A Blast from The Past: Top Rated NES Games
Before 3D games were even cool, the older gaming generation was obsessed with the Nintendo Entertainment System. Even though it’s been years since their release, the waves of what they have started back then still sends ripples in modern gaming.
Who would forget the glory days of NES? Our childhood was awesome thanks to Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, Pac-Man, and Bomberman! Their engaging gameplay and iconic 1-bit music were immortalized forever. Nostalgic, isn’t it? That is why I’ve decided to go down memory lane and list the Top NES RPG games that laid the foundation of video games as we know them today.
Dragon Warrior II
Dragon Warrior II (or Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line) was developed by Chunsoft (now Spike Chunsoft) and published by Enix (now Square Enix). Released in January 1987 in Japan, it was later released in the US in September 1990. The game takes place one hundred years after the original Dragon Warrior game.
This game fixed major bugs that plagued the first game. An example of this was The Infinite Gold Chest glitch where the player can reopen a chest to get an infinite amount of gold. The glitch will go like this, you are good till your eighth chest, but the glitching will start from the moment you open the ninth one.
Dragon Warrior II is recognized as one of the hardest games in the franchise. It was critically acclaimed as one of the games that introduced standard JRPG mechanics. Features like party members, different transportation mode, and unique items that unlock doors or magic gates.
The game was so popular that it sold more than 2.5 million copies in Japan. Its further ports and remakes to other consoles like in the Game Boy Color also enjoyed massive success and worldwide profit.
If sci-fi role-playing games is something that you dig, then Mother is your top choice. Also known as EarthBound Beginnings, you will take on the role of a 12-year-old boy Ninten. Through the course of the game, you will fight different creatures while being guided by your great-grandfather’s studies on psychic powers.
People have commented that it’s a bit similar to Dragon Quest. The level of game difficulty and balance issues are seen to be shared by the two games. If you remember playing this game back then, then you must have remembered getting frustrated with the gameplay. Despite the challenges, Mother still sold more than 150,000 copies in Japan. This was supposed to be released in the United States, but the idea was abandoned by Nintendo.
Fast forward to present-day, the game’s prototype made its way to the Internet under the title EarthBound Zero. It was later released in June 2015 for the Wii U Virtual Console under the title EarthBound Beginnings.
Crystalis is a famous cult classic that is well-loved by the retro game community to up to this day. Released in 1990, Crystalis has similar RPG mechanics to other games of its time. However, it was widely praised by gamers and critics for its advanced graphics.
What probably made it stand out from the rest is the fact that the players have the power to wield four different elemental swords. The most famous one is the Crystalis, which you will obtain later in the game.
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world that is home to mutated creatures, and people who had given up on science and technology. In turn, the inhabitants of this world have put more importance to different forms of magic.
The survivors are now living in a floating tower and under the tyranny of Draygon. This man has unlocked the secret of combining science with magic and used it to fortify his rule. Now armed with the power of the elemental swords you must defeat Draygon before he entirely takes over the Tower.
Due to its popularity, Crystalis was released in other consoles. It was launched for the Game Boy Color in 2000, 2018 for the Nintendo Switch (SNK’s 40th Anniversary Collection) and March 2019 for the PlayStation 4.
This is probably one of the obscure titles since this was not released in America. Just Breed was developed by Random House and was published by Enix (Square Enix) in December 1992. It was celebrated by some gamers because it’s considered as one of the largest role-playing games released at that time. It is also one of the most overlooked titles due to delays on its release.
In Just Breed, you will take on the role of a nameless hero which is also the lover of a beautiful priestess named Firis. Firis wields a sapphire that spiritually protects the town of Astholm. The story progresses as she was kidnapped during the Sapphire Festival. Now it’s up to you to embark on a journey and rescue her.
This is a turn-based strategy RPG game that has a battle system called “Team Spirits.” This mechanic enables your units to attack an enemy unit one after another. It’s similar to Shining Force and Fire Emblem in terms of gameplay. Each character has a character class that gives them fixed attributes, and you can also make them learn certain spells. You also can explore worlds and check out shops in between quests.
We are compelled to add this one to the list because we feel that this game deserves more love. With modern gamers wanting to unearth retro games and are looking for underrated games, Just Breed is highly recommended.
Final Fantasy III
Of course, a NES recommendation list is not complete without a Final Fantasy game on its roster. One of the memorable titles in the franchise is Final Fantasy III. Released in Japan in 1990, the hype created by this game was huge. It sold more than 1.4 million copies in Japan alone.
It is understandable if you just heard about this game since it did not have a local release in the US. It was not until the Nintendo DS remake in August 2006 did it have a US debut.
The big difference of the Final Fantasy III from its predecessors is that the hit points are now displayed above the target unit rather than showing it as a caption in-game. The notable turn-based system is significantly improved. The story of Final Fantasy III revolved around four orphans living in a remote village called Ur. Luneth, Arc, Refia, and Ignus, the protagonists are the representation of the traits, courage, kindness, affection, and determination.
Sadly, this game didn’t introduce a job system yet during its initial release. However, the story will still keep you hooked. Those who played the original will remember the memory of not letting the controller go until they finish this game. The game was well-received, and it was recognized as the series who formally introduced the famous Chocobo!
Apart from the unique video game title, Faxanadu is actually a side-story of the second installment of the Dragon Slayer series, Xanadu. It’s released in Japan in 1987 followed by the 1989 release in America, and then in the EU a year later. The title is actually a wordplay of Famicom (Family Computer, Japan’s name for the NES) and Xanadu.
Faxanadu is unique thanks to its a side-scrolling action role-playing game. The game lets you take the role of an unnamed hero who goes returns in his hometown of Eolis only to find out that it been under attack by Dwarves. You are then given 1500 gold by the Elven King and tasked to find out the cause of the chaos and bring back the peace.
Standard elements of NES RPG game are in Faxanadu: buy items and weapons, explore different areas, and equip yourself well. After defeating an enemy, you’ll get rewards like gold, bread to restore your HP, and experience points.
This game is enjoyable and is critically acclaimed by gamers and critics alike. If you’re wondering if they ever made a remake, then the answer is yes. It was launched for the Nintendo Wii in 2010 and 2011. It also enjoyed some media exposure as it was featured on two episodes of the second season of Captain N: The Game Master.
Swords and Serpents
The fantasy role-playing game Swords and Serpents are remembered not just an iconic game but also as a game with beautiful box art. The box is probably one of the reasons to grab it from the shelf, buy it, and take it home, no questions asked.
Released in 1990, Swords and Serpents will take you to a dungeon-crawling quest, to destroy a terrifying serpent. But before the last showdown with the final boss, you’ll have to go through the dungeon with different creatures first. You must also collect gold and treasure that will help you with your journey. The game is renowned for having unique gameplay of using a split-screen format.
In most NES RPG games you only get to play solo with AI-controlled units, but in Swords and Serpents, you will be able to play with up to four players. However, to use this feature, you must have an NES satellite or if you have a 4-player joystick adaptor.
At the start of the game, you get to choose one of three available classes. There is a warrior, magician, and thief class. You may generate character stats randomly, or you can select a pre-made party. The pre-made has all the characters of each class, plus another magician. Beginners are encouraged to choose a pre-made party because it is balanced and ideal for any monster you’ll encounter.
If you need to turn off your NES or just want to save particular progress in the game, you can! Just enter a password for each of your characters and another one for your game progress. However, make sure to accurately write down the five passwords and tuck them somewhere so they can be easily accessed when you need them.
About the game’s development, Swords and Serpents was the brainchild of game designer Paul O’Connor. He is also the one who did the game design for the Dragon Wars game. Unfortunately, he immediately left the project after two weeks. He then was quickly replaced by Bruce Schlickbernd. Good thing regardless of his abrupt leave, O’Connor was still credited for his contribution to the game’s development.
As I was writing down this list, I remembered the simpler times of all those years ago. These games are classic and paved the way for modern games. Their innovation and mechanics are what inspired the well-loved titles that the newer generation is enjoying today. Modern RPG will not develop if not to these iconic games.
For older gamers, these games were a reminder of an awesome childhood and fond memories that the NES and these games have brought. So, if your trusty old console is still working why don’t you take it out, dust it off, bring out these nostalgic titles. Go ahead and indulge yourself in fun-filled retro gaming.