.  I just hang my hat on the fact that at one point I could get to the final level without losing a life.

4: Startropics

Genre: Action Adventure

Developer: Nintendo; Locomotive
Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 1990

Basic Idea: Save dolphins, pirate ships, and just maybe the entire human race.

Review:  I’m not even quite sure how to describe this game.  You’re this dude named Mike, who’s going between tropical islands trying to save them from monsters, and you’re using a yo-yo to do it.  It plays a bit like Zelda games in that you have an overworld where you can talk to townspeople and find heart containers, but it’s significantly more linear and the only enemies are in dungeons. Conceptually it’s silly, and the plot never has much intrigue or sense.  The dialogue is often laughable, though there is some cute tongue-in-cheek (or banana-in-ear) humor along with colorful locations.  For example, one entire stage takes place inside a whale.

With throwaway plot and characters, why do I love this game so damn much?  The caves and dungeons are amazingly fun.  Almost every room is its own puzzle, as there is often triggers, platforms, or patterns you have to follow to open up doors or treasures.  There are just a few rooms like this in The Legend of Zelda.  If you were annoyed by them there, you’re going to hate Startropics.  But I adore them, as it makes the game more than just killing enemies.  My favorite involves a parrot and a huge piano.  Even the bosses generally require more than simple dodge-and-attack.  However, the enemies are still a blast and are some of the most creative on the system.  One of my favorites is an insanely large bowling ball that tries to run you down.

Movement is awkward at first, because Mike can never move diagonally.  However, the enemies never move diagonally either, so it’s fairly simply to get used to.  Attacking with your yo-yo or other items (like bolas) is pretty intuitive.  The game’s learning curve is progressive and fair.  The last couple of stages become difficult without ever feeling unfair, and require much more planning and focus than earlier stages.  And I adore the final stage for its atmosphere and a final boss that rivals Wart as the best on the system.  Winning this game is incredibly satisfying.

I considered ranking Startropics as high as #2 on my list.  One royally annoying decision they made drops it down a couple of spots.  There is a fucking copyright protection puzzle. At one point in the game, you have to enter a three-digit code.  Now, you can spend days trying every three-digit number, or take a piece of paper that came in the game box and dip it in water to reveal the answer.  Now, we owned the game, and it was actually the most fun I’ve ever had solving a copyright protection puzzle. But if you ever wanted to play the game again, you had to memorize the code or not lose the paper. And if you rented the game or bought the cartridge used?  Unless you had a friend who knew the code, you wouldn’t be able to finish it.

If you’ve never played this game, it might be difficult to get into today, especially with the funky control.  But with some patience you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised.  I’ve won it at least four times, one of those times being on a day I was home from school sick with strep throat.  If I could only play one NES adventure game the rest of my life, it would be Startropics.

5: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

Genre: Boxing

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 1987

Basic Idea: Ignore Doc’s worthless advice, or join the Nintendo Fun Club today!

Review:  When we first got this game I wasn’t terribly good at it.  I would have trouble with Great Tiger and Bald Bull, and Soda Popinski was often the death of me.  I knew what to do, generally, but just couldn’t do it fast enough.  One day, like riding a bike, I finally figured out how to do a quick-dodge and punch.

Of course, learning this only helped defeat Super Macho Man and his double-D breasts.  Mike Tyson is on a whole other planet.  It took me a long time, at least a year or two, before I was able to fell him (perhaps I was inspired by Buster Douglas).  There are a select few final bosses on the NES that provide that sense of accomplishment combined with intense relief.  Mike Tyson still does that for me today.  I can beat him about 40% of the time, and it remains intense.  Because no matter how well you’re doing against him, the match can be over at any second.  Considering this is exactly how most of his real-life opponents felt while facing him, I think the designers absolutely nailed it.

I still play this game multiple times per year.  The cast of characters are funny and unique, maintaining interest through each fight.   The learning curve is perfect.  And the replayability is off the charts.  I’ve won this game multiple times, and the final three opponents (Mr. Sandman, Super Macho Man, and Tyson) still make me sweat.

There’s a cool story about how we figured out how to defeat Bald Bull, but I’ll let my brother tell it.

6: The Legend of Zelda

Genre: Action Adventure

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 1986

Basic Idea: Save Zelda before it becomes cliché.

Review: My parents were huge Atari 2600 fans.  Unfortunately, they had trouble getting into most NES games.  There were a few exceptions.  The Legend of Zelda was the only game they both loved. My father, however, took his love for this game to levels never seen.  One weekend morning, afternoon, and night, deciding he wanted to find rupees and heart containers, he took it upon himself to burn every single bush in the entire game.  With the blue candle.

For those who aren’t aware, the blue candle can only be used once per screen.  The red candle, available in the seventh dungeon, can be used an unlimited number of times per screen.  But my father didn’t want to wait for that.  I remember periodically entering the living room to check on his progress.  His efforts weren’t in vain.  He found multiple hidden areas we had never come across. Thankfully, he decided not to bomb every single rock in the game.

After all these years, I am still crazy about this game.  It’s not the best game in the Zelda canon, but I would contend it’s still solidly in the top half.  A lot of the recent games (especially the handhelds) are redundant and so linear there’s virtually no problem-solving.  A lot of the games are also hurt by annoying, repetitive plots which doesn’t hamper the first game.

There is just the right amount of exploration needed here.  The map is manageable, there are plenty of secrets to be found, and the learning curve is absolutely perfect.  The dungeons are a blast.  Each one has its own secrets, including treasures, trap doors, bomb-able walls, and old men you can buy stuff from.  The biggest criticism of the game is that many of the game’s hints are anything but, as most of the people you run into give hints that were poorly translated into gibberish.  Thankfully, it rarely impedes progress.

The music is classic, if repetitive.  One thing that works really well for the game is the sound effects. Finding a hidden area with a bomb produces a very satisfying jingle.  Destroying enemies with your sword, especially Gleeok, produces an awesome crushing noise.  And I love the sound of the boomerang as it flies across the room, hopefully taking out a few bats in the process.  Speaking of enemies, I love most of them.  The darknuts are awesomely difficult but not unfair.  The tektites are deceptively obnoxious.  Like-likes are slow but scary as hell with their appetite for large shields.  The only enemy I despise are the wizzrobes.  Their completely random movements are impossible to avoid at times, making the sixth dungeon the hardest one in the game.

The final dungeon is impressive in its size, secrets, new enemies, and deceptive path to Ganon. Sadly, Ganon is pretty easy to defeat, making the end a bit anticlimactic.  The game more than makes up for this with a second quest.  Normally, playing the game over would annoy me, but the second quest is markedly different from the first, with harder to find areas, more dastardly dungeons, and significantly harder enemies that provide a welcome challenge.  Considering this was 1986, and there was a battery backup, I remain impressed after all these years.

For a long time I had The Legend of Zelda ranked as my favorite game on the system.  While my love has tapered every so slightly over the years, it will likely be a game I continue to play forever.

7: Shadowgate

Genre: Point’N’Click

Developer: ICOM
Publisher: Kemco/Seika
Year: 1989

Basic Idea: Die.

Review: It may have helped than I am an enormous fan of adventure games, but I hopelessly adore Shadowgate.  Of the games in my top ten, it is the most likely to treated with disdain by others, though it also has its ardent fans.

Adventure games are a tough sell to console gamers, especially when you have to move the cursor around with a control pad instead of a mouse.  No doubt it gets frustrating at times.  But for me Shadowgate hits on so many other levels that I am able to forgive it.  The story is your standard dungeon fare, but the atmosphere is nailed.  The music will be forever etched in my memory, especially the eerie tune that plays when your torch is about to go out.  When it appears there should be tension (e.g. facing a fire-breathing dragon) the music changes accordingly.  The sound effects add a lot as well, from lightning striking to glass breaking.

The graphics are also well done.  At no point do you have to go pixel hunting.  Some of the gory parts could have been a little more creepy.  One criticism of the game is that it can’t decide if it’s going for horror or humor.  I certainly get that.  You will die, and die frequently. When it happens, the game will mercilessly mock you.  I am one of those that enjoy when games do it correctly, and I believe Shadowgate does.  Better yet, you always return to the spot where you died, so you can feel free to make mistakes.  “Learn by Dying” is certainly inexcusable by today’s standards, but even I miss it sometimes if the game isn’t cruel about it.  Thankfully, there are no silly mazes or hunger daemons, so there are no puzzles by themselves that will make you want to quit.  The only way to put yourself in an unwinnable situation is if you wander around for so long that you run out of torches, but the game offers you plenty.

As for the puzzles, they are hit and miss.  Some are obvious, some are clever, and some are downright obtuse.  There are also many, many red herrings. There are hints for many puzzles spread throughout the dungeon, though those are sometimes vague as well.  My favorite puzzles involve using spells that you learn throughout the way.  As an aside, the only time I ever called a Nintendo Game Counselor was when I was stuck at the troll bridge.  As it turns out, the puzzle was incredibly easy; all you have to do is attack the troll with your spear.  But I thought I heard the counselor say “sphere,” which led to much frustration as I kept trying to throw my sphere at the bastard.  My brother had to call another counselor ($2.25 a minute!) to get the correct answer.

Shadowgate is certainly not for everybody, and it would be hard to get into these days even for adventure fans, but it will always hold a special place for me.