March 25, 2023

StarTropics has often been compared to The Legend of Zelda. There are certainly similarities between the two, but that comparison only takes you so far into what makes this game work. Zelda may have been the closest thing to StarTropics at the time in the minds of many, but we can now recognize StarTropics is almost more of an Earthbound-like quirky RPG that happens to utilize platforming, puzzle solving, adventuring, and real-time action. It’s an NES epic that avoids the bloat of modern larger games by making every milestone step of the game feel streamlined and unique. 

5. Super Mario Bros. 3

Yes, this is an incredibly obvious addition to this list. However, Super Mario Bros. 3 could very well remain the poster child for games that age remarkably well until the grimacing sun comes crashing down upon the Earth. 

For as much as I love 3D Super Mario games, this game remains the reason why you’ll always have fans calling out for more traditional Super Mario experiences. It’s an airtight version of the entire platforming genre that benefits from some of the most creative visuals, mechanics, and levels that have ever been produced by a company that is known for excelling at all of those things. While I personally think that Super Mario World deserves a little more of the love that this one sometimes gets, you’ll struggle to find another NES game that feels like such a complete realization of such ambitious ideas. 

Mega Man 3

4. Mega Man 3

The truth is that this spot could have gone to any of the NES Mega Man games (besides the first one, sadly). However, I ultimately decided to give it to Mega Man 3 due to both that installment’s gameplay refinements (such as the slide ability) and my personal desire to not give a single slot to a franchise. 

Much like the Sonic franchise, the biggest testament to the strength of the original Mega Man games is the fact that fans seem to be stuck in this eternal cycle of waiting for developers to just return to the original formula that worked so well. Call it a lack of progress, but there are just some times when developers “figure it out” relatively early on. Mega Man 3 is still the action game that so many other action games want to be. 

River City Ransom

3. River City Ransom

Recent years have gifted us with a River City Ransom renaissance of sorts. It’s not that the game wasn’t successful or respected in its day, but rather that it took us all a while to appreciate how brilliant this open-ended beat-em-up RPG really was. No matter how many spiritual successors we get, though, the original River City Ransom remains an incredibly enjoyable achievement. 

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