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The Absolute Best NES Platformers of All Time

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The Absolute Best NES Platformers of All Time

If you grew up playing video games in the late 80s and early 90s, you know that the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was the console of choice. Consequently, the NES library is one of the most impressive in video game history. Platformers, action-adventure, RPGs, and side-scrolling shooters have been among the most popular genres of the time. This list is a collection of the best platformers for the system to date, with each game’s graphics, gameplay, controls, level design, and memorability all considered.

What Is a Platformer Game?

A platformer game is a video game that typically features controlled characters moving between platforms in a 2D or 3D environment. Platformers often require players to control their characters to jump between platforms, avoid obstacles, and sometimes even fight enemies. 

Platformer games have been around since the early days of video gaming, dating back to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the original Super Mario Bros. game in 1985. Since then, platformers have seen an evolution in graphics and gameplay, but the basic concept remains the same: guiding a character from one side of the screen to the other by avoiding obstacles and collecting power-ups or special items along the way.

Was NES Known for Platform Games?

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was an 8-bit home video game console that Nintendo released in 1985. The NES was known for its platform games, which were typically 2D and featured characters that the player could control as they navigated through various levels. The console bred the genre “platform,” which refers to the raised areas in a video game that a character can stand on. 

In early platformer games, jumping was the only way to move between platforms. However, more recent platformers have included additional mechanics such as double-jumping, wall-jumping, and ledge-grabbing, which give players more control over their movements. To celebrate this classic genre, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best NES platformers of all time. Read on to learn more about these classic titles and why they remain popular today.

10. Metal Storm

Best NES Platformers
The classic NES space game, Metal Storm, allows players to control gravity by changing the position of their robot.

Metal Storm is a Nintendo Entertainment System action-platform video game that stands out for its unique mechanics, where the player can switch gravity by flipping their character upside-down.

The player assumes the role of the M-308 Gunner, an all-purpose, gravity-controlled combat robot. The player can ascend to the ceiling by simultaneously hitting the “up” and “jump” buttons. Mega Man 5, Strider, and other games use reverse gravity gameplay, but Metal Storm is one of the few built solely on this concept.

The player also possesses a weapon with which to eliminate enemies. When flipping gravity, the player can gain several power-ups, such as a pistol power increase, a shield, and a fireball ability. When a level is completed, a password is provided that saves the score, special weapons, and remaining lives.

9. Batman: The Video Game

Best NES
Batman: The Video Game follows the events of the 1989 movie starring Michael Keaton.

is a series of platform video games with a wide variety of levels, including side-scrolling levels, top-down stages, and even boss fights. The story follows the movie as Batman attempts to take down the Joker and other criminals terrorizing Gotham City. Players must traverse through 12 levels, each with its unique set of enemies, obstacles, and bosses. Along the way, players can collect items like Batarangs, extra lives, and health restoration items to aid them in their mission.

Gameplay involves navigating through the levels, defeating enemies with a variety of attacks and tactics, and solving puzzles to gain access to the next level. Batman also has an array of special moves, such as the Batarang throw. Batman: The Video Game is an excellent NES platformer that faithfully follows the movie’s events.

Overall, the game’s graphics were considered very good for the time. They featured detailed backgrounds and a variety of enemies. With its challenging gameplay and varied levels, it’s no wonder this game remains so beloved by fans.

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02/23/2024 02:36 pm GMT

8. Bionic Commando

Best NES Plaformers
Bionic Commando is known for its revolutionary grappling mechanic.

Bionic Commando is an excellent NES platformer, full of unique gameplay mechanics, detailed graphics, and an engaging soundtrack. It is notably one of the few platformers in which the player cannot jump. Instead of jumping, the player uses a bionic arm to swing across gaps and defeat enemies. The arm also can be used to grapple your way onto objects in the game world, climb walls, and even grapple onto and launch enemies. This grappling mechanic made Bionic Commando stand out from other platformers of its time and was revolutionary for the genre.

The story of Bionic Commando follows protagonist Rad Spencer, an elite soldier of the Bionic Commando Brigade. Rad is tasked with rescuing his superior Super Joe from the grasp of the Imperials, a powerful enemy force. Along the way, players will battle Imperial forces and bosses in levels across a sprawling landscape. Though the game’s difficulty is quite high, its innovative mechanics and captivating soundtrack make it a must-play for any fan of classic platformers. The game spawned numerous sequels and spin-offs, including a 2008 remake for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.

Bionic Commando - Nintendo NES (Renewed)
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02/22/2024 11:50 am GMT

7. Ghosts ‘N Goblins

Best NES Platformers
In Ghosts ‘N Goblins, players take on the role of knight, Sir Arthur, as he battles monsters to rescue the princess.

Ghosts 'N Goblins is one of the classic NES platformers that had gamers on the edge of their seats. It was one of the hardest games on the NES, but also one of the most rewarding to beat.

The player controls the knight, Sir Arthur, who must battle zombies, ogres, demons, a cyclops, a dragon, and other monsters. His goal is to rescue Princess Prin-Prin from Astaroth (also known as the Devil or Great Satan), the lord of Demon World. The player can obtain new weapons, bonuses, and armor throughout this quest.

The game is known for its difficulty, with enemies that deal massive damage and levels filled with obstacles and traps. To survive, players must utilize Arthur’s array of weapons, including a dagger, axe, javelin, and torch. Additionally, Arthur can don special armor sets to grant himself additional powers and protection against damage.

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02/22/2024 11:04 am GMT

6. Gargoyle’s Quest II

Best NES Platformers
The fantasy game Gargoyle’s Quest II combines classic side-scrolling platformer elements with action-adventure.

Gargoyle’s Quest II is the prequel to Gargoyle’s Quest. It offers a similar gameplay style that combines adventure aspects with side-scrolling action in a dark fantasy atmosphere. The action parts of the game are the same as they were in the previous Gargoyle’s Quest game. The main difference between this game and the first Gargoyle’s Quest is the Magic Tornado power-up that has been added. This lets the main character, Firebrand, climb up by standing on temporary platforms. 

As in the last game, Firebrand moves with the help of his wings, which let him fly in a horizontal plane. Firebrand can shoot magic weapon projectiles at any time to attack or defend. Firebrand’s ability to cling to walls, grab the sides of moving objects, and slow his fall makes him stand out. 

The game also includes various puzzles to solve and numerous enemies to fight in order for Firebrand to progress. These enemies include flying bats, giant stone gargoyles, and other demonic creatures. Firebrand moves much more slowly than most of his kind in video games, so he often has to fight each enemy directly. 

All in all, Gargoyles Quest II is one of the most beloved NES platformers of all time, offering an expansive world to explore, unique gameplay elements, and challenging boss battles. It is an excellent example of classic 8-bit action-adventure gaming at its finest.

 5. Ninja Gaiden

Best NES Platformers
Ninja Gaiden is known as one of the most challenging but rewarding NES games.

Ninja Gaiden is a Nintendo Entertainment System action-platform video game known for its intense action, challenging enemies, and a variety of obstacles. It stars Ryu Hayabusa, a master ninja, on a mission to save his clan from a deadly curse. By holding down the jump button and alternating left and right on the directional pad, the player can cause Ryu to scale the gaps between walls and columns. He can also vertically scale a single wall by jumping off it and swiftly pressing the direction pad in the wall’s direction.

Ryu can restore his spiritual power by collecting red and blue “spiritual power” components from lamps and lanterns. Along the way, Ryu also finds hourglasses that freeze foes and projectiles, bonus point containers, potions that replenish physical strength, and invincible fire wheels that give him temporary immunity to attacks and power-ups.

The game also features many puzzles which require the player to make use of their wits to progress. In addition to the main levels, there are also side-scrolling levels where the player must avoid obstacles and enemies to reach the end. 

The game’s difficulty is high, and it requires quick reflexes and a good knowledge of enemy patterns to complete it. Although it can be challenging, Ninja Gaiden is an incredibly rewarding experience and one of the best NES platformers.

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02/22/2024 01:34 pm GMT

4. Duck Tales

Best NES Platformers
In Duck Tales, Scrooge McDuck must defeat a boss to retrieve each treasure.

Duck Tales is one of the most beloved and iconic NES platformers for its engaging story, characters, and addicting gameplay. The player controls Scrooge McDuck as he searches the globe and outer space for five treasures to add to his fortune. Scrooge can utilize his cane for combat and mobility. Scrooge may use his cane to strike enemies, smash open things, and fling them to the ground. He can also jump and attack from above, bouncing on his cane like a pogo stick. This enables him to reach greater heights and traverse difficult terrain that would otherwise be impossible.

The game has five levels: African mines, the Amazon, the Himalayas, Transylvania, and the moon. The player may search for riches in any of the available locales. Nonetheless, the African mines and Transylvania must be revisited to acquire some essential items. There are two hidden gems in each of the five places. Additionally, each treasure is guarded by a boss that Scrooge must defeat to retrieve. After collecting all five virtual gifts, the player returns to Transylvania to face Dracula Duck in a final boss. 

3. Mr. Gimmick

Best NES Platformers
Yumetaro must use his special abilities to rescue the little girl to whom he was gifted.

Mr. Gimmick is an excellent NES platformer that is still enjoyable today. With its charming visuals and catchy soundtrack, it’s easy to see why this game has become a classic of the 8-bit era. The player takes control of Yumetaro, a small green creature that was gifted to a young girl on her birthday. After being snubbed by the girl’s other toys, they come alive and take her away to another dimension. Yumetaro is the only one left behind and must venture into the alternate dimension to rescue his new owner.

The player must use Yumetaro’s special abilities to progress through the levels and defeat enemies. Yumetaro can jump and spawn stars above his horn which serve both as a weapon to defeat enemies and as a platform to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. Along the way, Yumetaro must also find keys and open chests containing power-ups and collect coins to gain extra lives.

Mr. Gimmick is considered by many to be one of the best platformers released on the NES. It not only offers challenging but rewarding gameplay, but also vibrant graphics and a heart-warming story. 

2. Castlevania

Best NES Platformers
Castlevania for NES is the first game in Konami’s successful franchise.

Castlevania is a series of gothic horror action-adventure video games and a media franchise regarding Dracula. Each stage is well-designed and perfectly matches Simon Belmont’s delayed whip attack. Challenges arise at a reasonable rate as the player progresses through the game. Each completed level also serves as a lesson in how the game should be played.

You’ll find multiple levels filled with traps, monsters, puzzles, hidden items, and power-ups. The combat is challenging but rewarding, as you’ll need to make use of Simon’s various abilities and weapons to take down the many different types of enemies.

Castlevania is a timeless classic that deserves its place in NES history. It’s an engaging adventure full of thrilling action, colorful visuals, and memorable music that will still bring out the nostalgia in fans of the series. Whether you’re a fan of old-school platformers or just looking for a classic to play, Castlevania is an excellent choice.

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02/22/2024 01:05 pm GMT

1. Super Mario Bros. 3

Best NES Platformers
The beloved classic, Super Mario 3, is one of the best-selling NES platformers.

With its tight controls and great soundtrack, Super Mario Bros. 3 is considered one of the best platformers ever made. It was a major hit, selling 40 million copies, and has since become an iconic part of gaming culture.

The game features side-scrolling action, vivid visuals, and classic Mario power-ups like mushrooms and fire flowers. Players can explore a world of secrets, including secret levels and hidden warp zones. In addition, the game features a variety of enemies, bosses, and puzzle elements that make it a challenging and memorable experience.

This game introduced many new features, such as the overworld map, power-ups, and secret levels. Players must navigate through eight worlds, each with its own unique theme and complete levels, to progress through the game. There are also mini-games that can be unlocked by collecting coins at certain levels. Without a doubt, Super Mario Bros. 3 has inspired countless other platformers and remains one of the best NES games of all time.

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02/21/2024 09:19 pm GMT

Conclusion

The NES platformers of the 80s and 90s continue to stand the test of time, with many games still beloved by fans of all ages today. These classic titles were some of the most memorable games from their era, featuring inventive-level design, impressive graphics, and engaging gameplay. While every game has a unique appeal, some stand out more than others — these are the ones we highlighted in this post. Whether it’s intense action, captivating stories, or unique mechanics, these games will keep players entertained for years to come. If you’re looking for a fun and challenging game on your NES, this list will certainly have what you’re looking for.

Last update on 2024-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Frequently Asked Questions

What is NES?

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is a third-generation 8-bit home video game console manufactured by Nintendo. A modified version of the NES was introduced in American test markets on October 18, 1985, before its commercial sale in North America and other regions.

Was the NES a success?

The NES was a huge hit, and millions of units were sold. In 1988, Nintendo alone sold 7 million systems, and the market for Nintendo cartridges was more significant than the market for all home computer software. Nearly one-third of all homes in Japan and the United States had an NES.

How many titles does the NES have?

A total of 716 officially licensed NES games were released during the console’s lifetime (678 in North America plus two championship games and 36 in other regions).

Can you play NES on a Smart TV?

There are two different methods for connecting an NES console to a modern or smart TV. You can complete the procedure using either the RF cable or the RCA cable.

When did NES end?

After a full decade of production, the NES was formally discontinued in the U.S. in 1995. By the end of its run, more than 60 million NES units had been sold throughout the world.

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