10. Adventure Island II
One of the good things about the library of games on the NES is that you can see as the years went past that games developed more of a plot and story that made them more enjoyable than just ports of arcade games with the sole intention of obtaining a high score. Adventure Island II falls in this bracket of games with stories and plots, and has you rescuing your girlfriend named Tina who has been kidnapped.
You have to conquer eight different islands in order to rescue your beloved, which although may not be the best plot for a game, is one that makes you feel you are going on a quest and on (as the title says) an Adventure. On islands. One improvement to the original game is that you now have an inventory system, with which if you have say a hammer on your personage and collect a second one, this gets added to your inventory. Along the way you will encounter animal friends with which when you have rescued them you can choose them to roll alongside you.
The stages are shorter than the original game but as a result checkpoints are gone – if you die you start right back at the start. There are now different types of levels in the game such as underwater levels and vertical-scrolling levels. Overall, the game is an improvement over the original, which as a sequel is the name of the game right? With improved graphics and animal friends in the shape of dinosaurs assisting you in the levels which have their own special ability, it is a sequel worthy of being on any top ten sequels list that you may stumble across. Including this list.
9. DuckTales 2
Next up in the top ten NES sequels list, a Disney game I hear you ask for? Published by Capcom, I hear you roar? If that is your bag, then DuckTales 2 has you covered. The game was released in 1993, a full 3 years after the television series was cancelled, such was the appeal and legacy of the brand.
One big positive of the game, like the original game, is that you as the player are in control of the level you want to complete in whatever order you so choose. The controls are the same as the previous game so if you’re familiar with the original then you will find the controls the same here. However, one improvement is that Scrooge can use his cane for more things in the game such as firing cannons and hanging from hooks to allow Scrooge to cross bodies of water. Another improvement compared to the first game is that you can return to a level you have already completed in order to get more money and items, feeling that grind. With the money you can visit a store to purchase things such as lives and items to aid recovery.
The main problem with DuckTales 2 was that the game was released late in the life cycle of the console, which as a result meant lower sales and therefore the game being rarer to get than others on this list. If you are a fan of the brand, the television series and enjoyed the first game, you’ll certainly enjoy the sequel with its bold sharp graphics and a storyline to engross more than most NES titles did.
8. Track & Field 2
The Track & Field franchise is the unequivocal granddaddy of button-bashing sports games. Purveyor of many an injury and stubbed fingers over the years, the sequel to the original Track & Field was released in 1989 in Europe. It continued the Olympic-themed sporting events we have come to know and love but the one addition is that now you can select which country to represent, and some selections are a relic of modern history, such as West Germany, and the USSR. With a training mode, Olympic mode and a versus mode, there is something for everyone here and with more events than the original; 15 all told.
One common criticism of the game was that a lot of the events require constant mashing of one button to build up your power bar and then to release the power by pressing the other button. Nevertheless if button-bashing and a plethora of Olympic-themed sports is your jam, then Track & Field 2 has you covered in abundance. Not with jam, but button-mashing goodness (phew! – Ed).
7. Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2
Released in Europe in 1991, Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2 is the sequel to the hit platforming arcade game of Bubble Bobble that utilises rainbows for attack, platforming and collecting items. Yes, rainbows. There is however no pot of gold at the end of the rainbows, but utilising them well helps you climb up the stage dodging traps and enemies along the way to get to top of the level, with which you’re treated to all manner of items to collect for more points and the word “goal” in bold bright colours.
The music may not be as memorable as the original game, but with the gameplay seemingly set outdoors this time, it carries a lot of positives from the first game, such as tight controls, a good progression in difficulty and of course, multiple endings dependant on if you have found and completed the secret islands along the way. Reviews of the game at the time praised the graphics and gameplay, and I cannot argue with this. It does feel like an underrated gem on the console and well worth the time to invest in, if only to say you’ve played a game that takes full advantage of rainbows. Worthy of being number five in out top NES sequels list.
6. Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles II: The Arcade Game
To try and differentiate between the original game, sequels seem to have more of a longer title, or added a subtitle to make the distinction. It was noted above for Rainbow Islands and again for number 6 on the list, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles II: The Arcade Game. This does help as to not getting confused between this and the original game, but spending 10 seconds with this game you can clearly see the differences between the two.
For a start, the graphics have had a tweak and as the name suggests, feels more of an arcade, button-bashing beat-em-up that is still side-scrolling but brings that arcade feel to your home console. The one thing you may remember about the game was the product placement from a certain Pizza Hut – you can see the logos throughout the game, and the back of the instruction manual there was even a coupon to one free personal pan pizza, but don’t all go rushing to eBay to obtain a copy. This offer expired in December 31, 1991 so is too little too late.
On the whole, although not as notorious as the first game, an improvement on it nonetheless and personally a better game out of the two, if only for that feel of pumping in quarters in a hazy arcade on a lazy sunny afternoon.
5. Double Dragon 2: The Revenge
Another side-scrolling beat-em-up, this time from the Double Dragon franchise, and continuing with our heroes Billy and Jimmy in their quest to avenge their girlfriend Marian having been previously killed.
One of the big differences compared to the original is that this time around, two players can be on-screen at the same time which is always a welcome sight, as sometimes it can be boring waiting around if the multiplayer aspect in the game is on a one-life at a time kind of mechanic. What is also unique about the game is that it has three difficulty settings which affects when the game ends – should you not be up for a challenge and play on the easiest setting “practice” then the game ends after three stages. The warrior mode a la second difficulty allows you to complete pretty much everything barring the ninth and final stage, where the third difficulty which his also the hardest allows you to fully complete the game and encounter the final boss. This something that has been used in a number of games, the most obvious that a spring to mind was the Streets of Rage games on the Mega Drive/Genesis. Although initially a proverbial kick between the legs having thought on the easiest setting you could complete the game quickly, this type of mechanic is actually quite refreshing and acts as a good incentive to get good at the game and try to complete it.
Overall, a worthy sequel and well worth the time.
4. Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest
The subject of many memes, and famous lines such as “WHAT A HORRIBLE NIGHT TO HAVE A CURSE” (capital letters meant), Castlevania 2 is in some ways similar to Zelda II which may or may not appear later in the list…
The game was released in Europe in 1990 and is set some time after the timeline of the original but still taking control of young Simon Belmont to find Dracula’s 5 body parts that have been split and return them to the castle to defeat him. What makes the game different from the original is that it is not a standard platforming game like before but has nonlinear elements, and a world map for you to come and go as you please, interacting with the folk from each place and vanquishing those dastardly enemies. Simon can also buy items from merchants but rather than having rupees like Zelda games, or coins like Mario games, you have…hearts. So not to replenish health, but acting as a form of currency. Still not sure how macabre that is, but hey it works for this game.
What is novel about the game is it also has a cycle of daytime and night team, which has an effect in game of stronger enemies at night and villagers you may have been able to speak to during the day are replaced by zombies in the night cycle. Finally HASHTAG SPOILER ALERT when you defeat Dracula there are three different endings that could happen, dependant on how long you took to complete the game – this gives the game replayability but certainly a game you can sink time into and not a 5 minute job like Super Mario Bros. There is a lot more that could be said about the game but to truly gain an understanding and sense of the game, like always it is best to play it rather than watch someone else play it.
3. Zelda II: The Adventures of Link
Albeit a common cliché, the game is often called (quite unfairly I might add) the black sheep of the Zelda franchise due to the game not sharing what could be considered “traditional” values. Zelda II has gained a reputation throughout the years of being a difficult, balls-to-the-wall hard-as-nails game that would challenge even the most ardent of gamers. The thing to note, which the AVGN explained really well and I fully concur with, is that there was no precedent as to the style of a “typical” Zelda game – this was the second game of the series and didn’t know what would work, what would not and be the template for future Zelda titles.
Yes, there are criticisms in the game that have been addressed in future titles but maybe just maybe, its reputation precedes it and has a lot of positive qualities that if it wasn’t titled as a Zelda game, would draw plaudits and praise across the board. For a start, it combined both side-scrolling adventuring, dungeon solving alongside RPG elements to increase the status of your character with more health, attack and magic to aid you in your quest. As well, there is a greater sense of exploration – yes the original Legend of Zelda was all about secrets and exploration, but Zelda II increases this a lot, and just feels fun exploring the overworld and finding new towns and townsfolk to learn spells from and generally have no idea what they are saying in the text boxes. The game in its original gold cartridge is common in the wild and the game is also available on the Switch Online Service, so do give it a whirl just to see if the game lives up to its reputation.
2. Mega Man 2
Throughout the hazy and misty time of video game history, Mega Man 2 has been regarded by many as being the best in the franchise, and having played the game it is easy to see why.
The game builds upon the somewhat moderate success of the original Mega Man, tweaking all that about the original that was not up to standard, but enhancing all the good things about the original that made it a solid start to the franchise. Evidence of this shows in game ranks which places the game not only in the the top 100 games of the console, but of certainly of all time. It is hard to pinpoint a single attribute of the game that works well; it seems to be that everything in the game seems to work perfectly.
The controls are tight, simple and react well with the touch of your controller. It is a great challenge to know which special power you gain from defeating a level boss to use on the next level you play – it could be the special weapon cuts through the boss like a hot knife through butter, or the opposite and has little effect. This alone will keep you playing the game time and time again till you find the right mix of weapon and boss fight.
The music is memorable from the very first moment you pop that sucker into your console, and you’ll be humming the main screen tune and other level music well after you shut the game off. If you have never played a Mega Man game before then certainly do start with this one, and see if you are as mature as I and not laugh at the name “Wood Man”… (nope, we laughed – Ed)
1. Super Mario Bros 2
Read any lists or watch any videos about “Top ten things you didn’t know about the NES” and sure enough one of those items on the list will be how Super Mario Bros 2 that was released in North America and Europe was a re-skin of Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic and the original Super Mario Bros 2 released in Japan was deemed too difficult for Western gamers. Although this fact is as common as dolphins having belly-buttons, don’t let it detract that Super Mario Bros 2 was a superb sequel to one of the most famous games of all time.
The game looks as aesthetically different from the original as it could be, but the graphics and colours are bright, colourful and really jump out the screen. The game allowed you to pick one of four characters, each character with their own skills and weaknesses, a mechanic used as recently as Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. The music is memorable and catchy, with a supporting cast of enemies and items that long live in the psyche of gamers. It may not have been the true sequel that Japanese gamers got, and could only experience in the early 90’s under the title Super Mario USA, but in terms of gameplay, graphics and general leap from the original game, this game goes the extra distance and then some.
All screenshots taken from Moby Games