The Top 10 Games on the NES Classic Edition

Today, Nintendo triumphantly burst into the plug-and-play console scene with the release of the NES Classic Edition in North America. The device includes 30 games originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the eighties and early-nineties, outputs via HDMI, and includes a replica controller. The emulation engine, developed by NERD (Nintendo European Research & Development), is vastly superior in visual and audio quality compared to that of the Wii U Virtual Console and features multiple saves state slots for the classic library. The 30 games included are a Who's Who of the NES catalog, but given my love for lists, here are the top 10 games I recommend that you play first when you plug in your new NES Classic!


Arguably the most challenging game on the NES Classic, Ninja Gaiden will test your patience in ways most modern games can't. Ninja Gaiden is one of the first prolific games to make use of in-game cinematics in a big way, setting the stage for Ryu's quest to rescue his girlfriend. And hey, you're a ninja. That's worth noting. This game spawned two fantastic sequels on the NES, and received a modern revival in 2004 on the original Xbox!


One of Nintendo's best forgotten franchises is the little brother to the Legend of Zelda series. StarTropics has the odd distinction of the being the only game on this list to never be released in Japan. Players take control of Mike in a top-down perspective as he and his trusty yo-yo attempt to rescue his lost uncle, Dr. Jones. StarTropics received a late-NES sequel, titled Zoda's Revenge, but has been mostly ignored since.


Unlike the Japanese counterpart, our NES Classic actually includes both Castlevania and its first sequel. It's no secret that I love Metroidvania games, and to be frank, my favorite entries in this franchise came much later. But the original Castlevania gets points for both the gameplay around the whip, and for taking cues from classic monster movies. This iconic game demands and deserves your attention from start to finish, and I suggest you treat yourself with it.


Remember when I mentioned that Ninja Gaiden is arguably the hardest game on the NES Classic? If anything can give it a run for its money, it's Capcom's Ghosts 'n Goblins. 2 hits will send you back to the beginning of any given level, and you'll find yourself frantically jumping over and dodging enemies just to stay alive. This is only for the toughest of gamers.


I've been vocal about my love for the Metroid franchise, but much of that love is often directed at title like Super Metroid and Metroid Prime. However, Samus' initial outing features an epic map filled with dangers, secrets, and power-ups! While it borrows from several action-platformers and has inspired hundreds more, the original Metroid remains unique.


5. Dr. Mario (1990)

I fully realize that Dr. Mario my not be the glamorous, legendary classic that some of these titles are, but Dr. Mario is pure fun. The puzzle gameplay is crisp, the presentation is bright, and the music is incredibly catchy. Easy to pick up, and difficult to master, Dr. Mario should be remembered as a classic.


4. Punch-Out!! featuring Mr. Dream (Released as Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! in 1987)

One of the most popular games on the NES, Punch-Out!! holds up even today. The arcade style structure of the game fits it well, and the game forces the player to practice each fighting style unique to defeating each champion. Punch-Out!! is addicting and is easy to play for a quick 15 minutes or much longer play sessions.


3. The Legend of Zelda (1986)

Action-adventure games were changed forever with Miyamoto's Legend of Zelda. The game is simply huge for an NES game, and even features a second, more difficult quest! This original game features several dungeons for Link to explore, all while finding different tools to help him along the way. Zelda is often credited as being one of the first open-world games, and since it looks like next year's Breath of the Wild is going to be drawing a lot of inspiration from this NES classic, I recommend you check it out!


2. Mega Man 2 (1989)

The Mega Man series has a long history, filled with dozens of games and sub-franchises, but a few stand ahead of the rest, and chief among them is Mega Man 2 on the NES. Like the original, the game pits the Blue Bomber against numerous levels filled with enemy robots, ending with a boss battle and rewarding the player with a new weapon. Mega Man 2 goes further and improves on its predecessor by adding more levels, and wider variety in bosses and signature weapons, and making the game run smoother. Without a doubt, Mega Man 2 is the best action-platformer of the 80's.


1. Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988)

I spared you guys with one obvious entry on this list; you all already know to play through Super Mario Bros! But Super Mario Bros. 3 is beyond the shadow of a doubt the best game to ever grace the Nintendo Entertainment System. Mario 3 was a return to form after the controversial Super Mario Bros. 2, honing in on what made the original great: excellent and consistent physics, enemies like Bowser, and fan-favorite powerups like the Fire Flower. What lets this entry soar, however, are the things it does differently. An overworld map, saving system, and hidden shortcuts and secrets set it apart from other platformers of the time. On top of that, you've got iconic new additions like the Koopa Kids, the airships levels, and the Tanooki Suit! Super Mario Bros. 3, above everything else on the NES Classic, deserves to be played.


Did I miss any games on the NES Classic Edition that you feel should be on this list? Upset that games like DuckTales and Contra aren't on the device? Let me know in the comments below!

Zachary Davis is a longtime Nintendo fanatic, and host of Secret Stage's weekly Nintendo Podcast, Podcasting With Power