Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 28, 2014

Top 10 (Three Tiers) NES Games According to Real Gamers

Now for a fun post. Let’s see what people decided! (Doesn’t this remind you of the old Community Picks lists in the Nintendo Power? I loved those!)

Above: We’re bringing this back… after a fashion.

Here we go:

Tier 1
Super Mario Bros. 3
Wrecking Crew (my mother and I used to fight over the controller. No, really)
Doki Doki Panic!
Super Rescue Solbrain (Shatterhand JP version)
Dragon Spirit: Aratanaru Densetsu
Highway Star (Rad Racer JP version)
Super Contra
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2
Life Force
Tier 2
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project
The Goonies
Double Dragon
Akumajou Gaiden: Boku Dracula-kun! (Kid Dracula JP version)
Batman Returns
G.I. Joe 2: The Atlantis Factor
Adventure Island 2
Don Doko Don 2
Tier 3
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
S.C.A.T. / Final Mission
Kage Densetsu
Mario Bros. (the VS. arcade one)
Too bad my Famicom no longer works, but I won’t be surprised if it springs to life after opening it up for some cleaning after around three decades.



Here is my list of top 30 NES games in order from best to 30th best.  Most of these I haven’t played in over 20 years, so I am just going by memory.  A few of them like Zeldas and Marios I’ve played very recently and I know they still hold up to the test of time.1.  The Legend of Zelda
2.  Super Mario Bros. 3
3.  Ultima 4
4.  Zelda 2
5.  Final Fantasy
6.  Super Mario Bros.
7.  Metroid
8.  Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
9.  Contra
10.  Super Mario Bros. 2
11.  Castlevania
12.  R.C. Pro Am
13.  Life Force
14.  Ducktales
15.  Blaster Master
16.  Ninja Gaiden 2
17.  Tetris
18.  Duck Hunt
19.  Pro Wrestling
20.  Rad Racer
21.  Double Dragon 2
22.  Mega Man 2
23.  Gauntlet
24.  Dragon Warrior
25.  Ninja Gaiden
26.  Nobunaga’s Ambition
27.  Ghosts and Goblins
28.  Wizardry
29.  Double Dragon
30.  Metal Gear
Not top 30. I want it divided into three tiers. It is easier for the reader to absorb (a list of 30 is just too much at once), and the tiers reflect intensity. A tier 1 game is much more played and loved than a tier 3 game.

Tier I

Super Dodge Ball

River City Ransom


Wrath of the Ninja

Super Mario Bros. 3

Mega Man 3

Mega Man 2


Super C

The Legend of Zelda

Tier II

Zelda II

Final Fantasy

Life Force

Marble Madness

Skate or Die

Skate or Die II

Ninja Gaiden II

NInja Gaiden


Darkwing Duck

Tier III

Rescue Rangers

Batman: Return of the Joker


Tecmo Super Bowl

Tiny Toon Adventures

Mega Man 4

Mega Man 5

Mega Man 6


Marble Madness

Had trouble coming up with the list, but these are the ones that had the most impression on me, the ones I found most memorable.

I have fonder memories of my SNES and almost added some of those games to the list.


We might do a SNES tier list later. The problem with SNES/Genesis going on up is that production budgets differentiated the games and the lists become too predictable. The NES games are more competitive. Like that guy who put Wrecking Crew as a top tier 1 game, I can agree! Even though Wrecking Crew has shitty graphics with a black background being an early NES game, it is a CRAZY FUN game. I can say that the original Mario Brothers rivals the three Super Mario Brothers games in fun. NES didn’t have graphics and production efforts as a major differentiation compared to later generations.


Hello Master Malstrom,
My lists are small because I limited myself only to what I played on the original hardware and then only to what I truly enjoyed. I like Mega Man 3 but never played it on the NES. I’m more of a Mega Man X man. I’ve played dozens more than what’s below but you’ll only find games listed that used to, and still would, place a big grin on my face due ot nostalgia and the actual merits of the game being played.

1st Tier

Super Mario Bros. 3 (I finally beat this game for the first time last year. No cheats, no save states, no stage skipped, no whistles used, no Kuribo’s tooth used and only 1 p-wing used. It’s my favorite game period, I will never stop replaying it)
Super Mario Bros. 2 (never beat this but it’s fun to jump into)
Anticipation (Think pictionary, it’s very fun with a group of people. I played this with my family a lot and plan to use it to help my daughter learn simple vocabulary words early on.)
The Legend of Zelda (I originally hated Zelda as a kid, I didn’t get it but got it after I played Ocarina of Time).
The Legend of Zelda II (I have always loved this game, the combat draws you in perfectly)
2nd Tier
Super Mario Bros. (Haven’t beat this one either. I like it and play it a lot but then I quickly stop around world 6 because I want to play something meatier)
Tetris (No sliding, very simple, great music and it lets me deal with real-world frustration in a positive way by moving it all to this game before you lose. This is one of the few games you play just to lose.)
Yoshi (not Yoshi’s damn Cookie, Yoshi. Simple game but it gets surprisingly intense the longer you play. You become one with the Mario hatching Yoshi’s and matching enemies after a while. This game plays on your sense of greed well, you want to get the best Yoshi stack possible each time.)
Wheel of Fortune (It’s licensed, doesn’t use complicated words but it’s fun. It’s still fun. It’s not too difficult for anyone yet it has enough challenge and randomness to not let anyone railroad their way to instant victory)
Kirby’s Adventure (I’m a big Kirby fan. I like the simpleness of the game yet I appreciate the jutaposition of Kirby and his duty in the world. That and it’s just fun taking powers and becoming a different person. It’s the opposite of many games in one sense. You start off with a few lives and die and you have to change your one guys approach after dying. In Kirby, you become different guys and can change strategies much more easily and often while playing. It’s much more versatile and diverse than even Mario’s power-ups.)
Smash TV (get a friend and go crazy. SNES version is much better but this isn’t a slouch either).
3rd Tier
Metroid (I love Metroid Prime but hated Metroid as a kid. I didn’t get that you were supposed to explore and build up. I was stuck, there were no stage endings or obvious goals. As an adult I dig this game. I’m not fanatic over it but I like it)
Blades of Steel (don’t really care for hockey, I just love the little fight sequences. They’re so bad but funny)
Dr. Mario (It’s a decent little time waste. Some days you just want an easy mode game and this is it)
Duck Hunt (Shooting stuff is fun, using a real gun and having your real-life dexterity matter really helps this to stand out).
The Flintstones: The Rescue of Dino and Hoppy (This is a decent little platformer with a bit of diversity in stages and character changes. I liked it as a kid and liked it the same as an adult a few years ago. I never played Duck Hunt and doubt most people that rave about it now did either. I played this and it was fun. It’s a bit like the original SMB but with an SMB3 like world that’s obviously Flintstone themed.)
You just HAD to put Flinstones in your list. Do you know how expensive that game is today? I think it is one of the most rarest NES games. I might be thinking of another Flintstones game.
I didn’t even consider games like Wheel of Fortune. I’ll look into it.


Here is my list

Tier I:
Kid Icarus (First NES game I played and it got me hooked)
Zelda II
Castlevania 2
Megaman 2
Journey to Silius
Super Mario 3
Blaster Master

Tier II:
R.C. Pro-Am
Probotector (Contra)
Megaman 3
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Duck Tales
Battle of Olympus
Gremlins 2
Metal Gear 2 Snake’s Revenge

Super Mario 2

Tier III:
Die Hard (Big fan of the movie and the game is OK)
Goonies 2
Wizards & Warriors
Spy vs. Spy
Nintendo World Cup
Gun Smoke
Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Seems like everyone hates it haha)
Wizards & Warriors III: Kuros: Visions of Power


Ohhh, Spy Vs. Spy. I loved it on the Commodore 64 (as well as Spy Vs. Spy 2 and 3). Great multiplayer game. I plan to pick it up on the NES sometime.

Interesting how Kid Icarus made your tier one list let alone top spot. I actually bought the game recently, but that game is pretty challenging. I can’t wait to chip away at its difficulty!


Master Malstrom,
Quite a challenge to cut the list down to thirty, and then put them in order. I’m not very good at ranking things to such a degree, I usually consider only about four or five stars, so I tried to combine my opinion of fun quality with how much time I have played each game. I still don’t think the order is very accurate, but it doesn’t matter much. Aside from the top 3 I wanted to pick some lesser-known games which is the only reason why Zelda 1 and Super Mario 1 aren’t here. They are great games but I enjoy their sequels a little more.
So here is my “top 30” NES games.
 1. Megaman 2
 2. Zelda 2
 3. Super Mario 3
 4. Defender II
 5. Klax
 6. Kung Fu
 7. Galaga
 8. Pacman
 9. RBI Baseball
10. Gunnac
11. Kabuki Quantum Fighter
12. Metal Storm
13. Super Mario 2
14. Excitebike
15. Castlevania III
16. Ninja Gaiden II
17. Little Samson
18. Kid Niki Radical Ninja
19. Donkey Kong
20. Joust
21. Bomberman 2 (for 2 player)
22. Battletoads
23. Jackie Chan Kung Fu
24. Rolling Thunder
25. Contra
26. Holy Diver
27. Journey to Silius
28. Tiny Toon Adventures
29. Burger Time
30. Bucky O’Hare
I gave away my NES when I found an emulator for Dreamcast. I understand what you say about original hardware. I miss the cartridge experience a little, but for actual playing I think the controls are just as tight, you might disagree but I can’t tell the difference. My one problem with this is I can’t play Duck Hunt even with an old TV.
Many games came to mind which were iconic in my youth (such as T&C Surf Design), but being honest I have not played them much so they don’t qualify.
A lot of these games are hard. I have never got past the second or third level on Metal Storm. Rolling Thunder is absolutely brutal. Yet I keep playing them because, like Pacman which can’t actually be completed, they are still fun. And of the games that I can beat, I still play them over and over. I can’t say that about Skyward Sword!
You just had to put Little Samson in that list. You know how expensive THAT game is? Ughh….
Not too many people know about the Jackie Chan NES game. Surprised you put Defender II on there as I hear most people dislike it. I’ll have to check into it since the game is very cheap.
Here are my personal top 30 arranged in order and including a small handful of Famicom/Japanese exclusives.
First Tier:
1. Contra
2. Recca (Famicom, see also FASTEST SHMUP OF ALL TIME)
3. Super C
4. Super Dodge Ball (even moreso the superior Japanese version [Nekketsu Koukou Dodge Ball Bu] which lacks the slowdown and has 4-player Bean Ball mode)
5. Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt (I seriously play Duck Hunt even more than Mario nowadays)
6. Super Mario Bros. 3
7. Tecmo Super Bowl
8. L’Empereur
9. Vegas Dream
10. M.U.L.E.
Second Tier:
11. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
12. Little Nemo: The Dream Master
13. Hogan’s Alley
14. 1943: The Battle of Midway
15. The Blue Marlin
16. Wild Gunman
17. Castlevania III
18. Marble Madness
19. North and South
20. Daisenryaku (Famicom strategy game)
Third Tier:
21. Nekketsu! Street Basket: Ganbare Dunk Heroes (Famicom, see also Most Insane Sports Game Ever)
22. Nekketsu Kakutou Densetsu (4 player Famicom fighter)
23. Double Dragon II
24. Cabal
25. Mini-Putt
26. Gun*Nac
27. Joy Mech Fight (Famicom fighter from Nintendo with 36 playable characters)
28. Dr. Mario
29. Jackal
30. Iron Tank: The Invasion of Normandy
Honorable mentions for Golf, Centipede, Millipede, 1942, Gauntlet I & II, Bomberman II, Castlevania, Rock ‘n Ball, Snow Brothers, Crisis Force (Famicom shmup), River City Ransom, Excitebike, Lifeforce, Magic Darts, Conflict, Fleet Commander, Famicom Wars (predecessor to Advance Wars), and any KOEI strategy game. I left off SMB2, Zelda 1, TMNT 2 & 3, and the Mega Mans because I played the snot out of those as a kid, but don’t really ever play them anymore and you specifically asked for “the ones you enjoy playing today”.
Man, that’s a lot of games. Come to think of it, the NES must have had the most “classics” of any system in history. I really can’t think of anything that could surpass it in that regard. There’s just so many great games that listing 30 is only scratching the surface.
Gun Nac? Why do you people put down games that cost $150+!?
Glad to see appreciation for M.U.L.E. Unfortunately, the NES isn’t the best port.
You asked for lists, so here is mine. I haven’t played enough NES games for a full 30 game list, though.

The games within each tier are in no particular order, except the first three games in Tier 1, which are my absolute favorites.


Tier 1:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (The main reason I ever bought a used NES console, never having owned one as a kid. Oh, and the music is just incredible: )
Super Mario Bros (Just an overall great game, what else can you say?)
Nintendo World Cup (I think not trying to be super serious made it age really well. Those weird overpowered bicycle kicks are still fun, the music still works and tackling half the opposing team unconscious on the field is amusing.)
Micro Machines
Bomberman II
Mega Man 2
Super Mario Bros 3
The Legend of Zelda
Bubble Bobble

Tier 2:
Super Mario Bros 2
Duck Tales
Arkanoid 2: Revenge of Doh
Ikari Warriors
Darkwing Duck
Kid Icarus (I prefer the later Gameboy “sequel” even without colors)
Mega Man
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link


Tier 3:
Blaster Master
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers
Ice Climber
Duck Hunt
Track & Field

/NES loving reader
Many people forget that games like TMNT II were a HUGE hardware seller for the NES. Kids LOVED that game. It was a good game, and a great co-op game too!
OK, going to take a break and post the other Top 10 (Three Tier) NES game lists later. I don’t want to bunch it all up. I want people to SEE what actual gamers play!


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