Thinking Rabbit | Taxan | Platformer | 1990

8-Eyes uses the old standby of nuclear apocalypse to explain away its nonsensical plot, which involves eight magical jewels and a gothic fantasy aesthetic ripped wholesale from Castlevania. In fact, more or less everything comes from Castlevania, with the exception of a Mega Man-esque level select screen. Seven castles can be explored in any order before the final boss can be challenged. If you ever thought Castlevania was simply too easy, 8 Eyes is the game for you. But is true victory beating the game... or merely surviving the experience? -- ''Wesley Fenlon

Hudson | Shooter | 1990

Abadox is a shooter which takes place inside a giant alien monster, a setting which really isn’t nearly as novel as it should be for NES shooters. One might ask what sets Abadox apart from games like Life Force. Well, see, Abadox alternates between horizontal and vertical levels while Life Force... also does that. Well the music is... suspiciously similar too. Yeah, I’ve got nothing here. -- Jake Alley

A Boy and His Blob
Absolute Entertainment | Puzzle Platformer | 1990

Created by David Crane, the mastermind behind the Atari 2600 game Pitfall!, A Boy and his Blob centers around a young boy circumventing various obstacles with the help of his pet blob. While blobs themselves are not so useful, this particular blob happens to change into different objects when fed specific flavors of jelly beans. Conversely, the game’s final boss is thwarted by feeding him vitamins, making this game not only arguably the best blob-based puzzler for the NES, but also an important health lesson for children everywhere. -- Luke Osterritter

Bible Adventures
Wisdom Tree | Platformer | 1990

Once Color Dreams saw the light -- and whether that light was the Gospel or simply the realization that Nintendo wasn’t about to sue a Christian-themed company is left to you to determine -- they transformed, Saul-like, into Wisdom Tree. Unfortunately, the company’s figurative road to Damascus didn’t change their habit of designing sloppy, derivative tripe, and Bible Adventures aspired to teach kids about the Old Testament by forcing them to suffer through a lousy Mario 2 clone. -- Jeremy Parish

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Konami | Platformer | 1990

Though watered down due to Nintendo-imposed technical limitations in the U.S., Dracula’s Curse is still arguably Konami’s crowning NES masterpiece. Stepping back from the open-ended design of Simon’s Quest, the third Castlevania is structured far more like the first... but the quest is three or four times the size, with alternate routes and the player’s choice of companion characters to aid them on their quest. Huge, gorgeous, and with an amazing soundtrack to boot, Dracula’s Curse remains many fans’ favorite entry in the series, and for good reason. -- Jeremy Parish

Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers
Capcom | Platformer | 1990

In the pantheon of quality Disney NES games, Chip ’n Dale was the one you brought a friend for. Solid platforming levels formed the base for a fun co-op experience. It didn’t matter that you never needed a second player to get through the game, as the ability to pick up and throw your partner created the same kind of anarchy that messing someone up in New Super Mario Bros. Wii did. It also created the same urge to punch the person who threw you to your death. -- Jeremy Signor

Code Name: Viper
Capcom | Platformer | 1990

An unusually derivative work for Capcom, Code Name: Viper is a naked imitation of Namco’s Rolling Thunder. Where Viper differs from its obvious inspiration is in its emphasis on rescuing hostages -- all those doors contain more than just ammo in this game -- and in its increasingly complex level design. And you eventually learn your commander is the main villain... a trope so common in NES game that I choose to interpret it as a desperate act of rebellion/cry for help from these developers’ oppressed wage slaves. -- Jeremy Parish

Conquest of the Crystal Palace
Natsume | Action-RPG | 1990

A perfectly functional action platformer with vague RPG elements -- think Capcom’s medieval arcade brawlers like Magic Sword, but steeped in NES aesthetics -- Conquest is notable largely because it was an early work by planner (aka director) Yasumi Matsuno of Ivalice fame. Not that you’d really know it; like Matsuno’s other famous pre-Ogre work (PC Engine shooter Magical Chase), Conquest has a nearly slapstick sense of humor and no real story to speak of. And I’m pretty sure “magic” is consistently spelled without a terminal K here. -- Jeremy Parish

Double Dragon II
Technos | Acclaim | Brawler | 1990

Far more faithful to its arcade roots than the NES port of its predecessor, Double Dragon II vies easily for title of best brawler on the system. Offering two-player action, a full range of controls and moves, vibrant graphics, and remarkable fidelity to the overall and specific design of the arcade game, this is definitely the high point in Technos’ Double Dragon home adaptations. -- Jeremy Parish

Dr. Mario
Nintendo | Puzzle | 1990

While Tetris was the game that officially started the genre we call “puzzle” because adventure games weren’t using the name, Dr. Mario is the game everyone else copies. You know that thing with the two-player mode where you drop two-bit pieces down a well trying to make lines of four bits of one color, and then setting off elaborate combos to dump garbage on the other player’s screen? Dr. Mario got that ball rolling. Unlike the other various games to use the formula however, Dr. Mario’s pieces don’t lose their cohesion upon being placed, making it easier to score huge combos, and making it possible to die without the need for grey garbage. -- Jake Alley ''

Dragon Spirit
Namco | Shooter | 1990

Dragon Spirit is a top-down shooter in which you control a dragon instead of a ship. Aside from the fun of growing extra heads upon acquiring certain power-ups, its main claim to fame is a rather odd system wherein dying in the first level unlocked a special easy mode which let players breeze through as a gold dragon, eventually reaching one of the most infuriatingly trite endings of all time instead of the proper one. Given how easy the first level was, this actually served as something of a secret alternate mode rather than the unlockable easy mode it was presumably intended as. -- Jake Alley

Dragon Warrior II
Chun Soft | Enix | RPG | 1990

Dragon Warrior was the first RPG to arrive on the NES, but it was a very spartan affair, missing such staples of the genre as having a party of characters, exploring a huge world with the help of various vehicles, and being able to save in more than one particular location. Dragon Warrior II added these missing elements, making for a game that actually becomes much more forgettable than the original in retrospect. Later games would add in an interesting class change system and some wonderful self-deprecating humor to become really interesting. The second game was still a bit busy catching up with what everyone else was doing. -- Jake Alley

Journey to Silius
Sunsoft | Action | 1990

Initially conceived as a Terminator game, this Sunsoft side-scroller somehow lost its license along the way... but the developer only really filed the serial numbers off rather than making more substantial changes, so it’s pretty easy to see the real intent behind this adventure which saw players shooting Terminator-like robots in a ruined futuristic city. -- Jeremy Parish

Kickle Cubicle
Irem | Puzzle | 1990

One part Adventure of Lolo, one part Pengo, Kickle Cubicle was an excellent take on the sliding block action puzzle game, a test of manual dexterity and mental reflexes all in one great-looking package. Its colorful look belied a ruthless sort of challenge, though. Kicking those ice cubes around quickly became the sort of taxing experience you’d expect from an Irem game. -- Jeremy Parish

Atari | Tengen | Puzzle | 1990

It was the ’90s, and there was time for Klax. Released at the beginning of the decade as Atari’s follow-up to the run-away success of Tetris, Klax is a fairly traditional falling block puzzler. Tiles clatter down a conveyor belt towards the bottom of the screen, where they must be arranged in rows, columns, or diagonals by color—and three make a Klax. There are 100 stages, but it’s possible to skip levels for bonus points and an added challenge. -- Wesley Fenlon

Low-G Man
Taxan | Platformer | 1990

Low-G Man broke my heart. Screenshots hinted at a game that shared genes in common with Taxan’s excellent G.I. Joe, but the game itself was a platformer built around some of the worst and floatiest jumping controls ever programmed. All of this was rounded out with sketchy animation and horribly unrefined play. In short, worthless. But man, that neon green box cover sure was cool. -- Jeremy Parish

Maniac Mansion
LucasArts | Jaleco | Adventure | 1990

A shockingly good port of the PC adventure game, this version was subject to the draconian standards and practices doctrines of NES-era Nintendo. The gameplay and humor made it into this version relatively unscathed, but some graphics and dialogue had to be excised or altered to receive that coveted Seal of Approval. Douglas Crockford, former LucasArts employee, goes into detail on this situation on his personal website, even going so far as to quote the correspondence from Nintendo. Check your local Internet for more! -- Luke Osterritter

Ms. Pac-Man
Namco | Tengen | Arcade | 1990

Though Ms. Pac-Man began life as an unlicensed arcade sequel to Namco’s classic, that was just the beginning of its convoluted history. In 1990, Atari subsidiary Tengen ported Ms. Pac-Man to the NES, reworking the game with multiple difficulty levels, new stage options including uneven “Strange” mazes, and co-op gameplay with Pac-Man himself. Three years later, Namco released their own Ms. Pac-Man port, hewing much closer to the arcade original. Namco’s Ms. Pac-Man plays more slowly than Tengen’s, and shrinks the arcade mazes down to fit on the screen, while Tengen’s version scrolls up and down to retain a wider scale. In the end, it’s a battle between arcade devotion and wacky variety. Pick your poison. -- Wesley Fenlon

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
Tecmo | Platformer | 1990

When Tecmo’s platformer-style adaptation of Ninja Gaiden proved to be vastly more successful than more faithful iterations of the arcade version, the NES team rolled right on into the next chapter of Ryu Hayabusa’s story. Here we have the undeniable pinnacle of the series, loaded down with vibrant graphics, challenging difficulty (though better balanced than its predecessor), and the sexy awesome ability to control ninja duplicates. A masterpiece by any measure. -- Jeremy Parish

Power Glove
Mattel | Accessory | 1990

It’s so bad! With these words, cinematic Nintendo commercial The Wizard forever cemented the Power Glove’s place in gaming history. As a peripheral, it was a complete dud, cumbersome to use and prone to reeking of sour sweat thanks to its nonpourous construction. But as an idea, it was like manna to young NES owners, a glove-shaped device that let you wear the controller. As much as Hollywood, television, and games themselves liked to lean on the gimmick of people being absorbed into a virtual world, the Power Glove was the closest we could come to truly becoming one with our NES games. -- Jeremy Parish

River City Ransom
Technos | Brawler-RPG | 1990

Aside-scrolling beat-’em-up from the fine folks who brought you Double Dragon, and also another entry in the illustrious Kunio-kun series of games. Ransom is fondly remembered due in equal parts to its RPG-esque progression, solid side-scrolling beat-’em up-controls and a fantastically quirky localization. Lines spouted by dispatched baddies, such as “BARF!” and “Are we having fun yet?” are remembered fondly. -- Luke Osterritter

Seal of Quality
Nintendo | Marketing Gimmick | 1990

Nintendo was pretty vigorous with their propaganda in the NES days. Not the Nintendo Power flavor of propaganda, either... the hardcore, Newspeak take on the concept. The Seal of Quality stood front and center, the veritable minister of proper thought. This seal is your guarantee that this game is real and awesome! they boasted. In truth, the seal simply meant that the game’s publisher had paid its licensing fees and managed to create a product without egregious coding flaws; quality wasn’t always much of a concern. Still, there was some truth to Nintendo’s preaching; with only a few minor exceptions, games published without the Seal of Quality actually were pretty dire. Not that they were easy to find, since Nintendo came down on retailers with the audacity to sell unlicensed goods by cutting off their NES game supplies. -- Jeremy Parish

Shadow of the Ninja
Natsume | Platformer | 1990

Natsume may not have earned any points for originality with this blatant swipe of Ninja Gaiden, but they definitely deserve credit for quality. Shadow of the Ninja is distressingly similar to its inspiration, but in many ways it’s more refined than Tecmo’s endeavors... and players are a lot more likely to see the ending in this one. -- Jeremy Parish

Snake's Revenge
Konami | Ultra | Action | 1990

Metal Gear director Hideo Kojima may hate the NES adaptation of his creation for the questionable liberties it took with the source material, but you can’t blame Konami for ignoring the irritation of a junior director when there were fat sacks of loot to be made by farming out a quick sequel. Snake’s Revenge is a pretty weird entry in the franchise, with sloppy stealth design and weird, inappropriate side-scrolling action sequences. On the other hand, it predicted the whole “Big Boss as half-dead cyborg” schtick that Kojima ended the series with, so that’s... something. -- Jeremy Parish

Solar Jetman
Rare | Nintendo | Action? | 1990

The final, irrevocable proof that Rare had passed its Spectrum torch to the NES came in the form of this sequel to the 8-bit micro classic Jetpak. Solar Jetman was a far more complex game than its predecessor, tasking players with starship salvage in a race against fuel stores and persistent gravity. Unfortunately, its excellence was somewhat diminished by the punishing, out-of-place shooter that ended the game. -- Jeremy Parish

Swords and Serpents
Acclaim | RPG | 1990

Swords and Serpents manages to be one of the most generic yet most unique NES RPGs ever by way of totally spacing out on the meeting when the standards were hashed out. Like the Might & Magic series, we have a generic name evoking D&D' applied to a fairly mundane first-person dungeon crawl. Swords bucks trends, however, by writing out the word “and,” using a weird real-time combat system, and ignoring that whole “battery-backed memory” fad in favor of good ol’ reliable passwords. 50-character passwords, to be precise. -- Jake Alley

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game
Konami | Ultra | Brawler | 1990

Konami didn’t win a lot of hearts and minds with its NES take on Ninja Turtles. Gamers wanted that totally sweet four-player arcade game, not some impossibly difficult game about defusing bombs beneath a dam. By way of apology, we got the sequel, which shed two of the players but made up for their loss by adding two new stages. A damn fine impersonation of the arcade game, considering. And it came with a free pizza, too. -- Jeremy Parish

Yo! Noid
Capcom | Platformer | 1990

Based on what could quite possibly be the most off-putting marketing campaign ever, Yo! Noid is actually the localization of a Famicom game, Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru (Masked Ninja Hanamaru). While the gameplay mechanics are intact, the game was given a visual overhaul to, one assumes, attempt to sell Domino’s Pizza. Whether or not the Noid campaign of the ’80s is better than their current marketing mantra, “Our pizza used to suck, but now totally doesn’t!” is a topic debated heatedly by exactly no one. -- Luke Osterritter

Game & Watch
Nintendo | Hardware | 1990

Nintendo’s revolutionary Game & Watch series have much closer ties to the company’s portable lineup than to the NES, but there’s definitely some back and forth influence at work here: The self-contained game system’s introduced the world to the D-pad controller, which quickly found its way into the NES and became an industry standard until Nintendo perfected the analog stick a decade later. And then back: A number of NES games eventually found themselves being adapted to Game & Watch, including The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. Granted, they were pretty iffy adaptations, but there was something pretty fantastic about seeing Nintendo’s latter-day successes working their way back into such a legacy format. -- Jeremy Parish

Kabuki Quantum Fighter
HAL | Platformer | 1990

One of the weirdest concepts for a platformer ever barfed from the fevered mind of some poor overworked Japanese designer, Kabuki Quantum Fighter was nevertheless precisely what it said on the box: Players took on the role of a guy who was sent, Tron-style, into a computer to battle techno-hazards... while inexplicably dressed as a kabuki actor. -- Jeremy Parish

Kiwi Kraze
Taito | Platformer | 1990

A fantastic port of the arcade masterpiece New Zealand Story, the NES version drifted beneath the radar for most gamers. Which is their loss, really, because what could possibly be more entertaining than leading a tiny bird through a deadly maze with the powers of archery and hot air ballooning? -- Jeremy Parish ''

Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
Tecmo | Platformer | 1990

Chronologically, the third and final entry in the Ninja Gaiden series actually falls between the first two games. For me personally, though, it falls nowhere. Between its rushed story, the cheaply inflated difficulty of the U.S. version, and the altogether inconsistent visual style, Ninja Gaiden III makes a poor addition to the series, which is probably best regarded as a duology rather than a trilogy. -- Jeremy Parish

Power Blade
Taito | Platformer | 1990

While it may look like little more than a Mega Man knockoff with an Arnold Schwarzenegger wannabe grafted into the lead role, Power Blade was in fact a solid action platformer that stood on its own merits—and in a nice change of pace, the U.S. release was markedly superior to the Japanese game, benefitting from both a graphical overhaul and a considerable reworking of some of the more questionable mechanics. -- Jeremy Parish

Rockin' Kats
Atlus | Platformer | 1990

No one has ever done grappling quite like Bionic Commando, but Atlus’ Rockin’ Kats deserves props for giving it the ol’ college try here and coming up with something that worked on its own merits. Besides, there’s was more to the game than just swinging around with a cartoon kitty; he could also punch things with a spring-loaded boxing glove. A mechanic that could stand to be explored a bit more often, in my opinion. -- Jeremy Parish

Star Wars
JVC | Platformer | 1990

Star Wars for the NES is just one of many brutally difficult platformers set in a galaxy far, far away. The game follows the storyline of A New Hope more closely than its predecessors, and offers Han Solo and Princess Leia as playable characters once they’ve been acquired on Tatooine and the Death Star. Darth Vader is a no-show, but there are ample spike pits and sketchy jumps to rob Luke Sywalker of his galaxy-saving destiny. -- Wesley Fenlon

Whomp 'Em
Jaleco | Platformer | 1990

While a perfectly decent Mega Man clone of a platformer in its own right, Whomp ’Em really stands out in the NES pantheon for its downright surreal localization. It was originally based on the Journey to the West legend, which Jaleco apparently considered too esoteric for the western masses. So they dropped in a head-slappingly bad Native American stereotype as the hero... and promptly called it a day, sending a plucky little brave along Son Goku’s route through ancient China rather than, you know, the American Southwest. -- Jeremy Parish