Like so many of you reading this, I spent a great many hours of my youth playing my favorite Nintendo games. Saturday afternoon, after school, most of the night on Friday nights….you know, anytime available was spent with that gray and black controller in my hand. It was one of the great joys in life to just shut my bedroom door, tune out the world, and kill a few hours on the NES.
Of course, not all games we had lived up to the hype we placed on them in our minds, and some games far exceeded the level of enjoyment we thought we were going to get from them. Some games we played only a handful of times, and some games we kept going back to time and time again.
So today I’m going on a deep dive and looking back at five of my favorite games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This is by no means a ranking of the ‘greatest’ or ‘best’ games. It’s simply some of my favorite games to play, in no particular order, along with some of my memories of each one. Every game has it’s own story as far as our memories of them go. Sometimes you loved the game so much you can remember exactly when and where you got it. Some, on the other hand, it’s hard to remember very much about. But just the fact we are still talking about some of the games over 30 years later means they left some kind of mark on us. I would love to hear what some of your favorite games were in the comments!
Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest
When Konami unleashed the first Castlevania cartridge on the Nintendo world in 1987, I was still too wrapped up in Super Mario Bros., Excite Bike, Pro Wrestling, and Rad Racer to pay much attention. Even though the original game was much loved and had a lot of hype around it, I was still impervious to the franchise’s existence when Castlevania 2 rolled out.
How much advertising was put into it? I couldn’t tell you. All I know is, that one Saturday afternoon I took all the money I had saved up to the local Roses department store when my Mom went to do her usual shopping. I went straight to the electronics section and starting scanning the available Nintendo games, as I was intent on picking one up that day. I remember there not being too many different games to choose from, and to this day, I’m still not sure what led me to pick Simon’s Quest. Maybe it was the lack of selection, or maybe the box art just got to me. But whatever the reason, I ended up bringing this bad boy home with me that day, and I’m so glad I did.
The quest of Simon to destroy Dracula was the simple premise, but the much more complicated facet of the game was just where in the heck do you find Dracula, and what weapon do you use on him when you find him? You spent your time traveling through towns, forests, and mansions killing skeletons, wolfmen, sea creatures and anything else that got in your way like spiders and floating eyeballs. You earned “hearts” that were like money and you used that money to upgrade your whip and buy additional weapons like Holy Water, Laurel Bushes, Diamonds, and numerous other curiosities. You also had to talk to the townspeople to get clues on which direction to go to find Dracula and how to beat him. I guess this was the first RPG that I ever played. I don’t even think that term existed back then. But all this wrapped up in the game made it one heck of a time waster, and I can’t forget the Saturday afternoon that I finally beat this game.
Saturday afternoons were the time I typically got to put the most time into playing Nintendo. After the cartoons were off and my room was cleaned, I was free to kill whatever time was left doing whatever I wanted. So I usually would turn on the NES and try my hand at getting all the way through this game. That Saturday I finally beat it was euphoric! I went running into the kitchen to proudly tell Mom that I had won, but her excitement was not what I had hoped. I had to find joy all by myself in the victory.
Castlevania II was the first role-playing game that I can ever remember playing, and even to this day, RPG’s are not my cup of tea. But Simon’s Quest has stood the test of time, and holds a special place in my heart as one of the first video games I ever loved. It was actually the second game that had stolen my heart, only because Pro Wrestling came first.
ExciteBike was one of the Nintendo consoles most beloved games, and a favorite of mine too. I killed many hours with this bad boy. Racing on a motorcycle! Design your own tracks! Put 100 jumps in a row! This was one awesome game for those three reasons, and why it’s so fondly remembered. That and the fact that you could wreck others by coming down the track with your rear wheel in their front wheel and watch them tumble over and over down the track. With the possibility of using any combination of 19 different obstacles to design your track with, it had great replay value just in designing new courses to race.
I was introduced to this game at my cousin’s house shortly after I got my Nintendo. This is the same who cousin who also introduced me to the games Kung Fu and Ring King. Needless to see, he rocketed up the charts on my favorite cousin’s list. I was instantly hooked and we spent several hours that night playing it. I never actually owned the game, but several of my friends did, and a copy of it was at my house more often than not through the magic of swapping games with a friend for a period of time. This game still holds its own in the “fun factor” today against such newer and more complicated games.
I could spend more time playing this title than I could modern titles today. Just designing courses loaded with obstacles and then racing against friends provided endless fun for us. Many a Saturday afternoon was spent on a virtual dirt bike in my house. Although, to this day, I still can’t let off the turbo.
The great space saga known as Alpha Mission…..or Space Invaders knockoff. This was a cool game where you had a space fighter and the ability to upgrade it’s weapons and defense systems in the course of the gameplay. Once you earned more weapons, you could switch back and forth between them. At the end of each level was a boss, and that boss was only beatable by one of those special weapons….and you had to figure out which one and select it before you got to him. It was hard in the beginning, but soon it became one of those games that I would sit down for an hour and a half and run through the whole thing for fun.
I got Alpha Mission on the same night I got my Nintendo. When we went to pick it up, all my local Hills department store had were the Nintendo systems without any games. So my Dad let me pick a game, and I picked Pro Wrestling. While there in the store, he decided he wanted to pick a game and he chose Alpha Mission. I was astounded that my old man was picking out a game to play. He was genuinely excited about getting a Nintendo, but I had my doubts just how much he would actually sit down and play. Turned out I was right, as he only played Alpha Mission once. I’m glad he picked it up though because as noted earlier, it became one of my favorite games to kill time with.
What red-blooded American boy didn’t want to put on the gloves and go to battle with one another inside the squared circle? With this game, you and your best friend could live that out without anyone getting a bloody nose. As I mentioned earlier, my cousin David introduced me to the game at his house, and we spent hours that first night battling for ring supremacy.
The action was slow and plodding, but man was it fun. You really had to battle for the full 3 minutes to stay alive, and then you had to work your thumbs to the limit in the rest period to regain needed energy. I loved the fact that this game had a tournament mode. That meant a lot of “Championship Tournament” afternoons for me.
I would have friends come over, and we would each pick four combatants, and then have them square off in tournament mode. A tournament like this could last 2-3 hours before a champion was finally declared. Once done, it was time to ice down our swollen thumbs and enjoy some tasty snack like Jiffy Pop or Jello Pudding Pops. This game contributed to many a fun Saturday afternoons.
Once Mike Tyson’s Punch Out hit the scene, it became the favorite boxing game of many, myself included. But the big difference between the titles was the fact that only one player could play Punch Out, whereas you and a buddy could both play Ring King. That kept Ring King relevant through the years that Nintendo was king, and what kept my interest in it so long.
The Goonies 2
I guess after the success the movie had, a video game was inevitable. But playing this game didn’t feel very much like watching the movie. You had Mikey, the hero of course, traveling through caves and various other locations slinging his yo-yo at the bad guys to dispose of them. But the focus of the game was on collecting different objects to help you get farther along. It was a constant maze of entering different rooms and trying to find secret doorways to get someplace else. It was quite the brain bender, and I spent many hours on this puppy on Saturday afternoons.
This was another game that I never actually owned. But my best friend Geoffrey had it, and quickly tired of it. Geoffrey was one of those kids that got whatever he wanted, and what he always wanted was a new video game. He would get one, play it for a few weeks, and then tire of it. Once he was done with one, it was offered to me to take home for a few weeks and play. That was a pretty good setup on my end. He sent me home one day with this game, and being a fan of the movie, I was excited to pop it in and give it a whirl. But like I already said, it differed from the movie quite a bit. Not to say that as a bad thing though. I feel like they had a game developed, and then just added the tie into the Goonies after the fact to sell more copies.
Well, there’s five old Nintendo games I loved back then, and still do today. There are a lot more of those old games that I cherish, so this is by no means the only time I’ll be visiting that corner of my memory. I’ll be back again one day to talk about more of my favorite Nintendo games, but in the meantime, let me know if you enjoyed these games, and if not, tell me about YOUR favorite Nintendo games in the comments.