Retro Nerdcore: Top Five NES Games

Video Games
Foghorn staff videogamer Jonny Hechema engages in a heated game of NES Jackal in his Phelan Hall room. The retro game was an ‘80s favorite and is now available for Wii. (Melissa Stihl|Foghorn)

Ah, yes – the Nintendo Entertainment System. For most of you, the NES was probably your first foray into the world of video games, and boy, was it a good one. Sure, the system was filled with a bunch of junk games that weren’t worth the price tag, but it also had its fair share of gems. From the blockbuster titles to the diamonds in the rough, the NES was filled with games that lead to the fondest memories. That being said, here’s a list of my personal top five favorite NES games.

5. Jackal
This first game on the list is one I feel may have flown under the radar for most gamers. Made by Konami, “Jackal” is a run-and-gun shooter with an overhead camera angle and a highly ambiguous plot. Seriously – to this day I still don’t know what the game’s about, but plot was never really necessary for most NES games anyway. “Jackal” puts you inside a tank and challenges you to navigate through six levels, rescuing POWs along the way and defeating an end-boss. You’ve got two weapons at your disposal: a basic machine gun that can only be shot upwards and an upgradable explosive that shoots in the direction you’re moving. “Jackal’s” gameplay is simple but addictive and, combined with the game’s highly enjoyable soundtrack, makes for a memorable experience. Oh yeah, and you can play it with two players.

4. Punch-Out!!
Come on, do I really have to explain this one? It’s “Punch-Out!!!” Forget about “Wii Sports” boxing – “Punch-Out!!” is where it was at. Assuming the role of Little Mac, a rookie boxer from the Bronx that lives up to his nickname, you must rise through the ranks of the boxing circuit until you get the chance to fight the champion who, depending on which version you had, was either Mike Tyson or some fictional character that didn’t require a license renewal. Each boxer you face requires a different strategy to take him down, but all of them require precision and quick reflexes. Like “Jackal”, “Punch-Out!!’s” combination of addictively simple gameplay and catchy music earns it a spot as one of the better NES games.

3. Mega Man 3
If you’ve never played a “Mega Man” game before, let me warn you: they’re not for people who tend to give up easily. Most gamers associate two things with the “Mega Man” games of old – they all had surprisingly rockin’ soundtracks despite being 8-bit; and the enemies, levels and bosses were designed to catch you off guard. “Mega Man 3,” in all its glory, is no exception. It features some of the best music I’ve heard on the NES and, to this day, still is difficult as heck. I recently popped in “Mega Man 3” specifically for this review, and I couldn’t beat even one out of the initial eight stages. Yes, “Mega Man 3” might make you want to throw your controller into a wall, but it’s so much fun that you’ll just keep coming back. Though it stuck to the basic formula of the series, “Mega Man 3” changed a few things from its predecessors and made some worthy additions to the series. My only gripe is that this is the point where you could tell that Capcom was running out of good ideas for bosses – Snake Man? Gemini Man? Magnet Man? Yeesh.

2. River City Ransom
“River City Ransom” is a game that holds a special place in my heart. Made by Technos, “River City Ransom” combines the button-mashing action of beat-em-up games like “Double Dragon” and “Battletoads” with the sophisticated statistic and upgrade system of an RPG, a combination which works ridiculously well. As you go around beating up gangs in an attempt to save your friend’s kidnapped girlfriend, these enemies drop coins which you can use to buy items at the game’s various shopping malls in order to heal your wounds, increase statistics like power and speed and learn new moves to lay the smackdown all the better. Put this all together with the game’s length, its sense of humor, above-average story and pumped up soundtrack (are you noticing a trend here?) and “River City Ransom” becomes a must-play.

1. The Legend of Zelda
You didn’t really expect me to not include this, did you? Like “Super Mario Bros.” laid the groundwork for the platforming genre as we know it today, “The Legend of Zelda” introduced gamers to the idea of an open-ended world that could be completely explored at your will. Instead of starting at “Level 1-1”, “The Legend of Zelda” just dropped you smack-dab in the middle of the world. No direction, no instructions, not even a sword. In today’s world of video games, this seems like an ordinary thing, but it’s tough to convey just how groundbreaking this concept was when the game first came out. In addition to “The Legend of Zelda’s” vast contribution to gaming, the game itself is exceptionally made – challenging puzzles, engaging battles, a great soundtrack, and a surprisingly decent story. Truly, “The Legend of Zelda” is one of the most crucial building blocks in which the video game industry sits upon.

Stick around for next week’s issue for my top five games for Sega’s golden child, the Genesis.

8 thoughts on “Retro Nerdcore: Top Five NES Games

  1. love this article. i want millions more like it! i would really love to see one for the original gameboy games… i think i still have mine around here, somewhere. kudos, jonny! job well done.

    p.s. have you ever watched the angry video game nerd? he does game reviews as he plays, and its hysterical.

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