The Best NES Platformers that are worth your time!
The 80s were a supreme time when the Nintendo Entertainment System made massive waves in the video game industry. Mario mania was everywhere, from commercials to magazines and even cereals.
The biggest genre of games released on the NES was the platformer games. It was almost the first home console to ever release a platformer game in Super Mario Bros.
Whether your favorite is Castlevania, Mega Man or Ninja Gaiden these are the 20 best platformers on the NES that you should be playing on this classic console.
Table of Contents
20. Joe and Mac
This caveman themed platformer brought to you by Data East in 1991 features one or two player options where you're set out to rescue your girlfriends from a cavemen rivaling tribe.
Being able to play alongside a friend in a cooperative setting is a fantastic touch to the otherwise turn taking two player mode. Joe and Mac isn't too difficult as the various powerups that are scattered throughout the levels with numerous extra lives that are available.
19. Kirby's Adventure
When we first saw Kirby's Adventure in 1993 with it's bright, colorful graphics we were absolutely blown away. You can tell that this platformer pushed the limits of what the NES console was able to bring from a graphics standpoint.
The cute graphics and lovely animated characters are where Kirby's Adventure really shines. Even though it may be aimed towards a younger audience, we still have a great time picking up Kirby's Adventure.
In a time where gameplay can be outdated as the years pass, Kirby's Adventure is still as playable today as it once was. It's not the best entry in the series by far, but worthy of a playthrough.
18. Bucky O'Hare
Bucky O'Hare is an exclusive NES game that extremely underrated. There's a ton of depth you'll get to notice once you pick up the tight controls. The added difficulty within the hard mode leaves you stranded only letting yourself take one hit before dying.
Switching between the various characters by the flick of a switch, each with different patterned bullet shots can help you throughout the various sections of the game.
The chiptune music is on point. Each of the soundtracks will keep you humming away even after you're done your gaming session. Bucky O'Hare is a Konami classic that rivals the likes of Mega Man in terms of gameplay design and difficulty.
17. Darkwing Duck
Speaking of games like Mega Man, Darkwing Duck is another platformer that not only resembles the blue bomber but actually uses the Mega Man 5 engine as a base. Capcom delivered a fantastic platformer that let's you select your stage to choose your own path, adding some replayability and flexibility in the game design.
As a late NES release, it may have been overshaddowed by 16 bit platformers that were released arond the same timeframe. We like Darkwing Duck as a hidden gem, that's challenging enough for established players as well as a younger audience. If you're a fan of Disney shows from the 90s, you owe it to yourself to play Darkwing Duck on the NES.
16. Little Nemo: The Dream Master
Based on the animated movie Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland was an excellent platformer that was developed and published by Capcom to deliver an NES classic.
The extremely unique level design is what makes Little Nemo: The Dream Master so great. You're set out to search and locate keys to make it to the next stage. Unfortunately you aren't told how many keys are needed per stage in order to progress. That's a bit of a drag in our books and takes away from the progression.
Overall, the spectacular level design, on point controls and extremely high production value in this classic Capcom platformer rank really high in our minds. You owe it to yourself to pick up Little Nemo.
15. Metal Storm
If you liked the Gravity Man stage in Mega Man 5 where you're able to invert gravity and take out enemies while upside down on the ceiling, you're in luck with Metal Storm. It's taken that concept and the publishers of iRem have given it a brand new game.
The variety of powerups are fantastic in Metal Storm. Being able to take a bit more damage before dying, weapon powerups and many others are available. The NES didn't exactly support parallax scrolling, however Metal Storm gets around this and delivers some of the best backgrounds in a video game.
When Metal Storm was released, it didn't quite catch on too well. As a result, it's almost faded into obscurity not getting any sequels which is a shame. Still, it's one of the best NES platformers to date and we enjoyed every minute of it.
The NES had quite a few movie based games available for the console. You had some that sold you on the box art but really weren't able to deliver a quality game. Then you had games like Batman, which is related to the 1989 movie directed by Tim Burton.
Everything is here that you'll love in a platformer. The wall jumping mechanics from Ninja Gaiden, a series of useful powerups that let you make it through the harder stages of the game. There's even one of the most difficult boss battles on the NES in the Joker.
Sunsoft really knew how to deliver some quality games for the NES. It's no wonder that a game with tight controls, an amazing soundtrack and a difficulty curve that's probable to overcome brought to us a great platformer.
13. Felix the Cat
We've covered Felix the Cat on our previous review, if you're interested you should definitely check that out. The use of the various powerups along the way are extremely unique and make Felix the Cat stand out amongst the others in the genre.
For example the submarine for the underwater stages almost feel like a mini shmup game to break up the platforming sequences. There's also flying stages that can easily be beaten by flying all the way to the top and just coasting to the end of the stage. This is a minor drawback as it's also present in other platformers such as Super Mario World.
12. Super Mario Bros
The pack in title for the NES was something that we take for granted. It was to many, the first platforming game that someone had ever experienced. Super Mario Bros was such an important release as it paved the way for Nintendo and other game companies the framework to grow and experiment with the genre and game mechanics.
When we first jumped off that elevator and onto the top of the bricks in 2-1, we were blown away when we first saw the warp zone. A game mechanic that was brought to countless Mario games ever since.
Everything is so good in Super Mario Bros, the tight controls, the challenging difficulty and the iconic themes that are to this day still extremely memorable.
11. Bionic Commando
Being able to travel to one of the 19 different areas in Bionic Commando is something we wished were more present in other platformers. Choosing your own path is much more favorable compared to the linear gameplay of most games within the genre.
Instead of being able to jump, something notorious for other platformers, you're able to swing with the use of the bionic arm. It does take some time to get used to if you're used to running and jumping.
The game does break up into overhead combat stages, reminiscent of the Commando games. We enjoyed every minute of Bionic Commando and wish that other developers used this concept in more games.
10. Ghosts n’ Goblins
If you're looking for a hard NES game, look no further than Ghosts n' Goblins. A port of the Arcade board that was extremely popular and incredibly difficult brought to you an adequate variation.
Not only do you have to painfully make sure to be careful as you make your way throughout the stages, you also have to go through the game a second time in order to see the real ending.
If you're up for a challenge, you'll want to check out Ghosts n' Goblins. Keep in mind, this isn't for the faint of heart.
9. Gargoyles Quest II
Gargoyles Quest II was a late released NES game. Since it's release, it's slowly climbed to be one of the rare NES games that you can pick up today. It's got some light RPG elements as you travel from town to town and slowly upgrade your character like being able to fly further.
The atmosphere is extremely gloomy, from the environments to music. The main menu shows your armor, abilities and others. We loved that when you're moving outside of the overworld stages, you move extremely quick as opposed to games like Final Fantasy.
The later stages of the game are incredibly challenging, be prepared to restore from your save file a ton from dying. Gargoyles Quest II is recommended for several reasons, it's extremely casual friendly, the gameplay is a ton of fun and it sounds fantastic.
8. Little Sampson
A game that often gets overlooked is Little Sampson. It was always way too expensive in order to pick up and play. Luckily as the years passed by, Little Sampson became more accessible.
It's an extremely high quality title by developers that completely knew what they were doing. You get to switch between one of four playable characters as you make your way throughout the stages of the game. Each of the characters has their own unique abilities and varieties of the play style.
You can play it out Mega Man style, being able to select one of the four main stages of the game. Switching between character on the fly, similar to TMNT on the NES was a breeze. Little Sampson takes what other platformers have already brought to the table, mixes them together and giving you a quality game.
7. Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers
The chiptune music in Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers is the way it stands out among the rest. Being able to pick up the various boxes and creates and throw them towards enemies is very similar to Super Mario Bros 2. The crates can also be used as a shield if you duck and take a hit.
The cooperative gameplay allows for two players on the same screen to go through the game. Choosing your own path is another fantastic feature of the game. Capcom did a fantastic job with using the Disney licensed characters on the NES and Chip n Dale is one of them.
The levels and soundtrack are incredibly memorable in Ducktales. The ability to select your own stage is a fantastic way to take the linear gameplay and give it some added depth.
The use of Uncle Scrooge's pogo stick is such a unique concept. The ability to jump higher by the use of the pogo stick was also used in later games such as Shovel Knight.
Ducktales is such a memorable experience, even if it's a bit on the easier side. We can pick this up at any time and clear it in a single sitting, which is a big plus in our books.
5. Ninja Gaiden
One of the first experiences of cutscenes on the NES was Ninja Gaiden. The difficulty is insane, even moving a pixel too far will make you take a hit and get knocked back into a pit. Causing you to die by design. Luckily you have unlimited continues in order to retry.
You'll need to take advantage of your weapons that you pick up along the way. You'll have to be careful as if you die, you'll lose the weapon you may need to make the stage you're on somewhat easier.
Despite the overall difficulty, the story and presentation is fantastic. The gameplay and controls are tight and on point. The chiptune music is memorable and makes for a great platforming experience.
Dracula's castle is a memorable experience. Being able to whip zombies and other creatures is so satifying. Finding the unique subweapon in order to take out the bosses much easier is where Castlevania shines. It's like a piece of a puzzle that you're looking for and once you find it, it actually clicks.
Some of the finest musical collections is on Castlevania. Each of the tracks will find themselves playing through your mind even after you're done playing. Castlevania wasn't a massive hit when it was first release, but is a massive technical display of the NES hardware and is an elite title.
3. Mr. Gimmick
Even though Gimmick was released in Japan or Europe that was released late in the NES lifespan, we loved going back and experiencing Mr. Gimmick. The use of the star projectile depends on the wind up. It can travel higher or at a different angle. It might feel wonky at first, but when you master the mechanic we promise you'll fall in love with it.
You can also use the star as a platform to make it to hard to reach areas. The level design compliments the star mechanic to perfection. We promise you'll love Gimmick if you stick with it and it'll be one of your favorite platformers on the NES.
2. Mega Man 2
Mega Man 2 offers a ton of variety in the stages and level design. Each of the stages brings you to a new atmosphere. In case you haven't played Mega Man before, as you finish one of the non linear stages you'll end up receiving the bosses main ability as your own.
The soundtrack in Mega Man 2 offers the best music on the NES. We did find that the metal blades were a bit cheap if you picked it up early enough. Being able to use this ability throughout the rest of the stages lets you forget about your main ability.
Despite this flaw, Mega Man 2 is a memorable experience. The level design, music and gameplay are all flawless. Mega Man 2 is a masterpiece that any NES fan should have in their collection.
1. Super Mario Bros 3
If you had to start off a NES game collection and can only choose one game, you should be choosing Super Mario Bros 3. Not only is it one of the games you can find for cheap, it's also an extremely quality platforming game.
Each of the 90 levels are entirely unique. Bringing a new theme and new powerups as you progress throughout the worlds. Our favorite was the Tanooki Suit which let's Mario not only fly, but being able to transform into a statue that lets you avoid enemies.
Super Mario Bros 3 is an excellent experience from end to end. You can't go wrong with Super Mario Bros 3 on the NES.