The Top 15 Best Platform Games for the Original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

The Nintendo Entertainment System’s library is synonymous with platform gaming due to the sheer number of games from the genre that graced the console. The quantity was one thing, but the quality is where the Nintendo really shined over its contemporaries and any console since released. The NES delivered so many classic platform games that it can be mind-boggling trying to sort through the quality titles. Reflecting back on the 15 best platform games for the NES makes me wonder how any ’80s kid found time to do anything other than play these gaming gems.

15) Ninja Gaiden

This classic game earned its iconic status thanks to its intuitive gameplay, precise controls and action packed levels. Ninja Gaiden was also noted for its strong replay value, making it a classic worthy of repeat visits even decades after its initial release.

14) DuckTales

As a rule of thumb, I try to avoid video games that rely on movie licenses, but this Capcom classic does not merely rely on the license, it actually uses the Disney license to provide familiar characters and settings as a visual complement to the excellent platform game engine that they developed.

13) Bonk’s Adventure

The iconic character from the Turbo Grafx-16 console arrived on the Nintendo Entertainment System thanks to this very strong conversion. Some of the visual flair was lost during the conversion to the 8-bit NES, but the addicting gameplay remained intact.

12) Mega Man 2

Capcom really hit all the right buttons on when developing the second iteration of Mega Man. This game was a mainstay in any gamer’s collection back in the day and the brilliant level design is still compelling.

11) Castlevania

The way that Konami created a dark atmosphere with the limited technical capacity of the day is something to behold. The game’s well designed backgrounds and levels mesh beautifully with the music, while the solid gameplay mechanics and challenging enemies keep this classic from being a walk in the park.

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10) Little Nemo The Dream Master

Capcom managed to create a truly unique world and one of the most immersive gaming experiences of the 8-bit era with this gem. The levels are visually stunning and the level design was fresh and unique at the time of this platform game’s release.

9) Ninja Gaiden 2

The second iteration of the Ninja Gaiden series provided more pleasing visuals, but the advances in gameplay are what really elevated the series with this release. The control was perfect and the gameplay was clever, making this game play like second nature within minutes of hitting the power button.

8) Contra

Contra was ridiculous addicting thanks to the thought that went into the strength of each and every power-up in the game. The game mechanics are simple which keeps the action coming and the pace intense. The perfect approach to a run and gun style of platform game.

7) Kid Icarus

This is the textbook example of an old-school platform game that is devoid of any graphical gimmicks. The backgrounds are plain black, allowing you to focus on the actual gaming challenge presented by this iconic title.

6) Metroid

The level of exploratory skill tested throughout Metroid’s meandering levels raised the bar for platform games. Additionally, the long lasting power-ups that truly strengthened your character were a strong evolutionary step in terms of gameplay. The minimalist graphical design actually complemented the gameplay and the whole Metroid experience.

5) Super Mario Bros.

There isn’t much that can be said about Super Mario Bros. that hasn’t already been said. Super Mario Bros. saved the entire video game industry. The game was that revolutionary and every detail of the levels, characters and game mechanics is truly endearing, even to a jaded gamer in 2012.

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4) Castlevania 3

The third installment of Konami’s legendary Castlevania series firmly encapsulated all that was great about the franchise, as well as 8-bit platform games. Visually, the game pushed the Nintendo Entertainment System to its limits, but the gameplay is what was awe-inspiring about this title. The level design encouraged a methodical yet accessible play strategy, keeping gamers coming back for repeat sessions long after they had first defeated the challenging game.

3) Adventure Island 2

Hudson Soft’s side-scrolling game may not be the most intricate of the iconic platform games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, but its simplicity is what makes Adventure Island 2 so appealing. There are no gimmicks here. The game’s color palette features a relatively high level of color saturation, evoking the easy-going nature of the game engine. The game’s brisk pace and long levels encourage gamers to get into a rhythm and once you hit that stride you are lost in the game’s exciting worlds.

2) Mega Man 3

Mega Man 2 has solid enough gameplay, that Capcom could have just given the game a visual redesign and moved a few platform elements around while calling it a day. Capcom did not rest on its laurels when designing Mega Man 3 and the results were stunning. The third installment of the iconic franchise was noted for its intricate level design that was not previously seen in the series and would also never be repeated. The depth of the levels, tweaked controls and addition of the legendary Mega Man slide put this game at the top of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s platform game library.

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1) Super Mario Bros. 3

Nintendo created a true masterpiece when developing Super Mario Bros. 3. The game built upon the basic groundwork laid by the first Super Mario Bros., but added so much more. The variety of enemies and the unique way each enemy and boss challenged the player forever changed the way the gaming world views platform games. The level design was stellar and each world encouraged the player to play with styles of varying speed, pace, aggressiveness and exploration. The game struck the perfect balance between challenge and fun and did so in such an enjoyable way that it was instantly hailed as one of the best games of all-time, an accolade that rings just as true to this very day.

The contributor is really nostalgic for the pure gaming experiences delivered by these classic Nintendo platform games. This was a time when gameplay mattered more than graphics and there was true depth to the big titles of the day.

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