It’s safe to say that the NES Classic is a hit, as the $60 miniature version of the iconic Nintendo Entertaintment System has been flying off shelves quicker than Nintendo can keep it in stock. While the console re-release is hitting all the right nostalgia buttons for gamers whose formative years were spent largely huddled around a CRT TV playing games like Super Mario Bros., the NES Classic has some undeniable drawbacks. Chief among them is that the console’s library of NES games — while largely comprised of the best and most essential NES games ever made — is too small at only 30 titles and leaves out a big chunk of the NES library.
Now, it must be said that most NES games have not aged very well, so it would have irresponsible of Nintendo to cram the thing with a bunch of games that no one would ever want to play, but at the same time, there are still quite a few games that sorely need to be included. Although licensing and other issues are likely responsible for many of the following 30 games not making the cut, consider this our wishlist of the NES games that also deserve to be anthologized on the NES Classic, assembled in alphabetical order for your convenience.
Update: Yes, we are aware that the NES Classic can now be hacked to add more games. This is a list of the games Nintendo should have included in the first place.
30. Adventure Island II
Hudson Soft’s 1991 sequel to the original Adventure Island built on the first game’s somewhat rudimentary platforming gameplay by adding an inventory system and adding the ability to collect and ride dinosaurs. In other words, Adventure Island II is a sequel that gets its priorities straight. Starring a yachting playboy named Master Higgins as the protagonist, Adventure Island II tasks you with exploring eight diverse islands — sometimes while riding a skateboard — in search of a beautiful princess kidnapped by an evil witch doctor. While it may not spin the most compelling of yarns, Adventure Island II is an excellent NES platformer that often gets overlooked. A spot on the NES Classic’s library would help change that.
29. Adventures of Lolo 3
Crafted by the fine folks at HAL Labratory, the studio best known for creating Kirby and his many wonderful games, Adventures of Lolo 3 is the best and most beloved of the three entries released on the NES and stands as one of the console’s finest puzzle games. Don’t let the game’s cutesy exterior fool you: Adventures of Lolo is a hectic and challenging puzzler, but it never feels unfair. Victory always feels within your grasp, even when it definitely isn’t (the game actually gives you the option to kill your character if you get trapped or find yourself unable to proceed). With puzzle games more popular than ever thanks to the rise of mobile gaming, Adventures of Lolo 3 is the perfect NES game to rediscover because it’s still just as fun and rewarding as it was when it was first released 25 years ago.
28. Batman: The Video Game
It’s no secret that most of the licensed games in the NES catalog are garbage (and Batman has had more than his fair share of truly awful video games) but miraculously, the NES movie tie-in game based on 1989’s Batman was not only good, it was arguably one of the best platformers on the console not featuring Mario. Developed by Sunsoft, Batman: The Video Game certainly doesn’t hold a candle to modern Batman games such as Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum, but when taken on its own merits, it’s a legitimately good take on the Caped Crusader.
This was the first game that truly gave players the experience of playing as Batman, as it featured many of the hero’s familiar moves and gadgets, including the grapnel gun, which added a fun wrinkle to the platforming. While it would likely be difficult to put this game on the NES Classic due to licensiing issues, Nintendo absolutely should do it if they can find a way, as gamers and Batman fans alike deserve a reminder that there was such a thing as a good Batman game prior to 2009.
Like a good number of games on this list, Battletoads was likely too difficult to lock down for the NES Classic library, as Microsoft currently owns the rights to the game. Still, it’s not like it would be impossible for Nintendo to arrange a deal that would allow them to use the game and if they ever did, Battletoads would bolster the Classic’s library considerably. Arguably one of the most difficult games of its generation, if not of all time, Battletoads was a test of endurance and raw gaming skills for an entire generation of gamers and is a badge of honor for those who actually managed to see it through to completion.
While most players have a hard time making it past the first level, Battletoads is not without its charms, as it features some pretty solid beat-’em-up gameplay, polished graphics for its time, and in typical Rare fashion, a fantastic soundtrack. Unfortuantely, we’ll probably never see Battletoads actually hit the NES Classic, but it was part of the Rare Replay compilation put out last year on Xbox One, so you can always experience it there.
26. Bionic Commando
To this day, Capcom’s Bionic Commando stands apart from other games of its ilk. Unlike pretty much every other platformer known to man, there is no jump button in Bionic Commando. Instead, you use your character’s bionic arm to hook onto platforms and effectively swing around levels like a severely-limited Spider-Man. This may sound absurd and not very fun, but in practice, Bionic Commando’s unique approach to traversal is a joy to play once you figure out its intricacies.
The game also borrows a page from the Metroid school of design and requires you to find certain weapons and equipment in order to progress. Combine this with a fun story that has you fighting Nazis as Rad Spencer — still one of the best video game protagonist names ever — and you have one of the NES’s best, most inventive games. Shame it’s not on the NES Classic where it belongs.
25. Blaster Master
Featuring an excellent mash-up of gameplay styles and a delightfully bonkers premise, Blaster Master is a NES classic through and through. In Blaster Master, you play as Jason, a young boy on a quest to rescue his frog Fred after he is mutated by radiation, turned into a giant monster, and flees into a huge subterranean world. Sunsoft’s game splits its time between on-foot sections and vehicle segments in which Jason takes command of a large armored tank called S.O.P.H.I.A. In practice, the two gameplay styles compliment each other well, as you feel incredibly vulnerable when playing as Jason, but then are totally empowered when you get to jump back into your tank.
From top to bottom, Blaster Master features praise-worthy design, as it sports clean graphics, catchy music, and inspired level design. Unfortunately, the original version doesn’t feature save points, forcing players to either finish the game in one sitting or leave their console on, but Nintendo could easily add save functionality for a re-release.
24. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
Sure, Castlevania is present and accounted for on the NES Classic, as the first two games are part of the console’s 30 game library, but this makes it all the more puzzling that the third (and arguably best) game in the trilogy wasn’t included. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse builds on the core design of the first two games while also tightening up the gameplay, improving the graphics, and introducing a few new tricks of its own, including branching story paths, which helped make this one of the most replayable games on the Nintendo Entertainment System. In fact, these branching paths can bring you into contact with different playable characters, but because of the nature of the design, it’s possible that players may not have even meet some of them. As one of the best NES games of all time, it’s frankly absurd that Castlevania III is not on the NES Classic.
Fun Fact: Castlevania III is the first game in the series to introduce Alucard, the protagonist of the very best Castlevania game, Symphony of the Night.
Although Contra’s sequel, Super C, is included on the NES Classic, most gamers have fond memories of the original, as it’s the one most of us grew up with. The game that helped popularize the famous Konami code (it was actually first used in Gradius) and helped establish the NES era as one where difficult games reigned supreme, Contra is arguably the console’s definitive co-op game, as you needed a buddy by your side just to have any hope of surviving the game’s relentless shooting action. It was simply a mistake for Nintendo to overlook such an iconic and beloved NES game and if they ever do update the Classic to include more games, Contra needs to be at the top of the list. We need that 80s summer blockbuster theme and those 8-bit anthems in our lives again.
The Legend of Zelda has become one of the most influential franchises in all of gaming, but for some reason, it didn’t have that many imitators on the NES. Crystalis, put out by SNK in 1990, is one of the few games that wore its Zelda influences on its sleeve, but rather than being a pale imitator, Crystalis is a fantastic action-adventure game in its own right that arguably surpasses the first Legend of Zelda in some ways. Most notably, Crystalis’ presentation puts Zelda to shame, with a cinematic design that blends elements of fantasy and science-fiction.
The central gameplay revolves around seeking out a set of four elemental swords, each imbued with unique powers that feel awesome to wield. The quest to bring the swords together and form the ultimate weapon — the titular “Crystlis” — forms the basis of one of the more underappreciated gems in the NES library and one that arguably should have been front and center on the NES Classic, especially when you consider that Nintendo loved this game so much that they re-released it ten years later on the Game Boy Color.
21. Dragon Warrior (AKA Dragon Quest)
Dragon Warrior, or Dragon Quest as it’s now known, was released before the first Final Fantasy and helped not only lay the groundwork for that series, but the RPG genre as a whole. Arguably a better game than Final Fantasy, which did make the cut for the NES Classic, Dragon Warrior is about as old school a RPG as you can find, with grinding and item management being essential components of the game’s design. The Dragon Quest series has become one of the most revered among RPG enthusiasts, but for whatever reason, it never became as popular as Final Fantasy. The RPG genre owes an enormous debt to the foundations laid out in Dragon Warrior and for that reason alone, it should be a NES Classic title.
20. Duck Hunt
First, we must preface this by saying that the fact that Duck Hunt isn’t on the NES Classic makes complete sense, since the light-gun technology used in the original game wouldn’t work on modern televisions. Still, we’re not going to let things like reality or facts stop us from acknowledging a simple truth and that is that the NES Classic’s lack of Duck Hunt stinks. If Nintendo had really wanted Duck Hunt to be a part of the system’s library, they could have found a way, as it wouldn’t be that hard to design a new Zapper that works with newer TVs. Sure, including another peripheral would have increased the NES Classic’s $60 price tag a bit, but it would have been worth it for a chance to (unsuccessfully) shoot that mocking hunting dog one more time.
Arguably the best licensed game in the NES library, DuckTales also happens to be one of the best NES games period. Developed by Capcom, DuckTales is modelled heavily after the Mega Man games but rather than feel like a shallow ripoff, this was all to the game’s benefit. When examined on its own merits, DuckTales is a fantastic old school action-platformer. Starring Scrooge McDuck, the game tasks players with taking the miserly billionaire through various levels, where he collects money (obviously) and takes out enemies with his pogo stick.
There are even multiple endings, with the best one reserved for players who manage to find both of the game’s hidden treasures and have $10,000,000 in their pocket. A remastered version was released in 2013 for modern consoles and if you’ve never played it, that is absolutely the version you should seek out, but its omission from the NES Classic library stings all the same, given what an important title it was for the original Nintendo Entertainment System.
Konami may be one of the worst companies in the video game industry nowadays, but back when the NES was the dominant force in gaming, they were responsible for putting out a ton of top-notch games on the system. While Metal Gear, Castlevania, and Contra are the titles most often associated with Konami in the NES era, they also made a number of lesser known but still excellent games, such as the explosive rescue-op game Jackal.
An overhead run ‘n gun style action game, Jackal tasks players with driving a heavily-armed jeep in enemy territory in order to rescue prisoners of war. As with most games of its ilk, Jackal features two player functionality, allowing for more sophisticated rescue-ops, where one player could do the rescuing while the other concentrated on destroying enemies with bullets and grenades. Take that, Saddam!
17. Life Force
A NES port of the arcade game Salamander, Life Force is an underrated gem that just so happens to be one of the best shooters on the console. A spin-off of Gradius, another Konami-developed shooter that is on the NES Classic, Life Force scores points for being the rare NES era shooter that can realistically be completed. That is because it is nowhere near as punishingly difficult as other games of its ilk, which we consider to be something worth celebrating considering so many NES games only appeal to masochists.
Life Force’s balance between shooting enemies and seeking out ways to beef up your defenses proves to be a winning gameplay combo and it gets even better when you invite a friend along for the ride — although in its original form, this results in less than ideal system performance. With Galaga and Gradius already representing the space shooter genre, there really isn’t a place for Life Force among the NES Classic’s 30 games, but if this ends up changing, it deserves heavy consideration.
16. Little Nemo: The Dream Master
Based on a Japanese animated film (that is itself based on a comic strip from the early 1900s) about a boy with many animal companions to interact with and costumes to change into, Little Nemo: The Dream Master is one of the finest 2D platformers Capcom ever released for the NES. Reminiscnent of Nintendo’s own Mario games in terms of the creativity of its level design, Little Nemo actually featured animal companion-riding gameplay way before Nintendo made it cool, as Nemo can ride lizards, frogs, and even gorillas Yoshi-style.
Like many other NES games, Little Nemo’s child-friendly exterior masks a sometimes frustratingly difficult game, but that’s just how things were in the late 80s and early 90s. Despite its reputation, Capcom has shown little interest in reviving the Little Nemo franchise over the years, which makes it all the more disappointing that Nintendo didn’t include The Dream Master with the NES Classic, as it would have been a great opportunity for those who missed out on the game’s charms the first time around to rediscover it.
15. Lode Runner
Lode Runner is a deceptively simple platformer — you basically run around collecting treasure and try to avoid enemies — but it put a unique spin on a genre that was done to death on the NES by adding level deformation to the mix, which meant that environmental puzzles could change on the fly. What’s more, Lode Runner is one of only a handful of NES games to feature a level editor. While archaic by today’s standards, the level editor effectively made Lode Runner a game that essentially never ends. Oh and the only way to defeat your opponents is to bury them alive. This game went to some dark places …
14. Maniac Mansion
Adventure games are more popular than ever, thanks in large part to the many excellent titles put out by Telltale Games in recent years, but back on the NES, if you were looking for a deep and hilarious adventure, Lucasarts’ Maniac Mansion had you covered. Admittedly, it’s not an easy game to control with a NES controller, as the D-Pad doesn’t exactly allow for precise aiming or control, but the game’s premise is so entertaining and addictive that it’s something you end up putting up with. Featuring a bunch of different story paths and playable characters, each with their own unique abilities, Maniac Mansion is one of the most important adventure games ever made and deserves to be brought back for a new generation to discover … or to be played again by gamers who first discovered its charms three decades ago.
13. Mega Man
The fact that Nintendo chose to pack Mega Man 2 onto the NES Classic instead of the original shows that the company put real care and thought into choosing the 30 games that best represent the Nintendo Entertainment System, as it is superior to the original in every way. Still, it feels odd not to include the game that kicked off one of the most prolific and revered franchises in video game history (to say nothing of not including Mega Man 3 through 6, which all could justify a spot on the Classic).
While lacking many of the refinements that would become series mainstays, the original Mega Man took players by storm back when it finally released in North America in 1987 with its winning mixture of stunning graphics, catchy music, and near-perfect gameplay. It was also ridiculously difficult, which only endeared it to gamers more. In a perfect world, every Mega Man game released for the NES would be on the Classic, but if there’s one entry in the series that definitely should be on there alongside Mega Man 2, it’s the one that started it all.
12. Metal Gear
It’s a shame that Nintendo wasn’t able to reach a deal with Konami to get Metal Gear on the NES Classic (assuming they did try, of course) because Solid Snake’s first adventure is an important part of gaming history. Of course, by today’s standards the game is very primitive, especially when compared to the much more sophisticated gameplay and storytelling elements found in Hideo Kojima’s later Metal Gear games, but it did help establish some of the series’ fundamentals.
Like later entries in the series, there is a heavy emphasis on stealth, with Snake relying on cover to hide from enemies, although there are still weapons to be had in case you want to just shoot enemies instead. While Metal Gear may be more of a curiosity than an essential play at this point, it’s worth seeking out to see how one of gaming’s most vaunted franchises began.
11. Metal Storm
From a pure technical standpoint, Irem Software Engineering’s 1991 mech platformer Metal Storm is one of the most impressive titles to ever grace the NES. From its complex background animations to its multi-celled animation, this is a game that truly pushed the system to its limits. Fortunately, Metal Storm is more than just a graphical showcase, as this platformer combined fun shooting gameplay with a unique gravity mechanic that allowed your character to flip between the ground and ceiling, leading to some clever level design in the process. Sure, Metal Storm doesn’t look all that impressive by today’s standards, but 25 years ago, it was a stunner and proved that the aging NES hardware still had some life left in it at a time when the SNES was all the rage.
10. Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
The first Ninja Gaiden is present and accounted for on the NES Classic, but as with most franchises of its time, things didn’t start to get really good until the sequel. Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos takes what worked in Ryu’s original adventure and ups the ante by introducing bigger levels and new abilities, all the while retaining the punishing difficulty level that made the first game a hit among the more masochistic gamers out there.
Ninja Gaiden II is game that is smart enough to know that you shouldn’t mess with a good thing and as a result, it’s an iterative sequel that improves upon its predecessor without making the original feel any less significant. We can understand why Nintendo had to include the first game and cut Ninja Gaiden II, but if Mario can get all three of his games on the console, what harm would there be in allowing two (or three, since Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom is yet another NES classic) Ninja Gaiden games do the same?
9. R.C. Pro-Am
With Microsoft now owning Rare and thus, the rights to R.C. Pro-Am as well, it makes sense why Rare’s classic racing game wasn’t included with the NES Classic, but its omission still stings all the same. The NES had very few racing games that were actually any good and while R.C. Pro-Am can’t hold a candle to the racing experiences offered on modern gaming hardware, it remains a fun, challenging arcade racer in its own right and was heavily influential on the genre as a whole. In fact, R.C. Pro-Am was one of the first games to feature car combat, and is actually credited with helping inspire the creation of Super Mario Kart. How’s that for a legacy?
8. River City Ransom
Double Dragon may get all the attention, but any gamer worth one’s salt knows that River City Ransom is the superior game, which makes it all the more disheartening that a Double Dragon game made the cut for the NES Classic, but River City Ransom is nowhere to be found. A brawler with RPG elements, RCR lets players explore a whole city teeming with rival gangs to beat up. Fortunately, the game gives you a lot of option for dishing out punishment, as there are a ton of different objects scattered around the world that can be picked up and used as weapons.
Best of all, the game can be played with a friend and you can even use your partner as a weapon if they get stunned! Routinely ranked in the top 20 NES games of all time and having been made available on every version of Nintendo’s Virtual Console, it simply defies reason why it wasn’t included with the NES Classic.
The rare NES port that actually improved upon the arcade version, Rygar introduced the world to the winning gameplay formula of the “Legendary Warrior” Rygar and his “Diskamor” weapon, a fancy term for what was essentially a combat yo-yo. The best thing that can be said for Rygar is that it plays like a mix of Metroid and The Legend of Zelda, cominbing traditional side-scrolling platforming levels with a top-down overworld. There’s also an upgrade system that sees Rygar finding new equipment as he goes, such as a grappling hook and crossbow, which means that the game is constantly introducing new gameplay ideas.
Which is a good thing because Rygar is the kind of game you didn’t put down because you literally couldn’t. For some unfathomnable reason, there’s no way to save your game in Rygar, which meant that players were forced to keep their NES on at all times or risk having to start over at the beginning. This questionable design decision has almost surely tarnished the game’s reputation over the years, but if Nintendo decided to re-release the game with save functionality, Rygar could rise again.
6. Spy Hunter
It’s a shame that no one has been able to make a really good modern Spy Hunter game because back in its NES heyday, it was one of the most entertaining car-based video games around. Originally a hit in the arcades, the NES port of Spy Hunter could never have hoped to live up to the experience of cruising the streets in a tricked-out supercar while the Peter Gunn theme blared in the cockpit, but it still did a respectable job of replicating the look and feel of the arcade version.
Very much indebted to the James Bond franchise, Spy Hunter is all about taking out enemies in style with one of the coolest cars in video game history. Hood mounted machine guns, rockets, oil slicks, and smoke screens are just some of the equipment you’ll use in your supercar that could also transform into a boat. Admittedly, Spy Hunter doesn’t hold quite the same allure as it did back in 1987, but it remains an influential NES classic all the same.
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game
Although the SNES sequel Turtles in Time is the superior game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game is a solid beat-’em-up in its own right and one of the more impressive 8-bit arcade ports to grace the NES. Most gamers got their first taste of this game in the arcades and while the NES port didn’t look as good or pop off the screen with the same vibrancy, it nailed the gameplay, which is the most important part.
In some ways, you could call this version the definitive one because Konami added two exclusive levels that weren’t in the arcade version. Don’t let the game’s Pizza Hut cross promotion fool you — it came with a $5 off coupon printed on the back of the instruction manual — TMNT II was a much better game than its shameless advertising hijinks would suggest. In fact, it’s a downright essential part of the NES library.
4. Tecmo Super Bowl
Good sports games were very difficult to find on the NES but luckily for football fans, they could claim to have the best sports game on the console with Tecmo Super Bowl. Part of the reason for this was that it was simply a well-designed game; with the ability to call complex plays and solid (if rudimentary by today’s standards) gameplay, Tecmo Super Bowl is easily the most authentic football game to be found on the NES.
As good as it is though, TSB wouldn’t be remembered half as fondly if it didn’t also have the official NFL license, which was a huge deal back in 1991. Making a good football game is one thing, but letting players pick from their favorite teams and players took things to a whole other level and helped make Tecmo Super Bowl a true classic. Unfortunately, that NFL license is probably why we didn’t see the game make the jump to the NES Classic, but it would still make an excellent addition if Nintendo found a way around this issue.
Yes, everyone has played Tetris and it has appeared on pretty much every piece of gaming hardware known to man … and that’s precisely why it should have been included with the NES Classic. However, when you talk about Tetris on the NES, things get a bit complicated. That’s because there were two different versions: Nintendo’s official release and an unofficial version released by Tengen (the console software division of Atari Games) in 1988 that was pulled from store shelves after only four weeks after Nintendo successfully sued.
While it would have been great to get either version of Tetris on the NES Classic, we would have loved to have seen Tengen’s version somehow end up on the system as it is widely considered to be the superior version, as Nintendo’s version lacked the side-by-side 2-player mode found in Tengen’s game. As it stands, Tengen’s Tetris has become a collector’s item, with only 10,000 copies known to exist.
2. Vice: Project Doom
Vice: Project Doom is an oft-overlooked third-party NES game published by American Sammy that brings together three different gameplay styles, but in a way that doesn’t feel forced. VPD offers driving levels that feel reminiscent of the Spy Hunter series, sniper shooting levels and of course, side-scrolling stages in which your character runs, jumps, and takes out aliens with a laser-whip. Despite being featured on the cover of Nintendo Power back in 1991, Vice: Project Doom went largely unnoticed back in its day and unfortunately, it’s probably going to stay that way considering it’s never found its way to the Virtual Console and SEGA currently holds the rights. Still, the NES Classic’s library would certainly be bolstered if Vice: Project Doom were ever to miraculously be added to it!
1. Wario’s Woods
Released in late 1994, Wario’s Woods was the final game ever released for the NES, but as history has shown, games released late in a console’s life cycle can often be some of the best, as developers have long since mastered how to make games for the hardware. Easily one of the best looking games ever to grace the NES, Wario’s Woods is also an innovative puzzle game in which you use the character Toad to manipulate falling objects. While Wario’s Woods is definitely not in the same league as Tetris or Dr. Mario, the latter of which is included with the NES Classic, it’s one of the more memorable puzzle games in the NES library and should be part of a second wave of titles to hit the new mini console if and when that happens.