One of the hottest products last holiday season was a tiny box that played a bunch of videogames from 30 years ago. Something like the NES Classic doesn’t become impossible to find merely out of nostalgia; its popularity was a testament to the enduring triumph of the best games released for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
It’s not an overstatement to say that the Nintendo Entertainment System saved the entire home videogame industry. After the videogame crash of 1983, the console was essentially dead, and the arcade reigned supreme. A glut of poorly made games for the Atari 2600 killed the marketplace as the industry lost billions in revenues in just a matter of months. It was so bad that retailers notoriously had little interest in carrying Nintendo’s new console when the Japanese company launched it in America in 1985. They had to bundle it with a robot and a toy gun in order to get their system, which they named the Nintendo Entertainment System, on toy shelves instead of in the electronics department. The NES quickly became a defining part of 1980s culture, converting millions of kids into lifelong videogame fans, reestablishing the industry as a multi-billion dollar concern, and convincing some parents that every subsequent videogame system, no matter who made it, could be referred to simply as the Nintendo.
Let’s explore that library together as we look back on the 229 best games released for the NES. It’s basically a history class in list form.