A snapshot from one of my favorite NES games, Blaster Master.

It’s been awhile since I fired up my emulator. After playing some classics from my childhood I figured it would be fun to share some of the games that don’t normally come up in conversation when waxing NES nostalgia. If you have never checked out these games or have some of your own to suggest, let me know what you think by commenting on this post. Nintendo Power magazine aptly referred to these titles as “Unsung Heroes” so without further ado, here are my top five:

Base Wars – Aside from Sega’s Mutant League Hockey I don’t know of many enjoyable sports/fighting combos like Base Wars. What’s great about this game is that you can either play it like a normal baseball game, turn it purely into a fighting game, or do a combination of both. The secret is to steal bases as much as possible or try to advance to the next base when the other team has the ball nearby. Unlike normal baseball, an umpire does not make the call in these scenarios, rather the two robots duke it out with the spoils obviously going to the winner. To make the game play more exciting, robots can also be upgraded with weapons to make them stronger in battle. Such a unique concept makes this a hidden gem for any hardcore NES fan.

Elevator Action – It’s a very basic concept that doesn’t change much as levels progress: shoot the bad guys, get the files, shoot more bad guys, get the hell out of Dodge. Borrowing from the coin-op style of racking up points vs finishing the game, you can become an Elevator Action expert and impress your friends with a ridiculous high score. Even though it’s a simple game, shooting up the bad guys, squashing them with elevators, or jumping kick them just never seems to get old.

Bubble Bobble – Similar to Balloon Fighter in Bubble Bobble you must paralyze a group of enemy animals and send them back to their 8bit Maker. Unlike the lion’s share of NES games where the AI is unforgiving, Bubble Bobble can be beaten with relative ease. If you want to push yourself, try to eliminate enemies simultaneously to collect greater point values. Of course, if you just want to try to beat the game, you’ll be in for a very relaxed experience. Try out the 2 player mode while you’re at it, it’s even more fun when you have a friend along to play.

Blaster Master – It follows a theme you’ll find in Dick Tracy or the unforgettable TMNT: drive around a massive “world” in a machine and get out of the vehicle to play mini-levels within it. Although the music is repetitive, I’ve found it catchy enough to keep me into the game, another bonus. Blaster Master pulls off this two-games-for-one combo quite well, making it one of my all time favorites for the NES.

River City Ransom – An excellent side scroller that was a “sleeper” for its time. RCR was a perfect blend of action and role playing. The enemies and stages bosses are somewhat of a challenge but not brutally difficult like they are in Castlevania or Double Dragon. What’s unique about River City Ransom is that similar to The Legend of Zelda, if you want to forgot the plot and just explore the game environment you can do this, too. As an added bonus, when you get to the final stage you’ll hear the Double Dragon theme song, a nice nod to the classic.

As I was thinking back on my childhood, I always wondered if I was a lousy game player or if the games themselves were impossible to beat. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon the hilarious, albeit vulgar, Angry Nintendo Nerd series that I realized it wasn’t just me. Perhaps my generation’s excuse for future generations being too soft will be a quote along the lines of, “in my day the AI for the original NES was next to impossible and on top of that we had no fancy Internet to look up cheat codes either.”

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