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Orc's Lair Top 30 NES Games (Part 1: 30-20)

When people ask what got me into gaming, a big part of the answer is that I was a Nintendo kid. I remember one fateful Christmas Eve, back in 198X, I was up all night praying to both the Lord above and Santa himself for a Nintendo Entertainment System. My thinking was, that If they could combine their mighty powers, I could actually pull this off! When I came downstairs Christmas morning, eyes glazed over from lack of sleep, hair disheveled looking like I got hit in the back of the head with a football, I saw that those two had indeed teamed up and pulled through! Oh, man, it changed my life forever! Way to go, dudes!

Years later, and still a Nintendo kid, still a gamer. It's no surprise that my 30th pick paved the way to game store owner status and game master. Here's a list of my personal favourite old school Nintendo games that may contain more than a few surprises than your average list.

#30 Final Fantasy

I randomly chose this game out of the back of a FuncoLand catalog. No photos, no descriptions, just thought the title was catchy. Little did I know that this game was actually something called an RPG or roleplaying game, and that years later, I would then discover Dungeons and Dragons and find out Final Fantasy was modeled after it. Crits, magic, classes, monsters, and story. The series is still going strong to this day. Final Fantasy 6 and 7 being in my top 5 games ever.

Simple, grindy, and rewarding if you tough it out, Final Fantasy on NES is a classic turn-based RPG that would end up teaching me patience, perseverance, and to always stock up on Heal potions before a dungeon. It's so pure and simple, and I admire that about it. Return lights to the 4 orbs, warriors!

The Orc Man gives it 5 Silver Nunchucks out of 5. Check it out!

#29 Megaman 2

The first NES game I ever played and I remember playing it at my cousin Bubble's house. No, I'm serious, that was her actual name. We're Asian.

I had no idea what I was doing at the time, but I knew I liked it. I sucked at it, but I remember the cool waterfalls in Bubble Man's stage, the awesome graphics, the challenge, and the kick-ass soundtrack.

Arguably having the best line up of tunes of any NES game of all time, excellent controls, and just the right amount of challenge, this game was, and is still, a masterpiece. Years later, it would only be outdone by Megaman X on SNES, but another time, another time...

The Orc Man gives it 5 Metal Blades out of 5. Bzz bzz!

#28 Mickey Mousecapade

I may have been a Nintendo kid, but I wasn't really a Disney kid. My younger sisters were into all the classic over-sized box Disney films, but my exceptions were Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty. However, Mickey Mousecapades was one of the first games I ever played and has a special place in my heart.

Simple team gameplay, as you play as both Micky and Minnie together, it provides a challenge you wouldn't expect, and lots of hidden items to throw stars at to reveal. Your OCD will thank you. Or hate you, whatever.

It sucks that you can lose Minnie as she can get stolen or worse, she jumps into the ocean, but fear not, you can get her back. Having your mouse duo together means spamming your projectile weapons (stars) a lot faster, ending enemies and bosses at double speed!

Did you know the Japanese release actually has characters from Alice in Wonderland in it? Play that one if you like Alice too. A little known fact!

The Orc Man gives it 5 Hidden Mickey's and 1 badly jumping Minnie out of 5.

I told you, this is a real list of personal favourites, not a YouTube greatest games of all time countdown. What the heck is WURM? It's insanely underrated!

It's an RPG, action platformer, horizontal space shooter, vertical space shooter, transforming, first person boss battling, amazing game! You do it all. Sure, its got a dumb name but its fantastic. A random FuncoLand purchase for like 2 bucks that I never regretted. The variety in this game is astonishing!

Each genre works well, and you want to see what happens next, keeping you glued to your seat, pressing on for more. I'm sure you'll love this true hidden gem on the NES.

The Orc Man gives it 5 80's perms out of 5. Wowza!

#26 Duck Tales

Who else remembers the Disney Afternoon lineup? One thing I definitely remember is Duck Tales, and its NES counterpart is a true masterpiece.

You take on the the role of the Duckburg's richest duck, Scrooge McDuck, who is a pretty stand up guy, contrary to his name. He's worked hard for his riches and loves his nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. You travel the world gathering treasures from places like the Amazon, Niagara falls, Transylvania, and even the Moon, taking on a boss in each level to secure a $1,000,000 treasure. The Moon soundtrack is one of the best 8bit tunes ever, up there with Megaman 2.

Collect as much treasure, diamonds, and hidden gems along the way and enjoy some top caliber platforming and OCD pleasing searching. Not hard, but not a pushover, either. This game and I go back a long time, and I still enjoy it to this day.

The Orc Man gives it 5 pogos and a Beagle Boy out of 5.

#25 Strider

I walked into our neighborhood liquor store one day when I was in about 3rd grade and the owner had just plugged in a brand new Strider arcade cabinet. He pushed it against the wall , stood back in appreciation, and saw my look of excitement and curiosity and said, here you go, go for it. There was a free credit on it just for me. Ahhh, it was love at first sight. A fistful of years later, when I was about 14, I got my own port of Strider for the NES.

The first thing I noticed was that it wasn't very much like the arcade port at all, in fact, it was completely different. At first, I was a little bummed, but little did I know, this was its own unique game with a ton of depth, challenge, and cool features that really makes it shine. I love this game!

You still play as the same character, and he's still got that cool sword. Its all cyberpunky, gritty, and I feel its a hidden gem that never got a second look. Great platforming, and you get to use your thinking box (brain) to get through it. Jump around locations, gather power ups, and enjoy a cool adventure that needs not piggybacking on its arcade papa bear. Backtracking with unlocked powers provides depth and a sense of growth. Its a neat game. Super neat. Its good. Check it out!

The Orc Man gives it 5 orange power up pills out of 5

#24 Legacy of the Wizard

Legacy of the who now? The Wizard, of course! I've never beaten it, but I always come back to it. You start out in a cabin where you can pick one of your family members including the dad, the mom, brother, sister, grandma I think, even the freaking family pet which is some sort of fat pink dragon dog thing.

Like Mario Bros 2, each character has its own set of stats. Some jump higher, hit harder, walk faster, throw different weapons and are more durable than others. From there, you enter an underground labyrinth of which I have never seen before. The travels ahead are riddled with enemies and secrets!

Collect loafs of bread (yum!), keys, magic, treasures, bags of money, items, and more and see how far you can get before needing to resurface and choose a different character. Its like a game of chicken to see how far you can venture before needing to come back up, and I've yet to figure out the order of which to do things. I love a mystery, and this one has so much of it, I still wonder what's yet to come. This adventure game will keep you busy. Get a scan of the manual to help with items, there's a lot of them. Definitely a cool little game and no one really notices its existence.

The Orc Man gives it 5 green loafs of bread out of 5 bottles of poison.

#23 Commando

My thumbs actually blistered. No, for reals, this happened. I visited my cousin in East LA one day and man, was their apartment boring, except for 2 things, Commando and Shinobi.

Forget that the place had roaches at night, and forget that all I had to eat was literally cashews and oranges, I was playing Commando, and it was fast paced shoot em up glory at its finest!

Sure, sometimes there's so much on the screen that its impossible to see where enemies are with all that dang flickering, but the action and hidden rooms make this game so addictive.

You have an endless supply of ammo, a limited supply of grenades, and a million gray-clad troops to mow through.

One thing I love about games like this is that you never know what you're going to find. You can uncover hidden rooms with a lucky grenade, go underground and find the strangest things. Mystery keeps me motivated. The cut scenes also amuse me. Your character's eating rice in one and even smoking cigarettes in another. I guess he's earned them both.

The Orc Man gives it 5 packs of Camels of 5.

#22 RC Pro-Am

I got so busted for playing this game. I was walking home from school and it was raining. This never happened before. I got to my place, and no one was home. Also a first. My friend said, we should go to his house and I can call my mom there and we could play Nintendo. Call my what? Let's go! I didn't know any better, I was a kid!

We got to his house and he fired up RC Pro-Am and we played as I dried out, or whatever was going on, I didn't care anymore. Needless to say, my mother, much like Queen Victoria, when I did get ahold of her, was not amused.

After I was able to see daylight again, RC Pro-Am was always on my mind. I finally got a copy a long time later. I wonder what that kid's doing these days.

Developed by Rare, this game is simple and addicting, even though the orange car is a big fat cheater. You get missiles to fire, bombs to drop, and tons of upgrades you can run over durning the race to increase your top speed, acceleration, turning and even your car. Beware the oil slicks, they suck! Stay in 3rd place or better to keep going, doesn't sound hard, does it?

The Orc Man gives it 5 roll cages out of 5 remote controlled cars.

#21 RBI Baseball 2

I grew up wanting to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Corny, right? Baseball, video games, and the girl across the street was my life back then. Sure, this game didn't have the actual team names, but it had the players and stats. This black box Tengen game was fun and although I loved the fat chunky looking players of part 1, the second installment had it where you could jump and also dive on the defense. This made for some intense saves and exciting plays!

The local batting cage had an arcade cabinet and I can still hear the music in my head. Part 3 is also good, in fact, it's essentially the same game with updated rosters. RBI Baseball is a fun little series with plenty of replay value.

Try and see how many runs you can get, and take a trip through memory lane with these old school players. The National League and American League all-stars are there too. The music is great, both the pitching and hitting is fun, and this game just makes me smile. 9 innings (or less if you're crushing them), goes by so fast. The instant replays are cool too, and you can skip the computer's replays. Screw those guys.

The Orc Man gives it 5 bean balls out of 5 walks.

#20 Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt

Yes, the pack-in game that came with my Jesus/Santa Nintendo. Every time I play it, I want enchiladas too. It's weird the things that nostalgia pairs on you, isn't it?

When I got my NES, my mom wanted my uncle who owned a TV and VCR repair shop to set it up. Like THAT was necessary.. Of course, that took a day or two or who knows which was an eternity for this kid. When he finally came over to do it, I was at school and when I came back, my parents were playing and even made it to world 2-2.

I equate the shock of seeing my parents, who had zero interest in video games (or so I thought), playing my Nintendo, the very icon of my childhood to seeing my first pair of boobs. It was something unexpected and out of left field. But whatever, can I play or what? Gimmie that thing!

I still play it to this day, and it's still a challenge. I don't use warps and don't use continues, and it's rewarding when I manage to get to the 8th level. I don't need to say much about this iconic game, but throw in Duck Hunt and you have a timeless classic that taught me problem solving, patience, and to never give up, even when you want to pull your hair out. Level 6 is my favourite world of all.

The Orc Man gives it 5 cheeps-cheeps out of 5 bloopers and 2 clay pigeons.

I'll continue the top 30 count down soon! Keep an eye on the Orc's Lair Blog! Until next time!

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Brittany Pfeifer
Brittany Pfeifer
Aug 26, 2020

Excited to see what gets #1! I have a few guesses.

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