5. Bionic Commando
Loosely based on an arcade game of the same name, Bionic Commando is another Capcom classic of the many that dominated the NES. A sidescroller with an interesting hook, Bionic Commando is more about exploration and combat than simply running from left to right. Tasked with saving Super Joe, the mechanically enhanced Nathan 'Rad' Spencer takes on the Badds to dash their hopes of world domination. Despite being a platformer, the ability to jump is ingeniously replaced with swinging and pulling yourself around using your grapple arm. It's tricky at first, but incredibly rewarding once you get the hang of it.
Despite later versions improving on it exponentially, the original Metroid was fantastic for its time. Sure, its gameplay feels a little clunky in a post-Super Metroid world, but out of all the games that hit the NES, few were as uniquely engrossing as the first game. Introducing Samus, one of the few female leads in gaming, the desolate sci-fi setting and open-ended gameplay were a revelation. Collecting items, exploring every corner of the map, and slowly realizing just how dense the world is keep us coming back to the original Metroid all these years later.
3. The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda is timeless. Its mix of complexity, open-world design, and imagination-sparking graphics make it an adventure for the ages. Link's first journey introduced players to a world bigger than many thought possible on the NES system, and made the dungeon exploration and item collection of classic RPGs more accessible than ever. The gameplay and fantastical setting work just as well now as they did back then, whether or not you've explored this 8-bit Hyrule in the past.
2. Mega Man 2
The Mega Man franchise shined brightest on the NES, and Mega Man 2 is the pinnacle of those 8-bit years. The controls are dead-on, the level designs are immensely distinct, and the glorious music has drilled its way into our collective hearts. None of the other games in the series get as close to perfection as this one: every boss design is amazing, the challenge is meticulously tuned, and Mega Man has just enough weapons without cluttering the experience. Capcom has tried to recapture what made Mega Man 2 great, but we have a feeling it will remain forever unmatched.
1. Super Mario Bros. 3
The original Super Mario Bros. might be the game that the world associates with the Nintendo Entertainment System, but while it defined the platformer genre that dominated 8-bit gaming, it didn't perfect it. Super Mario Bros. 3 took everything you loved about 2D side-scrollers and expanded on it with new abilities, stages, and genre conventions that developers still look to as inspiration. The ability to fly is revolutionary from a gameplay and level-design perspective, and SMB3 has a laundry list of little touches and secrets that make it unforgettable. With power-ups, enemies, music, and graphics that are just as memorable now as then, no other game is more deserving of being named the best NES game of all time.