Favorite NES Games. Part Two.
Now to start up the list. I had too many to really go into all the games I really liked, and some of them got just nudged out. And I’d love to write some more about them one day if I ever start to play through them again. But here we are, the games that made the Top 20!
I find that so many of these are on this list because of their nostalgic factors. Great games, sure, but a lot of them have so much to do with the memory or the company attached to them. Those afternoons sitting cross-legged on the floor and barely being able to be moved at the sound of your parents’ voice when it was time to go. Just five, ten, fifteen more minutes. Never wanting to get out of that world that your imagination was crafting for you at the time. Different world, man.
But here you are, games 20–16.
20. Chubby Cherub
I think this was one of the first ones that I remember playing with my sister regularly. One that we would reference, or sit next to each other playing. This one and also Clu Clu Land. I feel like she had more of an affinity and skill for that game whereas this was mine. We were both young and kind of had the basics of gaming down. It’s a slow game, you’re not on rails, you don’t have to worry about staying on platforms. You shoot hearts, you avoid dogs that are barking letters at you. You eat candy with your massive mouth. It was all very straightforward and great for a kid’s world and mind that lent itself easily to free form, dream-like experiences like this one. Even the music was very one-dimensional. I remember the enjoyment of just going through the same screens, the same level over and over and really getting my feet under me as an early gamer. This title just rings out clearly to me as my first “favorite” game, and one of the first games that I would talk about down the line as games I remembered playing. The list grew more and more as my taste grew and I started to realize I’ve just played SO MUCH of this generation. But this one really holds its place as the foundation for trying out new games and knowing my own personal speed.
19. Kid Niki
This is the first level-based game that I got into and started getting mad at. Started remembering the levels, the progression of the enemies. One of my favorite memories is that the game opens up just out of pure rage. It’s so good. You’re inside your house and a bird flies by, gets hit by an arrow and you just BURST out of the wall ready to fight dudes. I don’t know if I ever understood or NEEDED to understand any more than that. The boss battles in this game were very memorable to me as well. Remembering the way to beat the guys, remembering the personalities of them, etc. There was even a flying pink ghost that, I guess as an idea, really sort of scared me. She flew around like a sheet in the air and it just struck me as terrifying. Again, I was young and I don’t think I beat the game. But as an idea of the progression from Chubby Cherub to this game, I remember it being a basic platformer, running left to right and beating up bad guys. And it felt more like I was able to do it and get it moreso than Kung Fu which was absolutely brutal if I remember correctly. But I liked that progression of beating a level and having the next level be something very different. Very similar to the way I watch Parker want to beat the same level over and over in games he plays now, I think this was the same level I was at in this game.
18. Super Mario Bros. 2
My favorite NES Mario game. It’s just different. The first Super Mario Bros. game was awesome, obviously. The first foray into platforming, and different levels and warp zones and power-ups. Such a dynamic game when you look at it from a bigger perspective. And it obviously means so much to many because even still, Mario games are one of the most requested games up to and through the PS4 and Xbox One generations. Incredible what an impact Mario has had on gaming. But this game, Mario Bros. 2 just wasn’t even meant to be a Mario game. So much of that is apparent in its design. The picking up of items felt new, the fact that you start as your “super” sized version of yourself, the potions to open magic doors, the fact that you could do a character select. So many different elements that just ultimately ended up not being in the Mario series. Those traits still don’t identify themselves as Mario Brothers options. But I think that ability to select different people is something that I’ve always LOVED in gaming. Knowing what level was best to use different characters in was so cool. Like knowing that Toad could fly through the digging levels in the sand. Knowing that Princess Peach could fly over levels that had tough platforming. Great. The soundtrack felt really strong, as well. The boss music felt stressful and intense, the desert pyramid levels had a really great underground sound to inspire bravery. So cool. I don’t know what it was about the game itself that started to resonate with me, but it always stuck with me as an incredible and different angle that was never explored as much with the Mario series. It birthed my favorite Mario Brothers enemy, Shy Guy as well. And for me, I was always TERRIFIED of that kabuki mask that would relentlessly chase you from screen to screen when you stole its key. So much so that it almost felt better just to put the key down sometimes so that it would go away. A lot of strong memories with this one. And when it was revealed that this was just one of Mario’s dreams… swoon. Really loved that aspect of it, and it made the doors and the potions and the fears and the focus on the verticality of the level design mean that much more to me. Especially that opening fall. Love it.
Yo. The first co-op game that I was always stoked to tear it up with someone. When one cat would grab the Rapid Fire and would be blasting the dudes down below and the other guy would be running across the screen taking out other dudes. It felt like you were taking down the universe. Plus, I believe at that time Predator was a cool movie and took place in a similar jungle, so it really felt like it was Dutch and Dillon blasting those dudes in the first encampment from the movie, so to be a part of that felt GENIUS. Then the fact that it was a shooting game really felt like a step up from everything else I’d played anywhere else. This is actually one of two games that I used to play at a neighbor’s house. And at that time, I really was the only gamer in my house and the TV during the day was ALL MINE so I had no boundaries, ultimately. But when I would go over there, there were two older brothers and a baby brother, and a mom and a dad who also would want to use the same TV. I LITERALLY WAS the annoying neighbor kid who would just want to go over and play this game. I never owned it. But I wanted to go over there and play with them. I would wake up early morning, like 7 something (I’ve always hated sleep) and wait IMPATIENTLY waiting to call at 9am to see if he wanted to play. Man. The worst. But getting beyond the first level by fighting a massive wall, destroying it, then getting to the point where you were ABLE TO GO INTO THE LEVEL and then have that new “3D” aspect of the level. Floored. Jumping over the rolling things that came towards you. The shooting gallery of the guys on the other side (especially the dude who would front flip, land, shoot at you, flip again… what a bastard). And hey. The Konami Code. Legendary. Also, the soundtrack is burned forever in my head. Especially the opening jungle. I loved when the Mini Bosses covered it. Brilliant. Love the cover art for this as well. Simultaneously ripping off Predator with Arnold’s massive biceps and the Xenomorph from Alien. So good. Brazen. Bold.
16. Elevator Action
This one ranks kind of high, especially when you’re going up against even the other top 20. But this one comes down to really being one of the most nostalgic games for me. Especially when playing with my sister. She would chill with me and we’d be playing spy and shooting the dudes, ducking under their shots, crushing them with elevators. Just so basic. So fun. Oh wow, and this just brought to mind one of the best games she and I would play together as well. I don’t know if we ever know what we were doing but Spy vs. Spy was THAT GAME for an afternoon at a time. But with Elevator Action, I remember feeling really “grown up” about the way that you could enter the doors and get the briefcase and get extra points at times. And almost stealth away from guys behind walls. Great feeling trying to make up a story in your head of why this spy was rappelling down from some unseen other building onto this tower of either apartments or offices (wherever your mind went at the time) and then to blast all the bad dudes and get out of there in the ILLUSTRIOUS sports car waiting for you in the parking garage. I loved when you got to the lower levels and could actually SEE the garage down there and knew that victory was in your hands. But you COULD go back up if you wanted to. And again, for me, the soundtrack. Very repetitive. But that could very well be why it’s so wired into me. I loved it. It still has a place in my memory bank. It sort of feels very Spy Movie-ish to me. And the gun being very “snappy” and the jump having a traditional “old video game” sound to it. Just a great game. Loved playing that for hours. The cover felt so cool. Even still, at that young age, could relate to that artwork as feeling like an old, old novel. For me, it would smell like my father’s Hardy Boys books. Those yellow pages and that very distinct smell. Great feeling.