- Donkey Kong Jr.
It may just be me, but I have a soft spot for Donkey Kong Jr. It’s not as pioneering or as precise as Donkey Kong, nor is it as smooth and responsive. But there’s something engaging and dynamic about the more complicated stage layouts for me, plus all four stages actually made it into this game. That being said, I’m still going to go with the YMMV vote, because what works for me may not be as awesome for you, and there’s a lot of solid arcade games on this collection better than DK Jr.
- Double Dragon II: The Revenge
Definitely one of the best examples of the beat-em-up genre on the NES, not to mention it’s the best representative of its franchise on the console, Double Dragon II is an excellent choice for two-player action and for getting some frustrations out by smashing some baddies in the face over and over again. Shame Technos only got one title on the American NES Classic Edition; River City Ransom and Crash n’ the Boys-esque Downtown Nekketsu Koushinkyoku are also included with the Famicom version (and RCR really should have been included over fucking Ice Climbers).
- Dr. Mario
Time to announce the first dud (in my opinion, naturally) on the collection; puzzle games aren’t my forte to be honest, but I don’t think Dr. Mario is all that good of a puzzler even with that caveat. I can appreciate Tetris even though I find it a slog to play. On the other hand, something like Bust-a-Move, Magical Drop 3 or Sega Swirl I find quite pleasurable. Dr. Mario fails to be something I enjoy or understand. It tries to find some middle ground between a color-match game and the rigors of Tetris, but fails on both fronts for me due to the cramped space and the pre-existing viruses that can jam up progress very easily. Of all puzzlers on the NES, this was the predictable choice for this set. Tetris would require licensing, and the rest of Nintendo’s efforts aren’t as memorable or well-known as Dr. Mario. Nothing third party really leaps to mind, either. Personally, I’d rather have another Mega Man (3).
Nintendo’s Excitebike is a solid racer that has additional legs thanks to the suspend feature, which allows players to save their courses (a nice perk considering the NES original kinda forgot that part during its localization). And it’s still a delightfully simplistic arcade-style affair, with easy-to-grasp mechanics yet a decent bite of challenge once you dig into it. However, the Wii U does have the better sequel Vs. Excitebike, which adds in a two-player mode among other improvements, and again, Nintendo slid towards nostalgia over quality much like with Donkey Kong here, so I cannot give this too high a recommendation.
- Final Fantasy
Square’s classic JRPG is a great surprise for the NES Classic Edition; it’s arguably the best game of the genre on the system, and the closest competition is inexplicably never going to end up on these kinds of things (Dragon Quest). With plenty of customization in terms of party formation, the game provides many different ways to experience its adequate story and lengthy questline. And despite a few bugs and localization goofs, Final Fantasy is well worth checking out.