#19 Skull & Crossbones
I don't know how it happened, but there's not too many pirate themed games on the NES, or really, on any other system for that matter. You play as One Eye the pirate (don't ye be makin' any winkie jokes, ye landlubber!). And.. plot twist! In the opening scene of the game, you actually face the final boss! I suppose it's likely impossible to actually kill him in the first 10 seconds of the game, but you can start damaging him right then and there which does actually matter. He will indulge you and go toe-to-toe with you before zapping you with the emperor's lightning and running off with your scantily-clad girlfriend. Thus begins your quest! And for a girl, of course!
It's my understanding that the boss doesn't heal in between fights, so every time you face him, which is at the end of the stages, you get a few seconds (give or take) to give him the old what for. You pick the order of the stages you want to visit which are labeled per their difficulty, each with its own theme.
Personally, I always start with the easy stages as the goal is to bolster your defenses by picking up guns, swords, throwing knives, and more throughout the stages so that the next time you see that woman stealer, you can get some actual damage on him.
There are a million things hidden all over the place so you'll be jumping all over looking for invisible platform and invisible items while keeping an eye on the time limit and your health. The controls are a little slippery, and it takes some serious practice to master this game, but there's nothing like it out there. Beware the poison items, they get in the way but you'll earn your NES wings if you keep on trying. It's a unique game with a cool theme, tons of secrets, and a cool boss mechanic. Peep those strangely sexy bondage cutscenes too. A game that impressed my friends by just existing when that whole Pirates of the Caribbean craze was happening.
The Orc Man gives it 5 bottles of invisible beer on the invisible wall in a cloud you can step on.
#18 Wizards and Warriors
Another solid title by Rare, the dudes that made Donkey Kong Country and a million other amazing games, Wizards and Warriors is a super fun adventure platformer that spawned a few sequels. For me, part one is where it's at. There's magic items like Boots of Force, Feather of Fall, and other pen and paper RPG elements that you can find. Locate keys to open locked doors and don't forget the treasures located throughout the stages and from defeating bosses. The gems are cool.
The controls may take a little getting used to, but you'll get there fast. You play as the Warrior, a knight in full armor and the goal is to make it to, and defeat, you guessed it, the Wizard! Save a harem of maidens, each with their own cool medieval name, at the end of each stage until thou hast freed thy princess and defeated thy wizard!
Simple, thematic, and fun. A must play. Peep that sequel with Fabio on the cover. Yes, the hunky "I can't believe its not butter" dude.
Fans of sword and sorcery and medieval stuff should appreciate this title.
The Orc Man gives it 5 acorns out of 5 Keebler Elves.
#17 River City Ransom
It was sophomore year algebra when this tough ass gangsta kid named Raul asked me if I played River City Ransom in the middle of class. Huh? River what? What's this conversation and why's it even happening?
I looked over and he had a house arrest tracker on his ankle, slicked back hair, and a fox's sly grin. I played it cool. I told him that I had never heard of it. So, as gangstas often do, he invited me over to play it. Or get shanked, whatever. Plot twist number two, I lived to tell the tale, we became friends, and I still love this game.
Story goes it was developed by a dude who had some run-ins with high school gangs. In Japan,
you're a lot less likely to get capped, so it was about brawling and living to tell the tale. River City Ransom is a beat em up like Double Dragon but with RPG elements. You beat people up, take their lunch money, read funny dialogue during the fights like "barf!" and even visit stores and shops to eat and learn techniques.
I won't spoil it, but its got a pretty in-depth food-to-stats mechanic. Also, peep that nude butt in the sauna. Its good clean fun, for people from all walks of life and all ages. Check it out!
The same universe from RCR makes many appearances in the NES catalogue, by the way. Check out Dodgeball for example. Its also 2 player co-op so grab a friend and kick some butt!
The Orc Man gives it 5 barfs out of 5 mommy's!
#16 Snake Rattle n' Roll
I woke up early one morning after staying the night at my cousin's house and we shuffled into the other room and fired up the Nintendo. Ah, yes, no adults before 10am, yes, sleep deeply, you lazy grown-up bastards. I didn't really see this cousin often and he had such a strange library of NES games. One of them was Snake Rattle n' Roll. Like.. who even owns that? So there we were, half asleep, enjoying some awkward cousin bonding time looking through his games. Suddenly, he was struck with inspiration. He was a little too exited.
HIM: "Hey, you wanna play Snake Rattle n' Roll?"
ME: *laughs dismissively while rubbing the sleep out of my eyes* "Shake what now?"
He popped that sucker in and we were bathed in an 8-bit rendition of Elvis' Shake, Rattle and Roll. I groaned. Ohhhhhh, a play on words! Snake, Rattle and Roll, yeah.. I get it. Yeah, funny. Uhg. This was gonna be stoopid with two o's. Boy was I wrong.
Two-player co-op fun with strangle and unusual graphics, an isometric view, and unique gameplay. The 50's style music was uplifting and show how fitting, the colours were bright and interesting.
You take on the role of a snake's head. You use your tongue to take down enemies and gobble down segments of your snake's colour to extend his body. At the end of each stage, you weigh in on a scale. The heavier you are from additional body length, the higher the scale tips. Make the minimum weight requirement and the door opens so you can pass to the next stage.
This game is hard, but its clever, unique, and just enjoyable. My favourite enemy is the giant foot.
The Orc Man gives it 5 tongue lashings out of 5 toes. Ew, I grossed myself out.
Remember in my last list, I played Commando until I got blisters on my thumbs with the cashews and the oranges? This was the other game that did it. They had two games, this was the other. Another Tengen release, strangely enough. Mmm, legally unlicensed games. That means no Nintendo seal of approval, but seal didn't stop us from the onslaught of LJN games, did it? No it didn't. Anyway, Shinobi!
Shinobi is a simple walk-to-the-right and take dudes out with your mad ninja skills. One thing I loved about this game is the ninja magic you can use and also there's a cool first person bonus game where you throw shurikens at bad guys. That how you earn your nija magic! It's like Ninja Gaiden, but easier to play and, personally, I just enjoy it more. Less stress, more classic ninja fun! There's powerups, good music, tight controls, and fun boss battles. Although I suck at the helicopter.
Ninja Gaiden may get all the love, but its a very difficult game, as are its sequels. Great games, sure, but for me, I prefer this and Wrath of the Blank Manta for my NES ninja games. Make sure you peep Marilyn Monroe and the old guys throwing their beards at you if you try it out.
The Orc Man gives it 5 detachable beards out of 5.
#14 Metal Gear
With iconic lines such as "Uh-oh! The truck have started to move!" and "I feel asleep!!!," this early Kojima game (Death Stranding) may not be his proudest work, but I sure liked it. Kojima may have been disappointed with technical limitations and that some things needed to get cut or changed, but it's still a solid snake, er, game, in its own right as is. Its the first of your stealth based games like what the later Metal Gear games solidified and a million other new releases that we still play today. Sure, the Japanese-to-English translation is a little off, but its plenty playable.
You take on the role of apparently Kyle Reese from the Terminator (seriously, they took that box image right from a scene from Terminator 1). You're dropped next to an enemy base with little else besides your radio and a pack of cigarettes where you have to sneak by guards and their dogs. Pick up items like binoculars, keycards, rations, weapons, and a lot more and find the weapon Metal Gear and blow it to smithereens.
Besides avoiding enemy detection, you'll have to deal with the traps ahead and once you bolster your defenses, you can shoot em back.
Snake your way through, put on your gas mask when you need to, free your fellow soldiers, and have yourself a good ol time. Underrated and just difficult enough on your first few tries. Don't cheat and look things up!
The Orc Man gives it 5 UH-OHs out of 5 THE TRUCK HAVE STARTED TO MOVE!!!
#13 Double Dragon 1-3
I could break these up into individual segments, but I kind of think of these as a unit, plus, do we need to be here all day? Each version brings its own to the table but its still Double Dragon.
I first played Double Dragon when I was in 2nd grade. There was an arcade cabinet around the corner from me at this small video rental store. When I was lucky enough to have one, I'd pop a quarter in and hope some rando kid would join me in our fight against the Black Warriors Gang. The game literally begins with a cutscene of your girlfriend being socked in the tummy and taken away by the boss and her minions. That son of a beach! From there, you're on a quest to beat up all the dudes until you make it to the Black Warriors' hideout. The NES port was good, but lacked that 2 player co-op feature that was so fun in the arcade. It had a two player 1v1 mode which sorta made up for it. Sorta. High on the nostalgia rating.
Double Dragon 2 brought us a game with less slow-down, some extra moves, the hurricane spin kick, and more ethereal aspects of the series like enemies that could be supernatural. Also, spoiler alert, you're on a revenge quest. This time, your girlfriend gets straight blasted at the beginning which begs the question, what did she even do to get this sort of attention?! Great game once you get over the sometimes backwards controls. Depending on which way you're facing, you either attack forward or backward with A and B. Don't worry, you'll catch on quick, not even close to a deal breaker.
The apparent black sheep is Double Dragon 3: the Sacred Stones. Funny enough, its actually my favourite installment. It's hard, yes, and you have one life and if you die, it's game over, man! Game over! No continues. The end, goodbye, start at the beginning. And yes, you used to die in video games.
If you can make it just a little further into the game, you pick up some allies. They key to this underrated game is to switch to different characters before one perishes, and not to be afraid to use their limited use weapons. I like the new moves like running and jumping off a wall and doing a jump kick off said wall, and the flipping, spinning, throw a dude across the screen move, and of course, the hurricane kick. There's more moves too! The flying knee rules.
Double Dragon 3 may be hard(ish) but its got great team up co-op moves and combat is tense due to the finality of death. Peep that Bimmy and Jimmy typo in the beginning too. Its a good one, don't let anyone tell you different.
The Orc Man gives the series 5 belly flopping Chins out of 5 bare hands. You'll see.
#12 Ice Hockey
Best sports game ever up there with NBA Jam. You can have your Madden 2020. I can't tell you how happy this game makes me inside. I used to play this with my childhood bff. Man, we were a video game duo. Anyway, he used to come over, and we'd play all manner of games, but when it came to Ice Hockey on Nintendo, ohhhh man. Now, let me preface, I am not even a real life hockey fan. I understand the rules, and I've been to games, but its just not a thing I follow. If its on and I'm somewhere, thats cool, just too caught up in life to pay attention, besides, I have NES Ice Hockey for my fix!
Game's simple! You pick a country (USSR for me!) and then you face off against the computer or
friend. You can customize each of your 5 players to be either thin, fast and weak, fat, slow and strong, or medium, average dudes. You can make a buncha fat dudes who run everyone over and hit the puck hard but are slow on the ice, or make them all wirey and skinny and zoom by everyone, or whatever combination you like.
Outside of picking how fat your dudes are or aren't, the simple controls are perfect for this game. Passing and shooting is a breeze and body checking and stealing the puck is a snap and one of the best parts of the game, especially when it ends in a brawl! When you tie up for control during a body check, you have to rapidly press the A button and whoever hits it the fastest, gets control. Beware, as you can get sent to the penalty box as well sometimes! I theorize it has to do with who "punched" last but I don't think it's ever been proven, but I think its a thing. Either way, #12 spot it may be, but its really dear to my icy little heart!
The Orc Man gives it 5 fat guys against a team of skinny guys. Must play!
#11 The Legend of Zelda
Zelda, all the way down here? Blasphemy! Hear me out. Its kind of like Nevermind by Nirvana, I've played it so many times, I've gotten spoiled. Still, this #11 spot is misleading. It's deeply, deeply embedded in my heart (and tattooed on my hand).
I will never forget the first time playing it. It was the first rental game I ever got and, as fate would have it, it was a random pick by my mom for me. Never heard of it, didn't know what it was. Can you imagine seeing that as new for the first time in your life?
This golden cartridge (yes, golden!) shined like treasure in my grubby little kid hands. I popped it in and was transported into a game, no a world, like no other. This was a quest, an actual full blooded quest where you had to explore, take on multiple dungeons, find magic items, and save the princess.
I was terrible at it, but there was a special connection between me and this game. I felt it. I had experienced something that would change my life forever. It wasn't until about 3 years later I met a kid in 6th grade who had a copy of their own. Turned out, he lived a couple houses down from me too. We became friends. Sorta.
I remember going over to his house, having to deal with him wanting to play outside, looking at his stupid mineral and rock collection, and various other things that weren't Zelda in order to get to Zelda. Then when he finally loaded it up, I was blown away at all the items he had. What was this? Some sort of wand? A raft? What's that book do? It was mind blowing. There was so much to uncover and that's what I enjoy most in games; exploring and discovering.
I was a Zelda junkie from day one. I didn't get my own copy until we picked up some used games from an ad in a newspaper. I was prolly 12 when I got my own copy, but I did own the polarizing sequel, Zelda 2 in the meantime, and, man. More on that later.
Sure, talking up Zelda has been done to death by now, but I was part of the demographic that designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, wanted to captivate. And captivate, he did. He designed the game as a nod to his own life as a child, exploring the woods of Japan outside his home and discovering a dark and mysterious cave one day. Can you imagine the childhood magic that he experienced? For me, I totally get it. I have always been an explorer at heart, and Zelda was my first real escape into a world of imagination and a place where this kid could be somewhere else, to experience the mystery of unknown worlds and escape the pressures of a sometimes very difficult childhood. I could go on, but we have 11 more games. Also, does anyone remember the Zelda cartoon that was on Fridays? Man! More on that later.
The Orc Man gives Zelda a big kiss for saving her and for her saving me.
#10 Dragon Warrior
It's hard to place exactly where I wanted Dragon Warrior to be. I even thought it deserved top slot, if not at least top 3. This list is deceiving, and I daresay any of these games, could jump up in position just based on the wind blowing a certain way.
You've heard of Final Fantasy, and you prolly know about role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. Well, Dragon Warrior is an RPG that I enjoy more than most Final Fantasy games. Its one man versus one dragon on a quest that just plain works and works well.
There's no party to worry about, no white mages, no black mages, and no Cid, Celes, or espers (and I love those things), but that isn't something you're going to miss. Yes, its not Final Fantasy, but this is just a better game for me, in my opinion, of course. This is one of the most pure RPGs I have ever played, if not the most pure. It's not a long game, its not as difficult like Final Fantasy on NES can be, but its so captivating that I have to rank this higher than Zelda.
Made by Enix, of what would become Square Enix years later, Dragon Warrior sprinkles a touch of Norse mythological references into a classic old school Advanced D&D (2nd edition) sort of feel that makes it feel like the good grandfather of all good video game RPGs.
Random encounters, dungeons, hit points, magic, and a big ass dragon to deal with at the end. To go into the details would disservice this underrated title which should be higher on this list, but again, whatever! The series goes on and there are over 11 installments, not to mention all the spin-offs. The series is still going strong, although the first one is my favourite, but man, a lot of those other ones are great too, and you can get your party fix in those as well.
The Orc Man gives it 5 Orc's Lair's out of 5 Dragon's Lair, which I almost named my store after, btw!
If you missed the first 10 games in my top 30 NES games, click here to see it! And stay tuned for more!