Entertainment writer. Loves games, movies, and comics. Also loves talking in the third person
The godfather of video game consoles, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), has a legacy that is still felt today. Sure, there were consoles before it, but none of them left an impact like the NES. What made its legacy last this long isn’t just the console itself, but the games it had to offer as well.
Many franchises were started on the NES, some that are still strong and alive today. Here are the Top 10 best-selling NES games of all time.
The turtles find themselves going against Shredder once again in this platformer released for the NES. The game allowed you to play as your favorite turtle and gave you the ability to switch between them at a moment’s notice. Notable TMNT characters make appearances in the game such as Splinter, April O’ Neil, and Bebop and Rocksteady.
With the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon show being as popular as it was, it was impossible for this game not to become one of the best NES games in terms of financial success. The game sold 4 million copies and would be the first of many TMNT video games.
Back in the ’80s, games were much more simple, but just because they were simple didn’t mean they weren’t fun. Take, for example, Golf, a pretty straightforward golf game (If you couldn’t guess by its name).
You were given the chance to play an 18-hole golf course by yourself or with a second player, and players were able to choose the trajectory and the power in which they hit the ball. Another thing to worry about was the wind, which would affect your ball depending on how strong it was blowing and in which direction.
But this golf game managed to swing into the hearts of NES owners, selling an estimated 4 million copies. It also might have been the game that started the Mario golf franchise, with Mario Golf: Super Rush setting for release on June 25.
Released in 1984, the same year as Golf, Excitebike was another sports game released for the NES. Players could go at it alone, or race against CPUs as they tried to come in first. To proceed to the next race, players had to come in at least 3rd place, but it was easier said than done. Players had to be careful not to bump against other racers, steer away from oil spills, and make sure their bike’s temperature didn’t overheat.
Excitebike is a fun racing game and it seems like people in the 80’s also thought so because it sold an estimated 4.1 million copies. And the love for Excitebike didn’t die in the ’80s, people still enjoy the game today on modern consoles; in 2018, the game was released for the Nintendo Switch.
Building on an already impressive video game, Zelda 2 managed to impress fans of the first game. Unlike the first title, this Zelda game was a side-scroller, a change from the original’s top-down perspective. The game also introduced leveling up, which allowed the player to increase their attributes; giving them the choice to increase their attack or health.
Zelda 2 was a massive hit, selling 4.38 million copies. Although this is an incredible achievement, it failed to reach the height of the first game. But that’s more of a statement to how incredibly successful the first game was, instead of a critique towards Zelda 2.
It’s impressive that Mario isn’t just a plumber, but a doctor as well. Released in 1990, Dr. Mario is a puzzle game that was available not only on the NES but on the Game Boy as well.
The purpose of the game is to match capsules by their color, doing this gets rid of the viruses within the bottle. The only way to lose is when the capsules reach the top, and blocks other capsules from coming in.
Everyone loves a good puzzle game, and you can tell by the number of copies sold. Dr. Mario managed to sell 4.85 million copies, making it one of the best NES games of all time in terms of sales.
The legacy of Dr. Mario is still going on today, with the character being a part of the Super Smash Bros. roster. Apart from that, Dr. Mario was also re-released for the Nintendo Switch.
The start of the entire Zelda franchise, the Legend of Zelda was first introduced to the world in 1986. It told the story of Link, who was on a quest to rescue Princess Zelda.
Played from a top-down perspective, players had to explore to look for fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom; doing this would help them reach the princess. But they had to be careful of all the creatures that roamed the land.
The game would sell 6.5 million copies, making it one of NES’s most sold games. Not only that, but The Legend of Zelda would give birth to the entire Zelda franchise, making Link a figure known around the world.
The franchise includes several installments across generations of Nintendo consoles, and even a cartoon TV show; although the show wasn’t received greatly by fans or the public.
The most confusing game on this list, the Super Mario Bros. 2 history is twisted into a pretzel. Super Mario Bros. 2, to western countries, was just Doki Doki Panic but changed to include Mario characters.
The true sequel was only released in Japan and then it came to western countries under the name, Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels. Likewise, the Japanese audience would receive the western version of Super Mario Bros. 2 under the name Super Mario USA.
Regardless of the confusion, Super Mario Bros. 2 was still a success, managing to sell 7.4 million copies. The game marks the first time Toad and Princess Toadstool became one of the four playable characters. The game also introduced the mechanic of throwing enemies, something that has been included in other Mario games such as Super Mario 64.
Released a short while after Super Mario Bros. 2, the third installment took everything to another level. It introduced several new elements that would become staples of the Mario franchise.
This was the first game that introduced the Koopalings, along with the Super Leaf. The great soundtrack and the beautiful design of the game are still incredible to this day.
Super Mario Bros. 3 would astronomically surpass its predecessor, selling 17 million copies; more than double of Super Mario Bros. 2. Not only is it one of the best-selling games of the console, but one of the best NES games in general. The game is still available on the Nintendo Switch.
When thinking of the NES, several games come to mind, and Duck Hunt is one of them. The goal of the game is simple, shoot and hunt ducks. To antagonize you along the way is a dog who laughs at you whenever you miss.
He’s not without a purpose, however, as he will scare ducks so the player can get a good shot in. The game utilized the Zapper, a gun players would use to point and shoot at their TV screens to kill the ducks.
Although Duck Hunt wouldn’t spawn franchises like other titles on this list, its legacy still stands on its own. The game and the Zapper have become gaming icons, with Duck Hunt selling 28 million copies.
This game doesn’t need any introduction, considering that it’s the game that launched the Mario franchise into stardom, and made Mario a household name.
Sure, it wasn’t the first game to feature Mario or Luigi, but it’s the one that most resembles the franchise we know and love today. This side-scroller takes place in the Mushroom Kingdom, and players are tasked with rescuing Princess Toadstool from Bowser.
The reach of this game can’t be overstated with 40 million copies being sold. The game would mark the first appearance of Princess Peach, Bowser, and Toad, and would shape the Mario world as we know it. This game isn’t just one of the best NES games, but there’s an argument to be made that it’s one of the most iconic games in history.
The best NES games according to copies sold have some expected faces such as Link and Mario, but it also has some surprising titles such as Golf and Excitebike. It’s a testament to how popular the console and its games were, and how iconic they have become.
For more Nintendo news make sure to subscribe to our newsletter down below!
Create your free account to unlock your custom reading experience.