So What Was The NES Select Button For?

The Forgotten Adventures of the Select Button

Note from racketboy:  You can definitely tell when Fastbilly1 is passionate about a topic…. This time he shares his thoughts and research of an oft-overlooked component of the Nintendo Entertainment Systems, the Select Button.

Often it is shoved to the side, disregarded, or the target of outright hatred.  Many gamers do not believe it is useful and many more have never cared to think about it.  That little button, often right in the middle of the controller, called select always gets a “bad rap.”  Well being that I am currently on a NES kick I decided I would attempt to dispel some of the misguided hate toward this controller oddity.  The following is a list of games in which I have found that the select button is used (be it in the Menu or in the game).  It is not a complete list but I think it is enough to finally put to rest the statement that the button is completely useless.   Whether or not it still need’s to be on controllers apart from the NES is a whole other topic altogether.

I would like to remind everyone that this is not a definitive list and may possibly have factually inaccuracies.  If you have any comments or wish to add or correct, please comment.  This is mostly US NES games, if you have information for Japanese or European only releases I would love to hear them.   A large chunk of the information was obtained from the files hosted by the good folks at  If you ever need an old manual, they are the best source for them in the world.


In-Game Use:

  • A Boy and His Blob – Change Jelly Bean Types (Jelly Beans are used to transform the blob)
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street – Change between Dreamwarriors (as the teenagers it is not used)
  • Adventures of Lolo 1-3 – Used to start room over
  • Airwolf – Decrease your speed
  • Alien 3 – Select Weapon
  • Alpha Mission – Select Weapon
  • Amagon – To transform into Megagon (if you have the Mega-Key)
  • Metroid – Selects missiles
  • Batman -Pause (start cycles weapons)
  • Captain American and the Avengers – Pause (start cycles through characters)
  • Captain Comic – Allows you to teleport (only if you have the Magic Wand)
  • Captain Skyhawk – Used in conjunction with left or right to barrel roll
  • Castlevania II: Simons Quest – Hard pause (start brings up your inventory)
  • Castlevania III – Menu use and to transform into a Spirit
  • Caveman Games – Restarts event (only when already paused)
  • Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers – Display stats
  • Cobra Command – Display Subscreen
  • Cobra Triangle – Activates flashing powerup
  • Crystalis – Display Subscreen
  • Cybernoid – Weapon select
  • Darkwing Duck – Select Special Gas
  • Days of Thunder – Pauses game (start button is unused)
  • Dick Tracy – Get out of car and cycle weapons
  • Double Dragon III – Change Weapons/Fighters
  • Dr Chaos – Cycle Weapons while in the Warp Zones and Hallways
  • Dragons Lair – Used on Menu and to pause
  • Dynowarz – Satellite Attack (screen clearer)
  • Elite – Activate Powerup
  • Family Feud – Buzzes In
  • Faxanadu – Displays the Item Screen
  • Final Fantasy – Displays the Character Order screen
  • Flight of the Intruder – When in the map, will allow you to skip waypoints
  • Flying Dragon – Skip dialogue
  • Friday the 13th – Select option while exploring
  • Gauntlet II – Pauses the game (Start also pauses)
  • Home Alone 2 – Select weapon
  • Jack Nicklaus Greatest 18 holes – To check the money chart in a skins game
  • Jurassic Park – Change Dart Types
  • Kart Fighter – Switches buttons from punches to kicks (and vice versa)
  • Kickle Cubicle – Kills stuck character and Menu Use
  • Kid Icarus – Switch weapons
  • Kings Knight – Used in conjunction with the reset button to enable Continue mode
  • Kirby’s Adventure – Exhale enemy ability
  • Legacy of the Wizard – Item select
  • Maniac Mansion – Every thing
  • Metal Gear – Brings up the Mode Selection menu and Menu Use
  • Metroid – Activate missiles
  • Mike Tyson’s Punchout/Punchout – Faster shoulder rub (recover health between rounds)
  • Monopoly – Bring up Main Menu (start pauses)
  • M.U.L.E. – Pauses Game
  • NFL Football – Scrolls down lists
  • Nightshade – Brings up Icon Menu
  • Operation Wolf – Speed of cursor (in controller mode)
  • PinBot – Bumps the cabinet to the right
  • Puzzle – Toggles Music and Helpfile
  • Pyramid – Toggles Music
  • Rygar – Pauses Game (start brings up menu)
  • Shadowgate – Displays hints
  • Shingen the Ruler – Change parameters for the condition of the territory
  • Solstice – Brings up select menu
  • Strider – Changes “tricks”
  • Super Glove Ball – Hold Down to clear a wall.  Hit to fire bullets
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Switch weapons
  • Tetris (Nintendo) – Hides next block
  • The Addams Family – To control Thing
  • The Black Bass – Take the fish off the hook
  • The Blue Marlin – To see Menu
  • The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout – Pauses the game (start also pauses)
  • The Flintstones – Use special items
  • The Goonies II – Pauses the game (start switches to the auxiliary scene)
  • The Legend of Zelda – Menu use and hard pause (start brought up the item screen)
  • The Mafat Conspiracy – Menu use and to skip dialogues
  • The Punisher – Select functions
  • The Simpsons: Bart vs the Space Mutants – Switch items
  • The Simpsons: Bart vs the World – Exit Minigame
  • Wayne Gretzky Hockey – Menu use and to change players
  • Wizard and Warriors – Use items or magic
  • Wolverine – Extend Claws and/or Call Havoc
  • Wrath of the Black Manta – Display Ninpo attacks
  • Zen Intergalactic Ninja – Use health item

Menu Use:

  • 1942
  • 3d World Runner – Enable 3d mode
  • 8 Eyes
  • Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Bad Dudes
  • Balloon Fight
  • Bases Loaded 1-4
  • Battletoads
  • Burgertime
  • Castlevania
  • Championship Rally – Brings up Password Menu
  • Contra
  • Double Dragon
  • Dr Mario
  • Duck Hunt
  • Excitebike
  • Ghost N Goblins
  • Gradius
  • Golf
  • Gyromite
  • Heavy Barrel
  • Hook
  • Ice Climber
  • Ice Hockey
  • KungFu
  • Mach Rider
  • Marble Madness
  • Mario Bros.
  • Mikey Mousecapades – Used with Dpad for level select
  • Mission Impossible
  • Pictionary
  • P.O.W.
  • Pro Wrestling
  • Qix
  • Rad Racer – Enable 3d Mode
  • Raid on Bungeling Bay
  • RBI Baseball
  • Renegade
  • Ring King
  • Robocop
  • Rolling Thunder
  • Stealth ATF
  • Super Mario Bros
  • Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt
  • Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet
  • Super Mario Bros 3
  • Tetris (Tengen)
  • Tetris 2
  • The Legend of Zelda II: Adventures of Link
  • The New Zealand Story
  • Thundercade
  • Track and Field
  • Volleyball
  • WrestleMania: Steel Cage Challenge – Used to go to Next Menu
  • Xevious
  • Yoshi
  • Zombie Nation – Select Difficulty (start actually starts the game)


fsd says:

FUCK the select button! =

Renn says:

up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Select

Couldnt have beaten Contra without the select button!

… I absolutely love that you wrote this. NES freaks like me appreciate it — thank you, and this is awesome. Game on!

dustburn says:

In Solar Jetman’s gameplay, you hold down select and B to activate your turbo thrusters. Love that game.

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