The 10 Best NES Classic Games

Henry Gilbert
Games Final Fantasy
Games Final Fantasy Nintendo

In case you missed the big news, this morning Nintendo revealed the Mini NES Classic Console, an HD-ready version of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. The shrunken version of the best console the ’80s ever saw is $60 and goes on sale November 11, and it comes packed with 30 of the best NES games ever made. But some of these classics are more fun than others.

Unfortunately, the diverse collection of Mini NES games makes it hard to pick the 10 best entries, so it’s time to narrow down the choices a little. The Mini NES games are pulled from some of the most celebrated franchises in gaming history, and surprisingly the included games aren’t just limited to titles published by Nintendo. Multiple third party NES games are included on the mini-console, so let’s rank the five best non-Nintendo developed games on the Mini NES, followed by the five best made by the console maker. Let’s start our fair and balanced countdown with…

The 5 Best Third Party Mini NES Games

Ninja Gaiden

Best Mini NES Games

Tecmo’s greatest NES release (sorry Tecmo Bowl) is notoriously difficult, but worth every moment of frustration. Ninja Gaiden challenge makes for rewarding gameplay that continues to inspire punishing throwback games like Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV, on top of introducing gamers to Ryu Hayabusa and his unbreakable Dragon Sword. Revisit this game to see how ahead of its time Ninja Gaiden‘s cutscenes are, but watch out for the very aggressive birds.

Super C

Best Mini NES Games

It’s always a tense argument when trying to decide what’s the best Contra game, but Super C (aka Super Contra) is definitely in the running for that honor. This port of the intense arcade shooter combines all the action of a Schwarzenegger film from the 1980s with the demanding difficulty that made kids return to Contra again and again. Just be sure you have the Konami Code memorized before you start up the game.

Final Fantasy

Best Mini NES Games

This is where the series began, so this is definitely the most primitive Final Fantasy game of all time, but there’s still tons of fun to be had revisiting Final Fantasy‘s NES origins. The game is nearly 30 years old, but the music is just as lovely even if the job system hasn’t aged too well. Also, of all the Mini NES games, Final Fantasy will almost certainly take the longest to complete, so there’s real value there.


Best Mini NES Games

Long before the word “Metroidvania” entered the gaming lexicon, the original Castlevania was making waves for its challenging gameplay, its 8-bit approach to horror icons like Dracula, and a rocking soundtrack that stays lodged in your memory. Even though the best Mini NES games come with save slots not offered in the original versions, you should still bring a guide with you if you want Simon Belmont to survive this ordeal.

Mega Man 2

Best Mini NES Games

Outside of a Mario game here and there, 2D platformers don’t get much better than Mega Man 2. Capcom’s mascot fights his way through Dr. Wily and his eight Robot Masters in a sidescroller that’s still easy to pick up and play. And its soundtrack is one of the greatest ever, still inspiring chiptune artists to this day. This should be one of your first stops after turning on your Mini NES.

The 5 Best Nintendo Games

Kirby’s Adventure

Best Mini NES Games

Yes, Kirby has really been around long enough to have starred in an NES game, and Kirby’s Adventure is actually one of the most influential Kirby titles ever. The Mini NES comes packaged with the first Kirby game to ever feature the copy ability, and the friendly level design remains inviting for new and old players. Admittedly the 3D Classics version on 3DS is the superior edition, but this is a fine alternative.


Best Mini NES Games

The first ever Metroid is a lonely, trying journey through a foreboding rock in space, and it’s a must-play for Samus completionists. Finding your way through the complex collection of caves and acid pits takes cunning, but it’s worth it when you make that final run to safety at the end of the game. And unlike in 1986, the Mini NES comes with save slots, so no worries about memorizing passwords this time around.

Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream

Best Mini NES Games

First things first: This doesn’t include Mike Tyson. The infamous boxing legend has been replaced by Mr. Dream, who fights the same as Tyson anyway, making this basically the same as the Punch-Out!! you grew up with. Little Mac’s battle against the greatest boxers from around the world is still a blast, and more like a puzzle game than a traditional sports game. Just be sure to get the timing right when King Hippo opens his mouth.

The Legend of Zelda

Best Mini NES Games

The original Legend of Zelda turns 30 this year, making its inclusion on the Mini NES a great way to celebrate its anniversary. The stripped down, no-nonsense exploration of LoZ still pulls you in from that first moment, letting the player find their way as they go. 2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is meant to be a throwback to the NES original, so let this be an excuse to see what might be referenced next year.

The Super Mario Bros. Trilogy

Best Mini NES Games

This trio of games would make the Mini NES worth the $60 price tag all on their own, and it’s only fair to the rest of the games on the list to include them together. Super Mario Bros. basically invented the platformer in 1985, dropping gamers into the Mushroom Kingdom for the first time ever. Super Mario Bros. 2 took the series in an entirely new direction, with four choosable characters and a dream-like setting full of throwable produce. And Super Mario Bros. 3 taught the world that raccoons can fly in one of the best-selling most beloved games ever made. If you played them when they were new or were just introduced to them via Super Mario Maker, the Mini NES looks like a great place to revisit these iconic games.

Henry Gilbert
Henry Gilbert is Senior Games Editor at Fandom. He's worked in the gaming press since 2008, writing for sites as diverse as GamesRadar, IGN, and Paste Magazine. He's also been known to record a podcast or two with Laser Time. Follow him on Twitter @henereyg.
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