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#50 – Bionic Commando
By taking away the ability to jump, Bionic Commando switched up the relatively new-ish (1988) platformer genre before it had a chance to grow stale. A bionic grappling arm is a pretty nifty way to get around, though the game’s overwhelming difficulty kept this from scoring higher on the list.
#49 – Fire ‘N Ice
The sequel to Solomon’s Key explores the age-old interplay between fire and ice cubes. As always, fire is cast as the villain. The main wizard character destroys and creates ice cubes to extinguish the fires, and, uh, that’s it. If I was a wizard, I’d be depressed that ice cube creation/decimation was my only power. At least the game is icy hot.
#48 – Rockin’ Kats
Does anyone need a reason to play as a scattin’, be-boppin’ jazz cat (think early Tom Waits, but less inebriated), who’s equipped with a gun that shoots a giant fist for a weapon? The concept of Rockin’ Kats sells itself.
#47 – Bucky O’ Hare
Movies rarely made good fodder for NES games, but early 90s cartoons did, thanks to Capcom and Konami’s developing prowess. Bucky O’ Hare is one of Konami’s best 8-bit platformers. If nothing else, it feels like their take on a fast-paced Capcom action game like Mega Man and that ain’t not bad.
#46 – Metal Storm
Trying to resolve your gravitational differences in a mech suit? Play Metal Storm and be thankful you don’t have to absorb one-hit kills from paltry turrets who know nothing about relationships. Still, while it lasts, Metal Storm is a bangarang of a good time
Before Jackie Chan got his Hollywood playboy thing going in “Rush Hour 3” and “Shanghai Knights,” he was the hottest Chinese action star anyone had ever seen. And he also starred in his own NES game, a whimsical platforming romp that has one of the best soundtracks on the system.
#44 – Solomon’s Key
Solomon’s Key is far more devious than its cutesy sequel. By the third or fourth level, you will have figured out how to lay bricks in the proper order or you will die swiftly and mercilessly. Look at how the wizard howls when he dies. Do you want that on your conscience?
#43 – Code Name: Viper
Code Name: Viper may as well have been called Rolling Thunder: Jungle Edition. Almost every aspect of Rolling Thunder can be found here: shooting bad guys in different outfits, replenishing your ammo via doors, only able to take two hits before death. The only thing it’s missing is the moody, minimalist 60s style.
#42 – Kabuki Quantum Fighter
Platformers on platformers, and Kabuki‘s a gem. The Quantum Fighter in question is agile, swift, and able to stop deadly robots in their tracks with his hair. My suggestion: turn off the game’s sweet tunes, put on some of your own metal, and get to thrashin’. That computer is toast, man!
#41 – Tecmo Bowl
As somebody who actively dislikes football, Tecmo Bowl is the only feetball game I’ve ever enjoyed, period. I know what you’re thinking: why not Tecmo Super Bowl? Tecmo Bowl‘s mechanics feel a tad smoother. Both are great games, though, and totally worthy of any football hater’s time.
#40 – Gun.Smoke
Capcom’s early Wild West shoot-em-up does an impeccable job of placing you directly into that violent season of American history, ninjas and all. The ‘B’ button fires to the left, ‘A’ fires to the right, both ‘A’ and ‘B’ fire straight ahead. Simple, effective, yee-haw.
#39 – Xexyz
Xexyz is proud to be a freak. Its hyper, spastic platforming/shoot-em-up hybrid gameplay is what this gamer’s dreams are made of. Separated, the platforming and shmupping would make for a decent experience. Their placement in the game proper, however, make for a fully-realized game that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Xexyz forever.
Before “Veggietales” made learning through vegetables an ok thing to unleash on our children, Princess Tomato anthropomorphized vegetables into adventure gaming and the NES landscape was… well, completely unchanged. Have you seen the cover? Princess Tomato was destined to be an obscure cult classic from the moment it was released.
#37 – Vice: Project Doom
Genre amalgamation for the win. Vice: Project Doom ably combines driving, platforming, and shooting for an excellent, immersive action movie experience. Quinn Hart, the main character, even has a stable of outlandish one-liners for our amusement. Vice: Project Doom has nary a dull moment.
#36 – Rolling Thunder
With all respect to Code Name: Viper, Rolling Thunder is the real Rolling Thunder. Tengen’s unlicensed masterwork isn’t as pretty as the arcade original, but what it lacks in graphical expertise, it makes up for with moody music, slick art style, and tension-filled gameplay. Truly an underrated gem.
#35 – Tetris (Tengen)
I’d wager most gamers grew up with the official Nintendo version of NES/Game Boy Tetris, but there’s just something about Tengen’s version. The variety of modes, the happy, dancing Cossacks, the refreshing Diet Coke gameplay. Tengen’s Tetris makes you feel alive.
#34 – Metroid
Samus Aran’s first adventure is complex, challenging, and rough around the edges. It’s also forward-thinking and brilliant. Along with the original Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda, it changed the notion of what a console video game could be. Dark? Giddy up. Non-linear? You betcha. Back-tracking? Get used to it. Back in the day, Nintendo always knew best.
#33 – Wrecking Crew
As I was saying, Nintendo always knew best. Wrecking Crew may have ended up a quickly forgotten launch title, but those who delve into it today will find one of the system’s best puzzle games. Wrecking Crew is the next best thing to destroying crap as a construction worker, without actually having to become a construction worker.
If Zelda II had better combat, it would be hailed as a superior sequel. People can b&m all they want about how the game sucks because it feels more like a traditional RPG. Zelda II‘s downfall is its hard-to-learn, harder-to-master swordplay. Get used to the combat, and the game’s a masterpiece.
#31 – Magic of Scheherazade
Magic of Scheherazade is an amazing time-splitting, karate-chopping, mercenary-recruiting shindig. This was the rare game that I didn’t want to stop playing. Whether I was talking to citizens of the town, defeating a ridiculous boss, or listening to the wonderful soundtrack, Magic of Scheherazade never stopped enchanting me. Now about that name…
#30 – Bomberman
The original Bomberman has no multiplayer and no story mode. Blow up enemies, upgrade your bomb blast and bomb bag, and look for the exit. Later iterations would become more chaotic (explosive, yes), but the initial entry is entrancing in its steady simplicity.
#29 – Pac-Man (Tengen/Namco)
Pac-Man had been released on every system known to man before it was released on the NES, but many of those early ports sucked. The NES version is nearly arcade-perfect. It’s got the cutscenes, the fast pellet-gobbling gameplay, and levels that repeat until you question your sanity.
#28 – Deja Vu
One detective’s drunken quest to remember his identity also happens to be the best adventure game on the NES. Like Shadowgate or Uninvited, there’s a great deal of trial-and-error in the choices you make. Deja Vu takes it easier on the player than the aforementioned, though. That detective’s been through enough, as is.
#27 – Excitebike
When I first saw the bike tumble down the track in Excitebike, I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. Of course I was five, and I didn’t realize the man on the bike probably acquired road rash and internal damage from all his injuries. Still, I had never played a game so hilariously fun. Even now, Excitebike‘s antics are one-of-a-kind. Makes me wish Nintendo would revisit sports titles sans Mario.
#26 – Kirby’s Adventure
Many consider Kirby’s Adventure to be the NES’ swansong and for good reason. It was the last classic NES platformer to take full advantage of the system’s power. Can you imagine an NES game as colorful and bright as Kirby’s Adventure in 1988? Kirby’s Dream Land may have been Kirby’s first game, but this NES adventure feels like his proper debut.