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


1. Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990)

The pinnacle of NES gaming, Super Mario Bros. 3 had everything you could possibly ask for. Brilliantly designed levels across eight huge themed worlds, the best Mario soundtrack yet, power-ups galore with several new additions to boot, and memorable new characters like the Koopalings were just a few of its many highlights. Add in super tight controls, wicked secrets and that good, old wacky Mario imagination, and you have without a doubt one of the finest games ever made.

It set the standard for Mario games to come, and you can see its legacy everywhere from Super Mario 64 to Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D Land. The latter in particular is a huge homage to this gaming classic, with everything from the return of Bowser’s airships and saving your power-ups for later to Mario’s tail-wagging tanooki suit tugging on ye olde gamer’s heartstrings. The only thing that could have made Super Mario Bros. 3 even better was being able to play with a friend… Oh wait, it did that too. Bravo, Mario, you’ve just created the best NES game in history.

Why Adam Sorice loves Super Mario Bros. 3

Now as some loyal readers of Nintendojo may remember, my previous experiences with the iconic moment of gaming that is Super Mario Bros. 3 didn’t go particularly well. Raised on a diet of modern-age save systems and “Continue?” screens, my adolescent foray into old-school Mario was the gaming equivalent of being hit with a brick. (A Thwomp?)

But when I looked past the crushing difficulty, it becomes clear just how much Super Mario Bros. 3 has given to the Mario franchise. While previous entries had solidified the platforming brilliance of the series, it was this game that truly solidified the joyful wonder and unrivalled imagination that the name Mario still encapsulates to this day. The whimsical asides, the maddening costumes and the masterful balance of difficulty and enticement were pioneered by this game and are still present to this day. Despite these initial difficulties/rage quits, I have grown to both love and appreciate the legacy of Super Mario 3; a game so iconicly memorable that Nintendo still hasn’t made a fourth.

Why Nic Vestre loves Super Mario Bros. 3

When I was five years of age, playing Super Mario Bros. 3 was the ultimate treat. Even though I didn’t own it at the time, I loved it dearly. Every time I was sick (or had any other excuse under the sun that I could think of), I would ask my mom, “Can we please go to Mega Movies and rent Super Mario 3?” The original Super Mario Bros. just felt tame and ordinary in comparison. Now Mario could take to the skies and discover entire new areas and untold secrets. Daunting airships awaited anyone brave enough to make it to the end of the map. Each world was more fantastical than the last, ranging from a land filled with gigantic enemies to a tricky pipe maze, or even the sky. I love the game just as much now as I did then.

Why M. Noah Ward loves Super Mario Bros. 3

If you were a video game fan and a kid, there’s no way you couldn’t have been swept up into the marketing hype for Super Mario Bros. 3 back in 1990. You were teased at the prospect of imagining face-offs against Bowser’s zany kids, the ability to choose what stages you faced and which you skipped, and oh, the power-ups!

Then there was “The Wizard,” which included a jaw-dropping (for a ten year old kid) “Pro Tip” right in the climactic video game contest scene. If you had Mario crouch on a certain block, Mario would fall into the screen’s background and obtain a magic flute that let him warp to the end of the game! Both today and then, I’m fairly certain that contrived scene wouldn’t have happened in an adrenaline-fueled video game contest, but I didn’t care. I had to recreate that experience, and see all the additional wonders that tiny screenshots in Nintendo Power couldn’t provide. For instance, journeying through the giant-sized monster and block sprites of World 4 seemed unfathomable. Games of the ’80s almost all featured heroes, monsters and villains in same-sized rectangles of spirtes, regardless of genre or developer. A goomba that took up a quarter of the screen? Insane.

The incredible amount of diversity Super Mario Bros. 3 provided– from world design, to villains, power-ups and even basic map navigation– has a large part to do with why many Mario fans have held high expectations for every Mario sequel since. We want to be hyped, amazed and delighted by that same magic that fueled the release and experience of Super Mario Bros. 3, a game that established worldwide hype and what’s more, truly delivered on its promises.


So what do you think of our No.1 choice? Disagree with any of our rankings? Sound off in the comments below, and make sure you check back tomorrow when we’ll be counting down another Top 20 from 1991 to 1995.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

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

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In 0 points Log in or register to grow your Ninja Score while interacting with our site.
Nintendojo's RSS Feeds

All Updates Podcast
News Comments
Like and follow usFacebookTwitter Friend Code Exchange + Game with Us Join the Team!