Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) – Essential Collection

The entertainment system

The NES. It was the console that kick started our love of gaming and also brought gaming back into a profitable state after the video game crash that Atari had brought upon us. Everyone just had to own what parents would often call a ‘Nintendo’ or else the kids would raise all heck.

Names like Mario and Link became figureheads that would grow to rival the likes of Mickey Mouse. The NES has seen great success, back in the day and even continues to do so, if you consider the success of the NES Mini that launched a bit ago. It’s a console with long lasting appeal and that we all love quite a bit.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached a stage where the NES could be repackaged into such a compact form. NES games be used on just about any device now, and yet some games fail to capture that level of engagement that an 8-bit classic can. We wanted to celebrate those fantastic titles and make a list of the must own NES classics. We know everyone is different and everyone will have their particular favourite games, so if you choice didn’t make it, please let us know in the comments! We want to know what YOU think the ‘Essential Collection’ of NES games is.

Let’s jump right into the list!

10. Duck Hunt

Ah the Zapper. Almost as cool as the Power Glove, just not as a bad. It’s surprising just how much Duck Hunt has managed to make a lasting impression on the gaming world, as the gameplay is about as basic as can be really. A glorified carnival shooting game with an abundance of personality, your task as to take care of some ducks and make sure you didn’t miss. The game is mostly known for the cheeky dog that terrorised us with that darn laugh, so much so that the Duck and Dog duo were featured in the latest Super Smash Bros game! From classic NES game to fighter in Smash Brothers, oh Duck Hunt. We adore you!

9. Bionic Commando

Bionic Commando takes a basic game play element that everyone can appreciate. Swinging on things is fun as heck, as Spider man games have proven to us. Capcom gave us a fantastic side scrolling action game in the form of Bionic Commando with possibly one of the greatest main characters ever named. Nathan ‘Rad’ Spencer is just so early nineties, it’s fantastic. The gameplay of Bionic Commando is incredibly addicting and can leave you losing track of the hours very easily!

8. River City Ransom

Ohhhh River City Ransom! A beat em up meets subtle RPG classic makes for one of the most rewarding NES games ever made. Plenty games tried to follow or take inspiration from this gem, like the game based on Scott Pilgrim VS The World for example. But nothing beats the adventures of Alex and Ryan kicking butt trying to stop the evil crime-lord Slick from taking over their City and getting back Ryan’s girlfriend who got abducted. It’s a classic tale that plays like a dream.

7. Mega Man 2

E-tanks at the ready people! Megaman 2 is easily the best of the bunch, and there were a LOT of em. But in terms of game play, music, and levels. It had it all. Each level felt like a fresh take on the familiar formula and the bosses themselves remain staple heads to this very day! A lot of people consider to be one of the harder entries in the series and you’d be 100% right really,  it’s tough but not in a bad design way, Mega Man 2 is for the true platform fanatics.

6. Castlevania III

All of the Castlevania games are fantastic. Simple as. Each NES game has their own charm. But Castlevania III is the full circle treatment where it adds new elements and keeps everything that worked in the other two games. Allowing a different cast of characters for different playstyles, and taking the game to all new heights. It’s clear why the Netflix show decided to focus on III for their plot, because while SOtN gets a lot of love, it was III that was the true flag bearer for the series before Iga got involved in the series.

5. Punch Out

Little Mac is one of the coolest Nintendo characters around as he is simply a small dude in a big world who has an incredible skill. He’s a pure underdog and the type of guy you want to root for. The game itself also had the approval of Mike Tyson, the best boxer at the time. Memorable fighters like Glass Joe and Piston Honda for example also fuled the game into a recognizable gaming classic, and playing it for the first or hundredth time is just as good as it ever was.

4. Contra

Contra is co-op insanity at it’s finest. In the 8-bit era such an action packed game was often found in the form of a flying spaceship or something similar, but being put in the shoes of two gun ho beefy bad dudes was an electrifying experience for sure! A plethora of ways to kill the alien menace, while it might look primitive to youth today, for those who grew up with the NES were amazed by what was on the screen. High octane action that couple be experienced on the NES thanks to Contra.

3. Super Mario Bros 3

It’s so hard to pick a particular Mario title on any Nintendo console. Normally you have a couple that are on the console and everyone has deep feelings for each one. But we think the last NES Mario game is the swan song that is deserving of all the praise. Everyone knows just how fantastic it is, multiple routes, fantastic boss fights, the scrolling levels are a true marvel to behold. There won’t ever be another Mario 3, but we’re all glad it was made in the first place as it easily one of the best games on the NES.

2. Metroid

The true leading lady in gaming. While Nintendo is getting better at putting the limelight back on our dear bounty hunter, there was a time where we feared Samus would be lost in the wind. A shameful idea considering just how gosh darn good her games are! Metroid provided a big scale adventure that made you really embrace that word, adventure. Exploring every depth and cavern of the world and looking for power up after power up, it was a fantastic and electric experience that really gave a new breath of life in the platforming genre. If you’ve never played a game in the series, Metroid is the perfect starting point.

1. Legend of Zelda

The land of Hyrule. Expansive and jaw dropping on the NES and now portable and stunning in the palm of our hands. The Legend of Zelda has seen an incredible growth, and it all started with the passing on of the Master Sword. An RPG juggernaut, if you are looking at the game that pretty much speaks for what the NES stood for as a console, then look no further. Adventure and game play unlike anything seen during the time, as most RPG adventures had been heavy text based outings, the Legend of Zelda is a must own.


The NES is a great console that is worthy of all the praise in the world. We know so many people who started with one, and it’s easy to see why they got hooked. Nintendo and the third parties involved produced some truly quality games back in the day, and while some companies have dropped off in terms of value. We all remember what their games were like, and cherish those memories very dearly. So if you are going to start collecting for the NES, then these are a few of the titles you should start off with.

Did your favourite NES game make the list? If not let us know in the comments down below!

If you love the NES classics we featured on this list and want to start to collecting NES games, then you should grab a Retron HD! What is a Retron HD you ask? It’s an affordable and in stock option to the NES Classic Mini. You can play all of the classic NES games in PURE hardware more. No emulation involved! The Retron HD is a must own if you plan on collecting for the NES. Click here to grab your own and start down your path for fantastic NES gaming!

Fan of Retro Gaming? Then visit – The #1 for Retro Gaming in the UK and Europe!