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Fave Five: Nintendo Entertainment System

So the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) celebrates its big 30th anniversary in 2013, that is if we go by the original Japanese release under the Famicom label. There are so many great features and articles at the moment on this highly influential and legendary console which continues to have a presence even among all the Xboxes and PlayStations. Nintendo has certainly done well in keeping the spirit and vision of that system alive for all these years in so many ways, whether it is the 3D remakes, the steady stream of releases on the Virtual Console, or simply a new innovative entry in a franchise that first began on the NES. It's one console that most certainly will not ever be forgotten. It really set the foundation of the industry that we know and love, and the games themselves have aged so well as their design and gameplay philosophies can still be felt in modern gaming. 

I'd be lying if I said the NES was big part of my gaming upbringing. By the time I came into existence the Mega Drive had been released and gaming had stepped into the next era. I grew up on 16-bit gaming, that's where my roots are, but even during that time I had the opportunity to venture into 8-bit gaming, and I continue to do so today. My dad picked up a NES purely by chance along with a few games, even though the graphics were no where near as good as what I was experiencing on the SNES and Mega Drive, I still couldn't help but be drawn to the games...such was the quality of their gameplay and design. I never collected any NES titles other than the ones I dad brought home that day, but over the years I had friends and relatives who had a pretty sizable collection for the original Famicom system itself, so I enjoyed plenty of titles. Even now I occasionally pick up NES games from the 3DS eShop.

Regardless of whether or not you grew up during that era, it's hard not to appreciate the importance of the NES, and it's almost impossible to not experience its near eternal influence on the gaming medium. Whether you're playing something like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the latest Mario or Zelda, or even something like Dark Souls, the spirit of that platform and era will always have a presence. 

I haven't played a wealth of NES titles, but I can list five I really like easily. So here they are...

5. Super Mario Bros.

I may not like Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, New Super Mario Bros., or the Mario series in general, but I would be a fool to not like the very first Super Mario Bros. game. If you're looking for the blueprint and gold standard of the perfect platformer, then you need not look any further than this game. It's eternally playable, the levels are ingenious, the secrets and scope of exploration is abundant, and it's oh so very fast. People really discount just how fast paced this game was, as it pretty much inspired the core fundamentals of the Sonic the Hedgehog series. The level variety and gimmicks kept coming at you, with so many enemy types, a ton of platforming, and lots and lots of running. It always felt like a Sonic game to me.

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project

I spent many hours playing this with my cousins, obviously at the time we were all into the cartoon series and so it was no real surprise that we all dug this game. One of the better looking NES titles, and also a very well made side-scrolling brawler. It made great use of the source material, all the main characters and enemies were faithfully represented. The boss battles in particular were well designed and offered a satisfying challenge, boss battles were my favorite part in any game back then (still are...which is why I'm particularly excited for Killer is Dead) and I enjoyed taking on the main villains from the series. The game was extremely difficult though! cheats had to be used unless you were very good.

3. Duck Hunt

This game was addictive, and the NES light-gun was such a well made peripheral as it was always precise and responsive. The game was simple, just shoot the living daylights out of every duck you see on screen before they flew away. The game got progressively more challenging, and getting better at it made you quite the proficient sharpshooter as you were limited to just three bullets per wave of ducks. Also included in the cart was another game which involved shooting clay discs, relatively more challenging and just as fun. I poured many hours into this cartridge, and even today it's among the most entertaining light-gun video games. A simple well executed concept never ages.

2. Yie Ar Kung-Fu

Everybody was kung fu fighting...those cats were fast as lightning!

Before there was Street Fighter II, there was Yie Ar Kung-Fu. A fundamentally simple and basic game, but very fun. The funny thing was that I first played the game after I had already played the obviously superior Street Fighter II, and yet I still enjoyed Yie Ar Kung-Fu. What was great about it was that it immediately made it apparent that you could master the game, by learning the style and pattern of all the boss characters such that you could very easily beat the game without taking a single hit. It was fast, quick, and highly re-playable, one of those games that made me keep coming back for more because I could sense myself getting better each time. The pure spirit of one on one combat was true and profound in this one.

1. Castlevania

One of my top favorite franchises, and it all began with this debut entry on the NES. The game has aged so well, as I found myself enjoying the recent 3DS eShop release just as much as when I was first feverishly playing the original NES cart back in the day. The level design has aged really well, the bosses are just as tough and satisfying, and the soundtrack is just timeless. Mechanically the game is probably stiff by today's standards, but all things considered the original Castlevania is still a nice 101 on great game design. Above all this game kick started one of gaming's most celebrated series. The importance and influence of the first Castlevania can still be felt today, even more profoundly so in the Lords of Shadow series. 

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