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…

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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:

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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.

-apc.

Top 11 NES Games, Part IV (12-20)

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This is part four in this series. Be sure to check out Part I, Part II and Part III.

This is NOT the final post in this blog series.

Before I reveal what my #1 NES game of all time is, I want to mention a few other games that were in the running but just missed the Top 11. We’ll call them honorable mentions.* I don’t want to make it seem like I’m just blindly jilting a number of well-deserving NES games.

This will also serve as a preventative measure for those of you who will hate my stinkin’ guts for not listing my favorites the way you think I should.

* – On a personal note, this phrase makes me shudder due to all the white ribbons I would “win” at the science fair and other elementary school competitions when they didn’t declare losers, just non-winners, or “honorable mentions”.

The reason I originally broke the list up after #11 was because it was a clean break between the games I played all the time as a kid, and the ones I didn’t play quite as much.

They’re all fantastic, and any of these could be in my Top 10 if I’d had a different childhood. I wish I could go back and revisit all of these games as a kid and project a fair assessment of them all, but the nostalgia isn’t there on these as they are on the rest of my list. Especially with #12.

So let’s list the honorable mentions. Here are the games that would round out the Top 20 of my list. I guess I’ll go ahead and list them in the order they’d be in too…

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20. Duck Hunt

What was more fun than pulling out the Zapper and pointing it at the tube? And what was more frustrating than that moronic giggling dog?

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19. Mega Man II

This game takes place in an unknown year: 200X. Which, unfortunately, has passed us by without the arrival of world saving battle robots.

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18. Kid Icarus

Greek mythology rules, but this game is really really hard. Yet I played it for hours and never made it past the 4th or 5th level. Life’s weird, man.

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17. Blades of Steel

One time I came to school in 8th grade bragging about how good I was at this game. Then I went over to my friends house and we played Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey for Nintendo 64 for about 93 hours straight and I never played BOS again.

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16. Paperboy

Awkward perspective and disorienting angles, but still a super fun game. Paperboy proves that you can turn literally any simple concept into an NES game.

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15. Metroid

One of the classic endings to a game ever: Samus is a girl?! WHAT?! I feel like this must have had the same impact as Vader revealing himself to be Luke’s father. Bafflingly awesome.

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14. Track & Field

Break out the Power Pad. This game was (and still is) a blast to play with friends. Bring some towels though because you’re bound to get super sweaty.

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13. Kirby’s Adventure

Okay this game is a blast. It also has possibly the best graphics of any NES game. In fact, it plays like more of a SEGA game than an NES game. This game doesn’t hold a special place in my heart like the others do, but it is undeniably one of the best overall.

Legend_of_zelda_cover_(with_cartridge)_gold

12. The Legend of Zelda

What?! It’s not in the Top 11?!

I know, I know. Feel free to start casting stones. Ultimately this missed the cut for two reasons: First, I don’t have the time to spend hours trekking the 8-bit Hyrule world. I need games that I can play for 15-20 minutes and be done. I’ve never had the patience to conquer a game like The Legend of Zelda. And secondly, I didn’t play this game nearly enough as a kid. It doesn’t hold the nostalgia that these other games do.

That gold cartridge though. Gorgeous.

I feel bad about this one, you guys. Really I do. I just couldn’t justify it for myself. But like Kirby, it just doesn’t have that place in my heart. If you’re really bent up about it, you should write your own post and I’ll link to it here.

So here’s the updated overall listing…

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. ???

Have a great Valentine’s Day weekend everyone, and stay tuned for #1. Any more guesses?

-apc.

Continue on to Part V in this series.

Top 11 NES Games, Part III (2-3)

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We are coming down to the wire! I’m counting down my Top 11 favorite Nintendo Entertainment System games. This is the third installment of my the series. Here are Part I (7-11) and II (4-6).

Here’s where we left off…

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.
2. 
1. 

These two games are the reason this list is my Top 11 games and not just Top 10. In retrospect, I probably should have prepared you all for ten games and then slipped in a combo-bonus game at this point.

Oh well. Can’t do anything about it now.

Let’s keep the countdown going with number 3…

3. RBI Baseball

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Oh c’mon. You didn’t really think I’d get through this list and not include this one, did you? Really?

There were a lot of baseball games for the NES – Baseball Stars, Legends of the Diamond, Baseball, Bases Loaded, Baseball Simulator 1.000, Bo Jackson Baseball*, Major League Baseball, Tecmo Baseball – but in my opinion the RBI Baseball series takes the crown for a few different reasons.

* – Shockingly, this is the only one I just listed that I haven’t played and that I do not own. One of my two favorite players has his own baseball video game and I don’t own it. Embarrassing.

The most obvious reason: real MLB player names.

RBI Baseball got the rights to use actual player names and their skill sets (more on that in a minute), but they didn’t get the rights to the MLB logos and team names, so the 10 available teams are known only by their city and not their team name.

There are 8 division winners from 1986 and 1987. Amazingly, there were no repeat teams between those years, which in the 80’s happened way more often than it ever would today. With only two teams making it from each league, along with the much less outrageous payroll disparity (ranging from $9 (Astros) to $19M (Yankees) compared to the $24 (Marlins) to $254 (Dodgers) last year). In fact, between 1980 and 1990, only 4 teams made it back to the League Championship Series after making it the year before:

  • 80-81 Yankees
  • 84-85 Royals
  • 88-89 Athletics
  • 89-90 Athletics

The fact that the Royals are on that list tells you just how dominant they were once upon a time. Sad to think they haven’t made the playoffs since.

But anyway. I digress.

The 1986 and 1987 divisional winners were…

86: California, Boston, Houston, New York*
87: Minnesota, Detroit, St. Louis, San Francisco

* – Mets. Not Yankees. Took me about 15 years before I figured that out. Daryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden make it even more confusing since they played on both NY teams.

And you got their actual rosters from those years too. Eight starters, four pitchers (2 starters and 2 relievers), and four bench players.

And with the addition of player names comes all sorts of emotion, frustration, excitement and anger that just didn’t exist before. Suddenly the players feel real.*

* – At some point I’m going to write a review on one of my favorite books I read this past year: The Universal Baseball Association Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. The main character (Henry) creates an imaginary baseball league and gets attached to the players and starts picking favorites, essentially God with the game results. Not coincidentally, his initials are JHWH – the Hebrew spelling of Yahweh/God. It’s silly, but deeply theological…but that’s not what this blog is about. It’ll definitely make it into my book.

With actual rosters you could play as your favorite players. Plus, with the AL and NL All-Star teams, you could play as George Brett, Fernando Valenzuela, Mark McGuire, Don Mattingly, Tim Raines and other players that weren’t on postseason teams.

This also meant that certain player skill sets were better than others just like they were in real life. Abilities you could count on.

For example, Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens threw the hardest, but Valenzuela had the best movement on his pitches.

Vince Coleman was by far the fastest. In fact, I don’t think it is possible to catch him stealing second base, and it was very difficult to catch him stealing third. If Coleman got a lead off hit, it was basically a run scored. If you play the speed game, St. Louis is the way to go, because otherwise they don’t have any strengths. Raines was a close second, but playing as the AL/NL teams is cheap.

The real powerhouses in the game are Detroit, Boston and California. In that order. Here’s how I’d rank the 8 division winners in the game…

  1. Detroit
  2. Boston
  3. California
  4. St. Louis
  5. New York
  6. San Francisco
  7. Minnesota
  8. Houston

Detroit has by far the best lineup: Trammell, Gibson, Evans, Nokes, Herndon, Lemon, Whitaker and Brookens are all capable of going yard. Boston and California both have decent lineups – CA might have the edge with Reggie Jackson – but not as good top to bottom as Detroit’s. And Boston has Clemens pitching, so they get the edge over California for 2nd.

The next five are debatable. I’m biased on St. Louis, of course. New York has a decent lineup anchored by Daryl Strawberry’s big bat, but otherwise they’re average. Houston is by far the worst. Even with Nolan Ryan pitching, they’re terrible. I’d love to know how they ever made the NLCS in ’86.*

* – Here’s a fun fact: I was born in Houston in 1986, and the first game I ever went to was as a newborn in the Astrodome. My dad could probably fill me in on how those ’86 Astros did it.

The final reason why this game is terrific: you could actually feel the ball off the bat and know which way it was going to go with your fielders.

As the screen switched from batter view to field view, there was a half second pause where you could actually feel like you knew where the ball was going to go. Contact off the bat was true to the physics of the situation. If a lefty was behind on an outside pitch, it was headed to third base. If a righty was behind on an outside pitch, it was headed to first base.

Just like in actual baseball, playing the right angles to the ball was crucial. Know which fielder should take the ball off the bat. Call for it in your mind. Taking the wrong angle or going with the wrong player could be the difference between a fly out and a triple in this game.

One compliant: Every player was white and fat. Willie McGee and Rick Reuschel, while both equally hideous men – i mean, woof! – could not look any more different. And yet, RBI Baseball makes them identical twins. C’mon now.

Also, it should be mentioned that playing this game against the computer barely counts as playing it at all. The computer makes tiny huge mistakes.

For example, when I would play as St. Louis, I would single with Vince Coleman, and then steal second and third. Then I could bunt with the next two batters and the computer, afraid that Coleman was going to bolt home if the throw went to first, would toss it to the catcher and just wait as the batter legged out a stand up double.

After I’d bunted the bases loaded, Jack Clark would hit a bomb and the score was quickly 4-0.

Also, if you were pitching, you could stand on the far edge of the rubber and throw a curveball across to the other side of home plate and the computer would swing at it every time. And every time it’d be three straight whiffs. If three straight lefty/lefty or righty/righty match ups came up in an inning, I could quickly strike out the side.

It was the best baseball video game at the time. But then they went and made it even better with…

2. RBI Baseball 3

rbi-baseball-3-cover

Reasons why RBI Baseball 3 is better than the original:

  1. You could play as all 30 MLB rosters (1990) plus all the division winners from 1983-1989…
  2. …which means you get way more players (including Bo Jackson & Ken Griffey, Jr.).
  3. You could dive/jump for the ball with your fielders.
  4. Homeruns and stellar defensive plays showed instant replays.
  5. Players weren’t chubby anymore (but they were all still white).
  6. You could play a whole season with a single team.
  7. Expanded benches and bullpens meant more strategy every game.
  8. Complete statistics from the actual season, not just AVG & HR.

There are so many different teams to choose from – 56 of them – I don’t really even know where to start, so I’ll simply list my favorite teams to play with.

1985 Kansas City Royals
– Gotta play with the champs

1990 Kansas City Royals
– Bo Jackson
– Bo Jackson
– Bo Jackson

1989 Oakland Athletics
– Rickey Henderson leading off
– Canseco/McGwire just destroy the ball
– Possibly the best team in the game

1990 Montreal Expos
– What might have been if there’s no strike in 1991?
– Tim Raines is so fast
– National Anthem = Oh, Canada

1987 St. Louis Cardinals
– One of my favorite teams ever
– Better than the original RBI Baseball Roster
– Jose Oquendo

1990 Seattle Mariners
– Ken Griffey, Jr.

These teams probably weren’t the best in the game (well, besides Oakland, which I literally just said was “probably the best team in the game”), but they were the most fun to play as. I especially liked bringing in Marquis Grissom off the bench to pinch hit late in the game for the Expos.

Poor Expos. They don’t deserve to be in D.C. today.

Welp, there you have it. The list is down to the last spot – the Best NES Game Ever. Lots of good options out there – stay tuned and comment with your pick for what you think #1 should be.

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. ???

-apc.

Check out Part IV of this series.

Top 11 NES Games, Part II (4-6)

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1.07.37 PMIf you missed the first post in this series, Part 1 (7-11), you should read that as well. This is Part II (4-6).

Here’s where we left off…

11. Marble Madness
10. Tecmo Bowl
9. Contra

8. RC Pro-Am
7. Mario Bros 2: The Lost Levels
6.
5.
4.
3.
2.
1.

Today we fill in #’s 4-6. Let’s get on with the list starting with…

6. Excitebike

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Most underrated NES game? It is in my opinion.

Excitebike has three modes: solo race, with computer racers and Design Mode where you get to create your own racetrack, which in 1985 was pretty much unprecedented in video games up until that point. And it was awesome, but it was always just a matter of time until I just started creating back to back ramps to go launching through the whole level.

Excitebike was one of the first games I ever owned, and it took me very little time to discover that the key to success was three-fold:

  1. Press as much of the B button as possible without overheating.
  2. Never, under any circumstances, run your front wheel into anyone else.
  3. Always match the angle of your wheels to the place you’re landing.

If you can consistently follow those three pointers, you are guaranteed to have success at Excitebike. The goal was to beat the clock and finish in the top three places. Levels got harder and harder. Not sure I ever actually beat this game.

The most fun thing to do in Excitebike was change up the competition to see how many CPU racers you could take out and still finish in the top 3.

Whenever you crashed, your bike and rider was thrown to the top of the track into the grassy area. Sometimes you’d land right next to the bike and could immediately hop back on and ride. But sometimes you’d get thrown way up into the grass and have to run back to your bike. As far as I could tell, it was totally arbitrary as to how far you’d get tossed. Super frustrating when you get tossed a long way.

5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game

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This game got me through Couple Skates in elementary school.

The Skateland DJ would start playing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin or Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover”, and he would come over the intercom and announce to grab a partner’s hand for the next 3 minutes.

And I would bolt for The Arcade Game.

At first, I lost a lot of quarters playing TMNT, that is, until I learned the following sequence:

B A B A UP DOWN B A LEFT RIGHT B A START

…boom. Ten lives, and select level.

And suddenly my quarters became way more valuable.

You get to select your player – Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael or Leonardo. We used to argue about whether Leo and Don were better than Raph and Mike simply because their weapons could reach farther, but I’m pretty sure they’re all the same besides their bandanas. Actually the turtles were actually different colors of green too, but only in the cartoons.

In fact, now that I think about it, my favorite turtle is Donatello, and I wonder if you could trace it back to the fact that his bo staff is the longest weapon.

The game play was basically this: it’s a side scroller where Foot Soldiers repeatedly come out in pairs to attack you. If they were smart they’d all just come out at once and attack you together, but the Foot Soldiers are clearly stupid.

Every level had a different boss. Bebop. Rocksteady. A bunch of second-level Bad guys, and eventually Mr. Krang and Shredder himself. Shredder would split himself up over and over again so you wouldn’t know which one was the “real” Shredder. Super hard.

The best part about this game was the clever ways you could attack the Soldiers that were strategically placed along the levels. Tons of creative ways to kill them if you timed it right. A fire hydrant or a speed limit sign turned into allies.

And pizza heals you. Obviously.

4. Super Mario Bros. 3

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If you’d asked me 30 seconds ago what the “goal” of this game was, I’d have told you it was to save Princess Toadstool.

But then I went to the Wikipedia page just now to find out what year it came out and discovered that the actual point was this…

“Mario and Luigi embark on a mission on behalf of Princess Toadstool to stop Bowser and his children—the Koopalings—from terrorizing the kings of seven regions in the Mushroom World. The Koopalings stole the kings’ magic wands and transformed them into animals.”

That explains a lot. I always wondered who all those old dudes were at the end of every world.

The biggest change in this game: you could fly.

But what I never understood is this: How come a leaf is the token you pick up to fly? And then how come it transforms you into a raccoon? Because those don’t fly.

There were also whistles that took you to the Warp Zone via a tornado and you picked up those whistles (along with tons of other upgrades) and kept it on your menu bar until you needed to use it.

In level 1-3, you would squat down on a white block at the end of the level and it would take you behind the final screen to the first whistles. Then in the first mini-boss castle level, there was a secret place you could fly up to and get your second one. Then just get to World 3, and you could use them back to back to get to World 8: The Dark Land.

SMB3 is the best of the Mario franchise in my opinion. (Although, you could make an argument for Super Mario 64 and I wouldn’t really put up a fight.)

Let’s update the standings.

11. Marble Madness
10. Tecmo Bowl
9. Contra

8. RC Pro-Am
7. Mario Bros 2: The Lost Levels
6. Excitebike
5. TMNT II: The Arcade Game
4. Super Mario Bros. 3
3.
2.
1.

Again, please promise not to hang me until I’ve finished the list. There are still three left. Wonder which ones they will be?!?!

In the meantime…

Where did I get it right/wrong?
Which are your favorites?
What games are you hoping are in the Top 3?

-apc.

Continue on to Part III of this series.

Top 11 NES Games, Part 1 (7-11)

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Awwwww yeah. Let the NES nostalgia flow.

I grew up on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It has played a massive part of my life, and I still try to steal an hour or two each month to hone up on my skills. It’s important to stay fresh.

Today I have somewhere around 100 games. I’ve got the Power Pad with World Class Track Meet, the JoyStick, the Zapper and even a game called Dance Aerobics that I’m not certain how I acquired.

At first, this was just going to be a list of my Top 10 NES games. Then I realized I couldn’t cut off the list at 10, but that the first natural break was at 11. Then I decided I needed an explanation for #7, which meant I needed one for all of them. Then I realized this was way too long for just one post, so I’m splitting it into at least three (maybe four?)…we’ll see how this goes.

So let’s get started. Here are #7-11 of my Top 11 NES games ever. Ready? Break.

11. Marble Madness

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My grandparents only had one game to play at their house when I was a little kid, and it wasn’t this one. It was a giant green laundry bucket of wooden blocks and a couple small bouncy balls. I would spend hours constructing a track for the ball to go down. Then one year my parents got me Marble Works for christmas. It was awesome, but the creativity was limited to the different piece they gave you.

So when I finally got my Nintendo in the early 90s, it was probably a no-brainer for my parents to buy me Marble Madness to go with it.

This game only has 6 levels, and it’s fairly straight forward: you’re the marble, and your goal is to travel each level as quickly as possible before time runs out. Any extra time you have left over carries over to the next level adding up until you run out entirely.

Throw in a couple reverse-gravity levels and some M.C. Escher inspired physics and you’ve got a killer (albeit simple) game. Plus there’s a simultaneous multiplayer option, which always makes gaming life better.

10. Tecmo Bowl

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Two word: Bo Jackson. I think to this day I’ve only run one play in this game. I guess two if you count the kickoffs. Up+A Run. That was all you needed assuming you were the Raiders. Rumor has it that Jerry Rice, Lawrence Taylor and Randall Cunningham (aka Eagles QB) were pretty awesome in this game too. But I have no reference for that because I’ve only ever played as Bo.

This game sort of solidified Bo Jackson as a super hero. He is simply playing on another level. Tecmo Bowl was released in 1991 at the height of his stardom. The “Bo Knows” Nike campaign was out in full force. He was tearing it up in both the NFL and the MLB. He was invincible, and apparently someone in Japan decided to turn his abilities up an extra notch in this game.

Want to open up a massive argument among sports fans? Ask them who the greatest athlete of all time is/was. The correct answer is Bo Jackson, but people will try as best as possible to convince themselves otherwise. Then there’s always that one guy at the party that tries to bring up Michael Phelps because of his gold medals. Spare me the silliness, sir.*

* – Just this morning, @MLB Instagrammed a picture of Jameis Winston in a baseball uniform asking if he was the next Bo Jackson. One commenter brilliantly responded, “Bo Jackson would snap this guy over his knee.”

Regardless of your opinion in that argument, Bo Jackson will be remembered as the greatest NES football player to ever exist. And his immortality in this game simply added to his mystique and god-like status in our world.

I should probably mention that I’m not a major Tecmo Bowl geek like a lot of people are. Probably because football has never been as important to me as baseball. This game would be way higher up on the list if I had been a bigger NFL fan growing up. In fact, if it wasn’t for Bo Jackson, this game might not have even made my list.

9. Contra

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Is this game the reason Game Genie was invented? Because otherwise this game is impossible. I didn’t really like this game as a kid because it was so hard. But the Genie changed all that.

Contra is considered a “run and gun” game. Which means you have unlimited ammunition. Basically, if you’re not constantly firing your weapon then you’re not playing this game as well as you could. Better yet, you could pick up different types of weapons along the way: shotgun, machine gun, fireball spinning gun, and rapid fire. If you didn’t have one of these you were at an extreme disadvantage.

This game also had multiple level designs. Sometimes it was a side scroller, other times it was a 3D tunnel, other times it was a maze design. Pretty awesome stuff.

8. RC Pro-Am

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The perspective in this game was a little disorienting for a kid. It was from above at an angle and it followed your car around the track as it weaved back and forth through the level. This meant that at times you would be driving up, down, left or right, but no matter what your D-Pad turned appropriately, so if you were driving down, pressing Right turned you left. And if you were driving left, the Up key didn’t turn you right…the Right key did.

As a kid, I couldn’t figure it out. So I would sit on my dad’s lap and fire the weapons and drop the oil slicks.

The gameplay was fast and It got quickly frustrating, and every once in a while one of the other cars would make this “whoooooooop!” sound and out of no where start lapping everyone, which I always thought was unfair as a kid.

7. Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels

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Okay so this probably needs an explanation.

When Nintendo was originally going to release the follow-up to Mario Bros., they created this game and did a soft release in Japan to test it out on the public.

They hated it. It was WAY too hard.

So instead, they took some other game they were developing at the time, tweaked it around a bit and turned it into the Mario follow up instead. Aha! No wonder that second game was so weird and drastically different than the 1st and 3rd editions. For example: The final boss is a giant toad. Your weapons are turnips and beets and the stage bosses are Mouser, Birdo, Shy Guy and Fry Guy? What is this nonsense? Where did this come from?

It’s because it was developed to not even be a Mario game. Which is funny to consider now that 30 years of Mario history have been dictated by this game. Some of the characters have hung around ever since (Shy Guy, Birdo, Etc.), and this game is the only reason why Luigi can jump higher and float a little bit. It’s also the introduction of Toad as a character at all.

Take a look at these screen shots and you’ll quickly be able to connect the dots between the original Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros. 3. The actual version makes complete sense. They just got a little aggressive on the difficulty level.

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Note the difficulty in each of these pictures:

  • Screenshot 1: the land just ends. Mario has to wait for that red shelled creature to float down so he can jump on his back and keep going. Only way to proceed.
  • Screenshot 2: Even if Mario somehow manages to pick up that mushroom, there’s no way he escapes those fireballs. Best to just ignore the temptation and press on as a lil guy.
  • Screenshot 3: That’s right. actual bad guys underwater. Not just fish and squid.
  • Screenshot 4: This one is just pure evil. Notice the level…8-1. Now notice the warp destination…World 5. Yep, this game has warps that go backwards, and there’s no way around it. Like I said, pure evil.

Now, I pride myself on being a Mario Master. I can beat the original game for NES in under 6 minutes pretty consistently using the warp tunnels. I have beaten SMB2, SMB3, collected all 120 stars in SMB 64, and even beaten both SMB Galaxy games for Wii. Never played Luigi’s Mansion though…just didn’t feel right.

Anyway. Even I agree this game is super hard. I’ve never come close to beating it.

Somewhere along the way, someone packaged up the Japanese release of this game and released it in the U.S. – it looks almost identical to the original Mario Bros. – but the difficulty is ratcheted way up.

There you go. The first five games on my Top 11 NES Games list. Stay tuned for the next games on the list. And please, save your complaining until I’ve completed the list and still haven’t mentioned Double Dragon and Legend of Zelda. (Harsh, I know.)

11. Marble Madness
10. Tecmo Bowl
9. Contra
8. RC Pro-Am
7. Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels
6.
5.
4.
3.
2.
1.

More to come. In the mean time…

What are your favorite NES games?
Any you disagree with here?
Nostalgic stories to share about any of these?
Which games are you’re hoping to see in the Top 6?

-apc.

Continue on to Part II in this series.