Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Top 5 NES Games

The 1987 Christmas was a magical one. At 5 years old, I unwrapped my first video game console -- the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Many a sleepover was spent huddled around the NES. Our lungs gradually developed to Olympic swimmer status as we underwent the time-honored ritual of blowing into cartridges countless times. Those were the days.

Just in case you forgot what NES graphics looked like, here's a screenshot from Ikari Warriors. Two dudes in the jungle, sans shirts, but pro headbands, rockin' and rollin' with their machine guns -- pure bliss.
Before we get started, I need to issue a few disclaimers. First, this list is limited to games I actually owned. This is my personal top 5, not an all-inclusive list. 

So, you won't see Super Mario 3 on this list. I didn't own it, and didn't really get into the Mario franchise until Super Mario World was released on the Super Nintendo. 

Next, you won't see any RPGs on this list. I didn't start to enjoy that genre until "action" became a significant part of RPGs. Mass Effect was the first RPG I thoroughly enjoyed. The turn-based system common for NES games was much too slow for my young attention span. 

For a little warm-up, I'm going to list my favorite two-player games. 

Ikari Warriors: This top-down shooter gave you control of a knock-off Rambo character (see above). And, you could drive tanks. Pure sweetness.

Jackal: Two Jeeps, guns and grenades. 'Nuff said.

Major League Baseball: Kenan and I would play this game for hours. You could bean batters and they would make an awesome "Ooompf" sound. Plus, you could steal. There was some secret where you could throw a sinker. Most times, you'd just end up throwing a slow-moving meat ball. Also, Ozzie Smith was on the cover.

Now, onto the top 5. 

5. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest: This side-scrolling quest was one of the first to introduce the concept of character upgrades. You felt so cool when you got that thorn whip. The flame whip was beastly. I guess in a sense, this was a sort of action RPG.

I love how you'd be adverturing and suddenly the screen would darken. That was a sign that $hi* was about to get real. All the extra tough baddies would come out and the music would change. Pure adrenaline. I still remember being confused by the phrase "The morning sun has vanquished the horrible night."

4. Contra: Played traditionally, with three lives and three continues, this game was nearly impossible. I never beat it that way. Rather, I'd enter the Konami code and see how few lives I could lose before beating the game.

Also, two words "spread gun." That thing was money. This was another great two-player game. Though, I hated how you could kill off the other guy buy jumping too quickly on certain levels.

3. Ninja Gaiden: Here's another super difficult NES classic. It was made even tougher by glitchy enemy respawns. I never beat it, but my dad was a ninja master. I think he got pretty darn close a couple times.

Look at that freaking awesome box art. I'd bet the art by itself sold 85% of the copies.
Remember how you could mis-time a jump, but Ryu would just barely grab the bottom of the ledge? Unfortunately, this amazingly-agile ninja couldn't just climb up a ledge. You had to jump off, and then quickly re-grab the ledge. If you were good enough, you could work your way up. Most of the times, though, you just fell to your death.

2. Mike Tyson's Punch Out: Yep, I had the original version that actually had Iron Mike on the cover. Later on, Nintendo removed him from the game.

This was a game of timing and patterns. Once you got it down, you felt like a brutal boxing warrior, eliminating opponents with extreme prejudice. It also had a cool code system where you could restart at the bottom of the highest circuit you'd obtained. FYI: I never beat Mike. I don't know that I actually saw anyone ever do so. Did you?

1. Legend of Zelda: For me, this is the pinnacle of NES gaming. The music was awesome, the puzzles were tough, and the item/area unlock system was so cool. I could never remember where to find that dang Magic Sword. Every playthrough, I'd wake up the entire graveyard trying to find the right tombstone.
I found my gold Zelda cartridge in my parent's basement last Christmas. It brought back such joyous memories.
My favorite boss has to be Dodongo. Remember, he was the big dinosaur/lizard thing? You had to feed him bombs. He'd swallow them and cough. After about three, he'd take a dirt nap. The most annoying enemy was the Like Like. He'd steal your shield, which would make fighting those knights a nightmare. Speaking of which, remember that screen in level 8? You'd walk in and the framerate would take a nosedive because it was full of about 15 knights.

Those are my top 5 NES games. Leave me a comment and tell me which ones are on your list.

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