Well since my previous post visiting the Atari era of games was so popular, I figured I’d jump right into a part 2 with the NES era. As with my prior installment I want this to focus on the more forgotten games. Sure, Super Mario Bros and Tetris will always be remembered, but they will stand the test of time. Some of these others were decent games that weren’t of a huge franchise, but have all been somewhat forgotten.
If you have any you think should be added, feel free to comment or start a discussion below on which brought the best or worst memories for you.
20 – NARC (1988) – I first played this in the arcade and remember losing plenty of quarters to it, but something about a more realistic (in the sense of blood) game at the time, it was appealing. You were a cop on a mission. That mission? Well, you weren’t really undercover like a real NARC would be, so you just wiped out waves of bad guys to get to the drug dealer boss at the end. It was a run and gun style game, but you could team up with a friend for some great co-op action. Just don’t run out of lives.
19 – Xenophobe (1987) – To say this isn’t a rip off of the Alien movie franchise would be a lie, because the aliens are very similar in many ways, but the story is quite different. It’s not locked solely in space, so whether in a base, in a city or elsewhere, you could grab two of your closest friends and eradicate the “Xenos”. My issue was the timed aspect. Each level had to be done before the timer ran out. I’m not a fan of being pressured to complete video game objectives in a certain amount of time.
18- Lemmings (1991) – These pesky little guys/girls who keep walking, until they reach their goal or perish, quickly became a fascination of mine. Using ladders, ramps, bombs and other tools I could make them reach their goal safely. In return I’d get to advance another level with them as the difficulty increased each time. The two player angle wasn’t as good as playing alone because the split screen just took attention away from the solo player’s task. This game spawned two spinoffs as well as the sequels: “Lemmings 2: The Tribes,” “All New World Of Lemmings,” “3D Lemmings,” and “Lemmings Revolution.”
17 – Jackal (1988) – The concept was simple. You (and a friend if you want) are dropped off in the middle of enemy territory with a jeep. You must drive, shoot, and avoid deadly enemy fire in order to rescue the POWs and save the day. Okay maybe the concept was pretty unrealistic as no one (not even Rambo) could do all that, but it made for a very entertaining albeit challenging game.
16 – The Adventures of Bayou Billy (1989) – It may look like Crocodile Dundee, but instead it’s Billy West (no, not the same Billy West involved with Futurama). Billy West is a vigilante bent on taking down the crime lord in the swamps of the south. What was great about this game wasn’t just the impossible side scrolling brawler that it was, but there were two levels where the light gun came into play. If you didn’t have the light gun you could always use the controller to control the crosshairs, but it was much more fun with the pinging of the light gun’s trigger. There were also levels where you drove a vehicle giving it a wide variety in type of play. This game easily got shadowed by it’s more popular competition like Double Dragon, but it’s still a fond memory and actually had more to it.
15 – Bubble Bobble (1986) – Bub and Bob have been turned into bubble dragons and must traverse 100 levels of cave monsters in order to reach their girlfriends who have been kidnapped. Who caused all of this? Baron Von Blubba. All you had to do was use your bubble blowing skills to entrap an enemy and pop the bubble to eliminate them. It also featured multiple endings, but the true good ending you could only get if you played co-op. I’d list the 20 sequels that were made plus the spinoff, but that’d take up half this page. Just know it was good enough to have some sort of ongoing legacy all thanks to the original that we may have all forgotten.
14 – Operation Wolf (1987) – A shooting game using the light gun. It was one of the first arcade like shooters that put you in a first person view as you run through a concentration camp to rescue hostages. It was a scroller, so while you didn’t physically move your character, the screen did that part for you. All you had to do was point and shoot. If I recall correctly there is more than one ending depending on how many hostages you successfully rescue. It had three sequels: “Operation Thunderbolt,” “Operation Wolf 3”, and “Operation Tiger.”
13 – Dragon Warrior (1986) – This was really the first great RPG style game. Known as Dragon Quest around the world, it has had several spinoffs, sequels, cartoons and other media interpretations under the Quest name. But Dragon Warrior is a forgotten title by many. It gave a close up view of the enemy you were fighting, making you feel as if you were in the game. That first person fighting perspective combined with an overhead map to traverse and strategy of leveling up and equipping your characters is what made this game so well rounded and a series which is relevant in gaming today.
12 – Marble Madness (1984) – Okay, so technically I first played this game on Atari, but it was the NES version that had more levels, better controls and graphics, and was all around just better. It was very nerve wracking however, and your patience would be tested as you guided your marble ball through the obstacle courses within a certain amount of time. It not only looked 3 dimensional for the time, but actually used physics that were very close to how a ball would roll on such a course. A sequel was planned but eventually scrapped because other similar games were inspired by this stand alone game.
11. Battletoads (1991) – These guys were basically the Ninja Turtles but toads and with different villains. It might have been a rip off in a way, but it was still lots of fun. Its sequels continued to be pretty decent too (except for Battletoads/Double Dragon, which was really a selling gimmick because the game was terrible). I vaguely remember an animated series that had to be as bad as Captain N the Gamemaster, because the existence of it is very faint in my mind. Still, despite them not being as cool or well received as the TMNT, the first game was a great coop beat-em-up.
10 – Arkanoid (1986) – I really don’t know what it was about this game that I loved so much. I do still enjoy it today, don’t get me wrong, but the concept is so simple there’s not much to it. You take the game Pong, turn it vertical and bounce a ball into blocks until there are no blocks remaining. Occasionally a powerup dropped and you could multiply how many balls were on screen or even shoot bullets to help you out. Just don’t pick up the power down that will shrink your paddle. The sequels “Arkanoid Revenge of Doh,” “Arkanoid Doh it Again,” and “Arkanoid Returns” were the main sequels with many breakout like knock offs trying to replicate the awesomeness of this one. There was even an Arkanoid Space Invaders crossover game made.
9 – Commando (1985) – Not to be confused with the film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, its concept was similar. You’re a lone soldier facing ridiculous odds to rescue POWs and defeat the evil army forces. Now here’s the interesting thing that I didn’t realize until now… It had its sequels “Mercs” and “Commando 3: Wolf Of the Battlefield,” but “Bionic Commando” and its two sequels are also part of the franchise. They get a bit more sci-fi as the main hero has been injured and gains bionic parts, but the fact that they are all intertwined makes me like this game even more. Commando is one of my favorites from that era.
8 – Kung Fu (1984) – The main character is directly based on a character Jackie Chan played, but has no relation to that continuity. It was a side scrolling punch and kick game with no fore or background movement. You just had to fight to survive and make it past a ridiculous amount of enemies who didn’t fight very well at all. “Kung Fu Master,” “Kung Fu Master 2” and “Vigilante” are all follow ups to this original game (which in Japan was called Kung Fu Master). I was determined to beat the bosses in each level, but I’m not sure I made it past level 4. Still, it provided hours of entertainment.
7 – Kid Icarus (1987) – Greek Mythology tales were some of my early favorite stories, so Kid Icarus hit the spot for me. I remember flying up and up as my bow and arrow eliminated other mythological beasts and traversed the underworld, Earth, and Olympus to face off against Medusa and others. “Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters,” and “Kid Icarus Uprising” were its sequels, but neither look to be as great as this one was memorable for me.
6 – 1942 (1986) – Being a pilot during 1942 over the Pacific would not be something I imagine an easy task, but the game made it lots of fun. The powerups were great as you fought waves of enemies to reach the end of each level and eventually win the war. It was followed by “1943: The Battle Of Midway,” “1944: The Loop Master,” “19XX: The War Against Destiny,” and a prequel “1941: Counter Attack.” They are timeless games that we’ve seen tons of similar styles pay homage to over the years. I’ll never get tired of these an playing it with a friend was even stimulating.
5 – Spy Hunter (1983) – I realize this was out in arcades and for the Atari for a few years before NES came along, but it was the NES version that was the big hit for me. I always loved racing games, but something about this being the top down view made it unique. That uniqueness was amplified obviously by the face that your car could shoot and gain other weapons, then go into boat mode and so on. Spy Hunter was difficult. I never made it past the 3rd section without cheating, but the repetition of playing it over and over never bothered me. I just wanted to play it. Its sequels were just as fun and increasingly got better (give or take) with each installment: “Spy Hunter 2,” “Super Spy Hunter,” Spyhunter,” “Spyhunter 2,” “Spy Hunter,” and “Spyhunter: Nowhere to Run.” Notice that the later sequels reused the title as a way to reboot the franchise, but still serve as a follow on to the original plot, and even included actor Dwayne Johnson as the title character.
4 – Gauntlet (1985) – Oh my poor allowance. Since I didn’t actually own a NES, my brother and I would play the arcade version of this game constantly. How many quarters we spent could have probably bought us a Nintendo over the course of the two summers we spent playing this and the next game I’ll mention. I always chose the warrior and he chose the elf. Then I’d shove him aside when he’d shoot my food as my life ticked away in the game. There was so much about this game that was annoying, yet somehow became so much fun. It’s another that I never beat but thankfully the NES version gave you passwords when you made it to certain checkpoints. I can see death chasing me down the corridors as the machine said in a muffled voice, “Warrior is about to die.” It haunts me. There were some great sequels too: “Gauntlet II,” “Gauntlet: The Third Encounter,” “Gauntlet III: The Final Quest,” “Gauntlet IV,” “Gauntlet Legends,” “Gauntlet Dark Legacy,” and “Gauntlet The Seven Sorrows.”
3 Rampage (1986) – What do you get when you cross a King Kong wannabe, a Godzilla wannabe and a Giant Werewolf with human DNA? Well you get this game of course. Rampage was great because you destroyed buildings, ate people, caused mayhem, and even though you were the badguy of the game it was just so much fun being evil. Sometimes just to piss my brother off, I’d turn on him in coop mode and punch him off a building. It wasn’t nice, but heck I was playing as a bad guy character, so it was justified. The sequels were even more fun and gave new characters the spotlight as well as returning ones: “Rampage World Tour,” “Rampage Universal Tour,” “Rampage Through Time,” and “Rampage Total Destruction.” There was also a spinoff and a movie made starring yet again The Rock.
2 Excitebike (1985) – Whether racing against the clock or against computer opponents, this game took trick dirt biking and brought it into your living room. The highlight of this game for me though was that you could build your own tracks and race them. I recall making some impossible scenarios and then proving I could beat my own tracks without falling off the bike. It was a simpler game, yet satisfying. It also had a few quasi-sequels: “Excitebike 64,” “Excite Truck,” “Excitebots: Trick Racing,” and “Excitebike World Rally.”
1 R.C. Pro Am (1988) – Radio controlled cars were huge in the 80s, but if it was raining outside this was the next best thing. Driving a track with your friends or alone, upgrading your RC cars and winning the races. The games may not have lasted that long, but the memories always will. This, alongside its sequels “Super RC Pro Am” and “RC Pro Am II” paved way for many generations of combative style racing games such as Mario Kart and more.
I realize there are plenty of sports games I could put on this list, but I feel they fall into their own category for a later post. There are other great games for NES that a list of 50 wouldn’t suffice. I can’t mention them all, but for my 20 forgotten games there is an honorable mention. Bad Dudes was released in 1988 and while this street brawler wasn’t nearly as good as some of its competition, it was better than others and still ridiculously entertaining.