There’s no arguing that the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) had some truly amazing games during its lifetime. It launched with the still fun as hell to play Super Mario Bros., following up the next year with titles like 1942 and Balloon Fight. But by 1987, developers had hit their stride and began producing some truly iconic games.
What follows are 5 of the biggest, most iconic franchises on the NES. These titles not only defined the system, but changed their respective genres, as well as how games are made. Without these games, we might still be playing Asteroids. If you play games today, you owe it to yourselves to know where it all started.
Vampires, Medusa heads, iconic music, and a horror theme unseen yet on the NES, Castlevania may have been a side scrolling platform game but this little gem changed our perceptions of what a platformer could be. To this day, turn on the music for this game and anyone who has ever played it will be instantly transported back to their parents couch, the feel of the NES controller in their hands. The graphics were some of the best we had seen to that point and the whole feel of the game had this great horror vibe that no other game on the system did. From the ghouls to the flying Medusa head, everything felt fresh and new. Konami would change to an open world game with Castlevania 2, but for now we were hooked on a franchise that would go on to produce some truly amazing sequels.
The Legend of Zelda (8/1987)
That theme music, though. If the NES had one thing right, it was the music. So many of the great titles on the NES had such iconic music. The Legend of Zelda was no exception. I get instantly transported back to my childhood every time I hear this tune. The assortment of weapons and objects, the open world gameplay, and the cute little hero were just a few of the elements that made this game unique and so much fun. That gold cartridge was a draw for as well. I can remember collecting every Zelda game’s gold cartridge all the way up through Majora’s Mask. Even after all the iterations this series has produced over the last 25+ years, this title still holds up in my personal top 10 all time list. A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time wouldn’t have been possible without this iconic gem.
Mega Man (12/1987)
The Mega Man series has produced some of the most fun, and difficult platforming games of all time. This title changed things up and gave you the option to complete the bosses in any order you wished, but were rewarded for doing them in a particular order. Everything about this game has become iconic. The Mega Man sprite, the arm cannon, the weapons, and even the bosses. The series wouldn’t catch on here in the States until the following year with stellar Mega Man 2, but the gauntlet had been thrown. Platformers would never be the same after this year.
Boys everywhere wanted to play as a cool space marine shooting aliens and saving the galaxy. They were equally surprised to find out they had been playing as a woman. But Samus’ gender aside, this was another action platformer that helped redefine the genre. The weapons and abilities were well crafted and fun to use, and the bosses were sweat inducing craziness. The map was large and could be explored in multiple ways, again allowing for a modicum of open play that really nothing before 1987 offered. With the platformer being redefined in so many ways this year, gaming, and gamers, would reap the rewards for years to come.
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! (10/1987)
In a year of genre defining platformers and run of the mill action games, sneaking its way in was this icon. Anyone who’s played Punch Out! has a great story of fighting Mike Tyson and probably losing. But then also how sweet it was to finally beat the man at his own game. But beating Tyson wasn’t enough. Then you had see how fast you could beat the game. Then it became a contest with your friends as to who could beat it first. There was just something about this game that made love it. The character animations were funny and larger than life, the boxing gameplay was well done and responsive, and it helped that the referee held more than a passing resemblance to our favorite plumber. Data East’s Ring King, out the same year, tried to compete but couldn’t come close to the responsive controls and shear fun of Punch Out!
What year should we cover next? Let us know down in the comments below.
All opinions are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deck Ape...or anyone else. Arrr!