Wrote this a while ago, got lost in the folder, sorry there little post, you deserve better
I’m going to say it, as revolutionary as it was for its time, in retrospect for as much good as the 8 bit Nintendo did, it did an equal amount of bad. For every good Nintendo game there were about 100 virtually unplayable ones. Nintendo had a magazine back then (and for all I know still does) Nintendo Power, and it created an era where you almost had to get the next issue to figure out the one inane thing you forgot to do, or finally see a map of the dungeon you’ve wandered for weeks in order to advance. Pre-internet, magazines and overpriced strategy guides held you by the balls. Either you had to get one or one of your buddies did. Games on the Nintendo tended to be so bad the only hope mere mortals had was cheating, and in an era before cheat codes, that meant the Game Genie. The Game Genie was born less out of the need for people to cheat and more to even the playing field against sick and twisted developers who wanted you to do the same thing over and over and over times infinity until you finally get the pattern (more complex than any nuclear code) correct, cough Battletoads, cough.
Then there was the square controller, whoever created the square controller should be flogged. Nothing better than having crease marks from where the corners dug into your skin. Alternatives were the NES Max and the NES Advantage. The Max was ergonomically fantastic, and it had turbo buttons to make the mashing games easier. However the directional controller was, to say the least, a complete pain. It was perhaps the predecessor to the analog sticks everyone uses today, but back then they had you put your thumb in a circle, then move that circle up, down, left and right. It was way more of a strain using it than a standard cross on the normal controller. On that cross your thumb could sit in the middle and barley move at all in order to go any direction, the max had your thumb riding around all over the place in the orange circle which caused mad fatigue. Thumb strain is a reason I’m not a huge fan of analog sticks to this day. Moving to the Advantage, it was in fact a great advantage. The turbo buttons on the Advantage fired more quickly than the ones on the Max, so in a game that required mashing buttons the guy with the Advantage could crush the guy with the Max. Guess which one I had and which one my cousin had. Lets not get into the light gun, robbie the robot and the power glove.
That said there were a handful of great games that didn’t require an advanced degree in calculus or a game genie in order to be enjoyable, let’s take a look.
Mike Tyson’s Punchout
007 373 5963. That code will get you to Mike Tyson and I have known by heart since the third grade. I can’t remember the name of the dude who told me, but I remember him telling me. I fought Tyson more times than I can count until I had that fool cold. I actually had more problems with the second Bald Bull fight than I had with Tyson I practiced on him so much. To this day there is little more of a rush than dodging all of Tyson’s lightning punches, knowing full well one hit your pretty much done. While the game came back without Mr Tyson after some legal ugliness, there is no other version in my mind.
It’s not just tossing the ball back and fourth, all the players have crazy special moves. Here’s the thing, sometimes they get hit so hard, they just up and DIE. Yup we are talking super killer dodgeball here folks. Perhaps nothing more satisfying than taking out a Russian and sending him to hell with an inflated ball. It played big to the East vs West mentality, those Russians were some scary dodgeballerz that could kill you with a mere look.
Konami was the first company to understand that the game they released was crazy hard with its default settings. I mean so hard getting past level one would be considered a grand achievement. Bullets are flying everywhere, some yours some from the enemy, and with the slightest touch, bam you are dead. The solution? the Konami code, say it with me up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A start. Magic! You get more than enough lives to get through the game without putting the square controller through the window. If you want to beat yourself to death there was always to option to play without the code, but I say god be with you if you do something crazy like that.
Tecmo Bowl, Tecmo Super Bowl
Both are fantastic games that were the best football sims of their time, and for that matter perhaps of all time. I have more memories of the first, nothing was sweeter than taking Walter Payton to the house. LT could take over games by himself. Bo Jackson was near immortal. Super had a lot to live up to and it did that and more. It added teams, plays, more diverse playbooks, and tweaked graphics. My Steelers were stuck with Bubby Brister and Merril Hodge, but I won titles with them anyway. THe Nigerian Nightmare Christian Okye is still one of my favorite players because of the game.
Spent many an hour getting owned by my cousin playing this gem. It had no license so you got generic teams with colors oddly enough like their local teams (Boston wore green, Chicago red). The gameplay against the AI was childishly easy, you could steal the ball just about every possession, the only real question was will I beat them by 200? There were cut scenes when you went to dunk, but they didn’t always go in leading to some unintentional comedy. A Layup had as much chance to go in as a heave from 3/4 court. Two player was a blast, even though I probably lost a million times in the most frustrating ways to my cousin who was just outright better than me at the game no matter what I did.
Track and Field 1,2 (no turbo allowed)
You want to mash buttons like a real man? Do you want to know for an absolute fact that you are the greatest button masher of all time? Track and Field I and II obliterated quite a few controllers. In the 100 yard dash the objective is to mash the hell out of the A button as fast as you possible can for as long as you can. There were a great number of strategies involved in order to get that square controller in just the right position to mash the daylights out of it. I liked the single finger quiver, where I took my index finger kind of shook it so that the button would go up and down just enough for it to register. I adopted the technique after damn near breaking my finger doing the index mash where you point your finger and slam it into the controller with wild abandon hoping the controller registers.
The best was just watching people try and figure out how they were going to mash the button into submission. Just about everyone curled their lips and went into a crazy trance state, making the most insane faces whilst mashing the buttons
Then if you were a pansy you could use the Max or Advantage.
Zelda II – The Adventure of Link
Screw the first Zelda, I had way more fun with 2 than I ever had with 1. It’s the only Zelda RPG. There was no open world, there was a map with your character on it and you walked around and if you ran into a black monster it switched to a side scrolling fight. They gave Link cool fighting abilities, the most memorable was jumping into the air and stabbing down onto the enemy, revolutionary as there was no jumping in the first. The story is intense and keeps you moving along in the right direction, no need to read the Nintendo Power comic to discover you had to play a certain flute by a certain lake to unlock level 7 (I mean really who would have ever figured that out without a strategy guide or word of mouth? You would have to play that flute in every freaking screen in the game to know what the hell you do to find level 7). In the end you fight your shadow, which is a hell of an epic fight if you don’t just cheat and stay in the corner, ducking and slashing (I did both).
This is a given but I’ll mention
Super Mario Brothers 1,2,3
I’m not going to let these games take 3 spots, though they deserve them. 3 was by far the best, it was the peak of 8 bit gaming, even had that movie hype to live up to and it did that and so much more. I feel like I could write a thesis on 3 and what it meant to the world, in fact it may deserve its own post, How SMB 3 Changed the World. 2 was so far ahead of its time, tons of people hated it, but I loved it. Being able to switch from Mario to the Princess to Luigi to Toad was fantastic. One was the greatest side scroller at that time, and spawned a home video game rush never before seen. I’m sure you all know that which is why I tossed this at the bottom and will say no more.