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)

When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission.
Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network or Amazon Associates.


Tim says:

Select will switch Rad Racer into 3D mode during gameplay. Now whether or not that’s useful is a whole different debate. 🙂

fastbilly1 says:

I could have sworn both Rad Racer and 3d World Runner were on the list. They both use select to enable 3d mode while in the menu.

Sherwood says:

At the beginning of this post I was saying to myself…”but you can’t play Contra co-op with the select button.

Sherwood says:


racketboy says:

fastbilly1, both are listed in the menu section…

Chris says:

whats with … i can’t get on the site and they aren’t on google

Chris says:

got it … the site url listed is wrong … it should be

Neoclasic says:

Oh my God! What a list!

And perhaps do you have any idea about what is the “Scroll Lock” button for? I mean the button on my keyboard. Do you known about?


kevinski says:

Scroll Lock isn’t really used all that often anymore. It used to be used to toggle between having the arrow keys on a keyboard move your cursor or scroll the screen any which way. Excel still uses Scroll Lock. With Scroll Lock off, your selection moves from cell to cell whenever you press the arrow keys. With Scroll Lock on, the screen scrolls whenever you press the arrow keys.

As for the Select button, I feel that requiring its use on title screens to switch modes was absolutely necessary, especially when the d-pad could’ve done the same thing had the developers taken the time to make it so. I hate the placement of the Select button (and the Start button, for that matter). The three-button Genesis controller is probably one of the best controller designs in history, since all of the buttons are easily reachable.

In fact, the NES controller would’ve been far more bearable had it been designed more similarly to the Genesis controller.





deathclaw says:

zelda II has in-game use as well 🙂

Timerever says:

Slow news day no?
While you are at it, why not an article explaining what was the use of the Mode button on the Sega Megadrive 6 button gamepad?

deathclaw says:

I´d like to see a comparison of using NES´ select button and PSX/PS2´s L3 and R3 buttons

d says:

What was the numpad for on the Jaguar 64 bit toilet seat?
What was that all about?
I like this article and the work that went into it.

Ken says:

One unforgivable thing the select button was used for fairly often was as the only way to make menu selections on title screens.

I cannot cout how many times I’ve tried to select “2 players” with the D-pad only to find that one could only use the Select button to cycle through menus on the NES.

WingZeroKai says:

Metroid is listed twice. Once after Amagon, and once after Metal Gear. Otherwise its a great list.

kevinski says:

The number pad on Jaguar’s controller had all sorts of uses, always specific to each particular game. FPS games typically used it for switching weapons, for instance. I actually like the number pad, especially with an insert placed over it, as it was very comfortable and responded quite well, in my opinion.

Select is also used for a hard pause in the first Mega Man game. That’s well known as a glitch that let you score multiple hits on enemies.

GeorgeR says:

Gosh I hated when the select button was used for main menus. I was so happy when things went to the D pad.

Ryan Fox says:

In Final Fantasy, you can push B and Select to get a world map.

fastbilly1 says:

Thanks for the updates and corrections fellas. They will be added as soon as free time is available.

An interesting thing I noticed is that many of the games that use the select button in the menu are arcade ports. Not all of them, but alot are.

As for the mode button article idea, that is a good idea. I will look into it.

Name Withheld says:

Also, in the game Chojin Sentai Jetman (based on the Super Sentai series of the same name), Select pauses the game and Start uses some kind of special attack that destroys all the enemies on the screen.

moofree says:

IIRC if you hold the mode button while turning on the Sega Genesis, the controller will function like a standard 3 button controller (for the very very few games that don’t function properly with the 6 button controller)

Gentlegamer says:

The most important use of Select is at the end of the Contra 30 lives code so two players gain benefit.

Leon says:

The mode button I think it was for some games that had problems with 6-button controllers, and mode was there to fix that.

ariel says:

“The most important use of Select is at the end of the Contra 30 lives code so two players gain benefit.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get a nice roundup of new retro gaming content once or twice a month.