The Top 20 Games of 1985-1990

From the golden days of yore, here are the first Top 20 of our Top 100!

By Nintendojo Staff. Posted 04/30/2012 15:30 8 Comments     ShareThis

5. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (1990)

After dipping its toes into the RPG-adventure pool with Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Konami decided to return to its original vampiric roots in Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, both literally and figuratively. A prequel to the first Castlevania, would-be vampire hunters were now in control of Trevor Belmont, Simon’s distant ancestor, and were back whipping and jumping their way up to Dracula’s castle.

But Dracula’s Curse was anything but a nostalgic jaunt down Transylvania Lane. In fact, it gave you multiple jaunts to choose from on your journey, as well as three new partners you could team up with as well. It vastly increased Castlevania‘s already impressive set of mechanics and became the absolutely pinnacle of all vampire killers on NES.

Why M. Noah Ward loves Castlevania III

Kudos to Konami for considering bold new directions after its highly successful Castlevania. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest was an ambitious and novel enhancement to the sidescrolling action platform genre, but just like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link‘s unexpected divergence, not every gamer was completely happy with the dramatic shift in tone and gameplay. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, then, was a return to form, with Konami showing it could give gamers another traditional Castlevania game, but with sufficient enhancements to best its predecessors.

Aside from getting even more visual flair from the increasingly antiquated NES’s 8-bit graphics engine, the introduction of selectable sidekicks and branching paths justified multiple play-throughs better than the usual attempts at higher scores (the original version of “achievements,” younglings). Grant, the wall-climbing ghost pirate, Sypha, the elemental magic-throwing sorceress and, oh yes, the first time to play as shape-shifting Alucard greatly enhanced a game that you could also play solely as regular, whip-cracking Trevor Belmont. Since acquiring some sidekicks required following stage sequences that bypassed others (or abandoning your current sidekick if you wanted to take a new one), gamers had to make challenging decisions that even resulted in unique endings depending on who was by your side when Dracula was defeated. And how often is a game with a “III” in its title a prequel to the first game?

Zany titling aside, I spent even more hours indulging in the twisting thrills of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse than I had in the previous two Castlevanias, and loved every moment of it. It’s no coincidence, then, that the game’s this high on the Top 20 and that the series overall is one of my favorites.


4. Final Fantasy (1990)

Since its inception in 1987, the name Final Fantasy has become something of a running joke. Intended to be Hironobu Sakaguchi’s last game with a nearly bankrupt Square, it ended up saving the studio from complete annihilation and propelled them into the RPG powerhouse we know today. But it wasn’t just Square it rescued from the depths of obscurity. It also revolutionised the RPG genre itself, building on the foundations left by Dragon Warrior while completely redefining them at the same time. It abandoned the tried and tested first-person battle perspective and instead threw all your warriors on the screen together side-by-side. Another big attraction was being able to pick the jobs and abilities of your party members. You could play with all warriors, all mages, a mix of both, or if you were feeling particularly confident, all white mages. With six to choose from, it offered endless re-playability value. More importantly though, it ensured that this particular fantasy still had a long way to go yet…

Why Andrew Hsieh loves Final Fantasy

“When the world is in darkness / Four Warriors will come….” So begins Final Fantasy, that most storied and mythological of first games. Everyone knows that story about Hironobu Sakaguchi and his last dream; everyone knows about the meteoric rise of Squaresoft, Inc. shortly thereafter. And I do mean “everyone:” when I wandered the dim halls of middle school, I was both surprised (and, somehow, not) to learn that even my non-gaming friends recognized the sprites of Fighter, Black Mage, and White Mage. (They’d learned it from the popular 8-Bit Theatre, which appropriated these sprites in appropriately awesome situations.) The thing is, Final Fantasy is a game that inspired more than a huge line of sequels and spin-offs. Say what you will about Final Fantasy XIII and XIV, but you cannot deny that this first game, with its charming graphics and improved interface– even compared to Dragon Warrior— inspired a wholly improved JRPG and JRPG fandom. Thank Bahamut it wasn’t final.


3. Tetris (1989)

Possibly the most popular puzzler of all time, Tetris is one of the few games that nearly everyone has played. Whether it’s your grandma, your sister, even your neighbour’s cat– everyone knows Tetris. Those falling blocks captured the world’s imagination, and helped sky-rocket the Game Boy’s popularity with both kids and grown ups. Who knew it would be so soothing, so peaceful, so addictive

Of course, the name of the game’s to score as many points as you can by lining up rows of blocks. As the different shapes rain down from the top of the screen, it’s your job to fit them together while keeping them as far away from the top as possible. But while completing one row at a time was all well and good, it was scoring a “tetris” that everyone longed for. These could only be scored by completing four rows at the same time, often by slotting in an elusive line block to your crafted masterpiece. We loved the NES version too, but it was Game Boy which really gave Tetris a life of its own, and it still remains one of our most beloved games today.

Why Kyle England loves Tetris

I think that Tetris is really one of the purest and simplest games ever made. There’s no story or characters; it’s just you and the blocks. It’s a game that managed to suck away my hours without ever changing up the gameplay. When I’m on a long trip or I have to wait somewhere, I usually whip out Tetris. I have dozens of others amazing games on my DS and 3DS and yet I still would rather play with those falling shapes. The fact that many cinematic, high-definition games with two hundred million budgets still aren’t as engaging as a game about spinning blocks is a testament to the timelessness of the classic puzzler.


2. The Legend of Zelda (1987)

Dah. Da na na na nah na nah. Da na na na nah na nah. Da na na na nah na na nah na na nah na na nah nah… I could go on. But just in case those garbled letters mean nothing to you, those are the sounds of one of the greatest and most legendary Nintendo franchises ever created. Thank goodness Ravel’s Bolero was just a back-up tune, because what would Zelda be without that triumphant fanfare?

In a world were everything lay at your feet, The Legend of Zelda offered an even more open world than Metroid. Absolutely nothing stood in your way– you could attempt dungeons out of order, roam about the map for a while, whatever you pleased. And if doing all that once wasn’t enough for you, how about doing it again on a higher difficulty setting with everything moved around? There were also no pesky passwords to worry about either because The Legend of Zelda was the first game to include internal memory to save your game. Just make sure you hold in that reset button…

Why Eileen Cullen loves The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda was truly a revolutionary game when it was released, and the innovations that it made still hold up today. Unlike most games, which were pretty linear and straightforward, this game relies very heavily on exploration. It doesn’t even give you any kind of instruction; you get a sword and are sent off on your adventure. Not only does the ENTIRE GAME revolve around searching Hyrule for the next dungeon, there are many other things to be found that are not required to beat the game. I don’t think I’ve ever beaten this game without finding something that I hadn’t seen before. It’s these secrets that give The Legend of Zelda great replay value and make each playthrough feel like a new experience. This game doesn’t feel outdated in any way, and truly is a timeless classic that almost everyone can enjoy. But be careful, because it’s still dangerous to go alone.

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8 Responses to “The Top 20 Games of 1985-1990”

  • 1245 points
    lukas85 says...

    Hey guys congratulations for your 100 th issue, i religiously read your site, i find it very original and passionate. Now onto the games, i have never finished super mario 2, for me its just too weird, too diferent from the rest of mario series, its not different in the mario land style but waaaaay to much different, the mechanics of the game are weird, altough i really like the graphical style, i never connected with the gameplay.

    Thumb up 3
    • 1329 points
      Andrew Hsieh says...

      Thanks, friend! We always appreciate your comments and, well, your own appreciation! And before anyone can see me say this … I never finished Super Mario Bros. 2 either. Shhh, don’t tell anybody.

      Thumb up 1
  • 42 points
    Gaviin says...

    I really need to bust out my NES again…

    Great article, guys. Keep up the awesome work.

    Thumb up 0
  • 1245 points
    lukas85 says...

    Love contra, for my one of the top 10 games of all time, i still rememner the music, the weapons, the enemies, back when i was a kid this was the ultimate action game, i have fond memories of it.

    Thumb up 0
  • 1245 points
    lukas85 says...

    Wow metroid at 6? For me it sits in number 1!!! It’s my absolute favorite Nes game, i used to have nightmares with this game in 1990, i smashed controllers, insulted my cousins, cry and have fury attacks hahaha, i was sucked by this game, the music, oh the music, it started my fascination for dark electronic sounds, even today i think kraids lair is one of tje coolest videogame songs. The gameplay, the graphics, the strangeness of it all. I think metroid is the masterpiece of space sci-fi in gaming history.

    Thumb up 0
    • 21 points
      Dave Magliano says...

      Indeed. And I think, while I suppose it’s necessary today, I kind of miss the need to create your own maps. Looking back, it made the experience all the more fulfilling. It’s amazing how well the 2D Metroids hold up today.

      Thumb up 0
  • 1245 points
    lukas85 says...

    My top 3

    1) Metroid
    2) Super Mario Bros
    3) Super Mario Bros 3

    Thumb up 0
  • 21 points
    JadedDragos says...

    Makes me want to play my Mega Man collection now. =-D

    Thumb up 1

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