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Best Video Games for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 7 13

I grew up playing the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short. I love it to death and I still have one today that I purchased secondhand! I want to share what I consider to be the best games for the console. This is just my opinion and I'm posting it here in case you wish to discover the pure fun that can be had with Nintendo's old gray box.

NES Console (27589)
The NES set the standard for excellence in home video game consoles. These are some of the system's gems and are my recommendations for what someone new to the NES should play, and why.

Note: You can also download these games on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console service. I think there's a certain magical nostalgia to playing them on the actual NES, but it's your call!

Super Mario Bros 3
Super Mario Bros. 3
The Mario Bros. franchise is long and well-regarded, and this game generally tops lists as the best NES game ever made. The reason I recommend it is for the pure fun factor of the game. You can pick the game up cheap on Amazon and it will provide you with hours of entertainment.

At the core of any Mario Bros. game is the gameplay. You run and jump your way through the level, jumping on the heads of enemies to defeat them. The controls are very good and even if you're new to video games you'll get the hang of it in no time. You can play alone or with a partner. The map screen and non-linear layout offer you some choice, so if you're having a hard time with a level you can always take another route past or allow the other player to take over. You can even use one of your saved items to give you a little advantage.

There are a variety of power-ups (including the ability to shoot fireballs and suits that turn you into different animals). The gameplay is always fresh and fun with each new level.

My tip: make sure to hit every block you find when in need of a mushroom or other power-up. Use all the mushroom houses and match games on the map so that you always have a power-up ready in case you need one.

Bottom Line: the game is long, fun, and interesting. It's one of the best Mario games ever made. You will have a great deal of fun if you've never played it and it's well worth the purchase.

The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda
While I don't feel that the original title in the Legend of Zelda series holds up as well as some of the other games on this list, it's still an excellent game today. It was a big leap forward for its time, introducing non-linear gameplay with puzzles and secrets everywhere. The music and graphics will pull you in to the fantasy world of Hyrule as you fight monsters and solve puzzles in dark labyrinths on your quest to rescue the princess.

A friend of mine who's a teenager and didn't grow up with the NES is a fan of this game, so I think it's accessible even if you didn't play it when it was new, and the Zelda series is well-known for the immersion and the satisfying feeling it will give you when you figure out the puzzles. Give it a try!

My tip: use bombs in suspicious places to find secret rooms. Save up rupees to buy potions for when you need to use them, especially when fighting bosses.

Bottom Line: this game is a major classic. Playing it will give you a lot of background and understanding if you play any Zelda games on Nintendo's newer consoles.

Contra is about a couple of shirtless dudes with machine guns in the jungle fighting their way through an alien invasion. If you want a game that will wipe the floor with you and push you to your limits, Contra is it! If you can beat it without using the famous Konami Code for 30 extra lives you will earn serious gamer cred! Even beating it with the 30 extra lives is a challenge.

That said, Contra is not just some kind of challenge barometer. It's fun and exciting by itself. It will punish you, but there's no feeling like the one you get shooting through hordes of aliens without taking a scratch.

Tip: Beating Contra has a lot to do with memorizing the levels. Use the Konami Code for 30 extra lives. You will need them. Before the title screen finishes sliding into place, enter "Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start" to give yourself a bit of an advantage.

Bottom Line: If you want a deadly and fun challenge that will keep you sweating bullets, give Contra a try!

Mega Man 2
Mega Man 2
I have been playing video games since I was a little kid in the late eighties. I am dedicated to video gaming as a hobby, and Mega Man 2 is my favorite game, ever. I am filled with unending love for its greatness. This game has some of the greatest music you'll ever hear and it has some of the tightest and most pleasurable controls in a game.

Mega Man 2 is about a dark future where a mad scientist named Dr. Wily builds a robotic army that threatens the world. One brave robot, Mega Man, fights alone against Wily's master robots. If Mega Man defeats a master robot he gains its power or weapon.

Each level has its own music, theme, and challenges. The game is an experience, an adventure. I can't say enough good things about it!

My Tip: Part of the challenge of the Mega Man series lies in figuring out a good order in which to beat the bosses. Make sure you keep notes of which weapon is effective against which boss, and save your E-tanks for when you truly need them!

Bottom Line: The play, the graphics, the music, and the concept are unparalleled in excellence. If you play it and give it a chance you will not be disappointed. I cannot recommend it enough.

Bubble Bobble
Bubble Bobble
Bubble Bobble is a port of the arcade game of the same name. You play alone or with a partner as tiny dinosaur creatures that breathe bubbles. You trap enemies within the bubbles in order to advance to the next stage. It's cutesy, accessible, and absolutely addicting! It's also devilishly challenging as the game progresses.

My Tip: Learn what the special bubbles and power-ups do. Some give you bonuses such as enhanced speed or super bubbles and come in very handy. Also, hold down the jump button to keep jumping on your own bubbles in order to get higher when necessary.

Bottom Line: Bubble Bobble is a ton of fun and is one of the most enjoyable 2 player experiences on the NES.

That's it for now! These are some of my favorite games on one of my favorite systems, the NES. If they sound good to you then consider giving them a try and let me know what you think!


Sep 21, 2010 4:57pm
I never played bubble bobble or even heard of it but Super Mario 3 was awesome especially after I figured out all the secrets and whatnot. I also liked Metroid a lot. Nice article!
Sep 21, 2010 5:11pm
I appreciate it. Thank you very much! Metroid is indeed a classic. I figured that if the article because popular that I might write a sequel. I didn't want to throw too much out there at once :)
Sep 21, 2010 6:19pm
I can remember my parents coming back from a trip somewhere with a copy of Super Mario 3! I also remember being absolutely addicted to Bubble Bobble. As a matter of fact, I actually have it on my cell phone with an NES Emulator.

I agree with Trav, Metroid was an amazing game. There are a ton of classics from the NES.

To this day I still remember the 30 lives code from Contra; up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start!
Sep 21, 2010 7:08pm
Grammer error in my previous comment. I meant to say that I left Metroid (and some others out) to include in a potential part 2.

Right on, Ryan. The NES had a huge amount of classic games that are still engrossing. I'll be stoked if I can convince just one person to try them out!
Oct 12, 2010 9:06am
Great list of games. I'm terrible at Mega Man, but I've seen my husband beat it a couple of hundred times, so I do appreciate the music. He's also a Zelda fanatic and can beat that game in no time. I've beaten it as well, but with him backseat gaming (he knows which bushes to burn and everything from memory). But Super Mario Bros 3 I beat on my own as a child, so it will probably always be my favorite from this list.
Oct 12, 2010 9:43am
thnaks for all nice info about good games
Oct 12, 2010 11:24am
I can still remember the blisters I got on my thumbs after the first weekend of having Mario 3. I did hate those controllers.
Oct 12, 2010 12:36pm
Yes! I loved old school nintendo! I remember playing for hours and hours. Thank for bringing back some good old memories.
Oct 12, 2010 7:29pm
Oh yeah! I wish I still had one. No gaming systems for some reason, but not for lack of loving them. Like dmc I had blisters on my thumbs as well. The best time was getting my step dad to play. He was a stern guy, so playing a video game was out of the norm. Then we'd hear him yelling and hollering with or at the game cause he got into it!

We were pretty poor though so only ever had the Super Mario/Duck Hunt that came with it. It was still awesome.
Oct 12, 2010 11:04pm
Those were the days, I remember playing SMB3 for hours upon hours upon hours when I was a kid; was such a mind blowing game - I still occasionally hook up my NES to play it actually haha.
Oct 14, 2010 4:51pm
Congrats on your feature! Believe it or not, I've never played, sounds fun though!
Nov 6, 2010 1:38am
By a large margin the BEST NES game is Final Fantasy 1.
Jun 14, 2011 4:48pm
I loved Mega Man 2, indeed, I loved all of the Mega Man series. Good article!
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