Unlike many people, I did not have an old game collection. During the 8-bit and 16-bit generations, I rented and borrowed literally every game in the library. A few I kept. Sometimes, those I kept were lent out and not returned. I lost my SNES and most of my SNES games when I gave them to a relative. So I am not going to have a LARGE collection. However, I am not a collector but a player. I PLAY these games, not collect them. I do not have shelves for them. They reside on the carpet right next to my consoles.
Games used to cost the same. Now due to supply/demand over decades, some games are very expensive. I will tell the bang for buck you get for them.
I just rebought a SNES so I have like zero games for it. Let’s start there.
SUPER GAMEBOY – 10/10
Unless you have a Gameboy Player for your Gamecube, this thing is the best bang for buck as you get to play all the Gameboy games on a big TV. You might ask, “Why would I want to do that? Gameboy games are teh suck.” Wrong. Link’s Awakening, Metroid II, Donkey Kong, Tetris, Super Mario Land 1,2,3, Kirby’s Dream Land, Gargoyle’s Quest, Final Fantasy Adventure and so on are not ‘teh suck’. A dirty little secret is that Gameboy games are still very cheap.
Nintendo’s handhelds age like milk, but their home consoles age like wine. Playing Gameboy games on the big TV is a ton of fun. Cannot recommend Super Gameboy enough.
Starfox – 5/10
This game is still fun. It never gets re-released like its N64 sequel so it has more value. The three different branching paths give some replay. Starfox, though, plays like a shmup and the game just gets annoying. I never had any interest then in ‘mastering it’, and I do not today despite the top notch music and production.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest – 5/10
This little RPG is good for quick romp but becomes very long in the tooth in the later dungeons. It definitely can’t hold a candle to the other SNES RPGs. Not bad if you get it for cheap. I rarely play it, but I do play it every few years.
Final Fantasy II – 8/10
Solid, solid game. Don’t have to say anything about this.
Final Fantasy III – 10/10
This game was totally worth $60 then and NOW. I’m replaying it through now and this is my gold standard of what I consider an ‘epic’ console game. Aside from Relm’s portrait bugs, everything feels so well polished and many game decisions I would make. If you haven’t played it in a while, you’d be surprised how challenging and long the invasion of Narshe is, how dark and brutal the events of when the Goddess statues are taken, just how many variables are in the character battles (each character is very unique never mind the ESPERS). This game is just chocked full of stuff. Since the game is more of an ensemble, you can replay it more often if you choose different characters. This time around, I am not choosing Sabin because I always used him too much. This game also really makes you feel overpowered… to the extent it is broken. This is a plus, not a minus.
Mario Paint – 6/10
Mario Paint is to the SNES what Duck Hunt was to the NES. It is fun to stick it in now and then. Fascinating little game. You won’t be enthralled with it. It is good to get if you pick up a SNES mouse. I got a SNES mouse since I intend to play some mouse action games on my SNES like Lemmings 2, Arkanoid, and King Arthur’s World. While Nintendo says the GamePad with its touch screen allows all this pointing action, it was already done with the SNES mouse long ago. A shame there aren’t more SNES mouse games. A port of Civilization 1 is there. SimAnt is there too… hmm….
I lost most of my SNES games from Super Metroid, Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, etc. etc. At least I kept some of the RPGs. I’ll have to buy them back eventually.
Let us move on to the NES library at the moment.
Super Mario Brothers / Duck Hunt – 8/10
Super Mario Brothers doesn’t get old. Actually it does, but you’ll want to replay it.
Super Mario Brothers 2 – 9/10
Different characters allow different experiences in replays.
Super Mario Brothers 3 – 10/10
Worth its weight in gold. Even has a spectacular multiplayer mode in its Battle Mode.
Mario Brothers – 9/10
I play this one often. Very fun in single player but more fun in multiplayer. Great game.
Kid Icarus – 2/10
This game has phenomenal charm, but the game just SUCKS. The first level is terribly designed. Terrible! I have more fun just sticking in the cartridge and listening to the music than actually playing.
Donkey Kong Classics – 7/10
This is not just a game you will replay here and there, it is a great showpiece at parties. People love Donkey Kong!
Metroid – 6/10
The original Metroid can be very frustrating. This 1986 title feels not fully baked but that is what games at that year all felt. You do feel AWESOME if you beat it. Many of the corridors are monotonous as are the pits. NES games were very mysterious and Metroid the most mysterious of them all. With that mystery gone, all the defects in the game grate.
Legend of Zelda – 9/10
How often do people actually replay this one? There are two quests which makes it higher. When I think of LoZ now, I think of how tedious some of it is.
Zelda II: Adventure of Link – 10/10
Oh, GOD, this game is such a blast. Playing this on original hardware is so sweet. I find Zelda 2 to be more of a fluid experience while Zelda 1 is more of ‘stare at graph maps’.
Punch-Out – 7/10
I have a love it/ hate it relationship with Punch Out. The game is very, very good, but it becomes too puzzle like and cheap as it goes on. One punch and you are gone? Meh. Once I get past the early characters, I HOPE I get killed so I can play something that is fun. I feel like the game changes into something else with the harder difficulties.
Gauntlet II – 2/10
It is cool because it is 4 player, but Gauntlet’s gameplay has not aged well at all. Don’t bother. I rarely touch the game unless others see it and want to return to ‘good old Gauntlet days’ which they realize how bad the game is.
Final Fantasy – 10/10
The NES game is a wonder in its NES incarnation. It is very, very hard, and very, very grindy. Some people do not like that. This is fine. But if you were wanting to play a grindy game, this is the best you can get. So much replay value with the different character classes you can pick. I keep replaying this one, and it takes dozens and dozens of hours just to finish it unlike other NES games which take five minutes.
Mega Man II – 7/10
This vastly overrated game is still very fun, but I rarely touch it. I believe it suffers from the “I’ve played this gazillion times and cannot bother to play it again.”
Mega Man III – 7/10
I like this more than II. Do I replay it more? No, just as often. I LOVE the four stages between the normal stages and Wily’s Castle. This Mega Man has my favorite atmosphere. It feels really dark at times instead of ‘crazy Japanese crap’.
Mega Man IV – 4/10
I hate this one. It feels more like a Japanese anime at times, annoyingly difficult at the end of the game, and the robot masters feel recycled. If I am going to play a Mega Man game, you will want II or III. IV just isn’t all that.
Shadowgate – 5/10
I do play this one every so often even though I know all the secrets. The atmosphere is just so good. Worth picking up if cheap.
Rescue Rangers – 7/10
2 player co-op makes this a nice one. You will come back to it but get frustrated at the later stages. Fun Capcom game.
Lolo 2 – ???
I have it but have hardly touched it. Maybe that is an omen? Game looks very meaty though.
Contra – 10/10
Contra is going for $40, and there is a reason why. This is probably the most playable game on the NES even beyond Super Mario Brothers 3. Everyone loves the co-op. The game is great for pick-up and play. It is also good for challenge sessions to see how far you go. The 30 life code makes the game fun if you do not like the challenge. Instead of paying $90 for a Mega Man or a Dragon Quest, get Contra instead. You’ll play it MUCH MORE.
Double Dragon II – 7/10
Fun game, great co-op, great atmosphere. It’s solid, and I like to stick it in now and then.
Rampart – 3/10
Fun multiplayer, single player gets old fast. I rarely play this one.
Lode Runner – 4/10
Fun game, level builder is cool, but you won’t be playing it much.
Tetris – 6/10
There is something oddly wonderful about NES Tetris. You will be sticking in the cartridge now and then.
Dr. Mario – 9/10
Dr. Mario is more fun due to the battle mode. I also like to challenge myself with Level 20 while Tetris just gets faster and faster until you can’t play.
Pac-Man – 9/10
So much fun. You will be playing this one frequently. NES Pac-Man is very nice in whatever version it is.
Kings of the Beach – 1/10
I have it for 4 player gaming. I never, ever touch it!
Blades of Steel – 3/10
I know this game has a devoted following, but I rarely touch it.
Chessmaster – 3/10
Quite an extensive chess game on the NES. Many options too. I’d play this one much more if chess wasn’t available literally everywhere including mobile phones.
Guardian Legend – 7/10
Overrated. Very slick game, but the gameplay will wear you down. You have to force yourself to push through this game. I play it mostly for the music and seeing the space babe turn into a starship!
Popeye – 8/10
Little known arcade port made by Miyamoto. This game has the replay value of Donkey Kong. You will keep coming back to it. Also, this game will never be re-released in any form ever because of the licensing.
Millipede – 10/10
Every time I have a NES session, I always play Millipede. The gameplay is THAT good. The game is also ridiculously cheap. Every NES owner should have Millipede.
Battle of Olympus – 4/10
I still have to go through this one, but my revisit times have not been good so far.
1943 – 5/10
Fun shooter but annoying in that victory is determined not on progress but on how many enemies you kill.
Wrecking Crew – 7/10
I keep coming back to this one. The levels are fun, and there is a level design mode too.
Ice Hockey – 3/10
I do not touch this game much. Maybe for multiplayer but few people want to play sports games on the NES.
Boulder Dash – 3/10
I rarely touch this one. The game is more puzzle orientated so replay runs get old real fast.
Blaster Master – 6/10
The action makes this game very addictive, but there are some gameplay flaws that just kill it. It is very frustrating in many ways.
Bubble Bobble – 7/10
Great co-op. Solid game. You’ll come back to this one often.
So far, with the NES, the games I can recommend are Contra, Millipede, Final Fantasy and Super Mario Brothers 3, and Zelda 2. You can throw in Zelda 1, Dr. Mario, Pac-Man, Mario 2, and Mario Brothers if you want. Those 10 games will have you playing your NES non-stop.
Remember, this isn’t a review of ‘best games’. This is simply stating which games I keep coming back to and playing. Some games are ‘great’ like Guardian Legend and Mega Man 2, but how often do you play it?