This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Learn more

The 20 Greatest NES Games We Ever Played

The 20 Greatest NES Games We Ever Played

The 20 Greatest NES Games We Ever Played

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.

So with that spirit of nostalgia in mind, here's 20 of the best games on the NES.

The Legend of Zelda

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.

Ninja Gaiden

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.


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.

Super Mario Bros

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. 

Super Mario Bros 3

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.

River City Ransom

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.

R.C. Pro-Am

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.

Punch Out

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.

Kirby's Adventure

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.

Kung Fu

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.

Maniac Mansion

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.

Mega Man

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.


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...


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.

Ghosts n Goblins

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.


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.

Duck Hunt

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.

Kid Icarus

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.

Batman: The Video Game

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.

Bubble Bobble

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.


Related Reviews and Shortlists