© iStock.com / robtek

Key Points

  • Party games are video games meant to be played by multiple users at once and are great for entertainment and social gatherings.
  • Dr. Mario and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II are examples of party games.
  • Rampage and Life Force are popular party games made by NES.

The NES had very few games that fit into the current party genre. However, the console did make lay the groundwork for many of the party games we know and love today. A party game should be fun to play with friends and easy for anyone to pick up and start playing. Here is a list of our favorite party games on the NES that you should try.

Dr. Mario

screenshot of dr mario game
Developed by Nintendo, Dr. Mario is a puzzle video game with two game modes.

©mobygames.com – License

Dr. Mario is an arcade game that made its way to the NES. It is often compared with Tetris as it shares many similarities, mainly that they both involve creating rows on a gameboard to clear it. However, Dr. Mario is quite a bit different. Instead of odd shapes that you need to connect in a line, the game colored viruses that you need to match colors on pills with.

It is a fundamental concept that is wildly addictive. Once you eradicate all the viruses, you move on to the next level. But, if the board fills up with pills, the game ends. Therefore it requires a lot of concentration to be successful. Dr. Mario also keeps track of scoring because you must eliminate all the viruses and strive to do it with as few pills as possible.

What makes it a great puzzle game is its competitive nature. Not to mention, it does have a multiplayer option where two people can battle head-to-head. In multiplayer mode, you use two controllers, and each player gets a board, with one on the left and another on the right. The first player to get rid of all the viruses wins.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game

screenshot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninjas Turtles II had fairly decent graphics for its time.

©mobygames.com – License

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had an NES game that wasn’t very well received. But Turtles II is a different ballgame. It feels like a game based on the TV show. In contrast, the first game did not use any known enemies, which didn’t go over well with fans. However, this sequel does a good job of bringing many TMNT enemies into combat.

Speaking of combat, the game is packed full of action as you battle your way through various enemies and bosses. Unlike the first game, this one does not have much platforming and instead lets you progress through levels by fighting all of the foes along the path. This creates some very straightforward gameplay, which isn’t a bad thing because the game does master its combat system.

Each enemy has its own abilities, and you can pick up different weapons to fight with. But what TMNT II does great is in multiplayer. It is set up as a two-player co-op, so both players get to work their way through the levels together, battling enemies. Although the game is a port of an arcade title, it still looks and plays well on the NES.


screenshot of Contra NES game
One of the best run and gun shooters ever made, Contra still holds up well today.

©mobygames.com – License

Contra is another NES game that was inspired by an original arcade title. While many developers chose to port their games to home consoles like the NES, Contra is not a haphazard port. The NES version notably adds new levels and boss battles that were not part of the arcade version. What is the same, however, is its fast-paced action that can be incredibly challenging.

You play as Bill or Lance in two-player mode and make your way through the side-scrolling adventure. What sets Contra apart is its mix of different weapons that you can acquire as the levels progress. It also features a lot of platforming in addition to shooting.

Each level is a little different and offers a nice variety of gameplay that keeps things fresh and original through the end. Contra’s multiplayer consists of a two-player co-op where players are on the screen and battle through the levels together. This can be a great way to battle through the game, as you can work together to defeat enemies.


screenshot of Gauntlet game
Unlike the open-ended arcade version, Gauntlet on the NES got a proper battle and ending.

©mobygames.com – License

Gauntlet is an absolute favorite for many gamers that go to the arcade. Fortunately, the NES version did a good job of bringing the arcade experience to home televisions. There are a few differences from the Atari arcade version, mainly the addition of a true ending.

It also received a story that helped better explain what was going on and why you were trudging through dungeons. The NES version also received a password system to pick up where you left off rather than having to start over. Like the arcade version, there are three characters you can play as, including a warrior, valkyrie, wizard, and elf.

One of the best parts of the NES and arcade Gauntlet games is their multiplayer portion. You can play with up to two players. If you want to play with more people, consider Gauntlet II, which uses the Four Score for up to four players. Overall, Gauntlet is a timeless classic that will surely be a favorite game at any party.


screenshot of Anticipation NES game
The gameplay is similar to Trivial Pursuit, as you must collect several colors on a board to win the game.

Unlike most other games on this list, Anticipation is designed as a party game. You can even play with up to four players, but you don’t need the Four Score. Rare, the creators of beloved titles, such as Donkey Kong, made the game. However, Anticipation isn’t nearly as well-liked as their other creations.

There is a Pictionary aspect where the game draws a crude picture, and you must type in what it is. Lastly, you have to type in what the picture is before the timer runs out. So you must guess quickly and correctly because incorrect and misspelled words will end your turn.

The time remaining indicates how many spaces you get to move. All these different rules make what would otherwise be a basic game unique. Anticipation is a great party game you will thoroughly enjoy when playing with other people. However, this isn’t something you would want to play by yourself.

Life Force

screenshot of life force game
The NES game features some vertical scrolling levels and boss battles.

©mobygames.com – License

Life Force is one of the weirder NES games. At the same time, it involves a lot of shooting as you push through on your quest through the human body. If that’s not weird enough, one of the main battles entails defeating a brain with arms. The game is a side-scrolling 2D shooter where you are in control of a ship.

Life Force shares some similarities with other Konami shooters, but the real standout here is its level designs, which each have unique enemies. Similarly, it uses various elements in the body as enemies you must defeat. The gameplay isn’t too fast, so it won’t be too intimidating for new players.

The imaginative nature of the game and its environment is what makes it a great party game. Plus, a multiplayer mode is great if you have a second controller. In this mode, both players get a ship to pilot, and the two work together to defeat enemies and get through the level. It also calculates scores and lives separately for each player at the bottom of the screen.


screenshot of Rampage buildings
In two-player mode, each player becomes a monster and works together to destroy the city.

©mobygames.com – License

Rampage is a simple game where you go around and destroy a city. Like many other games on this list, it is a port of an arcade game of the same name. The premise remains largely the same, and the graphics are similar. The main differences are that the graphics are a little cruder, like most ports, and there are only two playable characters, as the werewolf is not included.

Rampage’s gameplay is very straightforward. You destroy cities without getting killed. To do this, your character must climb buildings while punching holes. Punch enough holes, and the building will eventually collapse, and you can proceed to the next one. While that seems pretty easy, you must contend with numerous people shooting at you and photographers whose flash will disorient you.

If you get shot too many times, your character will die. Additionally, there are good and bad items to collect, which will either help or hurt your health. Multiplayer with Rampage is a great time. However, unlike the arcade version, the NES version is limited to two players. The player with the highest score is the winner.


The Absolute Best NES Party Games of All Time FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the NES Super Score?

The NES Super Score is an adapter that Nintendo sold which could connect up to four controllers to the NES for certain multiplayer games.

Was there a Mario Party on the NES?

There were no Mario Party games on the NES as the first one came out on the Nintendo 64.

Can you play NES games on the Nintendo Switch?

Many classic NES games are available on the Nintendo Switch via the eShop or Nintendo Online.

Is Duck Hunt two-player?

Most people Duck Hunt is actually two players, and the second player uses a regular controller to play as the dog.

What is the maximum number of players you can have on the NES?

The NES supports a maximum of four players with the NES Four Score, but most games only support two players.

About the Author

More from History-Computer

  • Fandom Spot Available here: https://www.fandomspot.com/best-multiplayer-nes-games/
  • Video Chums Available here: https://videochums.com/top10/nes-multiplayer-games
  • Retro Game Buyer Available here: https://retrogamebuyer.com/best-multiplayer-nes-games/
  • Twinfinite Available here: https://twinfinite.net/gallery/best-2-player-nes-games/
  • Infinity Retro Available here: https://infinityretro.com/top-10-nes-co-op-multiplayer-games/