NES Classic Games
Over the last couple of weeks, I've been playing the NES Classic Edition, a new, $60 console from Nintendo that delivers all the nostalgia and love of gaming I was hoping it could.
It comes with 30 classic games, ranging from Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong to Castlevania and Punch-Out!!. Which titles hold up? We've ranked them all from best to worst. Here's what you should play on the NES Classic — if you've managed to find one — and what to avoid.
Super Mario Bros. 3 (No. 1)
There's little debating Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the best games ever made. And on the NES Classic, it holds up well, delivering all of the Mario fun you'd expect. Start with this game when you're ready to sit down and play.
Castlevania (No. 2)
Another classic, Castlevania puts you into an 8-bit horror game that doesn't disappoint. The game performs well on the NES Classic and its story is still among the best from that generation.
Super Mario Bros. (No. 3)
Super Mario Bros. was the game that got so many excited about playing Mario. And although I've played it countless times since the old NES days, it was still fun to play on the NES Classic. Better yet, it didn't experience any frame rate issues on Nintendo's console.
Tecmo Bowl (No. 4)
Maybe this is nostalgia talking, but I had a lot of fun with Tecmo Bowl. Yes, the frame rate is iffy at times and watching the characters try to tackle is funny, but who cares? For a nearly 30-year-old football game, Tecmo Bowl is outstanding.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (No. 4)
Sorry if this is becoming obvious, but Super Mario Bros. 2 also earns its spot in the top five. The game is fun to play after all these years, it introduces some characters we now know well, and it works well on the NES Classic.
Metroid (No. 5)
Metroid is a classic from the NES days, and still earns its place in this top five after nearly 30 years on store shelves. The game is far simpler than the Metroid we know today, but still comes with outstanding gun activity, difficult puzzles, and fun gameplay. It's a real winner.
The Legend of Zelda (No. 6)
The Legend of Zelda isn't as good as some of its successors, like the SNES classic A Link to the Past, but it's still quite good. You'll be put through the paces in difficult levels and take on everything from simple-to-beat bad guys to awfully difficult bosses. Either way, it's a treat to play.
Dr. Mario (No. 7)
If you want to break away from the adventure games with heavy storylines, try out Dr. Mario. The game's puzzles are nearly 30 years old, but they're still challenging and fun to play on the NES Classic. I often found myself going back to Dr. Mario when I became bored with other games.
Final Fantasy (No. 8)
Final Fantasy doesn't have the in-depth storyline we've come to love from the series, but its story is still quite good. The RPG is a one-player affair that still performs exceedingly well on the NES Classic. I didn't experience any frame rate problems and the game's characters look great on the big screen. It's a winner.
Ninja Gaiden (No. 9)
As an old fan of Ninja Gaiden, it didn't take me long to see how the game would perform on the NES Classic. I was pleasantly surprised to find everything from sword play to jumping around increasingly difficult levels was outstanding. The game is still one of the best on the NES.
Kirby's Adventure (No. 10)
Kirby's Adventure is another classic that consumed hours of my life as a kid. And now, it's consuming hours of my life as an adult. The game is as fun to play now as it was back then and performs well on the NES Classic. I have no complaints.
Kid Icarus (No. 11)
There's something so satisfying about revisiting Kid Icarus. The game might have its fair share of frame rate problems that cause some frustrating moments in gameplay, but it's still so fun to play, I had trouble putting it down. If you can get past some of the glitches, you'll love it.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (No. 12)
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is by no means as good as the original The Legend of Zelda, but it's still fun to play. I did experience some performance problems while playing and I still don't believe the game's story is as good as many of the others in this roundup.
Gradius (No. 13)
I was a little worried about Gradius on the NES Classic, since it's a side-scrolling shooter that uses speed to deliver gameplay. I was concerned it might have trouble running on the NES Classic. But after playing it for considerable time, I can assure you it does just fine. And it's about as fun as ever.
StarTropics (No. 15)
StarTropics can be a fun game when it doesn't suffer some glitches that cause its gameplay to be a bit frustrating. In general, the experience of playing the game was solid, but the old Nintendo adventure game didn't quite make the trek to the NES Classic so gracefully.
Pac-Man (No. 16)
Overall, Pac-Man played relatively well on the NES Classic and experienced few slowdowns. But now more than 20 years since its release on the NES, it feels a little old and less appealing to me. If you like Pac-Man, you'll like it on the NES Classic. But as someone who isn't too fond of the game, I thought it was rather weak.
Mario Bros. (No. 17)
Not to be misconstrued with Super Mario Bros., Mario Bros., which reached the NES in 1986, is a somewhat amusing game for the NES Classic. The game lets you play as Mario as you work your way through pipes, and has some interesting levels. But in general, it wasn't nearly as fun as many of the other games in this roundup.
Mega Man 2 (No. 18)
This one might annoy some fans of Mega Man, but I find it to be a little lacking. The game is certainly engaging when it's working, but I found it suffered from glitches that took me out of the experience. I just wish it was able to play as well as it did back in the old days.
Punch-Out!! (No. 19)
To be clear, this is the Punch-Out!! game with Mr. Dream and not Mike Tyson. While I understand why Nintendo needs to do that, I still wish I could've taken on Iron Mike. Regardless, the game is as difficult as ever, but I found it far less entertaining than many of the other games in this roundup.
Donkey Kong (No. 20)
Donkey Kong is a classic, one of the original, and deserves to be treated as such. But when I played it on the NES Classic, I felt it was showing its age and lacked some of the fun and entertainment I was getting from other titles. It's a solid game, but not nearly one of the best.
Donkey Kong Jr. (No. 21)
Donkey Kong Jr. was supposed to be a fun game to play and has all the fun puzzles to get it there. However, as I was playing through the game, I found it continued to suffer from control problems that annoyed me and took me out of the game. Hopefully, Nintendo can find a way to fix that in the future.
Galaga (No. 22)
Galaga is one of those fast-paced, simple shooters that would warm your heart back in the old days of gaming. And while I was excited to play it, I found its controls were a little odd and it sometimes suffered from slowdowns. It was an OK experience, but in a competitive fight against some of the best NES games of all time, OK isn't good enough.
Balloon Fight (No. 23)
Balloon Fight was one of the more interesting games when it launched in 1986. But now 30 years later, it's boring. I spent little time playing with Balloon Fight; I found it to be a waste of my time. Too bad.
Double Dragon II (No. 24)
Double Dragon II wasn't an outright hit in the 1990s, but it had a cult following. While I tried to play it for a little while on my NES Classic, I couldn't help but get by the fact that it's plain old boring today. Double Dragon II: The Revenge is best kept in the 1990s.
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (No. 25)
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest delivered one of the worst experiences on the NES Classic. I found the game hard to play and even harder to follow, and its storyline is disappointing, to say the least. Simon's Quest is one to ignore.
Super C (No. 26)
I know this is another one that could annoy gamers who enjoyed the days of Contra, but Super C felt like a slog as I played through it. The game's flow was jumpy, to say the least, and its frame rate broke down on far too many occasions. For the few times I found myself immersed in the gameplay, I was quickly thrust out.
Excitebike (No. 27)
Excitebike asks you to get on a dirt bike, jump over mounds, and race other people. I ask Nintendo why it even bothered putting this game in the NES Classic. Yuck.
Ghosts 'N Goblins (No. 28)
Ghosts 'N Goblins is a downright ugly game with even worse gameplay. I could only stomach it for a little while before I needed to put it aside, never to be seen again.
Bubble Bobble (No. 29)
Bubble Bobble is another half-puzzle, half-action game that feels half-baked. It has some interesting concepts that might make some folks happy, but I found myself wanting nothing to do with it after just a little time of playing.
Ice Climber (No. 30)
Look, I'm sure that there are some people who like the idea of mashing buttons and jumping all day with no reason to do it. I'm not one of them. Ice Climber is a mess. I now shudder at the thought of playing it.