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Yesterdays: MY Favorite Nintendo Games Part 1

Like so many of us here on RetroDaze, a great many hours of my youth was spent playing Nintendo.  Saturday afternoon, after school, most of the night on Friday know, anytime available was spent with that gray and black controller in my hand.  

Of course, not all games live up to the hype we place on them in our minds, and some games far exceed the level of enjoyment we thought we were going to get from them. Some games we played only a handful of times, and some games we kept going back to time and time again.

This is the first part of a four part series of articles I'm doing on MY favorite games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This is by no means a ranking of the 'greatest' or 'best' games. It's simply my top 20 favorite games to play, in no particular order, along with some of my memories of each one. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you check out the other three parts of this series as well!

Castlevania 2:  Simon's Quest
Released in 1988 from Konami

In Castlevania 2:  Simon's Quest, you take the role of Simon Belmont on a journey to undo the curse placed on him by Dracula at the end of the original Castlevania game.

This, I think, was the first role playing game I ever owned. I don't even remember what the draw was that led me to buy this game. Possibly it was the fact that I had money on me and this was the most intriguing game the store happened to have that day. I don't remember seeing any advertising for it, nor did I ever play the original Castlevania game. Whatever the reason, I took it home and enjoyed every second of it. Matter of fact, when I bought a Wii a couple of years ago, I immediately downloaded this game for it and still play it now. 

The quest of Simon to destroy Dracula was the simple premise, but the much more complicated facet of the game was just where in the heck do you find Dracula, and what weapon do you use on him when you find him? You spent your time traveling through towns, forests, and mansions killing skeletons, wolf men, sea creatures and anything else that got in your way like spiders and floating eyeballs. You earned "hearts" that were like money and you used that money to upgrade your whip and buy additional weapons like Holy Water, Laurel Bushes, Diamonds, and numerous other curiosities. You also had to talk to the townspeople to get clues on which direction to go to find Dracula and how to beat him. All this wrapped into the game made it one heck of a time waster, and I can't forget the Saturday afternoon that I finally beat this game. Still my favorite game I've ever played on any platform.

Defender of the Crown
Released in 1987 by Cinemaware

A lot of you may have never seen or heard of this one. It was a strategy game set in England in 1149 during the middle ages. You had a spot of land to begin the game, and you attempted to conquer neighboring lands. Pretty simple concept don't you think? You had several ways to go about that though. You could siege their land, or covertly go in and try to take over. And if you needed help, you had the ability to call on Robin Hood! Throw in the fact that you had sporting events as well like the joust and sword fight for the action quota, you were left with an pretty fun way to kill time on a Saturday afternoon.

Besides the strategy part of the game, what I liked best was laying seige to an opponent's castle. You had catapults with which you could launch boulders to knock holes in the walls. After holes had been created, you used the catapult to launch fire or plagues into the castle to weaken their defenses. Before you knew it, your opponent surrendered and you had acquired a new land to rule!

Released in 1989 by Nintendo

We all know the story of this game. Several different odd shaped blocks fall from the top of the board, and you had to rotate them, move them left or right to get them to drop into position to complete a line and make it go away. If you weren't quick enough or smart enough to do that on a consistent basis, your board would be full and your game would be over.

So simple a game, even an adult could play it!  And thats exactly what happened at my house, and why this game is so high up the list. My father never would play video games. He didn't even like to sit and watch me play a game. So when he saw how easy Tetris was, he wanted to give it a try. For months afterwards, we would play it together, seeing who could get the highest score and the most completed lines. He would even be the one most times to suggest us playing. Those times spent with my Dad, doing something that I loved are ones that I'll never forget, and Tetris gets a high spot on my all time list because of it.

Ring King
Released in 1987 by Data East

What red-blooded American boy didn't want to put on the gloves and go to battle with one another inside the squared circle? With this game, you and your best friend could live that out without anyone getting a bloody nose. The action was slow and plodding, but man was it fun. You really had to battle for the full 3 minutes to stay alive, and then you had to work your thumbs to the limit in the rest period to regain needed energy. I loved the fact that this game had a tournament mode. That meant a lot of "Championship Tournament" afternoons for me.

I would have friends come over, and we would each pick four combatants, and then have them square off in tournament mode. A tournament like this could last 2-3 hours before a champion was finally declared. Once done, it was time to ice down our swollen thumbs and enjoy some tasty snack like Jiffy Pop or Jello Pudding Pops. This game contributed to many a fun Satuday afternoons.

Excite Bike
Released in 1985 by Nintendo as an original launch title

One of the consoles most beloved games, and a favorite of mine too. I killed many hours with this bad boy. Racing on a motorcycle! Design your own tracks! Put 100 jumps in a row! This was one awesome game for those three reasons, and why it's so fondly remembered. That and the fact that you could wreck others by coming down the track with your rear wheel in their front wheel and watch them tumble over and over down the track. With the possibility of using any combination of 19 different obstacles to design your track with, it had great replay value just in designing new courses to race.

I was introduced to this game at my cousin's house shortly after I got my Nintendo. I was instantly hooked and we spent several hours that night playing it. I never actually owned the game, but several of my friends did, and a copy of it was at my house more often than not through the magic of "trading" games with a friend for a period of time. This game still holds its own in the "fun factor" today against such newer and more complicated games.

That wraps up Part 1 of this series.  Fives games down, fifteen more to go!  Be sure to keep an eye out for Part 2 where I talk about Castlevania 3, Alpha Mission, the universally loved Contra, and a couple of other titles!

Mickey Yarber is a freelance writer and lover of all things fun from our childhoods.  He has a blog where he shares childhood memories of tv shows, toys, movies, games, cartoons, food, school days, and a host of other things.  Stop by and check him out at:
And be sure to follow me on Twitter at @yesterdayville
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mickyarber Posted on Jul 19, 2015 at 01:07 AM

Thanks @echidna64. I have several on my lists that folks would put on their greatest lists, but for me, I'm just talking about the ones I enjoyed the most, regardless of how they are ranked anywhere else.

echidna64 Posted on Jul 18, 2015 at 10:28 PM

These are some excellent personal picks! I love the inclusion of Castlevania 2. Even though it has a bad reputation, it still brought you much joy back in the day and retro memories for today. Thank you for flying against the wind and I am eagerly awaiting for the second installment!

Vaporman87 Posted on Jul 17, 2015 at 04:29 PM

Ring King, Castlevania 2, Excitebike, and even Defender of the Crown... I owned all of these titles at one time, and all were great.

I had all but forgotten the fun of Ring King. It was a different game altogether than Punch Out, and that made it a new and fun experience.

It was nice to read about how Tetris brought you and your father together enjoying the same thing. That can make even a boring game much more meaningful and memorable, yet Tetris was a top tier title. I was never able to get my dad to try games either. That is something I swore I wouldn't do as a dad... turn down offers from my children to enjoy things they enjoy.

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