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  • The Legend of Zelda (NES)

    The Legend of Zelda was one of the killer apps for the NES and was largely responsible for creating and popularizing the action RPG genre. Released in 1987, it spawned a franchise that continues today. Zelda has changed a lot over the years but the first game of the series is still one of the best.

    The name of the game always seemed to be the source of some confusion as the name of the protagonist was Link and Zelda was the princess he was attempting to rescue. As Link, you are tasked with finding the Triforce of Wisdom pieces that Princess Zelda hid to protect them from the evil prince that invaded the kingdom and to rescue her from said prince.

    The Legend of Zelda has spawned a large number of sequels (mostly prequels really) over the years. My favorite will probably always be A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo but they are all excellent games. I just prefer the 2D variants to the newer 3D games.

    There were several unique things about the original Legend of Zelda. It was the first NES game with a battery backup, the cartridge was the only one that had that distinctive gold color, and it was the first NES title to sell over a million copies, eventually selling over 6.5 million copies in total. It’s probably harder to find a “best” or “most influential” games of all-time list without Zelda in it than it is to find one with it. It would be hard to overstate the popularity and influence of this game.

    The Legend of Zelda was eventually ported to the Game Boy Advance in 2004 and the GameCube in 2006. It was also released in emulated form for the Wii, Wii U and 3DS virtual consoles. This game is pretty easy to come by in one form or another so there’s no reason to miss out. This is one definitely worth playing for those who have not even if this isn’t your favorite genre and it is probably worth a replay if its been a while.

    The Legend of Zelda (1986)


  • Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road / Iron Tank (NES)

    Ad for SNK games Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road and Iron Tank for the NES.


    SNK eventually became known for the Neo Geo which was a game console that was basically just SNK’s arcade board of the time adapted for home use. For many years it was the only system that gave you arcade perfect ports at home because they weren’t ports at all, they were the same exact game. The Neo Geo wasn’t supplanted as the Cadillac of home systems until the era of the PlayStation. However, before all that, SNK developed arcade games on slightly more primitive hardware and ported many of those to the NES. Two of those were Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road and Iron Tank, both from around 1988.

    Victory Road was the sequel to the original Ikari Warriors. In the first game your goal was to rescue a general. In the second, you had to defend the land from aliens. Both games were action games played from an overhead perspective. It was very similar to games like Commando. Victory Road introduced the relatively novel ability of being able to fire in a different direction than you were moving. In the arcade version this was accomplished with an 8-way rotary joystick. For the NES version, you moved in the direction you faced until you pressed the fire button then for as long as you held the fire button you would face that direction no matter which direction you moved. In addition to the NES version, several home computer versions were released including for the Commodore 64, Apple II and PC (DOS).

    This was a pretty mediocre game really but I always found this style of game appealing. Despite the frustration, you always wanted to try to make it just a little further. Despite some improvements in this game over its predecessor, the original seems to have just a little more fun factor. Victory Road is worth checking out even if only for an afternoon. There were remakes for the PS3 and PSP but I recommend the NES version or one of the other older ports or even the original arcade version over the remakes.

    The NES version of Iron Tank is based on the SNK arcade game TNK III. Like Victory Road, it is also an overhead action shooting game. However, as you might expect, you are controlling a tank instead of just a guy. The tank has two weapons, a machine gun and the main gun. The turret can be rotated and shot independent of your direction of movement. You might be noticing a theme here. There are various power-ups that can be picked up along the way to improve your weapons, restore health and so on. The unique twist with this game (besides the tank) is the ability to choose various paths throughout the game.

    Iron Tank was only ever released for the NES though there were conversions of TNK III for home computers of the time such as the Commodore 64. The NES version is probably the best but if you want to play it you’ll have to emulate or track down an original cartridge.

  • ActRaiser and Dragon Warrior III (Enix)

    ActRaiser and Dragon Warrior III Ad


    The above ad for two classic Enix games is from circa 1993. At this time, the NES was seeing some of the most technically impressive releases in its life but even with extra hardware in the cartridges, it was no match for the graphics and sound capabilities of the recently released Super Nintendo.


    ActRaiser was a rather unique game and being released only a few months after the introduction of the Super Nintendo, was one of the earliest games available for it. The game combines the city/world building genre of games like Populous with side-scrolling platform action/adventure. This was one of the best early releases for the Super Nintendo. Not only did it have excellent gameplay but it did a good job showing off new graphics and sound capabilities of the SNES.

    Dragon Warrior III though it was released fairly late in the life of the NES was one of its best selling games ever. Dragon Warrior III is a role-playing game played from an overhead perspective with turn-based combat. As far as RPGs on the Nintendo go, The Dragon Warrior series was second only to the Final Fantasy series in popularity. Although the NES didn’t have the technical capabilities of the new SNES, Dragon Warrior III graphics, sound and music were still well done and it offered many hours of excellent gameplay. Enix (now Square Enix) had a reputation for producing very good games and these are two examples of why that is so.

    Dragon Warrior III

    There was a very limited port of ActRaiser for mobile phones in 2004 and there was a Virtual Console release for the Wii in 2007. There was also a sequel, ActRaiser II, developed for the SNES and released in 1993.

    Dragon Warrior III had several remakes over the years. The first was in 1996 for the Super Famicom though it was never officially released in the U.S. However, a Game Boy Color version based on the Super Famicom remake was released in the U.S. in 2001. It was the largest Game Boy Color game released in the U.S. at 32 Mb. There were other remakes for cell phones and the Wii that were only released in Japan. Most recently, an Android and iOS version was released in 2014.