Everyone loves to talk about the best games for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). If you cross check the top 25 NES games of all time, you’ll find a lot of similarities. Contra, Mega Man, Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, and Super Mario Bros 3 will always be on that list. Some of those titles vary in ranking depending on who’s writing the article, but no list would be complete without those games. While they are great games, the NES has 709 licensed titles and 113 unlicensed titles. With 800 games to choose from, you’re bound to have a couple of titles fly under the radar that aren’t as popular, but are still really fun to play and won’t break the bank. I’ve taken a look at my 100 titles and picked the five gems I think everyone should play at least once:

Bad News Baseball – When you ask for a good baseball game for the NES, a lot of people will tell you to play R.B.I. Baseball. While that game is a lot of fun (it has an MLBPA license to use real player’s names like Andre Dawson, Roger Clemons), the game is a pretty barebones baseball game. Bad News Baseball has animations for close calls at the plate and home runs. Also you can dive and knock out other players. On top of that, you can change your roster and batting order to increase the likelihood that you’ll win the game. Some of those features were added to later iterations of R.B.I. baseball, but compared to the original; you should be playing Bad News Baseball instead. You can find it on Amazon for as low as $5.70 dollars.

Bad News Baseball

A great two player title as well

Marble Madness – originally an arcade game by Atari, Marble Madness is an interesting puzzle game that has seen a number of ports, but the NES version still holds up as a fun game that you can play with another person simultaneously. The game only has six levels but the game design was ahead of its time. There’s also a Sega Genesis version, but the music isn’t that great. You can pick the NES version on Amazon starting at $1.80

Marble Madness

Easy to learn, difficult to master

Snake Rattle N Roll – Two snakes Rattle and Roll go around eating up Nibbly Pibbleys and fighting toilet seats in an isometric 3D platformer. This game has the same styling as Marble Madness, but the gameplay is a bit more complex. You need to eat enough pellets (Nibbly Pibbleys) to have your snake large enough to ring the bell at the end of the stage. If that wasn’t enough pressure, you also have a time limit. What’s also great is that this is only on the NES and doesn’t look like it will see a new release anytime soon. Definitely worth the buy. You can find it on Amazon starting at $4.50

Snake Rattle N Roll

The best Snake based game

Barker Bill’s Trick Shooting – This game requires a Zapper which means that you’ll need a CRT or older TV. Trick shooting is exactly what it sounds like: you use the Zapper to play mini games that involve shooting plates and balloons. It’s in the same vein as Duck Hunt, only the levels are a bit more robust and you don’t have a lame dog laughing at you if you miss. The NES had some really crappy shooting games, but this is one of the greats. You can find it on Amazon starting at $3.50

Barker Bill's Trick Shooting

One of the better Zapper games

StarTropics – This is a true underrated NES title. Made in 1990, the gameplay is very similar to Legend of Zelda and the story line is weird like Earthbound. This is actually made by Nintendo which is surprising considering that it’s not a popular title. Maybe that’s because none of the characters are in Super Smash Brothers. This was also only released stateside. Nintendo loves to experiment and this is evidence of that chance taking. While this does show up on the eshop, nothing beats the nostalgia of playing it on the original NES.  Find it on Amazon starting at $4.75

Star Tropics

An underrated gem of a game

 

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Video games have been a passion of mine. I’ve been playing them for decades. As technology progresses, older systems get left behind. New televisions (those made after 2010) do not have the capability to detect a signal below 480p. While this isn’t really an issue for most people, it will be a problem if you like to play a system that’s older than the PlayStation 2. Working at the game store has exposed me to a number of customers who are calling asking why their Nintendo 64, our best seller, isn’t working on their modern TV.

The Nintendo 64 runs 280p on most games and a couple like Majora’s Mask run at 480i. That resolution is just outside of some TV’s spectrum and you’ll just get a blank screen. There are work arounds such as a HDMI upconverter which will take the lower signal and boost it up to 1080p. The downside being that the input lag would be unbearable for most games.  Even with the lag, games of that era do not scale well on the big screen since the original ratio is 4:3 and the new standard is 16:9.

So what’s the solution? Video games are meant to be played on their original hardware and you a TV is considered hardware. The question is which TV is the best. I currently have a 13inch TV that sits in the basement that I bring up from time to time to test light guns, but the picture and sound isn’t that great. After a bit of research  I found that the Sony Trinitron series of televisions, specifically the ones made in the early 2000s offer the best picture and sound quality for video game systems before the HDMI era.

The best thing about these TVs is that they’re plentiful and cheap. I just picked up a 32 inch KV-32FS13 Flat Screen Wega for 20 dollars off of craigslist. The thing is gargantuan in both screen size and heft. The old CRT monitors had solid glass panels that were up to 2 inches thick making them extremely heavy. My beast is 165lbs and too bulky to carry up the stairs myself. It took my fiancée and I a good 20 minutes to roll it gently up the stairs. In hindsight I should have gone with its lighter 27inch cousin who only weighs 85lbs and has handles on it. But 32 inches is a fantastic size and I can’t wait to play some Chrono Trigger or Goldeneye on this beauty.

For those of you who can’t lift that much or you simply don’t have space for a TV with such a large footprint, you can get a framemeister xrgb mini which offers the best HD solution for old system even adding the scanlines of old TVs to recreate the same experience. The only downside of this piece is that it costs $300

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Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo is one of those games that shows what happens when you take a popular license and apply it to something incredibly different. This is a puzzle game kind of like Columns. You match different colored gems as they fall on to the board. If you stack 4 or more gems together in a box shape, it creates a mega gem. The only way to get rid of the gems is to have either a diamond, which destroys every gem matching the color it lands on, or a crash gem of the same color. When those gems are broken, a pattern of gems (each character has a different pattern) falls on your opponent and they have 5 turns to get rid of them before they become solid.Continue reading

When I was a kid, my parents didn’t buy me too many games. I usually got one or two a year and if I wanted to play the latest and greatest, I would have to rent them from the local rental store, “Alltendo” This store only rented video games. The owner boasted about having every game from NES to Turbo Grafx. Alltendo boasted having over 500 games to choose from and multiple copies of each and the cost was 5 dollars for 5 days which included the manual.. I used to play Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past so much, that I knew which copy had my saves on it. Super Mario Kart was a big one too. I rented that so much, my parents bought it for me because it was cheaper that way. Mega Man 7 and Mega Man X were fun to play and I wish 10 year old me had enjoyed them even more since Mega Man 7 is so ridiculously expensive nowadays.

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I work part time at a retro video game store. It’s not all glitz and glamour like they make it out to be in the movies, but I do get to learn a lot about video games that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. One of my responsibilities is cleaning the games and systems that we get from trade-ins. While some games are in an acceptable condition, a lot have been stored in a basement or attic for 20 years and have dust, cobwebs and marker that aren’t aesthetically pleasing.

I have put together a couple of tips to get your games in collectible shape.Continue reading