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The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), named by IGN the greatest video game console in history, is absolute video gaming royalty, along with all the NES games. Spawning blockbuster franchises like Super Mario, Ninja Gaiden, Metroid and Zelda, they still have huge fan bases today. The classic 8-bit graphics make you really how the console must have felt so state of the art in 1983. Luckily for NES fans, the NES Classic Mini was released at the end of 2016 with all of the classic NES games to relive those memories, or see where these huge titles first began.
Tecmo Super Bowl
In recent times, EA Sports has really dominated the american football video games scene, but way before anyone had even heard of Madden, Tecmo Super Bowl was the go to game. Developed in 1991 after the success of the preceding game Bowl, Tecmo were the first developers to be able to obtain NFL and NFL Players Association Licenses, which meant that could have every club badge and every player associated with the sport. This made Super Bowl the game a truly immersive experience and one of the first sports titles to really try to replicate that match day feeling. Since it's release, the game has developed somewhat of a cult following, with modders still updating the game to include up to date rosters. There's still many tournaments you can enter across the U.S to show off your Super Bowl skills.
Super Mario Bros 2
If there's a NES franchise that played the most important role in making the console a console gaming icon, it's Super Mario Bros. Super Mario Bros 2. The game has an interesting story behind it. The original Super Mario Bros 2, released in Japan, was deemed too hard for American audiences. While it would later be released stateside as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 is actually a repackaged version of a Japanese game called Doki Doki Panic. It featured different gameplay, a different aesthetic, as well as the option to play as four different characters (Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad) who all played slightly differently.
But the core of Mario is still here. Like all old school Mario games, you guide the lead character through the 2D environment, avoiding enemies or defeating them by jumping on their heads, collecting power ups and hoarding coins. This is the vintage Mario that we all know and love. The level design was so amazing for its time that the game was remade for the Game Boy Advance and even inspired some of the level design in Super Mario 3D World, a Wii U game released in recent years.
Final Fantasy is a world famous franchise and brand that everyone will have heard of. It's insane to think that Square Enix, who back then went by the name Square, thought this would be their last title. Little did they know that it would kick of one of their most successful series, and go on to create other popular games such as DEUS EX and Hitman. During the game, you control four character's as they fight their way around the environment entering random battle encounters using a turn based fight system. In fact, the game was originally titles 'Fighting Fantasy' but had to Square had to change the name due to an existing project by the same name.
Mega Man 2
Strangely, the first Mega Man wasn't a commercial success but Capcom saw the potential for success with the series and luckily stuck with it! Released in 1988, the game is a 2D scroller that sees Mega Man battle 8 bosses before a final boss fight against the evil Dr. Wily. With updated graphics and mechanics, Mega Man 2 outperformed it's predecessor by a country mile and eventually sole 1.5 million and is now regarded by many gaming critics as one of the best games of all time. It was also one of the first games to include an opening cut scene or cinematic, which are now part and parcel of every video game release. It goes to show just how far ahead of it's time Mega Man 2 was.
Originally an arcade game, the developers saw the opportunity to get the game into players living rooms by porting it to the industry leading NES console. The game features a boxer who has to fight his way through the ranks, coming up against a number of fictional opponents. Eventually when he gets to the big leagues, he gets the opportunity to fight against Mike Tyson himself, who the developer was luckily enough to sign up to a three year contract before his big heavyweight championship win in 1986, which saw a huge spike in interest for the game. In editions of the game without the Mike Tyson license, the player fights a fictional heavyweight champion Mr. Dream instead. Punch-Out!! is ranked the 6th greatest NES game by some critics, so it's definitely one to try out.
The aim of Excitebike is to race around the track and beat the time set by either another player or a competing AI controlled racer. The directional pad controls the direction the bike goes in, whilst A and B controls the speed of the bike. The interesting mechanic in the game is that you cannot hold acceleration for extended periods otherwise your engine overheats. Instead, you must collect arrows that cools the engine down, or tactically ease off the gas in certain places. Released in 1985, the game was very successful and has been remade and released in 3D versions. It was also available for free at one point to promote the launch Nintendo's Store.
Anyone who's played Ninja Gaiden will know that the game stands out because of it's great plot and detailed cutscenes. Although the NES gameplay might not look like much now, in 1988 when it was released, it was truly pushing the boundaries of what a video game could be. However, you'll also remember how incredibly hard it can be at times, but it made the feeling of achievement far greater when you finally completed a level. Like many NES games, Ninja Gaiden is a side scroller and calls for the player to guide the ninja through 20 levels, defeating enemies swords and throwing stars until eventually fighting a boss at the end of each act. It still remains a game close to the heart of many NES fans today.
Although Metroid is a 2D side scroller like many of the NES titles, it encouraged exploration in order to develop the main character and progress through the game areas. It was also one of the first video games to have a full composition written for it, with the composer admitting that Ridley Scott's Alien had a huge influence on the haunting soundtrack. Metroid is now a huge franchise and has featured on many Nintendo consoles, such as the Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Wii and 3DS. Although the level design has changed, the exploration and adventure element has always been key to Metroid, and is what keeps players coming back.
Contra is unique in the way that it not only features a 2D side scrolling environment, but also some 3D level design in which the player must make their way down corridors before a timer runs out. It also featured multiplayer, where two players could simultaneously play together and work through the levels. This is what caught the critic's eyes, as this was relatively uncommon for a game released in 1987. After the success of the first game, Konami followed it up with a number of sequels to make Contra one of the developer's most famous franchises.
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. is a NES game that really defined the console and began rise of Mario as a poster boy for Nintendo. Released in 1983, originally the game had been designed to get a product out before the Christmas shopping rush, so was therefore kept simple. However, the easy to use mechanics and simple gameplay meant that anyone could pick it up and play and it was accessible to a wide variety of audiences. As a result, following it's 1985 release, it has now sold over 40 million copies on a variety of platforms. Many game critics place this game in the top 10 games of all time, and it's certainly one of the standout NES games.
Legend of Zelda
Much like Mario, Link, the lead protagonist in The Legend of Zelda, has become one of the familiar faces associated with Nintendo. The game is set in a fictional setting called Hyrule, where an evil Prince called Ganon has kidnapped Princess Zelda and Link must fight evil monsters whilst travelling through underground dungeons to find her. Zelda received very positive reviews from the critics and was the first NES title to sell over a million units. It's considered one of the most influential titles, as some consider it one of the first true RPGs with a well thought out plot, kicking of the RPG genre. The Zelda franchise goes from strength to strength, recently announced as one of the launch titles on the new Nintendo Switch.
Super Mario Bros 3
It was always inevitable that Super Mario Bros. 3 would be released after the unbelievable success of the first two games. Many regard this as the greatest video game of all time, as it sold 17 million copies across the world. The developers improved on the preceding games by adding additional mechanics, such as flying and sliding, as well as new special abilities such as super mushroom where Mario fills the screen, and fire power. The only criticism of this NES game and others in the inability to save the game, which was rage inducing if you accidentally turned the console off, if there was a power cut. However, this is more of a limitation of the console instead of the titles. Super Mario Bros. 3 is certainly part of Nintendo royalty, and one of the best NES games around.
Get Your Own NES Classic
All of the aforementioned games are available in the NES Classic console. This plug-n-play console is an officially licensed Nintendo product that features all the great NES games.