The NES Classic Edition Is Missing These 30 Great Games

Sure, too much of a good thing is a bad thing, but we still think the NES Classic Edition is missing these 30 great games.

The internet had a rare moment of collective joy in July when Nintendo announced that it would be releasing the NES Classic Edition this fall. The mini-console is damn near everything an 8-bit fan could ask for, with an HDMI port, wireless controllers, and 30 built-in games, including all three Super Mario titles, both NES Legend of Zelda games, and even the original Final Fantasy.

There is one downside, however. Those 30 games are all that the NES Classic will ever be able play. You can’t download anything else, and it won’t play the original cartridges. Obviously, this means that there are some big omissions from the retro console’s line-up.

But hey, it’s still a great deal at only $59.99, and if it’s a huge hit for Nintendo, don’t be surprised if they launch an NES Classic Edition II next year. In that case, these are the titles we would like to see in it…

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30. R.C. Pro-Am

1987 | Rare 

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The NES wasn’t home to many racing games, and even fewer of those were actually good. While R.C. Pro-Am doesn’t have super realistic handling or graphics, it’s a downright fun and challenging isometric racer that influenced the genre for years to come. Of course, Microsoft now owns the rights to the series, but it’s not like they’ve been doing a whole lot with it lately, which increases the odds they could work out a deal with Nintendo for this one.

29. Tecmo World Wrestling

1990 | Tecmo 

Most NES gamers have fond memories of Tecmo Super Bowl, but for those who enjoyed a little more entertainment in their sports, nothing could beat Tecmo World Wrestling. The game features 11 fictitious wrestlers with tons of moves, and even 8-bit cut scenes for special moves. It may not have the coveted WWE license, but it’s easily the best wrestling game on the NES; and frankly, it holds up better than even some recent WWE games.

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28. Battletoads

1990 | Rare 

Battletoads is one of the hardest games ever made, and quite possibly the most difficult game on the NES. Still, it’s fondly remembered for its solid beat ‘em up gameplay, detailed graphics, and rocking soundtrack. The one thing holding this up might be that Microsoft now owns Rare and has been using the toads quite a bit in some recent first-party titles, like Killer Instinct. Still, Microsoft has been open to letting Rare develop games for Nintendo handhelds in the past and allowing their classic titles on the Virtual Console, so it’s not impossible that we could see this game show up on another mini-NES.

27. Earthbound Beginnings

1989 | Nintendo 

This prequel to the SNES classic was praised upon its release in Japan for supplanting so many tropes of the RPG genre with its modern setting and in-depth gameplay. After decades of hounding from American players, and the spread of widely available translations online, Nintendo finally released Earthbound Beginnings on the Wii U Virtual Console last year. Still, putting it in an NES Classic console would be an unexpected bonus for a lot of players who might not have picked up a Wii U and want to finally experience this forgotten classic.

26. Wario’s Woods

1994 | Nintendo 

When it comes to NES puzzle games, everyone remembers Tetris and Dr. Mario (the latter of which is bundled with the Classic NES). Fewer people remember Wario’s Woods for the NES, and that’s not surprising given that it was the final game ever released for the console in late 1994. Being such a late release, the game benefits from surprisingly vibrant graphics. The game is also an especially innovative and deep take on the puzzle genre. Instead of controlling blocks, you actually control Toad, who manipulates objects after they fall. Wario’s Woods has surprisingly been re-released only a handful of times over the years, so it would be the perfect forgotten Nintendo classic to pad out the roster in the next mini-console.

25. Zombie Nation

1991 | KAZe 

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A meteor has crashed in the desert and turns everyone in the U.S. into zombies. The only thing that can stop the zombies is a samurai wielding an ancient sword. So of course you play as the disembodied head of the samurai in this 2D shooter. Zombie Nation is a truly bizarre game that actually has pretty solid gameplay. Including it in another Classic NES system would finally allow a new generation of gamers to experience this weird little gem.

24. Ice Hockey

1988 | Nintendo 

Nintendo has never had much of a reputation as a sports game developer, but every now and then its released a real classic in the genre. Ice Hockey is an extremely simple take on the sport. There are no well-known players or teams, just the fat guy, skinny guy, and the normal guy, and your dreams of glory on the ice, as you pick any combination of them (kind of revolutionary in the late ‘80s). The action on the ice has held up surprisingly well over the years, too.

23. Fester’s Quest

1990 | Sunsoft 

Fester’s Quest is a truly strange entry in the NES library. Why Sunsoft decided to make an Addams Family video game when the show was already off the air for more than two decades and the movie reboot was a year away is anyone’s guess. When you realize that it involved Uncle Fester fighting off an alien invasion, it only seems weirder. Like a lot of NES games, this one is exceedingly tough, and it hasn’t aged terribly well, but a lot of people still have fond memories of it.

22. Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight

1990 | Capcom

Publishers did some goofy stuff to get gamers to buy their wares in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Capcom had developed a difficult, yet solid shooter that they were worried would be completely ignored in the crowded NES marketplace in the heyday of the console. So for the American release, they re-wrote the plot to be about Ken from the Street Fighter series. But instead of being a martial arts master, it’s now the future and he’s a cyborg cop traveling to other planets. It didn’t make much sense back then either, but it’s still better than either of the Street Fighter movies, and once you get past all that, it’s actually a fun (though exceedingly difficult) game.

21. Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos

1990 | Tecmo

The first Ninja Gaiden is packed in with the NES Classic, but that was only the beginning of one of the best trilogies on the 8-bit wonder. The second chapter in the Ninja Gaiden saga threw in bigger levels, more power-ups, and some surprisingly impressive (for the time) cut scenes. It’s still a difficult game, maybe more so with age, but tight controls make it a joy to play. No one would object to including this as well as Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom in another NES Classic.

20. Ring King

1987 | Namco 

Everyone remembers Punch-Out!!, as THE NES boxing game. Forgotten is Ring King, a quality alternative. Unlike Punch Out!!, Ring King lets you view your boxer from outside the ring, giving you a little more control, and even allowing grapples. It’s sort of like the first real boxing simulation. And then there’s that certain…scene between rounds. If you haven’t seen it before, Google it now. Yeah, it would be pretty funny to watch older gamers experience that scene for the first time on the NES Classic.

19. Rygar

1987 | Tecmo

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Even with the release of a well-regarded 3D sequel a few years back, Rygar for the NES has been criminally underrated. The NES version improved on its arcade origins with a large overworld and permanent power ups that made it feel a more like Metroid with an awesome Diskarmor weapon. The game was infamous for lacking any sort of save feature, requiring players to keep their consoles on for days or weeks at a time, but including it in an NES Classic, complete with save states, would easily rectify that problem.

18. Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers

1990 | Capcom 

There were a lot of terrible licensed games on the NES. Luckily, Capcom games guaranteed a quality experience. Rescue Rangers was produced by Tokuro Fujiwara, who had previously worked on Mega Man 2 and Ghosts’n Goblins. The game is surprisingly easy for an old-school platformer, but still features tight controls and bright graphics based on the Disney animated series. This is just one of those simple 8-bit games that’s a joy to play.

17. Mega Man

1987 | Capcom 

Mega Man 2 is confirmed for the NES Classic Edition, and it’s still arguably the best Mega Man game in the prolific series. But while the original Mega Man may not have as many moves or levels as the sequels, it’s still a quality, tough as nails platformers. It takes real skill to even get to Dr. Wily in this game, and including it in another Classic NES compilation would be the ultimate test of old-school gaming skills.

16. Crystalis

1990 | SNK

As successful as the Legend of Zelda games were on the NES, it’s amazing that more games didn’t try to emulate them. Crystalis was one of the few that did, however, and in some ways, it’s even superior to Nintendo’s classics, with its more cinematic presentation. The game features superb (for the time) graphics and music, and emphasizes combat over puzzles, which sets it apart from the Zelda series, and makes it well worth checking out even today.

15. Bionic Commando

1988 | Capcom 

There’s nothing else quite like Bionic Commando on the NES, or any other console for that matter. It’s a platformer, but you can’t jump. Instead, you traverse the levels by swinging around with your bionic arm. The game offered a surprising amount of freedom for its time, letting you choose which level to tackle next, and which weapons you took into those levels. Capcom tried unsuccessfully to revive the series in the late 2000s, but really all anyone wants to play is the original.

14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

1989 | Konami 

Released at the peak of turtle-mania, pretty much every kid seemed to have this game when it came out. And we loved it because the levels and enemies were surprisingly true to the cartoon. In hindsight, we were kind of dumb. The game is incredibly, frustratingly hard. Possibly even broken to some extent. Most developers would be ashamed to ship something like this today, but most of us would still like to play it one more time to experience what we once thought was a good game. And make our kids play that damn dam level.

13. Batman: The Video Game

1990 | Sunsoft 

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The NES was home to a lot of god-awful movie and comic book cash-ins. Somehow, despite being loosely based on a movie based on a comic book, Batman beat the odds and became one of the best platformers on the console. The levels are huge, and the Caped Crusader has a ton of moves to traverse them, like the ability to climb up walls and the always trusty batarang. God only knows who actually has the rights to re-release this game, but it would be well worth figuring out in the name of the best Batman game ever made before Rocksteady released Arkham Asylum.

12. Duck Hunt

1985 | Nintendo

Duck Hunt came packaged with Super Mario Bros. for the NES back in the ‘80s, which is why such an admittedly repetitive game has become so iconic. We all remember that classic moment of knowing we shot a duck only for it to fly away and have that damn hunting dog laugh at us because he thinks he’s so great. Well, let’s see him shoot a duck without opposable thumbs. Including Duck Hunt might mean making the next NES mini-console a little more expensive because you would need a Zapper to play it, but it would be well worth it to re-experience this classic. And maybe Nintendo could even throw in some other super obscure Zapper games like Hogan’s Alley and Wild Gunman.

11. River City Ransom

1989 | Technos 

The Double Dragon series gets all the attention as the best beat ‘em up on the NES, but real gamers know that nothing beats River City Ransom. The game has the same solid mechanics as Double Dragon, but you can actually upgrade your character by purchasing items found throughout the open world. And there’s a ridiculous number of objects to use as weapons. Thankfully, River City Ransom has received a lot more attention for its innovations as time has gone by.

10. The Adventures of Lolo

1989 | HAL Laboratory 

The Adventures of Lolo kicked off an absolutely brilliant trilogy of puzzle games on the NES. The first Lolo featured 50 increasingly difficult rooms in which you had to push blocks and avoid enemies to collect hearts and make it up to the next floor. Sadly, the game’s protagonists, Lolo and Lala, only make cameos in HAL’s Kirby games nowadays, but any sort of recognition or follow-up for these classics by Nintendo would be welcomed by most old-school gamers.

9. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

1990 | Konami 

Konami is allowing Nintendo to include the first two Castlevania games in the NES Classic, so it’s somewhat baffling that the third and best game in the series isn’t also bundled in with the system. Castlevania III has tighter gameplay, better graphics, and even branching paths for completing the story, making it an unusually replayable NES game. Plus, it’s the first appearance of Alucard, who would go on to star in the classic Symphony of the Night.

8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game

1990 | Konami 

This was sort of Konami’s apology for its first disappointing TMNT game. TMNT II was a port of the beloved beat ‘em up arcade game that has held up surprisingly well over the years (even seeing release last gen on the Xbox 360 and PS3). The NES couldn’t match the graphics of a late ‘80s arcade game, so the developers made up for it by including two new additional levels, and even extra sections for the levels gamers were familiar with. This version of the game has never been officially re-released, so it would be a welcome addition to an NES Classic Edition.

7. DuckTales

1989 | Capcom 

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If you need more evidence that Capcom was absolutely on fire with great ideas during the NES era, look no further than DuckTales. Developed by key members of the team that brought the world Mega Man 2, the game features Scrooge McDuck using his iconic cane as a pogo stick to traverse creative levels like the Amazon, the Himalayas, and even the moon. Add in colorful graphics and one of the best soundtracks on the NES, and it’s no wonder that this is remembered as a classic. Capcom finally released a remastered version of DuckTales in 2013 on last-gen consoles and smartphones, but for many gamers, it actually lost a lot of the charm that original had.

6. Dragon Warrior

1989 | Chunsoft 

Dragon Warrior (now Dragon Quest) laid the foundation for the early Final Fantasy games, yet continues to receive much less recognition in the west. That’s a shame, because it’s turn-based combat has actually held up a lot better than the first Final Fantasy’s. With Final Fantasy being included in the NES Classic Edition, a follow-up console could include another lengthy RPG, and Dragon Warrior would fit the bill perfectly.

5. Mega Man 3

1990 | Capcom 

Capcom released an astounding six Mega Man games on the NES. While the second game in the series is widely considered to the be the best, the third is often thought to be only slightly inferior. Then, things kind of went downhill. This was the first Mega Man game to introduce the slide mechanic and robot dog companion, Rush. Plus, the opening theme song is absolutely iconic and quite possibly the greatest song in any NES game. 

4. Tetris

1989 | Bullet-Proof Software 

By now, everyone currently gaming in the world has played some version of Tetris. And while there are a lot of quality versions of the iconic puzzler out there, for many older gamers, nothing quite tops the NES original. There’s just something about the controls, the speed of the blocks, and the perfect Russian-inspired soundtrack that makes this feel like the definitive version of the game. While the inclusion of Dr. Mario in the NES Classic Edition will be enough for many puzzle game fanatics, Tetris has always been seen by many as the superior 8-bit puzzle game.

3. Little Nemo: The Dream Master

1990 | Capcom 

Capcom was arguably at its very best during the NES era. NES-era Capcom was second only to Nintendo itself in pushing out high-quality titles. Virtually everything it touched turned to gold, and Little Nemo was no exception. This platformer, based on a Japanese animated film that’s based on an early 1900s comic strip, features a young boy with more costumes and animal pals than Mario ever had. The levels show an incredible amount of creativity, and the music is some of the most memorable on the NES. Maybe the rights are tied up in legal limbo (although how much demand can there be to license out a century-old comic strip?), but Capcom has showed little interest in reviving this classic over the years, which is a real shame.

2. Contra

1988 | Konami 

The Contra sequel, Super C, will be included in the NES Classic. It’s a fine game in its own right, but it’s not the game that most of us grew up with. We want the NES original that was so incredibly difficult that it required the infamous Konami code to beat and inspired years of cheat codes to come. We want the NES version that was in a lot of ways superior to the arcade version, with its longer levels and tighter controls. And most importantly, we want it right now.

1. Metal Gear

1988 | Konami 

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Long before the 90-minute cut scenes, Matrix-inspired storylines, and deep philosophical discussions about the nature of war and the military-industrial complex, there was simply Metal Gear. Yes, the NES version is completely different from the MSX2 version that inspired it. It’s been disowned by series creator Hideo Kojima, but that doesn’t make the NES version any less fantastic. While still held back by the technical limitations of the hardware, Konami’s Ultra Games crafted a tense stealth experience that inspired the entire genre for decades to come. And for that, it’s well worth including in the next NES Classic.

Chris Freiberg is a freelance contributor.