We’re all familiar with classic Nintendo games like Super Mario Bros and Mega Man, but what about all the classics that managed to fly under the radar? The internet wasn’t around back then to inform us of underappreciated games, so if it wasn’t in Nintendo Power magazine with a cool cover or one of your friends didn’t have it, you probably never played it. Here are 20 of the most underrated original Nintendo games of all time.
20. Ikari Warriors
The only reason Ikari Warriors is at the bottom of the list is that it’s so good, it’s difficult to qualify it as underrated. It was like vertical Contra, except you wouldn’t die if you dropped 4 feet behind your teammate. Plus, by pressing A+B+B+A you basically had infinite lives. Which means you got to keep playing even if your little brother sucks ass.
19. Tiny Toon Adventures
Don’t be fooled by the child-like premise; this was an extremely difficult game. It had a similar feel to several of the games that came out in the early 90s, but Tiny Toons let you switch between characters during each stage. This kept the game fresh and fun, even when dealing with the most ridiculously hard levels.
18. Galaxy 5000
Galaxy 5000 took racing games to another level by letting you use spaceships to blast around the course and gaining rewards for blowing up your competition. When you factor in all the different changes and looks to each track, there were dozens of courses to choose from, so it kept it from getting monotonous and boring.
17. Captain Skyhawk
Captain Skyhawk adds a 3-D element to the fighter jet game that was a welcomed variation from games like 1942, which was frustratingly flat. There were numerous power-ups and enough variation in enemies to keep it from getting dull. Plus, you’re fighting aliens. It feels like that was the drawing factor of almost every game in the 80s and 90s, so if you missed this one, it’s understandable.
The main reason Rambo was so underrated is because it made no sense whatsoever. And that’s exactly why you HAVE to play through it. As you progress through the game you’ll encounter all the enemies that Rambo battled in the movies. You know, enemy soldiers, helicopters, and…giant spiders. The most bizarre part is that, at the end of the game, you can throw a knife at Murdock and he turns into a frog. Why? Why is that a thing?
If you think it looks suspiciously similar to Castlevania, that’s because 8-Eyes is pretty much a direct rip-off. That turned off a lot of gamers, but it was actually quite fun. You could even let one of your friends join you and control the falcon that travels with you throughout the game. If you enjoy Castlevania, you need to experience 8-Eyes.
14. Wild Gunman
The concept was simple; you’re a gunslinger battling in duel after duel with a variety of different characters. It would be a huge hit if it came out in arcades or on the Wii today. It still makes a great party game that even the most casual gamer can enjoy.
13. Wizards & Warriors
You get to be a knight fighting your way through a bunch of enemies, collecting jewels, and enjoying one of the best 8-bit soundtracks on your journey to fight a wizard. What more could you want in a game?
12. Baseball Simulator 1.000
The gameplay wasn’t anything much different from RBI Baseball or any of the other popular games. What made Baseball Simulator miles ahead of its competition is that you could customize all the names of the players on the team. This may sound like nothing to brag about with the amount of personalization in today’s games, but this level of customization was unheard of at the time.
11. The Guardian Legend
The coolest part of Guardian Legend, besides being one of those rare games at the time where you got to be a female character, was that there was so much variety. Most NES games quickly became repetitive, but Guardian Legend had Zelda-like maze levels combined with shooting and giant boss battles.
10. NES Play Action Football
It only had 8 teams, but what really made Play Action Football stand out was the angled view that made it appear 3-D. This was unheard of at the time. On top of that, you could use the four-controller adapter and play two players vs two players on an original Nintendo game. Saying it was ahead of its time is a severe understatement.
9. Super Dodge Ball
Dodge ball is one of those things you don’t realize how much you love until you start playing it. That’s probably why Super Dodge Ball saw such little success. Who would want to play dodge ball when you could be shooting aliens? The answer is anyone who wants to play a ridiculously fun and simple game.
8. Tecmo NBA Basketball
So much attention was given to Tecmo Super Bowl that most people seem to forget Tecmo put out an incredible basketball game as well. The gameplay had a similar feel as Super Bowl, which meant it was fun and always exciting. Plus it had all the big names including Jordan, Bird, and Magic.
7. Ring King
Ring King was like Mike Tyson’s Punch Out without all the memorable characters and fighting styles. It was more of a traditional boxing match, which definitely hurt its appeal. If you’re having trouble remembering if you played it or not, this was the game where, in between rounds, your trainer got down on his knees and looked like he was performing oral sex on you.
6. Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers
Unlike most games based on movies or TV shows, this one actually had the option for two players to play simultaneously. The game’s world was incredibly interactive and it never gets to the point where it’s so difficult it becomes frustrating. There’s a little something for veteran and casual gamers alike.
5. River City Ransom
This was one of the rare beat ‘em up action games that was non-linear, so you were free to explore the world and battle all the different gangs of enemies. This greatly increased the replay value of the game. It may go down as the greatest video game with a cover that features a guy that looks like Scott Baio practicing karate.
4. Pro Wrestling
The most unfortunate fact about the original NES was that there were very slim picking when it came to wrestling games and the ones that did come out weren’t very good. The exception was neither a WWF or WCW game, but rather Pro Wrestling. The gameplay was highly addicting and the moment you finally hit your finishing move was completely satisfying. My only complaint is that there’s no way The Amazon’s move of chewing on the opponent’s head was in any way legal.
3. Base Wars
Base Wars was a futuristic baseball game that replaced the players with a variety of homerun hitting robots. The best part was that you could buy and sell different types of robots then upgrade their features for battle. What battle, you ask? If you were thrown out running to a base, you didn’t just get tagged; you got to fight for it. So if you bulked up your team through a season, you could turn a bunt into a homerun.
2. Déjà Vu
This was the RPG for people that didn’t realize they enjoyed playing RPGs. You wake up with no memory and soon discover you’re being framed for murder. Now you have to collect evidence of your innocence to take to the police while avoiding muggers and guys trying to kill you. I played through the game last year and it’s still an amazingly fun adventure.
1. Life Force
To those who played Life Force, the last thing you would consider it is underrated, because you probably recommended it to all your friends. Somehow it never got the recognition it deserved. Life Force was an intense scrolling shooter filled with monstrous boss battles and, best of all, it was co-op so you didn’t have to deal with the classic NES frustration of taking turns. Honestly, it’s still as fun as any modern game you’ll pick up so if you have a Nintendo or a virtual console, go play it right now.