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The best NES games of all time

15. Blaster Master

We wish Blaster Master kept its Japanese name - Super Planetary War Records: Metafight - when it was translated for Western audiences, but regardless, the game still holds a place in our hearts for providing excellent run-and-gun action. The smooth play control and fantastic level design complement the spiffy graphics nicely, whether you're in sidescroller or top-down mode. Just remember: you'll have to play through it all in one go, so make sure your schedule's cleared out.

14. Dr. Mario

Color-matching puzzle games are timeless, and Dr. Mario remains one of the most celebrated of the genre. While it may not be as deep as some of its counterparts, it has more than enough charm to be considered a classic. After years of jumping on turtles, Mario started practicing medicine the only way he knows how: throwing colored pills at cute viruses. The vibrant visuals, habit-forming gameplay, and infectious music make it a must-own title that's been remade many times, but the core gameplay of the original remains intact no matter the console.

13. Final Fantasy

The original Final Fantasy started with the predictable band of heroes saving the princess, but it then expanded into a much bigger story on a scope not seen before. Boasting some of the best graphics and music on the system, the first Final Fantasy introduced many of the trappings that still exist in the series. Despite some rough edges, you'll see much of what made people love the FF series to this day.

12. Dragon Warrior 3

Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior got its start on the NES and went from being a Japanese oddity inspired by Wizardry to one of the most popular RPG franchises on the planet. Even if Dragon Warrior 3's plot is fairly predictable, its job system is so dense, rewarding, and easy to understand that it created a new gold standard for the genre. If you have a NES and 100 hours to spare, be sure to check this one out.

11. Kirby's Adventure

Though the pink puffball is more famous for his starring roles in portable games, Kirby made a real splash with his console debut. Taking the concepts created in the first Dream Land game, Kirby's Adventure expanded on them in great detail, and introduced Kirby's now-famous ability to copy his enemies powers. A late-era NES game featuring high production values, Adventure has the same level of platforming excellence that made Kirby a star on the Game Boy. 

10. Contra

Contra might be one of the few instances where the NES port greatly outshines the arcade original. Running through themed levels and blasting apart bad guys is a rush, and the game's harsh (but fair!) difficulty will push your skills to their limits. It was also one of the earliest games to use the Konami Code, giving you 30 lives for punching in the correct inputs. With a game this hard, those 30 lives were a necessity; if the Konami Code is ingrained into your brain, it's likely because of Contra.

9. Ninja Gaiden 2: The Dark Sword of Chaos

The second Ninja Gaiden game improves over the original in just about every way, while maintaining the same dark vibe the first conveyed. You still slash and dash as Ryu Hayabusa, but this sequel boasts slicker graphics, better sound, and stronger controls. But that's all secondary to the greatly improved gameplay. Ryu can clone himself to fight larger battles, and climb objects much more easily than he could in the past. Along with a bevy of additional power-ups, it's like Ryu was an all-new ninja.

8. River City Ransom

Games like Double Dragon, Ghosts 'n Goblins, and The Legend of Kage are memorable, but they don't capture our hearts in the way Technos' chibi beat-'em-up does. River City Ransom takes the fairly predictable concept of high-school gang tomfoolery and ratchets it up with a healthy dose of humor. With an open world, nonlinear setting, and RPG elements, RCR was incredibly ahead of its time. As you build up your character's skills and powers, you end up with a level of personal investment almost unheard of in NES games. 

7. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!

Nintendo has never been synonymous with sports game (Ken Griffey Jr. notwithstanding), but the publisher certainly made its mark on boxing with the Punch-Out!! series. The secret to its success: disguising a brilliant puzzle game as a sports game. As Little Mac slowly climbs the ranks of boxing's elite, he faces memorable fighters with their own tells and timing that need to be mastered. Once you've clocked their patterns, it's just a matter of time (and nimble twitch reflexes) until you've knocked your opponent to the mat. 

6. Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse

The original Castlevania was a great (if punishingly difficult) platformer from early in the NES' lifetime, while Castlevania 2: Simons Quest focused more on exploration and RPG elements, but stretched the gameplay too thin. Castlevania 3 returns to the original's platforming roots, but with a surprisingly open number of options stacked on top. It's a return to form, while still mixing things up with branching paths that demanded replaying (something we did happily). The third game took the series to new heights, and defined many of the concepts used in future games.

Click 'Next Page' for the top 5 titles in our countdown of the best NES games.