Namco’s port of their arcade classic came out pretty late in the NES lifeline (although it did release much earlier on the Famicom…Namco and Nintendo got into a pretty nasty tiff there for quite a while) and is close enough to the original from what I’ve heard…just some visual compromises that gives away its age. And given that Pac-Man is easily one of the definitive games of our medium, that is a very good thing. The only thing is that it doesn’t really seem like a great fit for a NES compilation…but whatever. It’s Pac-Man!
- Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
One of the finest sports games on the NES that impresses with its large and fluid spritework, especially given its vintage (courtesy of a special chip that Nintendo only used for this title). Punch-Out!! is one of the more memorable games Nintendo put out back in those heady days. It’s a pretty tough game heavily dependent on reflexes and twitch-based gameplay, so it may not be for everyone, but there’s no denying its charm. Plus it’s got some pretty solid music to pump you up!
Here’s the dark horse in my WINNER! picks, but I don’t care. I really dig StarTropics. I like its island setting and its heavy 80s atmosphere, it has a wonderful soundtrack, it takes the Zelda motif and adds a few new wrinkles to the formula, and Zoda is a great villain design that still resonates as one of my favorites. It’s not perfect; namely, the restricted movement takes some getting used to, the game’s difficulty ramps up a lot at the end, and sometimes the game isn’t immediately clear on what to do or where to go, but I still think it’s an underrated gem.
- Super C
Have to admit that Super C is a bit of a disappointment for me, as I really do prefer Contra over it. Contra manages for me to encapsulate the essence of an action game with impeccable level design and a nice blend of bosses. Super C — for whatever reason I can’t quite elaborate on — just didn’t wow me the same way. It’s a good game for sure, but it lacks the brazen soul of its predecessor. I’m also not as fond of the overhead sections. I mean, I guess they’re better than the base segments, but those were short and only appeared twice and lacked cheap enemies. Maybe I can elaborate. :p
- Super Mario Bros.
The game that saved the gaming industry, launched Nintendo as a world power in consumerism, and made Mario an eternal icon, Super Mario Bros. is a monument to gaming as a whole and still a well-rounded and well-executed platformer. It has some cheap points in the later stages, and the “puzzle” fortresses are kind of obnoxious if you don’t know what to do, but they barely detract from the amazement and sheer power of this game. I personally like both NES sequels more, but this is still excellent.