Geez, that title is a mouthful! Anyway, welcome to the newest list on MLW. Recently, my 3 year old son has taken up playing my NES system. To those young bucks out there, that’s the original Nintendo Entertainment System. THE gaming system of the 80’s/early 90’s. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something incredibly awesome seeing my son playing the same games on the same system that I played some 26 years ago. Full circle, man. Life comes full circle. Granted, it’s not the exact same NES that I had as a kid, but it is an original console that I bought to replace the one I had as a kid. Original console, original controllers, original games. I’ve got no time for those emulators, I need the real deal.
Watching him play these games has gotten me thinking about the games that defined my childhood. When I was a kid, I would sit and play these games for hours and hours on end. There’s not a whole lot that I loved more than renting a game for the weekend, blowing into the cartridge and getting my thumbs ready for some marathon length gaming action. So for that reason, I present the Top 5 NES Games That Defined My Childhood. This is not a “Best” list. There’s far too many awesome NES games to properly make that list (there’s also far too many terrible NES games, but that’s for another time). These also are not even necessarily my personal favorite NES games. Instead, it’s the ones that I played the most back in the day. These are the ones that shaped my gaming sensibilities.
5. Maniac Mansion (Jaleco – 1990)
I was never really a fan of the point and click adventures. For some reason, this one was different. The story was so out there that I didn’t really know what to expect. Basically, you pick a group of kids to rescue a girl from some strange family. Depending on which kids you picked, it changed the game. You could actually play through the game a few times and have it be a completely different experience. This game was basically a b rated horror movie that you could control. It was perfect for me. It combined two of my loves into one. Plus, you could put a hamster in the microwave. Seriously.
That’s right, you could blow up a damn hamster in a microwave. What 11 year old boy wouldn’t be fascinated by that? This was one of those games that you had to invest a LOT of time into if you wanted to beat it. It wasn’t one that you could play before going to school in the morning. That wouldn’t have been enough time. If you were into the ridiculous story, you would be immersed in a very strange world that you would just have to know the conclusion of. It’s one of the closest things to a movie on the NES. I never watched the TV version that’s advertised on the box art. I wonder what it was like. I need to look that up!
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Ultra Games – 1989)
If there’s one TV show that defined my childhood, it would be the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. I would watch that thing religiously. I had all the toys, the cereal, the cassette tape from Pizza Hut (yes, the Turtles were even pop music stars)! When I found out there was an NES game for the Turtles, I had to have it. I never got it though. Instead, I rented it pretty much weekly. Truth be told, it’s not a great game. It’s not as bad as some people make it out to be, but god damn, it’s hard! The first level in the sewers isn’t bad, but once you hit that underwater level, you want to break your controller and curse every Renaissances artist you’ve ever heard of.
It was a near miracle if you ever made it through that water level. Between the lasers and seaweed, it was hard as hell to make it through the stage unscathed. As a kid, it was a major accomplishment to beat this part of the game. Of course, I think the third stage was about as far as I’ve ever made it. After the water level, I never had enough power to make it much further. The sequels to this were much better games. They’re what you would expect for a TMNT game. However, this original still holds a special place in my heart! One day, I will beat you, dammit!
3. Metroid (Nintendo – 1986)
Metroid was probably the first HUGE game I played. Luckily, this was one I owned. There’s no way in hell you could have beaten this one as a rental. It took too much time. The world was truly immersive and the soundtrack was creepy. You had to search every crack and cranny to find all the hidden weapons. If there’s one early NES game that defines the term EPIC, it would be Metroid. I would spend hours and hours and weeks and weeks playing this game trying to find and defeat the two bosses Kraig and Ridley. Then you had to find the big boss Mother Brain and defeat her. In the early days of gaming and to people only familiar with games from the Atari 2600, this game was a mind blower.
Usually in games when you defeat the final boss, you’ve beaten the game. In Metroid, when you beat Mother Brain, it’s not over yet. You have to escape before the world blows up! If you run out of time, you die! That’s right, even beating the final boss doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve won. This game spawned a number of sequels that are completely awesome in their own right. However, none of them will ever surpass the excitement and ground breaking awesomeness that was this original. There was even a hell of a plot twist at the end!
2. Zelda II: The Adventures of Link (Nintendo – 1988)
Ahhh, this is one that most fans of the original Legend of Zelda HATED. Just because it was different. Didn’t their mom’s teach them not to hate things just because they’re different? Anyway, the original Zelda game is one of the greatest games of all time. In fact, the entire series may very well be the best video game series of all time. But it’s this sequel that got the most play in my childhood. That’s because I owned this one and not the original back in the day.
This game took the best parts of the original (puzzle solving, hidden items, dungeons and bosses) and revamped it into a side scrolling adventure with RPG elements. Link could even learn spells and had a magic meter! You could visit towns to learn magic (and visit whore houses) to advance through the game. The dungeons got progressively harder but the game never felt unbeatable. In fact, even that bastard Shadow Link was beatable. The challenge to enjoyment level was the right ratio in my opinion. Back in the day, this game was probably the one that I spent the most time with. I played this thing for what seemed like months and months on end. I saw that pig faced bastard laughing at me so much I wanted to punch my TV screen.
1. Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo – 1985)
If there’s one game that epitomized the 1980’s video game revolution, it was Super Mario Bros. It came bundled with the system on a cartridge that also included the classic light gun game Duck Hunt. EVERYONE owned this game. EVERYONE loved this game. EVERYONE knew every single secret that this game had to offer. We all know where the hidden blocks with the 1ups are. We know where to go to skip levels. This game reeks of classic. Even parents played this game. This game didn’t consist of a single board. These were WORLDS. While SMB3 was the best of the series and 2 was a misguided (but still fun) exercise in being different, the original game is everything that’s great about the NES. Power ups, secrets, stages and worlds, this game changed the landscape of gaming forever. This made people change the opinion that games were strictly for kids.
This was one of those games that a kid could not let beat them. The game play and controls were intuitive. You could pick up and play without having ever played before. It was, in a word, perfect. It was always fun to watch people twisting and jerking their bodies when trying to complete a jump. It still works that way today, as I noticed my son does the same thing!
Oh yeah, and to hell with that Princess. She can suck it. That is, if you can find that bitch.
There you have it. What games defined YOUR childhood? What games made the longest lasting impact on your impressionable young mind? I’d love to know what you think. Hit up the comments below and share your stories with everyone. It’s always fun taking a trip down Nostalgia Street. Thanks for taking the ride with me. And until next time,
- Game Collecting on a Budget: 10 Great NES Games for under 10 Bucks (beyondtheprotodome.wordpress.com)