Here you will find my brief reviews of Nintendo (NES) games, along with a rating from 1 to 10. A rating of 9-10 indicates a great game; 7-8 is a good game; 5-6 is a mediocre game; 3-4 is a poor game; and 1-2 is a horrible game. At the bottom of the page can be found my Top 10 list.
The president has been kidnapped by ninjas in this mediocre beat-'em-up game, and it's up to you to rescue him. As one of two "bad dudes," you kick and punch your way through a variety of side-scrolling levels. Some defeated ninjas leave power-ups behind that you can use to increase your odds of survival. The game is pretty average in every way; there's nothing really outstanding--or horrible--about it. An interesting note is that Karnov (the Russian strongman who stars in his own NES game) makes a cameo appearance as the boss of the first level.
This action/platform game is based on the 1989 Batman movie. As the Caped Crusader, you must fight your way through five side-scrolling levels. Batman can use his fists, batarangs, a spear gun, and a three-way dirk weapon to defeat the many enemies. The game has good music and an appropriately dark atmosphere that fits the game perfectly. The action is quite challenging in the later levels, and can be frustrating at times. But despite the difficulty, Batman is a lot of fun. It's easily the best movie-based NES game I've played. Any Bat-fans out there should definitely give this game a try.
This is an action-packed flying game from Rare. You pilot a jet fighter and you've got to shoot down enemy jets, deliver supplies to scientists, blow up enemy bases, and destroy an alien space station. Along the way, you can purchase new missiles, bombs, and an improved cannon. There are basically two types of levels: Those played from an overhead view and those played from a behind-the-jet viewpoint. The control in the behind-the-jet levels is a bit awkward, but the overhead levels control fine and are a lot of fun.
Simon Belmont takes on the task of defeating Dracula in this platformer. The player is armed with only a whip at the start, but a secondary weapon (such as an axe, dagger, boomerang, etc.) can be picked up along the way. You must fight through 18 levels filled with skeletons, bats, zombies, ghosts, and other creatures. The game is quite challenging, and the last few levels can be brutal. The graphics and sound are good (particularly the music), and the controls work well for the most part. However, being near a stairway seems to mess things up a bit; it's far too easy to accidentally go up or down the stairs. And getting hit by an enemy sends you flying backwards, which can often result in death if you're on a small platform at the time. Those deaths feel cheap, and it can be frustrating in certain areas of the game. However, Castlevania is still quite an enjoyable game and it's easy to see how it went on to spawn countless sequels.
Note: There are two versions of this game cartridge, one with five screws on the back and one with three screws. The 5-screw version is glitchy and often freezes up in later levels.
In this 2D platformer, you play as Trevor Belmont. Armed with a whip, you must fight off many monsters on your quest to defeat Dracula. Three helper spirits will offer to join you: Grant, Syfa, and Alucard. You can take one of them with you and you can switch between that character and Trevor at any time. Each character has special abilities. For example, Alucard can turn into a bat and fly; Syfa can use magic; and Grant (my personal favorite) can climb walls to take shortcuts or reach hidden items. He also has improved jumping controls. Castlevania III has branching paths: At several points in the game, you can choose which route to take. The game has excellent graphics and sound, and the control is also very good. I occasionally had trouble missing a set of stairs and falling, but you quickly learn to press "up" on the control pad a bit early to compensate. Some stages are very challenging and can be quite frustrating. But the game is also a whole lot of fun. Dracula's Curse is clearly the best of the three NES Castlevania games, and it's also one of the best Castlevania games ever.
In this side-scrolling platformer, you fight alongside a guardian dog named Zap. Your default weapon is a sword, but you can also acquire projectile weapons. Unfortunately, changing weapons is cumbersome, requiring you to press both down on the control pad and the A button multiple times to select the desired weapon. This can only be done when you're standing still, so changing weapons when enemies are nearby will usually result in damage. The dog can be helpful when facing certain enemies, like the evil swooping birds that show up often, but he can also be a hindrance. He'll get in your way, walk right into traps (such as hazardous waterfalls), and take power-ups for himself even if you're the one that needs them. There are five long levels, and the game is quite difficult. Some areas and bosses are very frustrating. Overall, the novelty of having a dog fight with you may be interesting, but the game isn't all that fun to play.
Konami's popular Contra series got its start with this game on the NES. As one of two commandos (Scorpion or Mad Dog), you use your gun to shoot through eight intense levels filled with alien soldiers and other enemies. Most of the levels are of the side-scrolling variety, but two of them take place from a pseudo-3D behind-the-man perspective. Throughout the game, power-ups occasionally fly by, which can give players a new weapon like a machine gun, laser gun, or spreader (3-way) gun. The game is challenging and will require a lot of practice before it can be beaten. Whether played alone or with a friend, Contra is a solid game that's quite enjoyable.
This detective adventure comes from the makers of Shadowgate. Using an interface virtually identical to that of Shadowgate, you use text-based commands to collect, examine, and use objects to further advance. But unlike the fantasy setting of Shadowgate, Deja Vu takes place in 1940s Chicago. You play the role of a detective who has lost his memory and awakens in a bathroom stall with blood on his hands. You soon discover that a murder has occurred and you must find the evidence you need to clear your name and solve the crime. The city is tough to navigate at first, as the "move" command box can be confusing until you learn your way around town. And there are a few annoyances, such as the muggers who keep trying to take your money and the cabbies who will accept quarters but not $20 bills. But fortunately, the puzzles are more logical than those in Shadowgate, and the plot keeps the game interesting. The murder mystery of Deja Vu makes for quite an enjoyable game.
In this beat-'em-up action game, you control the Double Dragon brothers as they seek to avenge the murder of Billy's girlfriend. You'll have to kick and punch your way through nine action-packed levels. The control setup is a bit unusual; the B button attacks to the left and the A button attacks to the right. It's awkward at first, but it works well once you get the hang of it. Certain areas can be frustrating (usually due to hard jumps or cheap hits from a boss), but it's an excellent game regardless. Some of the music is also pretty good.
In this puzzle game, you must eliminate viruses by lining them up with pills of the same color. It's a simple concept that starts out easy enough, but the challenge increases as you advance to higher levels. Even though it's quite fun playing the one-player mode, the addictive two-player mode is what makes this game outstanding. When you clear two or more rows of colors at the same time, you send random blocks to your opponent's screen. Each player frantically battles to clear his or her viruses first.
This is a simple motocross racing game played from a side-scrolling viewpoint. There are hills and ramps to jump over and various other obstacles to avoid. You can use nitro for a boost, but you have to be careful to make sure your bike does not overheat. One great feature of this game is that it lets you design your own courses. But unfortunately, you can't save your tracks; the U.S. version of the game does not have battery backup. (Even though there is a save option on the menu, it doesn't function...shame on you, Nintendo). Excitebike is fun to play, but it doesn't have much lasting value; the lack of a two-player mode really hurts.
This is an action/platform game based on the classic animated series. As Fred Flintstone, you've got to find the pieces of Gazoo's time machine so that you can rescue Dino and Hoppy. As you go through the side-scrolling levels, you use a club to attack enemies. You can also find other weapons, including slingshots and axes. The controls feel a bit slippery, but they work well for the most part. One bad thing is that when you get hit by an enemy, you jump backwards and sometimes this costs you a life. But overall, The Flintstones is an enjoyable game. It also includes a simple, but fun, basketball mini-game.
This is a one-on-one fighting game that can be played by one or two players. For each hit you land, you receive either a full point or a half point, depending on the move you used. Score two points to win a round, and win two rounds to win the match. The referee is a white guy with an afro, who incidentally looks like a math teacher I once had. For some reason, he often observes the fights from up in a tree. There are nine locations you can fight in, but the levels repeat once you've played them all. (The game doesn't have an ending). The controls are unresponsive, and your player often ends up facing the wrong direction. The hit detection is abysmal, with kicks and punches going right through your opponent without counting. Karate Champ is a poorly designed game that isn't fun at all.
This is a very unique (and odd) platform game in which you play as a Russian circus strongman who can shoot fireballs. You'll fight some very peculiar enemies as you jump and shoot your way through nine levels of gameplay. You can also collect and use items such as a ladder, a shield, and even wings that let you fly. Grab 50 Ks (yes, the letter K) to get an extra life. I actually hated this game the first time I played it. But before long, it started to grow on me and I now consider it an above average game.
This classic adventure game started it all for Zelda and Link. You explore a huge world that has tons of enemies lurking around, but there are also people who are willing to help you out. You only get a sword at the beginning, but you'll find additional weapons such as boomerangs, bombs, and arrows along the way. Eight underground dungeons await you in this challenging game. The Legend of Zelda not only has great gameplay, but also memorable music that suits the game well. This is one of my favorite games of all-time.
This is a puzzle game in which you must save the poor, stupid Lemmings. You can give them abilities that enable them to reach their goal. For example, you might command a Lemming to build a bridge, dig through a wall, or climb up over an obstacle. One problem with this game is that the control isn't as sharp as it is in other versions of the game. It's still a quality game with good tunes, but I recommend playing it on the SNES, PC, or Lynx instead.
This is a unique and innovative role-playing game with a quirky sense of humor. You control a group of teenagers, led by Dave, as you sneak into a spooky mansion and search for Dave's missing girlfriend. Using text-based commands, you can manipulate objects and use items to help you progress further into the game. Maniac Mansion is a lot of fun to play and it can become quite addictive. Also, there are a number of entirely different ways to complete the game, so you'll want to replay it multiple times.
This side-scrolling action game was the second entry in the long-running Mega Man series. Players take control of the "Blue Bomber" himself as they run, jump, and shoot at enemies throughout the course of the game. The first eight stages, each named after its boss enemy, can be played in any order. After defeating a boss, Mega Man can take its weapon and add it to his arsenal. When those first eight levels have been completed, there are four more levels which must be played in succession, followed by a final battle with Dr. Wily. The game features excellent control, although I wish Mega Man had the ability to shoot diagonally. This was the first NES Mega Man game that I played, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
In this challenging adventure game, you play as Samus Aran. You explore large worlds as you shoot enemies and search for power-up items that let you access new areas. Metroid is fun to play and has excellent music, but it also has a number of flaws. A game this large desperately needs a map...but there isn't one. Unless you have the patience to make your own maps, you will spend a lot of time roaming around lost. And some of the areas where you must keep jumping up from platform to platform can become quite frustrating, mainly due to imperfect control. Also, the passwords you receive are excessively long. Super Metroid on SNES fixes most of these problems, and as a result, is a much better game.
This is a high quality side-scrolling action game from Tecmo. You play as a ninja named Ryu and you've got to fight your way through a number of action-packed levels. Your sword is your main weapon, but other power-up items are also available. The biggest problem with this game is that many of the later levels are extremely difficult and frustrating, mainly due to tricky jumps and enemies that keep returning even after being killed. On the bright side, Ninja Gaiden has an entertaining plot and cool cinema scenes that advance the story.
This is a side-scrolling beat-'em-up game from SNK. You play as an army captain who must escape from P.O.W. camp and infiltrate the evil organization known as GOON. You'll use kicks and punches to fight the bad guys that cross your path. You can also use knives, guns, and grenades that some of the enemies leave behind. The game is enjoyable and the music is pretty good, but unfortunately it's only a one-player game (unlike the arcade version).
This puzzle game is nothing more than a substandard Tetris clone. Rather than having blocks made of squares, Pyramid has pieces made up mainly of triangles. The triangular shapes do not fit together well, making this game considerably more difficult than Tetris. There is an interesting bomb feature that you can use to clear away unwanted blocks, but it doesn't keep this game from being a bore.
This is a four-in-one sports cartridge from Camerica and Codemasters. It includes Baseball Pros, BMX Simulator, Pro Tennis Simulator, and Soccer Simulator. The soccer game is probably the best of the bunch; it's fun and it runs at a very fast pace. The tennis and baseball games, while certainly not spectacular, can also be fun to play. On the other hand, BMX Simulator is a total dud. Not only is it dull and boring, but the control is just plain bad.
This is an early NES baseball game from Tengen. You can choose from ten teams and play against the computer or against a friend. The graphics, sound, and gameplay are all quite simple. Even though base runners and fielders move very slowly, the control is very good. This certainly isn't the most advanced NES baseball game, but it sure is a lot of fun.
This game (developed by Rare) lets you race radio-controlled cars. You can shoot missiles and drop bombs at the other cars to improve your chances of winning. There are also car parts that you can grab to enhance your car's abilities. The game has good music, but unfortunately, the tunes don't play during races. R.C. Pro-Am is fun, but it's only a one-player game. A two-player mode would have made it even better.
This is a text-based role-playing game. You explore Castle Shadowgate as you try to solve a variety of puzzles. You will also collect a large inventory of items and magic spells, which are used to help you reach new areas. The game has outstanding music that really sets an eerie atmosphere. One annoying thing about this game is that you must continuously find new torches to stay alive. There are plenty of torches at the beginning, but they're harder to find later in the game. Also, some of the puzzles don't seem entirely logical; they can take some trial and error to figure out. Shadowgate is quite challenging, but it's also very enjoyable.
This is an action/adventure game in which the hero (Mike Jones) uses a yo-yo as his primary weapon. The game is played from an overhead view and somewhat resembles The Legend of Zelda, but don't expect a Zelda-quality experience here. The control in StarTropics is not very good, especially when trying to rapidly jump from one block to another. The game is also very challenging and frustrating, whether due to missed jumps, annoying enemies, or not knowing what to do next. At some points, you'll have to do something obscure or illogical to advance. Jump on a switch that does nothing? You were supposed to have jumped on it ten times in a row. Stuck in a dungeon? You may need to press against all the walls of every room until you find the one invisible doorway. And if you don't have the original letter that came with the game, or if you don't know your musical do-re-mis, chalk up a couple more visits to your favorite FAQ site because you'll have no hope otherwise. StarTropics has a pretty good ending, but it doesn't make up for the mediocre gameplay.
Mad Dog and Scorpion are back in this sequel to Contra. Make your way through eight challenging levels as you run, jump, collect weapon power-ups, and blast enemies. You can play alone or have a friend help you out in the two-player mode. As good as Contra was, Super C is even better. The pseudo-3D levels from Contra have been replaced with overhead-view levels, which are more enjoyable and seem better designed. Super C also has improved graphics, better music, and more interesting boss enemies.
This side-scrolling action game revolutionized the world of platform games. As the hero Mario, you run and jump through numerous levels as you try to rescue Princess Toadstool from the clutches of the evil Bowser. Special power-up items let you grow in size, shoot fireballs, or become invincible. There are also many secrets to find: Some pipes lead to hidden treasure rooms, invisible blocks may yield an extra life, and vines let you climb up into the clouds. Super Mario Bros. is a very good game in every respect.
This Super Mario sequel is very different from its predecessor. The gameplay involves throwing vegetables at bad guys, fighting bosses that spit eggs, and soaring on flying carpets. Of course there is still a lot of running and jumping, too. You can play as one of four different characters: Mario, Luigi, Toad, or the Princess; each character has different abilities. The control isn't as tight or precise as it is in other Super Mario games, but it still works well. Super Mario Bros. 2 is a very enjoyable game overall.
Without a doubt, this is the best NES game ever made. It took the basic concept of the original Super Mario Bros. and perfected it. It has great control, excellent level design, cool power-up suits, a map screen that lets you choose the path you take, tons of levels, many secrets to discover, and innovative worlds. The only bad thing about SMB3 is that it lacks a password or save feature; a game this huge really could have used one.
This is one of the best volleyball games around. It features fast-paced, arcade-style gameplay for up to four players. The special moves (such as the Super Spike) add to the excitement, even though they do require some button-mashing to pull off. The control is good overall, and the graphics and sound are above average as well. Unfortunately, playing this game makes my left thumb hurt after a while. The standard control pad may not be the best for games such as this that require almost constant movement. But sore thumbs or not, Super Spike V'Ball is a blast to play. It's also humorous to see the female referee seemingly choke herself after each match.
This is a fast paced, arcade-style football game played from a side view. You can choose from a dozen teams based in NFL cities (the team names and logos aren't present, but the players' names are). There are only four plays to choose from, as Tecmo Bowl is a fairly simple representation of the sport. But the control is excellent and the game is a blast to play.
This excellent basketball game lets you play a full season of 5-on-5 NBA action. Battery backup saves your players' season stats and you can view the league leaders in a variety of categories. There are also many options and modes which add to the already high fun factor. It does have a couple of flaws, however. Players sometimes get lost in a crowd and it seems too easy to be called for charging; but those are minor complaints. Overall, this is the best NES basketball game I've played.
This is the classic puzzle game that was widely imitated for years. The object of the game is to make horizontal lines out of blocks that fall from the top of the screen. Try to fill in the pieces without leaving any gaps. Clear four lines at once and you've made a Tetris, which is worth a lot of points. This game has excellent control, high quality music, and addictive gameplay. The only bad thing about it is that it lacks a two-player mode.
This is a text adventure similar to Shadowgate and Deja Vu. This time, you find yourself in a wrecked car after driving into a tree. Your sister is missing, and the only thing to do is to venture into a nearby mansion to look for her. It isn't long before you realize the mansion is haunted. There are puzzles to solve, mazes to explore, and evil creatures to defeat. There are dozens of items you can pick up, but most of them will prove to be useless--and scrolling through pages of them is a slow process. The challenge comes from finding the right item or performing the right action for each situation, so a lot of trial and error will be necessary. There are some very annoying skull screens that serve absolutely no purpose other than to harass you and sometimes kill you for no reason at all. It's equivalent to the torches burning out in Shadowgate, but here they have no logical reason for it, so it seems pointless. Even though the haunted house theme may seem interesting, Uninvited isn't quite as captivating as you might hope.
Mike Jones is back in this sequel to StarTropics. This new adventure takes him on a trip through time and space to...collect Tetris pieces? Huh? He'll meet Cleopatra, Leonardo da Vinci, Sherlock Holmes, and others along the way. Mike's yo-yo is gone, as he now uses an axe as his default weapon. Other weapons also become available throughout the game. Mike now has the ability to walk diagonally, yet his movement is often rather jerky. The extra movement also makes it difficult to make jumps and line up shots. But fortunately, that's not as big a problem as it sounds, because Zoda's Revenge is far more forgiving than its predecessor. The game is markedly easier and far less frustrating. You're also not likely to get stuck because of something obscure like in the first game--no need to dip your instruction manual underwater this time. Zoda's Revenge plays a lot like StarTropics, but a number of minor improvements make this sequel more balanced and enjoyable.
This is my list of the best games that I have played for this system. This list will change over time as I play more games in the system's library.
1. Super Mario Bros. 3
2. The Legend of Zelda
3. Dr. Mario
4. Tecmo Bowl
5. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
6. Super C
7. Double Dragon II: The Revenge
9. Maniac Mansion
10. Tecmo NBA Basketball