The Better Side of 8-Bit – Five Favorites From The Past

I make fewer posts about video games here than I would like.  And because I often get angry at these older games that I used to love, I feel like I’m overly negative about them. And rightfully so. Adventure Island sucks (even though I love it).

Really, really sucks.

To me, it is the epitome of lazy developing.  Couple the cookie cutter gameplay with an unmemorable hero, lame enemies, and full-frontal nudity… you’ve got real crap.

And the NES has plenty of stinkers.  Just check out The Angry Nintendo Nerd to figure that out.  Many of the games he rages against, I was given as a gift.  Friday the 13th. Dick Tracy. Top Gun. The list goes on.

But if I’m only going to talk about the shit games… what does that make me?

That’s right.  A negative asshole.

Well, bask in my negativity no longer!  Here are my top 5 favorite games released on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Please note, these are my personal favorites.  And before you tell me… yes I know I’m missing classics like The Legend of Zelda, Contra, Punch-Out, the original Super Mario Bros., and etc. They’re great games, but these five are the ones that spent the most time inside my NES.

5. Dick Tracy (1990)

I know what you’re saying.  Didn’t he just say that Dick Tracy is a terrible game?  Well, it is.  Taken as a whole, the game has the worst driving controls in any game that I’ve played, terrible hit detection, and some of the most impossibly vague mission objectives…

But the game has a special place in my heart.  And there has to be extra room in my heart for it because I’ll have to stuff the Game Genie in there too.

Yes, this game is incredibly playable when you’re an invincible super-cop with infinite ammunition and a super jump.  The Game Genie, the unlicensed cheating device that Nintendo tried to ban from store shelves, allowed me to focus on the clue hunting and hunt I did.

Does the game suck on its own merits?  Yeah, the whole thing is a confusing mess that has almost certainly driven many a gamer to suicide… But add in the ability to super-punch criminals so hard that they actually bounce off the walls…  That’s a quality game right there.

4. Super Mario Bros 3 (1990)

One of the few gifts that didn’t suck, Super Mario Bros 3 is one of the most perfect games ever created.  It has a variety of level and enemy design that has yet to be equaled by any other 2D platformer (the lone exception being, maybe, Super Mario World).

On top of the design was the secrets.  Tons and tons of secret areas.  Hidden blocks, pipes to bonus levels, vines to coin-stravaganzas in the clouds, and warp whistles.  And when I discovered you could blow a tune on the first warp whistle, and then immediately blow the second to access World 8?  I was over the moon!

I was also killed to death in a very quick manner, especially because I hadn’t played enough of the more difficult levels to get the experience necessary to defeat Bowser’s warships… But beating the game and defeating Bowser is one of my earliest victories against the evil baddies on the 8-bit world.

3. RBI Baseball

A sports game?  Oh James, everyone knows you hate sports!

But RBI Baseball is excellent!

A slower paced title in comparison to games like Bases Loaded and Base Wars (another awful, personal favorite), RBI Baseball is a game I’ll gladly play today. But the rules are: no three-sinker-strikeouts, you asshole.

The graphics are bright, every player looks the same… like a bald, faceless Fisher Price Little Person.  For some reason, many of the teams dress in neon colors (I remember when the Angels dressed in really bright blue and purple!) and the stats never update, but damn if it isn’t fun.

Plus where else can you laugh as Roger Clemens comes down off the mound and attempts to make a base-hit?  There’s just nothing funnier than a hitter with a batting average below .100…

2. Little Nemo: The Dream Master

This will probably get a lot of crap for rating so high, but… this is my list and this is my blog.  So fuck right off if you don’t like it.

This game is another one of those games (much like Dick Tracy) that is about half-decent… but Little Nemo is a major nostalgia trip for me.  I loved the (considerably more awful) Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland film, but the game was something else entirely.

I obsessed over it (even sometimes wished I could feed a mole candy and wear him like Buffalo Bill wears people’s skin) and even spent time sketching ideas for other creatures that Nemo could jump into.

Even to these days, I’ll boot up the game just to listen to the music and enjoy the floaty, breezy first level (before shit gets real and gets REALLY difficult).  Seriously, if you have a functioning NES and can find a copy… well worth your time.

1. Crystalis

This game is by far one of my favorite games of all time.

Seriously, love it.

Crystalis was the closest I came to enjoying a traditional RPG.  This was by far my favorite adventure game on the NES and would still show up in my Top 3 (or maybe 5) games ever.

And why?  I really can’t say, other than it was one of the first games I played that not only told a story (seriously, tons of dialogue for an NES game), but got me emotionally invested in the characters. I still get sad when I think of Stom’s death (seriously, SPOILER ALERT!), or the eerie moment when I returned to Leaf to find the entire populace gone.

My obsession went so deep that I wrote letters to Nintendo Power to get tips on beating bosses (these were pre-Internet days, people… it was either writing a letter, or calling the Nintendo Power 900 number and getting yelled at my parents again).  Ah, the good old days.

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So that’s that.  There are a TON of really great games that I didn’t mention here. Both Zelda games on the NES, Metroid, Shadowgate, Deja Vu, Punch-Out, Final Fantasy (which I love and hate all at once), RC Pro AM, Super Sprint, Ice Hockey, Ninja Gaiden… the list goes on.  I could probably do a Top 50, or Top 100 list if I had to.  But I won’t make you suffer through that… yet.

My next post will be another lazy man’s Top X List of X, then we’ll be back to book talk.

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