My First Love: NES resurrected

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The Nintendo Entertainment System that I got for Christmas in 1988, when I also got my first real bike, has never really been unplugged for a significant amount of time. Mostly, it's sat in the basement of my parent's house.

It has seen two renovations, outlasted four televisions and survived my numerous fits of gaming rage. Since moving out in 2000, I've bounced around a lot and didn't want to keep lugging around the system and my many games.

Now that I'm in a place I hope to stay for a while, I brought the 20-year-old system down to my new pad. It's nice to be settled enough to have all the stuff you really love.

Things are working fine - a little fiddling and I'm in business - so let's get down to brass tacks.

What are the five best games ever released for the NES? See my list after the jump...

5. RBI Baseball [more]

When I got this game as a birthday present from my grandma, I was totally mad because it looked like a Sega cartridge. I figured that she had gotten confused and bought me the wrong game.

I was wrong. In fact, her gift played just fine in my NES - and it's still working after approximately 10,459 innings played as my favorite team, the American League All-Stars.

The players were fat and slow, the pitching easy to hit and the stadiums each the same. But it had the best gameplay for two-player action: The basics were easy to learn, but advanced players could have fun manipulating the system.

Currently, my record is 1,200-45.

4. California Games [more]

Basically a collection of mini-games compiled into one tournament, this was the best incarnation of that idea. (World Games and others were awful and boring.)

Skateboarding, disc throwing, rollerskating, surfing and others - each one took a different skill set and appealed to gamers of all kinds. That made the game fun to play, hard to master.

Plus, you got to pick your sponsors, and Ocean Pacific (one of the choices) was totally hip at my elementary school.

3. The Legend of Zelda [more]

Perhaps no game was as intriguing or complex as this gold-plated gem that I so love. The story is simple: A man must rescue his girl and save his region. But how you saved Hyrule, and what it took to do so, was like nothing else ever released on the NES.

The story has remained popular, with new Zelda titles now available for the Wii. Things were never better, though, with the numerous secrets, puzzles and action of the first game, released in the United States in 1987.

2. Contra [more]

This one has a special place in my heart because it's one of the only videogames I regularly played with my dad; we did innumerable other things together, but he was never that jazzed about Nintendo.

Maybe his love for this game speaks to its merit: Anyone who begins the journey as Mad Dog or Scorpion must continue to fight until the alien forces are defeated.

It didn't have the best graphics or weaponry, but it offered much to casual and dedicated gamers. The levels were interesting and diverse. It was perfect for two players. The secret code made it easy to beat.

I can beat it in three guys. I'm still practicing.

1. Super Mario Bros. 3 [more]

The most ground-breaking and revolutionary game ever released for any system, this gem astounded my friends and I when we started playing back in the early '90s.

With the stellar gameplay and graphics common today in more advanced systems, it's hard to appreciate what a departure SMB 3 was from others on the same platform. But remember the first two games in the NES series: clunky but fun adventure games with likeable characters, but little else.

SMB 3 offered so much more: an arsenal of costumes and power-ups; intricate worlds and levels; Mario's amazing abilities to fly, spit fire, turn to stone, throw hammers and swim like a frog.

In fact, game designers seemed to realize how powerful their new game was and added a secret way to play the older versions of Donkey Kong in the two-player mode. It was clear how far things had come.

I plugged in 15 years ago, and I have been playing ever since.