Top 11 NES Games, Part V: and the winner is…

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Previous installments in this probably-too-long Top NES Games series: Part IPart IIPart III and Part IV.

It’s a miracle. We actually made it to #1 on my Top 11 NES Games list. Let’s get to this thing before I decide to draw this out to a Part VI somehow.

And the winner is…


1. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!

Before I do anything here, I need to address two major character pieces.

First, the referee in the game has a mustache and wears a hat. clearly the individual on the cover is an impostor. We all know the ref was really Mario.

Second, and I want to be clear about this, Mike Tyson as the final challenger is infinitely better than the other version of this game simply titled “Punchout!!” where Mr. Dream is the final opponent. Mr. Dream was created after Tyson’s contract expired with Nintendo in 1990. Take a look at the difference between these two:


Same guy. Same moves. Same shorts and shoes. Slightly adjusted head.

A lot of people think Nintendo dropped Tyson after he was convicted of raping a girl and going to jail. In actuality, Nintendo made the decision to move on before his career turned south. Turned out to be a smart move.

Mr. Dream was a pathetic representation of the original.

But Mike Tyson was real. He was fierce. And he was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. And I could beat him.

Well, not really me. It was actually Little Mac. But Little Mac might as well have been named Bobby Teenager from Anytown, USA. He looked like a little kid taking on hulkingly huge adults. He was basically a representation of boys everywhere.

But you weren’t alone. You had Doc Louis in your corner too. Growing up, I always thought Doc looked nearly identical to Carl Winslow from Family Matters, but I nowadays he’s morphed into Stanley Hudson from The Office. As far as I can tell, Doc has two primary giftings: encouragement and bicycle riding.

Encouragement: In between fighting rounds, you would take a break in your corner and a short exchange of dialogue would take place between Mac and Doc. For example, Doc might say…

“Stick and move, Mac! Stick and move!”

“Listen Mac! Dodge his punch, then counterpunch!”*

“Join the Nintendo fun club today, Mac!”**

* – This was, in short, the goal against every opponent you faced. Wait for their attack, dodge out of the way, then come back with a barrage of punches while they’re stunned.

** – A crummy commercial!?

This exchange was immediately followed by some sort of taunting comment from the opponent. A few of my favorites…

Soda Popinski: “I can’t drive, so I’m gonna walk all over you.”

Bald Bull: “My barber didn’t know when to quit, do you?”

Don Flamenco: “Hey! Mr. Referee Mario I like your hair!”

It’s a little comedic relief as you rest your fingers from the previous round.

But it was Doc’s other gift that was my favorite: bicycle riding.

In between bouts, Mac would throw on a pink sweatsuit and train with Doc by running behind his bike along the NYC waterfront skyline. The profile perspectives isn’t doing Doc any favors, but the camera adds some pounds so we’ll assume he’s in better shape than he appears.

Here’s a clip. It’s tough to see, but the music is what’s most important here. It’s soft, so you kinda have to crank the audio to hear it well.*

* – By the way, this was shot in my own attic and that is my TV with my games selection and systems. And my AT-AT model.

And right now I would like to pause and quickly make an appeal to all the hip-hop producers of the world. Why haven’t any of you turned this song into a sample yet?! This has some unreal potential, and it is just sitting waiting to be utilized by some genius out there. Someone, please, I’ve been waiting for so long.

Little Mac starts at the bottom and works his way up to Tyson. He travels through 3 championship bouts – Minor, Major, and World – before going up against Mike in the final contest. The opponents are embarrassingly lame at the beginning, but get progressively harder. Here they are in order…

glass-joe_punch-out_pictureboxart_160wGlass Joe – One time I tried to beat Glass Joe with my eyes closed. It was a cake walk. I’m certain that a baby could stick the NES controller in their mouth and beat Joe with ease. His all-time record is 1-99.

von-kaiser_punch-out_pictureboxart_160wVon Kaiser – This is the first actual opponent because Glass Joe is impossible to lose to. This German is aggressive, but once he misses he’s way too easy. Also, you can pull a star punch* on him whenever you want.

* – Forgot to mention that there are really only five different ways to punch in this game: left and right jab to the stomach, left and right to the face, and the “star” punch. Occasionally you could sneak in a punch that would reward you with a star, that you could use by hitting the “Start” button for maximum impact. 

piston-honda_pictureboxart_160wPiston Honda – The Minor Championship Bout opponent. He’s from Tokyo. He was a pretty straight forward opponent. Every once in a while he would step back and do a little two-step before charging at you with a hard punch sequence. A quick jab to the stomach usually took him right down though. Every “special” move always had it’s weak spot.

don-flamenco_punch-out_pictureboxart_160wDon Flamenco – Just wait for him to throw his mega uppercut once. Dodge it, then as long as you alternated uppercuts – left, right, left, right, left, right… – you could just keep punching him until he fell down. I can beat Don repeatedly in about 42 seconds.

But he comes back. And he’s way harder the next time.

d30ea859f21abe3f18383306d861b96d1390647147_largeKing Hippo – He’s fat and he can’t keep his shorts up. Punch his open mouth before he swings at you and his pants will fall down. While he’s trying to cover up his tight whiteys*, just keep punching him. The thing about Hippo – he was so fat, he couldn’t get up after you knocked him down. KO every time.

* – Okay, if he beat you though, he would raise both hands in celebration and his unders would fall down too, but his stomach was so big you couldn’t “see anything”. Hilarious though for a kid growing up.

great-tiger_punch-out_pictureboxart_160wGreat Tiger – It was about here when the game started getting hard for me as a kid. Great Tiger was basically a genie, and he had this magical move where he would squat down, disappear. and then quickly fly around the ring and punch you a bunch of consecutive times. But, if you could block/dodge this barrage, it would stun him and you could take him down with one punch.

bald-bull_punch-out_pictureboxart_160wBald Bull – The Major Championship Bout opponent. He’s about 3 times taller than Little Mac, and infinitely uglier. But don’t let his size intimidate you, because he’s not very challenging. But his punches were strong. He would do his “bull charge” and try to fly at you from across the ring and knock you down. Just like Piston Honda though, a quick jab to the gut brought him down easy.

Piston Honda – The rematch. He’s faster and quicker and has a new move where he ducks down and surprises you with a major uppercut blast. Still not a difficult opponent though.

soda-poprinski-160boxart_160wSoda Popinski – In the original version of the game he was going to be “Vodka Drunkinski”. He’s pale a ripped and supposed to be from Russia or Poland or something. He has the best taunts in between rounds. He’s a tough opponent and I used to get stuck on him as an elementary schooler.

Bald Bull – The rematch. You couldn’t knock him down the traditional way. Only by using star punches or taking him out during his “bull charge”. If his health meter goes all the way down, it will just keep replenishing itself just a little bit until he goes down one of those two ways. Much harder to defeat.

Don Flamenco – The rematch. He’s WAY better than last time. Instead of just his mega uppercut, he’s got a left jab that comes in awkwardly at times and surprises you, and he’s got a right hook that is easy to dodge but is a strange change of pace. He’ll also sometimes just STAND THERE and wait for you to punch him and block you until you’re too tired to fight back. Really frustrating character at this point of the game. Might have flipped him the bird once or twice.

mr-sandman_punch-out_pictureboxart_160wMr. Sandman – Okay this is where the game takes a serious difficult turn. The final few opponents are really difficult to beat. Sandman has the same height and punches as Bald Bull only he is extremely fast and it’s tough to get out of the way of his upper cuts. When you’re a kid, getting to Sandman is basically like beating the game.

super-macho-man_pictureboxart_160wSuper Macho Man – For a long time I just assumed that Mike Tyson was the next opponent after Sandman as the World Champ battle. This is the character we all know the least about because he’s the one you play the least. Once you get to Tyson once, you can copy down the code to get back to him whenever you want.

Macho man has a right hook and an insane spinning uppercut. I think he’s actually easier to beat than Mr. Sandman as long as you can time his spinning move. Once you beat him, write down the code and you can then speed past all these other guys and go right to Tyson. The code is…

007 373 5963

…it takes some effort to remember my childhood phone number, but this code is an immediate regurgitation. If I ever get a serious head injury, you’ll know I have long-term amnesia if I can’t remember this. It’s been cemented in my mind since I was 8.

200px-MT_Punch-Out_mike_tysonMike Tyson – The first 1:30 is the hardest of this fight. If Tyson connects with a single jab, you’re down for the count – which is just cruel at this point in the game. You’ve worked your butt off to get past Don Part Deux, Sandman and Macho Man, and now just one tiny mistake is a knock down? Harsh.

Tyson is the quickest there is and the strongest too. Tou have next to no time to react to his movement, but if you can somehow survive the first wave, you’ve got a shot.

After that, it still only takes about 3 punches from Tyson to get knocked down. His combination of power and speed makes him so hard. I actually think I’ve only beaten him a couple times in my life. Maybe only once, and I might even be making that up.

This game is the perfect combination of challenge, humor, speed and fun. Some of the opponents are embarrassingly easy to beat once you know their weaknesses, but others are insanely tough and require serious focus and practice to take them down.

Let’s recap the entire list one more time. The Top 11 including the expansion to Top 20 from last week.

20. Duck Hunt
19. Mega Man II
18. Kid Icarus
17. Blades of Steel
16. Paperboy
15. Metroid
14. Track & Field
13. Kirby’s Adventure
12. The Legend of Zelda
11. Marble Madness

10. Tecmo Bowl
9. Contra
8. RC Pro-Am
7. Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels
6. Excitebike
5. TMNT 2: The Arcade Game
4. Super Mario Bros. 3
3. RBI Baseball
2. RBI Baseball 3
1. Mike Tyson’s Punchout!!

This was fun guys. Now that I’m finished, let me know – which games did I leave out that should be on the list somewhere? Which games baffle you the most?

Thanks for reading along. Game over.


3 thoughts on “Top 11 NES Games, Part V: and the winner is…”

  1. “Game over.” some of the saddest words in the English language (not really, but you know what I mean). A fitting way to end these enjoyable posts. You’ve given me some serious nostalgia, and I just might have to blow in a few cartridges and fire up the old 8-bit sometime soon. Thanks Adam.

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