The Games That Pushed The Limits Of The NES

Pushing The Limits of the NES With Impressive Graphics and Sound

Thinking back to most of the games you played on the NES, it’s easy to remember the 8-bit library as being simple and possibly even primitive. However, if you dig deep into the library, there is a surprising amount of games that maxed out the NES hardware to produce some impressive graphics and sound. With the Famicom / NES hardware remaining popular and active on the retail scene for over a decade, game developers had a lot of time to perfect their programming techniques and squeeze every last bit of power out of the iconic console. Below, RadarScope1 and racketboy team up to review some of the most demanding NES games in terms of hardware resources.

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Kirby’s Adventure

Kirby Adventure NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1993

Key Technical Features:

  • Amazing use of color
  • Smooth animation
  • Largest licensed NES game at 6 Mbit

What Makes The Game Special:
Kirby was another one of those games that came out for the NES as many Nintendo fans already had started building their SNES libraries. It’s a cute and fun-filled game that, like Super Mario Bros 3, looked like an early SNES game with a smaller color palette. Kirby had an advantage on Mario 3, however, as it was the largest licensed NES cart at 6 Mbit (and it shows).

Rather than make some piece of trash as the last great NES game, the makers polished it and polished it until you can almost see your face in it. The graphics stretch the 8-bit format to its absolute limit. It is the aesthetic equivalent of painting the Lord’s Prayer on a grain of rice – the beauty is that of working within the limitations.

Kirby himself is a beautiful vibrant pink, the worlds he passes through are delicious lime greens, ice blues, chocolate browns – the rich colors do not attempt to emulate 16 bit, but instead try to make 8 bit as beautiful as possible. The attention to detail incredible as Kirby’s character animations are about as good as they get on the NES.

The backgrounds’ graphics may be The biggest strength of the game. In relation to most other NES games, the backgrounds in Kirby’s Adventure are superb. There’s one level that takes place in a forest and you can see an ocean in the distance. There is also some nifty parallax scrolling in the tower stages of the game. If all that wasn’t enough, the game has smooth animation as well. Even the intros to each level were nifty. All these little elements come together to create one “dreamy” gaming experience.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video of Kirby’s Adventure

Battletoads

Battletoads NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1991

Key Technical Features:

  • Large sprites with impressive animations
  • Scrolling and rotating backgrounds
  • Large number of levels
  • Creative use of graphical techniques to create 16-bit-like experience

What Makes The Game Special:
This innovative beatemup from Rare was one of the most impressive games on the NES. Clearly ripping off the Ninja Turtles craze and mashing it up with the game play of Double Dragon, Battletoads did introduce some fresh gameplay mechanics, including vertical scrolling stages that featured cylindrical backgrounds rotating in pseudo-3D. The hover bike sequences are some of the fastest (and most frustrating) bits of game play the NES ever saw.

The originality of each Battletoads stage (I believe there were around 12 back in the day when 8 was considered huge) made you believe it was a 16 bit game all the way. From descending deep chasms on a rope to going at the speed of light on racer bikes to climbing on the backs of snakes to a literal rat race to climbing a giant tower that tracks in 3D as you walk around it, this game was and still is amazing.

Another characteristic that made BattleToads memorable was its stylized look and exaggerated ways of finishing off enemies. These include a headbutt that would have the battletoad sprout ram’s horns or a football helmet, a punch with an extremely enlarged fist, and on climbing/falling levels, the ability to transform into a boulder and act as a wrecking ball. Each of these effects showed off some graphical techniques that had never really been explored by anyone else.

It is also worth nothing that a follow-up, Battletoads & Double Dragon, was released two years later in 1993, but I don’t think it really even reaches the level of the original in terms of graphics. (Perhaps the developers were too busy with the 16-bit ports)

See The Game In Action:
Gameplay Video Clips of Battletoads

Crisis Force

Crisis Force NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1991

Key Technical Features:

  • Insane amount of action and movement on the screen
  • Parallax scrolling galore
  • Great sprite animation effect include pseudo 3D rotations
  • Huge boss battles
  • Nice cinematic screen animations

What Makes The Game Special:
If you think the TurboGrafx-16 was the only 8-bit machine that could have fun with shmups, you need to take a look at Crisis Force. This classic has often been called “the Axelay of the Famicom”, and has the graphical muscle to back the claim up.

Konami pulled out all the stops with graphics that are almost at a 16-bit level in terms of multiple-scrolling backgrounds and large sprites. The first time I saw it in action, I was shocked… I’d never seen a Famicom/NES pull off those kinds of tricks. Some of the parallax and other effects are truly on the level of a Genesis shooter.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Crisis Force

Recca Summer Carnival ‘92

Recca NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1992

Key Technical Features:

  • Jaw-dropping fast gameplay
  • Tons of simultaneous on-screen action
  • Some trippy background effects
  • Great sound with 4 channels of 8-bit sampled loops

What Makes The Game Special:
This shmup is insane. It isn’t very often than I see a game fling sprites around as quickly as Recca. This Japan-only Famicom game

The actual game sprites are pretty basic, but some of the backgrounds and bosses are quite colorful. There are other levels that have some trippy graphical effects going on to wow onlookers and make your eyes go even crazier while trying to dodge bullets.

Further completing the technical powerhouse, Recca also uses 4 channels of 8-bit sampled sound loops to deliver some audio that is rarely achieved on the Famicom/NES. Its trance/techno-style soundtrack is cutting edge for the early 90’s an fits right in with the action.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Recca Summer Carnival ‘92

Metal Storm

Metal Storm NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1991

Key Technical Features:

  • Smooth and stylistic animations
  • Realistic gravity effects
  • Multi-layers backgrounds
  • Lots of parallax scrolling without slowdown

What Makes The Game Special:
Before you write this game off because of the screenshots, let me assure you that you need to see Metal Storm in action to appreciate its graphical prowess. A single frame of the mech sprite isn’t overly impressive, but one you see it walking around and engaging in combat, it’s really quite impressive.

Irem, the developers behind R-Type, pieced together this mech-based run-n-gun that I looks like an early version of the Assault Suit Leynos series in terms of both gameplay and graphics.

One of the coolest little gimmicks of Metal Storm is your little mech’s ability to play with gravity in order to walk upside on ceilings. This is very similar to certain levels in Megaman and Gunstar Heroes, but Metal Storm pulled it off years before them and animated changes in gravity more realistically than any 8-bit game I have seen.

I know this is a small detail, but the anime-inspired explosion animations on Metal Storm rival some of the coolest of the 16-bit generation. There are also two different layers of backgrounds, as well as the foreground, which gives a nice perspective view as you move along. It wasn’t until the SNES that layered backgrounds became common. There can be occasional flickering when many objects are on the screen at once. However this is rare and barely noticeable when it does occur, and there is no gameplay slowdown.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Metal Storm

Batman: Return of the Joker

Batman: Return of the Joker NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1991

Key Technical Features:

  • Could pass for a 16-bit game
  • Large sprites and bosses
  • Excellent use of color
  • Fast and Fluid animation

What Makes The Game Special:
If you watch this game in action, but aren’t looking very closely at the density of the pixels, you would think Return of the Joker is an early Genesis game (there is a Genesis port, BTW)

Just by watching this final boss battle of the game, you can see that the developers at Sunsoft knew how to effectively use the NES’s limited color palate to create a dark, but engaging atmosphere. You can also see how quickly Batman can move around while there is a good deal of subtle animations going on.

Even the standard level gameplay looks like something would see in a 16-bit title. The way the enemies drop down and guns fire remind me a bit of Gunstar Heroes. Obviously, it doesn’t have some of the other graphical treats the Gunstar does, but for an NES title, some of the effects are stunning.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Batman: Return of the Joker

Gradius & Gradius II

Gradius 2 NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1986 and 1988 respectively

Key Technical Features:

  • Large sprite count due to plenty of enemies and bullets on the screen
  • Minimal amount of slowdown and flicker
  • Detailed graphics from excellent arcade port

What Makes The Game Special:
The NES saw plenty of arcade ports of varying quality throughout its lifespan. Few of those titles pushed the hardware like Konami’s Gradius, and the Japan-only Gradius II.

The archetypal horizontal shooter put a slew of enemies and dozens of bullets on screen at once. Most impressively, Konami’s programmers did it all with only a minimal amount of slowdown or flicker in an era when such chugging and flashing was almost expected. The graphics are detailed enough to put the port of the original game on par with its arcade counterpart and the music, though fairly repetitive, is suitably epic for a space shooter. All this from a title released relatively early in the console’s lifespan. For a truly mind-blowing experience, check out videos of the sequel, Gradius II.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Gradius

Contra

Contra NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1988

Key Technical Features:

  • Minimal amount of slowdown despite heavy shooting action
  • Lots of explosion animations
  • Pseudo 3D stages with large number of bullets
  • Huge boss battles
  • Scrolling maps and cutscenses between levels in Famicom version

What Makes The Game Special:
Another Konami title, Contra is notable for being an exception to the norms of the day in that many then (and now) regarded the NES version superior to the arcade title it on which it was based.

The run-and-gun gameplay is fast-paced and is rarely hampered by slowdown – though flicker is a problem. Explosions abound, giving the title the feel of macho actions flicks of the ’80s. The perspective shifts with each of the eight stages, from horizontal scrolling to vertical and back, and in between gamers were treated to pseudo-3D corridor stages where bullets and grenades were poured on in thick waves.

The soundtrack rocks as hard as the action, ranging from driving anthems to slightly more atmospheric tunes. The huge bosses are of special note. Perhaps best of all, two players could tackle everything Contra threw at them at the same time.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Contra

Journey to Silius

Journey to Silius NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1990

Key Technical Features:

  • Detailed and smooth character animations
  • Screen-filling bosses
  • Detailed backgrounds and environments
  • Unique audio techniques combined with killer soundtrack

What Makes The Game Special:
On a number of occasions, Sunsoft has proven themselves to be one of the most skilled developers for the NES. Journey to Silius is one of Sunsofts finest products in the era due to its well-rounded graphics, audio, and gameplay. The game obviously draws some inspirations for classics such as Megaman and Contra, but it improves on some things to create an experience that is more modern than your typical NES title.

The main character animation is impressive, especially when running and jumping. There is also some decent momentum-based jumping physics in place to add to the realism (and challenge). The bosses are also impressively large, colorful, and well-detailed. The game’s backgrounds are nothing short of beautiful. They portray the environment of a bleak, apocalyptic future with vibrant colors and detail. (The game was originally anticipated to use the Terminator license) For example, in the second level’s underground tunnel, the scene is strongly detailed, right down to the little glowing red lights that line the walls.

There aren’t a lot of NES games that impress me with the musical abilities, but Journey to Silius is one of the few exceptions. One of its unique aspects is that rather than use the Digital channel for the kick or snare (as was usually done), they use the Digital channel for a simple sampled bassline. And then the kick drum uses the Triangle channel which gives it a very different tone. The game’s audio isn’t only extraordinary on a technical level, but it also has one of the best game soundtracks of the decade.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Journey to Silius

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

Castlevania 3 NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1990

Key Technical Features:

  • Heavy doses of rotation effects and parallax faking
  • Detailed background and foreground elements
  • Additional sound channels via Konami’s VRC6 sound chip

What Makes The Game Special:
With the third installment of the NES Castlevanias, Konami packed a very large game into that small cartridge with a couple of custom mappers, which gave the NES very nice graphic effects, such as rotation and parallax faking. The graphics were also revamped and ended up being of the best on the NES. A very large amount of animated tiles in the backgrounds of movement stages fill the game with a haunting atmosphere. Some action stages have some surprises that add to the challenge, such as automatic scrolling, rising water, crumbling bridges, and falling towers.

Konami made the most of the graphical capabilities of the NES to provide intricate details such as stained-glass windows, moss on rocks, eerie swamp fog, ominous shadows, rotting wood, and spectacular lightning flashes. This is a definite step up from Castlevania 2 which often repeated backgrounds. The enemies and bosses look much better than they did in the previous Castlevania games (which were good to start with). The animation is one thing that is much improved, as many of characters now have more than just one or two frames.

The Famicom version, Akumajou Densetsu in Japan, used Konami’s VRC6 chip for additional sound channels. A couple other Konami games use that chip as well. (Only the Famicom supports the extra sound chip)

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Castlevania 3

 

Blaster Master

Blaster Master NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1988

Key Technical Features:

  • “Tiling” techniques to create impressive environments
  • Detailed explosions and animations
  • Large bosses

What Makes The Game Special:
This game was looked and sounded fantastic at the time of its 1988 release. 16-bit systems were just coming onto the market at the time, and maybe the best compliment that can be given to Master Blaster is that it almost looks like a 16-bit title. Little touches like enemy explosions are highly detailed, and the bosses at the end of the top-down stages are mammoth. The level of detail in the side-scrolling sections goes beyond most any other game of the 8-bit generation.

Developer Sunsoft made perhaps the best use of the “tile” method of creating environments of any game on the NES. Blaster Master felt like two games in one, thanks to its mixture of side-scrolling vehicle-platforming stages and the top-down areas that felt like Mega Man had just been dropped into a Zelda game. The music rocks, too, though it isn’t quite as earth-shattering as that of Mega Man series.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Blaster Master

Crystalis

Crystalis NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1990

Key Technical Features:

  • Imaginative use of color
  • Detailed environments

What Makes The Game Special:
When you think of SNK, 2D fighters and Metal Slug games probably come to mind. However, you may be surprised to know that one of SNK’s first successes was actually an RPG for the NES that rivaled Zelda in terms of both gameplay and technical prowest.

Despite its quality, Crystalis never became a runaway hit, although it is considered today a cult classic among NES junkies. Even in these early days, you can see SNK’s skill for maxing out limited hardware to create colorful creations that were not only beautiful, but also had solid gameplay.

The sprites were clean and detailed considering they were relatively small to cater to its genre. However, the animation throughout your adventure is enough to make The Legend of Zelda look rather dated. In addition, the environments in Crystalis somehow feel a bit more organic as opposed the the blockiness you might otherwise expect from an NES game.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Crystalis

Little Samson

Little Samson NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1991

Key Technical Features:

  • Fluid character sprite animations
  • Amazingly detailed and colorful backgrounds

What Makes The Game Special:
This underrated little action shooter is a fun and frantic that has some graphical flair. Being a late-generation NES game, Little Samson is packed with clean and bright graphics and smooth animation. The actual sprites aren’t impressive on their own, but after seeing them in motion, you can see that the developer prioritized smoothness over detail.

The backgrounds, on the other hand, can be quite detailed and colorful. This more than makes up for the any sprites you might think are boring. Taito also manages keeps the frame rate and flicker under control, which is crucial for some of the frantic firefights.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Little Samson

 

Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1992

Key Technical Features:

  • Very large sprites
  • Fluid animation
  • Detailed animated backgrounds

What Makes The Game Special:
Prince of Persia was a revolutionary game when it was originally released on the Apple II in 1989, but due to its realistic character animation, it was still a technical marvel when the NES port was released three years later.

The NES port looks very similar to the PC version, but some of the screens resort to a bit of scrolling, since they can’t fit entirely on the screen.  Nevertheless, it is still a thrill to see this classic running and looking so good on the good ‘ol NES.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video of Prince of Persia

 

Slalom

Slalom NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1987

Key Technical Features:

  • First NES title to feature splitscreen action
  • Surprising sense of speed
  • Very smooth animation
  • An early attempt at a pseudo 3D experience

What Makes The Game Special:
The most cutting edge racing game ever to grace the NES took place on snow, not pavement. Slalom is another early-cycle title that pushed the console. It was published in 1987, and was the first Rare title published on Nintendo hardware, marking the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. The snowy setting was key to the technical achievement. By placing a simple white strip between two gray areas on either side, Rare’s programmers were able to create incredibly smooth and speedy gameplay.

Toss in moguls, trees, flagpoles, snowmen, sledders and an unending onslaught of other skiers and you have a white-knuckle ride. Though it used essentially the same kind of programming as other pseudo-3D racers of the day, very few if any NES racers felt as fast as Slalom. This was also the first NES title to use a split-screen view for head-to-head two-player action, which is a distinction in and of itself.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Slalom

3D World Runner

3D World Runner NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1988

Key Technical Features:

  • Pseudo 3D experience that is better than the Famicom version of Space Harrier

What Makes The Game Special:
After seeing 3D World Runner in motion, Sega fans will notice a similarities to the Space Harrier games. The graphical style and technique is very similar, but in this game you don’t get to fly around — you just run. Nevertheless, the pseudo 3D effect is well executed considering its running on the NES hardware and was developed in 1987.

There’s also a 3D mode using normal red/blue 3D glasses, which technically beat Space Harrier 3D to the punch. Unfortunately, it’s just not a whole lot of fun.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of 3D World Runner

Cosmic Epsilon

Lagrange Point NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1989

Key Technical Features:

  • Beat Space Harrier at its own game on the NES
  • Pseudo 3D  graphics with slick shooting action
  • Smooth animation
  • Nice animated cutscenes

What Makes The Game Special:
One year after 3D World Runner was released, Cosmic Epsilon raised the stakes by bring shooting action to complete the goal Space Harrier clone that is better than the NES Space Harrier Port.

The colors weren’t as interesting as 3D World Runner, nor were the environments as detailed, but at least you could shoot enemies and fly around — and you could do effectively and smoothly.  Cosmic Epsilon also added some animated cinemas to add to the polish.

See The Game In Action: Play Online Emulation of Cosmic Epsilon

Moon Crystal

Moon Crystal NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1992

Key Technical Features:

  • Detailed and smooth character animations
  • Impressive anime-styled intro sequence

What Makes The Game Special:
By 1992, the Super Nintendo was already over a year into it’s launch, but that didn’t stop some developers from creating games for the ever-popular NES. Of course, by then, most developers were very comfortable with the hardware and were able to squeeze every last bit of power to make them relevant when compared to newer 16-bit games.

Never released in the west, Moon Crystal is a side-scrolling platformer that’s notable for its main character’s silky smooth animation. It’s not on par with the rotoscoped animation of Prince of Persia, but it’s well beyond most 8-bit platformers. Moon Crystal also has an intro sequence featuring Japanese anime characters that looked more like something out of TG-16 title than an NES game. Granted, it was limited to some simple animation, but it is still impressive for the NES.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Moon Crystal

Super Mario Bros 3.

Super Mario Bros 3 NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1988

Key Technical Features:

  • Heavy use of color
  • Detailed sprites
  • Diagonal scrolling

What Makes The Game Special:
Released in 1988 (in Japan, 1989 in the U.S.), the third installment of the Nintendo’s generation-defining series likely went far beyond anything the Big N’s engineers thought possible on the hardware when they designed it. Bursting with color and imaginative settings, Mario 3 set the bar for platformers and games in general with its sheer depth and size. Just about every gamer was blown away by how groundbreaking SMB3 was when it was debuted. (Anyone remember watching The Wizard in 1989?)

There are dozens of playable levels spread across eight worlds that have their own distinct theme and style. While most side-scrolling games of the time scrolled only vertically or horizontally, Mario’s third adventure allowed him to fly and jump in every direction, including diagonally. For another comparison as to how far the NES had come by this time, consider this: the original Mario Bros., an arcade game that was given a full retail release at the NES’s 1983 Japanese launch, was included as a souped-up mini-game in Mario 3.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Super Mario Bros. 3

 

Thrilla’s Surfari

Thrilla's Surfari NES ScreenshotRelease Date: ?

Key Techincal Features: 

  • Some impressive physics
  • Vivid color and shading
  • Quick gameplay with lots of obstacles without slowdown
  • Exploding monkeys

What Makes The Game Special:
This is one rather bizarre game (what the opening cutscenes) that involves a gorilla that surfs and skates through a number of tricky situations.  The first thing that caught my eye about Thrilla’s Surfari was the fact that it looks like somebody tried cramming a Donkey Kong Country game into a NES cart (like those pirate releases of days gone by).   The developers apparently made good use of the NES’s available colors to create a vivid and well-animated experience.

The actual gameplay is also rather creative and impressive from a technical standpoint.  I naturally draw comparisons to one of the Gameboy Advance version of Tony Hawk fused with a traditional platforming game.  The physics and tricks Thrilla can pull off obviously aren’t on the same level as Tony Hawk’s, but considering the game’s vintage and it is a platformer, it is impressive.

For instance, depending on Thrilla’s speed and how he lands/crashes, he could have a simple fall or completely explode into pieces like a Mortal Kombat fatality.  Where was  Joe Lieberman when this was released?

Once the game progresses, it will require you to maneuver Thrilla at higher speeds.  On some of the later levels, the NES was sure to be sweating a bit, but it doesn’t seem to display any slowdown.
See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video of Thrilla’s Surfari

Solar Jetman

Solar Jetman NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1990

Key Technical Features:

  • Incredible gravity physics
  • Smooth animation enabling 3D-like rotations
  • Detailed cutscene animations

What Makes The Game Special:
The gameplay for Solar Jetman was old-school even for an old-school console, but its graphical techniques were still cutting edge, thanks to Zippo Games and Rare. This multi-directional shooter depends heavily on its impressive gravity physics, much like its predecessors, Thrust and Gravitar. As Wikipedia says so eloquently, “The player’s craft is subject to inertia but not drag, so to stop moving in one direction it needs to thrust in the opposite way. The constant pull of gravity makes stable flight impossible and steering a skill in itself.”

As if Solar Jetman’s physics engine was enough of a programming feat, the animations of our Jetman are quite nice as well. Even though the sprite designs are simple, they animate in a way that gives the illusion of rotating in 3D.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video Clips of Solar Jetman

Lagrange Point

Lagrange Point NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1991

Key Technical Features:

  • Utilizes Konami’s VRC7 soundchip
  • Sound quality nearly on par with Sega Genesis games
  • Nice animated cutscenes

What Makes The Game Special:
This Japan-only Famicom title is an RPG from Konami. Since it isn’t a classic in terms of gameplay, it is primarily known for its unique audio capabilities. Lagrange Point is the only game to use Konami’s VRC7 soundchip, which gives it dramatically improved audio capabilities, roughly analogous to Sega Genesis. It is obviously quite impressive. Due to its release late in the 8-bit era and the use of the advanced chip, the game was never localized.

It is also worth mentioning that it has some detailed and animated cutscenes to set the story for this RPG.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video of Lagrange Point

Dragon’s Lair

Dragon's Lair NES ScreenshotRelease Date: 1990

Key Technical Features:

  • Very large sprites
  • Fluid animation
  • Detailed animated backgrounds

What Makes The Game Special:
Ok, so the gameplay of this NES port pretty much sucks, but you have to give the developers credit for making it look good.  (Pretty much the same concept of the arcade original).

Since the NES obviously couldn’t pull off the full motion video of the original game, huge sprites were used in an attempt to re-create the experience.  It didn’t really accomplish its mission, but it is still impressive for the NES hardware.  The jumping animation is pretty dorky-looking, but there are a number of frames of animation throughout the game to ensure some smooth movement.

See The Game In Action: Gameplay Video of Dragon’s Lair

Honorable Mentions

  • Ninja Gaiden Series – Fast and furious.  Cutscenes were also a sight to behold. (videos)
  • NES to USB Adapter from Amazon.comThe Immortal – nice execution of isometric perspective technique (video)
  • Mighty Final Fight – Large sprites with brilliantly smooth and quick fighting animations (video)
  • Phantom Fighter – some relatively realistic walking and fighting animations
  • Nightshade – Good balance of colors, shading, and animation (video)
  • Wurm: Journey To The Center of the Earth – Interesting side-scrolling shooter that has some colorful environments and fast action (video)
  • Sword Master – has some impressive parallax scrolling and nice cinematic screens (video)
  • Dragon Warrior 4 (lengthy quest, multiple chapters) – 512KB. (video)
  • Baseball Stars – You could climb the wall and it animated right, dive, jump. (video)
  • Ikari III: The Rescue – A cool top-down action title from SNK that has detailed landscapes and cool battle animations (video)
  • Punch-Out – Big sprites bursting with color and character (video)
  • After Burner – Rivals the Sega Master System version, but choppier and not quite and pleasant-looking as 3D World Runner (video)
  • Megaman Series – a classic franchise filled with large, colorful graphic and sweet soundtracks (video)
  • Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers – a two-player platformer with large sprites and lots of action going on with now slow-down (video)
  • Faxanadu – The mist levels are pretty intense for 8-bit (video)
  • Final Fantasy III: This Japan-only release was a killer RPG with a huge scope (video)
  • Marble Madness – the famous title had great physics of its own and a great 3D-like environment (video)
  • Totally Rad – One of the most colorful run-and-gun platformers on the console (video)

90 Comments

  1. dudex77 says:

    Nice list! Didn’t the sound get messed up on the nes version of Castlevania 3 because of hardware issues? I never got to experience that game in real life but I’ve heard complaints about that or something.

  2. racketboy says:

    I’m having way too much fun putting this thing together. In case you are concerned one of your favorites is missing, I have about 10 more games to add either to the main section or honorable mentions. I just wanted to post what I had so far. I’ll be adding more tonight and tomorrow morning.

    Hope you enjoy them!

  3. racketboy says:

    dudex77, not quite sure… I’m not the Castlevania expert — perhaps it was because of the conversion from the superior Famicom version.

  4. elvis says:

    Another excellent article. Well thought out and well written.

    I’m interested to see if you ever go back and revisit each console with a “worst games” list. That would be a laugh. :)

  5. StarsCream says:

    Gotta add “Totally Rad” to the list. It was a so-so game, but the graphics were way beyond normal NES fare.

    Ooh, “Little Nemo” too, but you were gonna do that allready right?

  6. jeffx says:

    your youtube link to Moon Crystal points to Blaster Master.

    elvis: worst game? that would be deadly towers…

  7. racketboy says:

    Fixed the link and added Thrilla’s Surfari…

  8. Calibrator says:

    Though I believe that you are right with most games, I don’t think that adding a sound chip pushes the original console to its limits. Obviously they were reached or they wouldn’t have added hardware.

    Also I think that using a beautiful color selection or using well designed (but standard sized) sprites is pushing the limits of the machine as the strain on the hardware is the same as with ugly colors or sprites.
    This doesn’t make the games worse – it only shows what great artists the software companies use.

    take care,
    Calibrator

  9. racketboy says:

    In my mind, I do discount the fact that an extra chip was added. But, technically, they have to get the chip to work with the existing hardware, so I think it’s still worth mentioning.

    As for the colors issue, it take some programming skill to creatively use available colors a picture who’s sum is better than its parts (if that makes any sense)

    For instance, if you had software downgrade a photographic image down to 32 colors, it probably wouldn’t do as good as a job as a skilled artist arranging 32 different colors to make a more realistic image.

    As a programmer myself, I am humbled at what these developers accomplished with such limited resources.

  10. Arion says:

    There is nothing wrong with the sound in castlevania 3. But the famicom verison does have better music than the us/pal version

  11. D123456 says:

    Thanks for another excelling-ent article.
    I remember seeing Batman at a friends house. It was some pirated copy of the game and I was blown away. At that time Genesis games don’t look that good. Also a favorite is Castlevania3, great music and backgrounds!

  12. Animental says:

    You forgot Base Wars!

    Beautiful, fluid animation.
    An entire team of customizable robots.
    Street fighting.
    Multiple weapons.
    Different ‘bot chassis with different strengths/weaknesses.
    Decent voice effects.

  13. theefxman says:

    If you want to see what the NES is capable of going forward, check out the little publicized game me and Kent Hansen (Snowbro) are working on. http://neotoxin.moccamagic.com/

    Neotoxin when complete will be a blend of Metroid, Metal Gear, with RPG elements like Castlevania SOTN. You can also check out videos of it in action. Look on the news page for links to the movies.

    Some of the best graphics and music on a nes game to date, coming your way soon. Leave some comments on the youtube page or here if you have questions. Take care!

    TheEFXman

  14. mike says:

    Wizards and Warriors, anyone?

  15. Mozgus says:

    Thanks for the link to NeoToxin. Looks and sounds great.

  16. Jon says:

    WHat about 1943? One of the hardest games AND LONG games. It was also a VERY fun game.

  17. tomo says:

    No Metroid? That game was boss, fellas!

  18. drbuns says:

    I am surprised to see that Street Fighter 2010 is not the list. That is possibly the most visually impressive game on the NES. Not only that, bt this article fails to mention which games used add-on MMX chips to boost memory, visual, etc. Nearly all later (end of life) games for NES had these chips. without those, everything would loko at best like Super Mario Bros 2.

  19. G says:

    Captain Skyhawk was one of my favorites. It was great back then, and is in need of a remake now.

  20. The Apprentice says:

    Guerrilla war should have been on this list man. Just like Ikari Warriors but several times faster, blowing tanks up, explosions everywhere, blowing up helecopters with grenades and multiple weapons to pick up (like rocket launchers and flame throwers). It was an amazing game and my favorite on the NES.

  21. CC says:

    I thought I was the only person on earth who liked Blaster Master and Solar Jetman. The gravitational effects in SJ rocked. I’m reeeeeally holping for both to be made available for Virtual Console, not holding my breath though.

  22. Brian says:

    Snake, Rattle, and Roll was the first game to come to my mind when I saw this headline… check it out… LOTS of color use, 3d gameplay, great audio… replayability…

  23. Matt says:

    How about Dragon Warrior 4? What a great NES game!

  24. Willy says:

    Great list, but your pic of Gradius & Gradius II is a pic of Life Force for the NES, very similar games.

  25. daCuk says:

    I think that, if you included Ninja Gaiden on the Honorable Mention list, you need to also include Captain Tsubasa 2 on it. The whole game is comprised of animated cutscenes ONLY, and is a incredible combination of RPG and Sports games.
    The obvious limitation is the Japanese language needed to play, but after you learn the basic commands, the game is a blast.
    Also, Wai Wai World 2 is an excelent example of multiple game genres in one cartridge, all while giving Konami fans a little bit of fan-service.

    Even though, interesting list.

  26. racketboy says:

    Thanks guys — I’m working on adding some of them, but I won’t be able to fully feature too much as I don’t want it getting too long and graphics-heavy :)

  27. bonefish says:

    LOL where is Dinowarz hahaha

  28. Ty says:

    I can’t believe Star Tropics isn’t on the list! It easily has some of the best graphics on the NES, especially in terms of color palette and sprite detail. Star Tropics 2 was eye-popping all around in the graphics department.

  29. nagash says:

    hey! I saw the post title in a news feed and thought “if this list does not include Battletoads it’s lame” lol
    turned out it’s not. good article ;)

  30. Matt says:

    GREMLINS 2!!! Looks like a Super Nintendo game, Graphically the best NES game (unless Hellraiser had been released)

  31. Matt says:

    Re: a lot of the comments about this game or that game being the best, it doesn’t matter how fun Metroid was, it did not push the NES’s limits. It was an early release! They had not even began to discover the NES capabilities by then.
    haha, I definatley remember slow down in 2player Contra from the insane amount of bullets!

  32. go_boy says:

    I’d like to add Strider, Little Nemo, and Lifeforce to the list. Each of them looked and sounded great! Gameplay was good on all (Strider was a bit weak if I remember, but it could be that I’m just remember how friggin *hard* it was, heh).

  33. Brian says:

    Actually, Metroid did push the current limits of the hardware at the time it was created, but did not near the limits of games that were later released with larger storage possibilities. The tricks used to make the most of the existing hardware were actually phenomenal!

    More information here: http://mdb.classicgaming.gamespy.com/m1/lvldata.htm

    Tidbit: the elevator scenes were just a coverup for very advanced “loading” sequences while the next area was being compiled…

  34. Deranged says:

    Castlevania 3 was the first game I saved my money up to buy, had to mow lawns and shovel driveways for a long time.
    Mario 3 was a birthday present, actually I had recieved a toys r us gift certificate and bought that. I already knew before getting to the store what I wanted, I ran to the game aisle and just grabbed that ticket to get it. Best game ever, I dont think anything tops that day.

  35. Painkiller says:

    Hey the game Journey to Silius is the same game as RAF on NES. Very odd, I’ve only played RAF….5 out of 5 game

  36. Awesome article RB and RadarScope1.

    Kirby’s Adventure is right up at the top of the page wich was a wise move as its the first game that everyone would think of. I’ve been playing it recently and it really does look sublime.

    BTW good call StarsCream on Totally Rad. That game had some great graphics. One of the first games I ever owned.

  37. JakeB says:

    It may not be the most well known game, but IMO “Magician” had the most detailed graphics and animation for an NES game. Great list though. May not be pushing limits, but River City Ransom was hellafun.
    There should be a correction too.
    Dragon Warrior 4 was the largest cart size at about 8Mbit(1MB) vice Kirby’s 6Mb.
    Castlevania 3 in US was smaller compared to JPN cart. Biggest difference was the clock tower music was about 4 minutes long. To my recollection, the US music was looped at 2mins.

  38. racketboy says:

    Actually, the Dragon Warrior 8Mbit size is incorrect information — I believe it was based it was a extra big ROM dump somebody did. It’s really only 4Mbit.

  39. Five Elements says:

    What about Street Fighter 2010 by Capcom, and Double Dragon II: The Revenge by Acclaim?

  40. ben andersen says:

    Lists like this are usually more of favorite game lists. My personal favorite is The Guardian Legend, a great Zelda-like adventure where the dungeons are shmup style. The game had many unique weapons for both the zelda like outerworld and the shmup dungeons, the story line was eerie, the game complex and precise and the enemies were very diverse.

    Here’s a link to my personal collection of games carts:
    http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pQNXyvw4KAhHvuX-pCYLKJw
    I play regularly and plan to complete them all someday, I also realize that most people have the complete library in emulator roms, as do I but for gameplay I am a purist without reason although I play on a NES 2 toploader 1993.

  41. anon says:

    No Micro Machines?

  42. godzilla says:

    Great list :) loved seing some of the japanese titles there that I had never seen before.

    For me in the US, the best NES shooter I’ve ever played (in terms of speed and technical excellence,) was Gun-Nac. Zanac was pretty decent, too.

    Solstice had some of the best music I’ve heard from a US nes game and great 3d isometric graphics and gameplay. Definately one of the best tech us nes games (I agree on skyhawk and snake rattle and roll, also.)

  43. Tom says:

    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II and III were pretty slick looking NES games.

  44. RadarScope1 says:

    I don’t think there is any loading time in Metroid. It’s a cartridge. How could that be? They were more likely just wanting a more defined break between each of the main areas.

    Funny how that foreshadowed techniques that programmers use today, though.

  45. neomerge says:

    How could you forget WILLOW!! That game had snes looking graphics and it was a NES game!

  46. Ravi says:

    Wow! great work to put the list of Nes game in the days when people are forgetting PS2 and Xbox 1.

  47. Fusion says:

    I think you should check out and add Adventures of Bayou Billy to that list. Not only was it one of the few decent brawlers the NES had, it also had very extensive use of the PCM channel, and the driving mode was incredibly detailed for it’s time. It also sported a shooting gallery-type mode whose final boss fight in-game was a helicopter.

  48. tim says:

    Yay! Finally some credit given to Little Samson. I used to love that game.

  49. Disch says:

    I enjoyed reading the article — although the title kind of ruined it for me.

    The article is basically fine, I just don’t like how it’s spoken as if it’s speaking of technical limitations when it isn’t really. What seemed to be the qualifications for “pushing the limits” for most of these games was them having good graphics.

    I do agree with several of the game choices — but usually for reasons other than what is mentioned here.

    Anyway rather than rant about my beefs yet again, I’ll simply provide a link to another forum where I ranted about the article for those interested:

    http://www.romhacking.net/forum/index.php/topic,5197.0.html

    Again I’m not intending to bash the article. The article itself is good, just not how it’s presented.

  50. racketboy says:

    Well, my intentions were to get more technical, but I found it difficult to find some of the technical detail for the games. I hope to revise it later with more details.

    Do you know of any reliable sources of this information?

  51. Disch says:

    Nah I can’t really recommend any specific source. If you’re just looking for general NES/FC hardware info there’s always nesdev ( http://nesdev.parodius.com ), but that’s a very general link.

    IMO the thing that makes this kind of article so tricky is that the cartridge itself has additional hardware in the form of additional RAM, MMC, and extra PRG/CHR ROM. So the games that seem like they squeeze more power out of the NES are really just usually taking advantage of the extra power they put on their cartridge. It’s not like more modern disc systems where all games start with an equal medium — the cartridges themselves give some games an “unfair” advantage.

    So I guess that means you could put the article in one of two general directions:

    1) Games that got the most out of the NES via having powerful additional hardware (this would probably be your Lagrange Point, Just Breed, possibly Crisis Force, etc)

    or 2) Games that did the most with minimal additional hardware (this would be your Slalom, Battletoads, Micro Machines, etc)

    Compiling a complete list of either of those would be pretty hard, though.

    Personally — I think the kind of list you have now is good… even though they may not “push the limits”, they certainly are impressive and one could even argue groundbreaking (when you consider release dates and similar games that were out at the time, etc). All I was meaning to say was that I wished the article took an approach similar to that. But I tend to be overly anal about a lot of things ^^’

    Anyway I know I come across as opinionated and crass sometimes. I mean no disrespect, and I know I’m a lot pickier than I should be. Like I say, I really do like the article, and didn’t mean to bash it. =)

  52. racketboy says:

    No offense taken at all! I appreciate comments like yours. I actually have the same complaints about my own article. I can be a real perfectionist, but when it comes to pumping out a new solid article every few days, I make compromises sometimes.

    Fortunately, what’s great about this medium is that I can go back and polish up old articles. I do revisions from time to time — especially for a piece of a series like this.

  53. Gentlegamer says:

    It is a feature and strength of cart systems to be able to use additional chips in the carts to enhance the games. It should be remembered that the Famicom was released in Japan in 1983 . . . it was a contemporary of Colecovision! Using extra chips to extend the abilities of the system was brilliant.

  54. Joe Black says:

    Lot’s of ‘zelda-like’ mentions, but zelda’s not on the list? Surprising.

    Also… Duck Hunt is always overlooked. That gun was just plain cool. It deserves some kudos.

  55. IS THIS GAME BATTLETOADS?

  56. ott0bot says:

    Just for future reference it would be good to know what region the game is available in. Great list, though!

  57. Alex says:

    Pretty good picks, though a couple were a bit puzzling.. like battletoads: “Large sprites with impressive animations” I remember the queen having 0 frames of animation, they just mirrored the sprite to make it look like she was spinning, looked awful :P

  58. The Indigo Effect says:

    I know this is an older page, but I had to ask a question: where can I find Moon Crystal for the NES? I’ve tried EBay, Amazon, etc., but I still can’t locate it.

  59. racketboy says:

    Well, it’s going to much trickier since it was a Japan-only release. You may have to look for import shops that specialize in Famicom games or just keep watching eBay for one to show up.

  60. The Indigo Effect says:

    Thanks for the info.

  61. Mitch 74 says:

    Man, I can’t believe you forgot to give credit to the possibly most advanced game the NES ever ran – I mean, how can one beat huge sprites, real-time zooming, digitized voices and parallax scrolling on the NES? I do mean F-15 Strike Eagle by Microprose!
    This hardly known game put you in control of a F-15 over warring lands – avoid SAMs, other planes (with detailed specs appearing on screen), lock your few missiles depending on their ranges and capabilities, or gun them down while using appropriate decoys when you’re being fired at – but careful with your ammo! If you need to re-supply, careful with your landing approach!
    Credit where credit’s due: Microprose managed to make a convincing 3D flight simulator on the NES.

  62. Pat D. says:

    Mega Man 2—best NES soundtrack by far. And the graphics, especially the robot dragon chasing you in the first Dr. Wily level…bought the NES to its knees….hell, they had to have a blank background to animate those screens smoothly, LOL.

  63. Romulo says:

    Where’s Shatterhand and Turtles II & III? They were graphic marvels at their time.

  64. Shelby says:

    Nice picks from you and those who posted, but one game that stands out to me that also pushed the nes in terms of graphics is Track & Field II.

  65. Bungi says:

    How about Metal Gear?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JARtwFLQpNY

    But the one that is very unknown but I think was pretty advanced for NES was Willow (based on the movie) reminds me a lot of Zelda A link to the past for the SNES.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGAS6XcIiD4&feature=related

  66. Jeff says:

    What? Where is Snake Rattle n Roll?
    That is one of the most revolutionary games on the NES, also you are missing Captain Skyhawk.

    Those 2 need to have at least an honorable mention on the list.

  67. JC says:

    Well, that’s got a few things wrong, but the one that REALLY stands out to me is that Super Mario Brothers 3 was released in 1990, May to be exact. I remember pretty vividly, considering I was a teenager that year!

  68. vx says:

    This is a strange list. There are several games on here that aren’t really that impressive from a technical standpoint.

    Among other games, I feel Ninja Gaiden 3 really should be on this list. Gorgeous graphics and probably the most impressive parallax scrolling on the system. Also it really pushed what the system could do musically. I challenge anyone to find a level in an NES game that looks as technically impressive as the desert level in NG3, with 5 layers of parallax.

  69. Sam says:

    ok great list, but i think there are a few games that are missing, namely – where is Zelda?

  70. Thiago says:

    Excelent article! great work!. And i also think is great Little Samson is on that list. And Mighty Final Fight too! it has an incredible soundtrack.

    Another game that could be added is Snake Rattle & Roll, very nice and fluid isometric view:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Mq1kJ25LVA.

    And (although the list is NES specific) all the Nekketsu Kunio Kun saga must be on that list. A series of incredible fun games that share the same essence: epic story, epic music and really agressive , full packed action, epic gameplay:

    Nekketsu Kakatou Densetsu:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mowvlVPTeM
    (playing this with the four controller adapter must be the most incredible fun thing in the world!).

    Bikkuri Nekketsu Shin Kiroku:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X9-U_sQKnA
    A sort of very agressive version of the olympics games. Check the swiming competition, epic!.

    Ike! Ike! Nekketsu Hockey:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PusquS__4rQ&feature=related
    Crazy Ice hockey

    Nekketsu Street Basket Ganbare Dunk Heroes:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NQCfavxxCI
    Crazy basketball.

    Kunio kun Nekketsu no soccer league:

    A game with legendary status here in a Argentina. The last of Technos for the NES. Amazing graphics, sound, and a lot of crazy stuff like bolt of lightings and tornados hitting the players. I think is the only soccer game with you can celebrate your goals.

    There are some more games of Nekketsu, check them all, they are really marvelous pieces of art.
    I really recommend to play this marvelous games in their original japanese versions. There were some “stupidizations” (River City Ramson, Crash and the boys street challenge), but they are not the same. Take a little time and learn japanese, you’ll enjoy these pieces of art in their original context and, as a side effect, expand your mind by learning a new language.

    (sorry the bad english, jeje).

  71. SKUMbug says:

    I can recommend an extremely polished and nice famicom-platformer released by Sunsoft in 1992 (just prior to the first Kirby-game) named “Gimmick!”, which was also released as “Mr. Gimmick” in a few selected countries in Europe (mainly Scandinavia). It features an awesome use of colours and animations for both player- and enemy-characters. I also has small doses of cutscenes, but the real beauty is in the visual details and crafting of the levels.

    If you do not AT LEAST mentioned Gimmick in your list it feels kind of incomplete to me, but other than that you have picked many of the most excellent game the 8-bit monster offered! Keep up the nice work!

    (p.s. Did I seriously forget to mention the brilliant music Gimmick has? One word: Mindblowing!)

  72. Bob says:

    Super late to the party, but I think a few games are definitely worth bringing up which sadly weren’t mentioned here.

    The first being the NES port of the game Elite. Wireframes, 360 degree movement, and a large amount of content (eight “worlds” and two hundred unique planets, if what I read is true), and the freedom of choosing how you want to play. It’s just impressive, that’s all I’ve got to say really.

    The others would be the ones that had a soundtrack created by the one of (or both) the Follin brothers (Solstice, Silver Surfer, Pictionary, Treasure Master). Classic (and stellar) stuff.

  73. Mr. Bogus says:

    @racketboy: great article :) I’d never heard of Comic Epsilon before, how did they do that 3D floor?!
    @Bob: Agreed with Elite! So impressive for 8×8 tile based graphics.

    A couple more honorable mentions:

    Tokyuu Shirei Solbrain / Shatterhand: Impressive graphics, music & gameplay that handled like a 16 bit game

    Silver Surfer: Rockin’ music (pretty crap game tho)

  74. Cheese says:

    This list is nice, but where is “Gimmick!”?
    It has amazing use of color, very detailed and very well animated backgrounds, fluid character animation for both the player and enemies, surprisingly good physics, surprisingly complex enemy behavior, amazing music, and lots of stuff going on with no slowdown.
    Plus, there’s just something about how much care obviously went into it. Most of the sprites, enemies, objects, etc. only show up once or twice, yet are beautifully animated and extraordinarily detailed. Little things like being able to ride an upside down enemy’s moving legs like a slow moving conveyor belt, a boss being asleep if you get to him early, allowing you to push him off the stage, and being able to hijack an enemy’s vehicle when it is difficult and pointless to do so, are everywhere.
    It could easily pass as a good Genesis or SNES game with it’s music, graphics, and gameplay.

  75. Stevens says:

    I second Gimmick! – the soundtrack made use of the FME7 expansion chip, and the sound is suitably lush. The graphics haven’t aged a day either.

    I’m a bit disappointed no-one has mentioned Joy Mech Fight (or ジョイメカファイト – ”Joi Meka Faito”, as the game was Famicom only). It was released in May 1993, well into the Super Famicom/SNES’ reign, and completed by two guys at a programming seminar, who came up with one of the most innovative methods to provide fast, smooth movement using the Famicom’s specs.

    The characters have no limbs – they are made up of disconnected sprites. This means that to animate, say, a punch, rather than animate an arm and a hand moving, only the hand sprite needs to move. If this sounds awkward, the animation looks extremely cool in action (and hey, limblessness worked for Rayman): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC5TBT8pTcE – the first fight starts at 1:43; other Joy Mech Fight videos seem to be jerky emulator jobs.

    Add to this 36 playable characters (if you’re good enough to unlock them), ace music and more layers of parallax scrolling than the laws of Famicom physics dictate, and you have a game that I’d have wanted as badly as Starfox and Donkey Kong Country.

  76. pakopako says:

    Huh. Three years after the article was published (and I was doing some searching for PoP) I stumble upon this. A nice read, but I must profess, I thought the NES couldn’t do parallax? Every single one of these games (from Metal Storm to Sword Master) uses pseudo-parallax trickery by the programming team. Instead of managing multiple background layers like the SNES or Genesis, it was all just one animated background.

  77. J says:

    Nightshade was one of the all-time great, and yet somehow mostly forgotten, NES games. Its graphics, sound, and the size of its world were all worthy of note, but its writing outshone all its other good qualities.

  78. me says:

    I have to say you contradict yourself and this whole article is sloppy at best. Someone says Metroid doesn’t count because it was an early release yet you have games on here that PREDATE Metroid. Second of all, I am sorry but dude some of those games look like late Atari games not pushing the system to it’s limits at all. I don’t mean to just pop in and criticize because I know any article such as this requires some thought not to mention everybody will disagree with something here and there. I think honestly you just got carried away and added too many games. I am not trashing the article or your writing entirely I just think this whole article is sloppy and should have had a little more defined criteria. You started off talking about late releases and worked backwards to early releases that look like crap compared to the games at the top of the list. And dude I don’t know what console you are playing but NONE of those games, no not even Batman Return of the Joker look anything close to 16 bit, the Genesis launch titles blow every one of those away graphically with the exceptions being Super Mario Bros. 3, and maybe Kirby but every one of those other games mentioned looks obviously inferior graphically to 16 bit games unless when you say 16 bit you are talking about TG16 which is NOT 16 bit but whatever I forgot what I was originally searching for so you can thank Google and their broken search engine for bringing me here to rip your article apart.

    Also I disagree that making a chip work with the system counts, because that is not pushing the hardware to it’s limits that is altering the hardware to over come the limitations. There is not a lot of difficulty in getting two chips to talk to each other that is pretty basic programming they were doing long before NES came along.

    Sorry I don’t mean to nit pick everything and I really don’t care I just felt like commenting since stupid google somehow thought searching for SNES games released in 1991 meant I was looking for a half assed article about NES games that is obviously designed to appeal to a certain audience. Don’t get me wrong I am a HUGE NES fan and have been since I was a kid, way back when it was brand new. But the thing is I think sometimes people let their nostalgia get in the way of their ability to be objective. But since it is all subjective anyways there is nothing saying I am more right than you just thought I would share some criticisms nothing personal.

  79. Patrick BBE says:

    Captain Skyhawk. Check Classic Game Room’s review.

  80. me says:

    in response to:

    “me
    November 3, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    I have to say you contradict yourself and this whole article is sloppy at best.”

    ^That guy needs to get his head outta his ass and come down off his high horse. Pretentious nerd rant

  81. Ness says:

    In case you can edit, Thrilla’s Surfari was released in 1992.

  82. alphatrion says:

    It doesn’t really matter whether the games had extra chips in them or whether the programmers only used what was built into the nes. what matters is the programmers found tricks, used them, to push the system into doing things not originally designed for. The end result being games with some very impressive results using limited technologiy.

  83. retro101 says:

    Abit of a disgrace that Mr. Gimmick isn’t on here. Should be right at the top of this list.

    It makes kirby look like nothing with hardware limitations, and you would think it’s a 16bit game; the sound is top notch aswell.

  84. Maniax says:

    no Captain Tsubasa Vol II ? This list sucks!! :P

  85. Diego says:

    Battle Formula also has some great effects, like the curve on the road and the bridge in first stage!!

  86. TheBlockMage says:

    Star Tropics was definitely one of the best looking games for the NES.

  87. zerothis says:

    Check BattleToads Double Dragon: The Ultimate Team. Simulated 3D surfaces, the rotating turbines in later levels, so many things animated in the ‘background’. Multilayer environment for enemies and players to navigate. You actually had to bounce grenades around corners at one point like you were playing a modern FPS. Play it in a real machine, emulators mess up the most impressive effects.

    Recca is pretty impressive. Dragon Warrior IV has scenes where their are moving people/sprites all over the screen too. No flicker. Impressive by NES standards. But Krazy Kreatures blows everything else out of the water! 100+ little _moving_ critters flying in to the screen with no flicker at all. And it works on emulators.

    Disney seems to require higher standards for animation, color, and generally nailing the look of their characters. IMO, The Jungle Book is the best of these. Play it in a real machine, emulators mess it up. It doesn’t count, but it should. The Lion King for NES. Its an unlicensed game, made without Disney or Nintendo’s consent. I hope someone at Disney thought “We need to hire these people” before thinking “we need to sue these people”. Oh, their’s 2 other unauthorised Lion King games for NES, not that impressive.

  88. MrMateczko says:

    No Mr. Gimmick? This list is rubbish…jk. But it’s weird that you have ommited this very awesome and very rare game.

  89. Topological Brane says:

    In terms of the graphics, Metal Slader Glory has to be in there. Also it is the largest official NES (well, technically Famicom as it never made its way out of Japan) title at 8Mb (=1MB). It definitely had that CD-Rom feel to it.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lRkFxSBKeFs&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DlRkFxSBKeFs

    Someone already mentioned Zanac and Gun-nac. They were the best shooters on NES, technologically and gameplay-wise. As impressive as Recca and Gradius 2 were, Zanac and Gun-nac took the shooters to the next level with their super fast scrolling, huge number of enemies without a hint of slowdown, sophisticated power-up system, and amazing AI system which altered enemy distributions (type and numbers) and attack patterns depending on how players played the game, including the usage of auto-fire joysticks. Zanac was my favourite and it had more depth, although Gun-nac was more fun to play.

  90. Carlos Gabriel says:

    Well, after looking some 10 hours looking for games to buy for my old NES , i finaly found this article.
    ANd i must thanks the writer as well as all the people who post comments because this page is full of nice NES titles that i never heard about in the other pages i did visit ( such as Recca Summer Carnival among many others )

    So, thank you for the inspiration to all of you guys and gals , i really mean it ! (-;