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Best NES games: the 20 greatest Nintendo classics

The 20 Greatest NES Games We Ever Played

Best NES games: the 20 greatest Nintendo classics

Choosing the best NES games was always going to be a difficult task, but that shows just how good the console was.

The Nintendo Entertainment System - we all called it the NES, mind - was the world's first truly great games console. Why? Well, because it was home to some absolute classic games - the sorts of titles that now, some 30 years since the machine was first released, we still enjoy playing.

UPDATE:Incoming! The Analogue Pocket is the latest retro-inspired games console in town and it's set to land in 2020. The console will fit all Game Boy, Game Boy Colour and Game Boy advanced games cartridges - that's nearly 2,780 classic NES titles. In terms of looks, the Pocket resembles a sleeker update to the classic Game Boy, with its rectangular shape and chunky buttons - but with added Bluetooth and USB-C capabilities. The best part? No AA batteries required!

Thanks to the Nintendo Switch, and the Nintendo Classic Mini you can now play many of these classics again (simply head over to our best Nintendo Switch games list)- and, frankly, you can stick your Fallouts where the sun don't shine, we'd rather load up a bit of Duck Hunt and get a-shooting.

So with that spirit of nostalgia in mind, here's 20 of the best games on the NES. And if you fancy nabbing yourself one of the best retro consoles around, then head to our guide.

Don't forget to have your say by upvoting your favourite and let us know in the comments below if we've missed one.

Best NES games

Best NES games

1. Super Mario Bros 3

£10.50
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Yes, there are two Mario games in this list - and with good reason. While the original set the bar for what platform games should strive to be, Mario 3 raised the bar so high no other series outside of Mario has been able to reach it since.

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Best NES games

2. Super Mario Bros

From £13.99
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Have you heard of this one? Apparently it's some kind of thing where a plumber eats mushrooms to get superpowers, before murdering turtles and invading the castle of a large dinosaur/turtle hybrid who doesn't even have any princesses there.

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Best NES games

3. Contra

$59.99
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It's not too much of a push to say Contra was the Call of Duty of its day. Except side-scrolling, not in the slightest bit realistic and with no online multiplayer. So not really like CoD at all. It was great, though.

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Best NES games

4. The Legend Of Zelda

From £54.95
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Just when you thought you could only play about in side-scrolling platformers and their ilk, along came the very first Zelda game to show us that, actually, the NES was capable of taking us all on epic adventures. A legend in gaming.

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Best NES games

5. Punch Out

From £59.00
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We've not seen a huge number of boxing games in recent years, so eyes are obviously drawn back through time to what came before. What luck, then, that the original Punch-Out on NES is fine fun, if not exactly what you'd call a simulation of the sport.

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Best NES games

6. Mega Man

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One of the most difficult games ever made, Mega Man did still see people actually finish the thing. Keep an eye out for Mighty Number 9 on modern consoles - it's a Mega Man spiritual successor from the original creator. And yes, it's also difficult.

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Best NES games

7. Duck Hunt

From £6.29
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Did literally everyone have Duck Hunt (and the Zapper light gun)? It feels like everyone had it. And how many of you cheated by putting the gun right up to the screen? Shame on you. We did that too, but still.

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Best NES games

8. Metroid

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This, along with Castlevania, was responsible for creating the hybrid genre known as 'MetroidVania', which was a sort of genre mash-up of the two. When a game is synonymous with an actual genre, you know it did something right.

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Best NES games

9. Castlevania

From £31.99
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Who among us didn't get utterly drawn in by the atmosphere of Castlevania? Safe to say, some of us definitely wanted to be vampire hunters when we were kids...

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Best NES games

10. Ninja Gaiden

£4.49
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Arguably one of the hardest games ever, Ninja Gaiden managed to overcome pixel based frustrations by being a) brilliant and b) a that game lets you be a ninja and being a ninja trumps everything.

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Best NES games

11. Batman: The Video Game

From £13.78
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Licensed tie-ins are usually awful, and the assumption is a game based on a movie will be nothing other than shoddy. Yet back in annals of history, Batman's film tie-in on the NES was - and still is - great fun. Weird.

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12. R.C. Pro-Am

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Marking one of the earlier releases from Rare, studio behind other classics like Goldeneye on the N64. The NES wasn't known for its classic racing games, but the UK-made R.C. Pro-Am filled the gap incredibly well and doubtlessly went on to inspire legions of other racing games.

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13. Ghosts N Goblins

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The precursor to Ghouls and Ghosts, Ghosts n Goblins is held up by some as the superior of the two. Regardless of your feelings, this spooky platformer still offers an engaging, fun challenge to this day.

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Best NES games

14. Kung Fu

From £4.85
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One of the console's earlier titles, Kung Fu was simple and a lot of fun. These days, it still offers a surprisingly good time as you work your way through dozens of onrushing enemies, all ready to be kicked in the face.

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Best NES games

15. DuckTales

From £16.00
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Recently re-worked and re-released on modern consoles, DuckTales Remastered showed us two things: one, the theme tune is amazing, and two, the original NES release was... well, better.

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Best NES games

16. Kid Icarus

From £37.49
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An action-platformer game with some actual depth to it, Kid Icarus is one of those games you go back to play and realise 'hang on, games were actually really good back then'. Oh, and hard. Mustn't forget the hard bit.

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17. Kirby's Adventure

From £26.95
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By 1993 most people were done with the NES - but not Nintendo. The Japanese company still had time to give one of its now-classic characters a run out, this time with the excellent adventure of the greedy pink lump.

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18. Bubble Bobble

From £32.37
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Try and play through a few levels of Bubble Bobble without getting the theme music hopelessly stuck in your head. It's impossible. And you'll inevitably end up playing more than a few levels, because it's a brilliant game.

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19. Maniac Mansion

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An early point-and-click adventure game, Maniac Mansion was the precursor to the likes of the Secret of Monkey Island. Oddly, it actually worked really well on the NES pad. Oh, and you could microwave a hamster in it. Obviously.

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Best NES games

20. River City Ransom

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There are plenty of interesting facts and memories around why River City Ransom was awesome but the best one is clearly the English translation of the Japanese title for the game, roughly: Downtown Hot-Blooded Story. And that pretty much sums up everything you need to know.

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SOMETHING MISSING FROM OUR SHORTLIST?

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