There are more than handful of very good games for the NES that, while superb in their own right, did not make the list. This is mostly because I wanted a list of 10 games, so I necessarily had to pass up a lot of very good games to pick those that I thought most represented the gameplay on NES. Today I’ll hit on three very good games games that were close to making the essential plays list, but were edged out by one or more of the games on the list.
Mega Man 3 was one of my favorite games growing up, indeed I wasted many an afternoon battling the area bosses of this platformer. Mega Man 3 is one of the best in the Mega Man series, and also the hardest. People who complain about the difficulty of Mega Man 9 need to go back and play 3 if they want to know exactly how hard Mega Man can be. Despite being an awesome game, and Mega Man one of my favorite game franchises, it just has too much overlap with other games on my list. Mega Man games are also somewhat generic when it comes to platforming. Most of the action in a Mega Man game is not unique, with the ability to absorb the area bosses powers being the only big mechanic that it brings to the table. Really, the series doesn’t offer a lot in the way of dynamic platforming until the Mega Man X series for the SNES.
Mega Man 3 (and indeed all the Mega Man games for the NES) is certainly worth playing. But it overlaps significantly with the of Metroid, Bionic Commando, and Blaster Master. As such, Mega Man 3 was not included on my Essential Plays list.
This was the hardest call of all the games that didn’t make the cut. Castlevania 3 is a great game with very well developed platforming and a fairly reasonable difficulty and is the pinnacle of the series on the NES. Castlevania also a fairly good franchise, though I drifted away from it in the late 90’s early 2000’s when I felt that the series jumped the shark; though recent additions to the series are far more solid and have made a good case for me to pick the series back up. Castlevania 3 was a tough call and ultimately it came down to picking either it or Ninja Gaiden. As a NES series, Ninja Gaiden just had more going for it with two strong and one good presentation vs. Castlevania’s one strong, one good, and one horrible presentation. Really, Simon’s Quest is reason enough not to include the game in my Essential Plays list. Woof, that was a bad game.
Battletoads is another game that was barely edged out. In this case it was in direct competition to Double Dragon II. Battletoads has a lot to offer as a beat-em-up game: lots of fighting moves, a variety of gameplay, and co-operative play. However, it has two fatal flaws that make Double Dragon II the better game. First, the Battletoad hoverbike sections were punishingly hard and had frustratingly inaccurate collision detection. Second, the co-op mode actually made the game MORE difficult by pooling continues, requiring restarts when one player dies, and by allowing too much friendly fire. Battletoads might as well have been a one player game for as badly botched as the co-op mode was. Double Dragon II, on the other hand, has a beautifully balanced co-op mode. The quality difference in the co-op modes alone was the deciding factor to pick Double Dragon II over Battletoads.
There are certainly many other great games for the NES, many of which I had to decide to exclude from my list in favor of those that made it. The three above were the toughest calls when putting together my list, so I have given them Runner-Up status. I’m sure that many will disagree with my choices and could suggest other games that are more deserving to be on my essential plays list. Those individuals are free to put together their own list.
-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?