The complete guide to the NES games on Nintendo Switch Online

The complete guide to NES games on Nintendo Switch Online

There’s a lot of great games available on the Nintendo Switch Online service now — so we felt it probably behooved us to cover all of them, at least in brief, so you have a general idea of what’s worth spending some time with and what isn’t. So we proudly present the complete guide to the NES games on Nintendo Switch Online, which we’ll be updating on the same schedule as Nintendo updates the catalogue, which appears to be “whenever they feel like it”.

So, on with the games, then — we’ve got a lot to get through!

Adventures of Lolo

Originally released in 1989 by HAL Laboratory, this top-down puzzler holds up well today for those seeking a logical challenge with plenty of charm and lots of levels to figure out.

Balloon Fight

An NES classic from 1985 that is strongly reminiscent of the Williams arcade classic Joust. Great fun for solo players or in competition with a friend.

Baseball

As the name suggests, it’s a simplistic sports game from 1983. Not terrible by any means, and it’s an accessible take on the sport for newcomers, but hardly an essential play.

Blaster Master

Inti Creates’ remake Blaster Master Zero may be a superior game, but the original Sunsoft title from 1988 is still worth a play, as there are some differences.

City Connection

A thoroughly weird 1985 game from Jaleco in which you drive a Honda Civic while attempting to paint major cities and avoid cats. Addictive, but an acquired taste. Excruciating music.

Clu Clu Land

A peculiar 1984 puzzle game in which you have to negotiate a maze by grabbing onto poles and swinging. “Clu Clu” is a romanisation of “Kuru Kuru”, onomatopoeia for spinning.

Crystalis

A 1990 action RPG from SNK which blends fantasy and a post-apocalyptic setting. More Ys than Zelda, and definitely worth sitting down and spending some time with.

Daiva

Don’t let the complex-sounding description of this 1986 Japan-only game put you off; it’s a fun game with top-down and side-scrolling action sequences and very light strategy.

Dig Dug II

While many prefer the original, Dig Dug II is an enjoyable, creative action puzzler from 1985 — and part of the sprawling UGSF series from Namco. Slice up islands to defeat enemies!

Donkey Kong

One of Nintendo’s most well-known arcade games from 1981 gets an excellent 1983 NES port — although it lacks the “pie factory” level missing from many other home ports.

Donkey Kong Jr.

Another excellent arcade port from Nintendo, released as a Famicom launch title in 1983. It differs from many platform games with its strong focus on climbing things.

Donkey Kong 3

More Galaga than Donkey Kong, this unusual 1984 third entry in the series casts you in the role of Stanley, attempting to shoot bugs and Donkey Kong’s butthole with insecticide.

Double Dragon

Don’t let the jerky scrolling and dodgy spritework put you off — this 1988 port of Technos’ genre-defining beat ’em up is supremely playable and arguably better than the arcade original.

Double Dragon II

This 1989 sequel to Double Dragon deviates considerably from its arcade counterpart, and is all the better for it. Features solid beat ’em up action with a simultaneous two-player mode.

Dr. Mario

A tricky puzzler from 1990 that can be difficult to get to grips with initially, but which is very rewarding when you do. Also notable for an infectious (no pun intended) soundtrack.

Earthbound Beginnings

While the peculiar visuals in this 1989 NES RPG are an acquired taste, there’s a sprawling adventure to be had here — and one that never officially hit the west until 2015. Egad!

Eliminator Boat Duel

An unusual but enjoyable racing game from 1991 that combines top-down segments with quasi-3D slalom sections. Great graphics and music, plus speedy action.

Excitebike

A side-scrolling take on motocross from 1984. Simple to pick up but tricky to master, this is an enormously addictive game that you’ll keep coming back to.

Fire ‘n Ice

A 1992 follow-up to Tecmo’s puzzler Solomon’s Key. Progress through a non-linear series of challenges where you must put out fires by dropping ice blocks on them.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins

This 1986 NES port of Capcom’s classic and notoriously difficult arcade game may have slightly janky scrolling, but the gameplay is solid if you can deal with the challenge factor.

Gradius

While side-scrolling shoot ’em ups really came into their own in the 16-bit era, don’t write off the 1986 NES port of Konami’s classic Gradius — it’s a solid, difficult shooter.

Ice Climber

This 1985 vertical platformer is fun for one or two players, marred only by some of Nintendo’s worst ever jumping physics — thankfully something they would go on to master.

Ice Hockey

This 1988 sports game provides fast action thrills for one or two players, and remains supremely playable today. Perhaps not much for the solo player, but great with a friend.

The Immortal

This 1990 isometric adventure is notoriously difficult, and noteworthy for its ambitious narrative and graphic violence. The NES version is even harder than some of the other ports out there!

Journey to Silius

Originally intended to be an adaptation of The Terminator, this 1990 Sunsoft title boasts great graphics, an excellent soundtrack and enjoyable run-and-gun gameplay.

Kid Icarus

One of Nintendo’s strangest games, this 1986 title combines platforming, side-scrolling shooting and RPG elements to provide a memorable, challenging adventure.

Kirby’s Adventure

This 1993 title is one of the best NES games, and one of Kirby’s best adventures. It introduced Kirby’s iconic Copy ability, and features beautifully designed levels.

Kung-Fu Heroes

Not to be confused with Irem’s Kung Fu, this 1986 action game sees one or two players bashing enemies from a top-down perspective in order to progress through stages. Simple but fun.

The Legend of Zelda

I’m sure you don’t need us to introduce this 1986 classic — but do take the time to explore it if you haven’t already. It’s still a great time, and its format defined the series up until Breath of the Wild.

Mappy Land

This 1986 sequel to Namco’s challenging platformer Mappy ups the difficulty factor even further with scrolling levels. Frustrating and annoying at first, the game rewards perseverance.

Mario Bros.

Before going Super, the Mario Bros. starred in a single-screen elimination platformer from 1983. While the slippery controls take some adjusting to, this is great fun for one or two players.

Metroid

While it may have been superceded by its various sequels, the original 1986 Metroid is still a solid open-structure platformer with plenty to discover. Be sure to spend some time with it.

Mighty Bomb Jack

This unusual 1986 platformer from Tecmo combines side-scrolling stages with arcade-style levels from its predecessor. The mechanics might seem obtuse at first, but nail them and this is great fun.

NES Open Tournament Golf

While it’s fun to see the genesis of the Mario Golf series in this 1987 title, it’s hard to go back to this after the numerous refinements the genre has received over the years.

Nightshade

This unusual, creative and visually striking NES title from 1992 combines elements of point-and-click adventures and action games. Tricky to get to grips with, but rewarding, amusing and entertaining.

Ninja Gaiden

Tecmo’s classic 1988 platform action game is just as challenging as it ever was — and aside from a few annoying elements like respawning enemies, still holds up very well today.

Ninja JaJaMaru-kun

This 1985 title from Jaleco sees the titular hero fighting off enemies from Japanese folklore and attempting to rescue Princess Sakura. A bit clunky at times, but enjoyable arcade action.

Pinball

While simpler than today’s virtual pinball tables, that makes this 1984 game quite accessible to pinball newcomers. Plenty to discover on the two-screen table, and a Mario cameo in the bonus round.

Pro Wrestling

This 1986 title was popular back in the day — and spawned the “A Winner Is You” meme — but today it’s absolutely god-awful to play, even by wrestling game standards. Avoid.

Punch-Out!!

This 1987 boxing game is a classic with good reason: excellent graphics, solid gameplay where button-mashing won’t get you anywhere, and a brilliant combination of strategy and action.

River City Ransom

While the heavily localised nature of the script in this 1989 open-world beat ’em up jars a bit today, it’s still great fun to play. Its RPG elements and freeform structure provide plenty of longevity.

Rygar

This 1987 title is not an NES port of the arcade game of the same name, but instead a somewhat more exploration-based platformer with RPG elements. Overly difficult at times but fun.

S.C.A.T.

Don’t let the stupid title put you off; this 1990 shoot ’em up features excellent graphics and gameplay somewhat reminiscent of Capcom’s classic Forgotten Worlds.

Shadow of the Ninja

While often written off as a Ninja Gaiden clone, this 1990 title from Natsume is actually quite different, featuring highly mobile main characters and varied, interesting stages to battle through.

Soccer

The plodding pace of this 1985 sports game makes it quite accessible to newcomers and potentially fun for two players, but ultimately there are far better offerings to be had elsewhere.

Solomon’s Key

This tricky platform puzzler from Tecmo hails from 1986 and provides an unusual, memorable challenge once you get your head around the initially confusing mechanics.

Star Soldier

While the Star Soldier series really came into its own on the PC Engine, this initial installment from 1986 is still a great shoot ’em up with fast action that is worth spending some time with.

Startropics

Unusually, this 1990 release only came out in North America and Europe despite being Japanese-developed. It offers a fun modern-day twist on Zelda-style action adventuring.

Super Dodge Ball

While this 1989 title is a solid game at heart, the janky performance and sprite flicker in its original release makes it borderline unplayable. Try the cleaned-up version in the Kunio-kun bundle.

Super Mario Bros.

I mean, come on now, I think you know the deal with this one — although sometimes it’s fun to return to this and marvel at how far we’ve come since its original 1985 release.

Super Mario Bros. 2

One of the most underappreciated Mario Bros. games, and well worth a playthrough if you’ve never given it the time it deserves since its 1988 release. Also, something something Doki-Doki Panic.

Super Mario Bros. 3

The 1988 game that retro gaming YouTubers make videos about when they can’t think of anything more interesting to talk about. A classic, yes, but the NES library is so much more than just this.

Super Mario: Lost Levels

The Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 from 1986. Very similar in gameplay to the original Super Mario Bros., but considerably more difficult. Blame this game for stupid Mario Maker levels.

Tecmo Bowl

This 1989 release makes American Football considerably more accessible than many other games out there by not overcomplicating things. Give it a try if you’ve never got into Madden and co.

Tennis

This 1984 tennis game isn’t terrible by any means, but like NES Open Tournament Golf, it’s a reminder that more modern takes on the genre have really refined the format considerably.

TwinBee

This 1986 cute ’em up from Konami might not look like much at first glance, but its solid, smooth gameplay and interesting mechanics make it well worth playing along with its follow-ups.

Vice: Project Doom

This 1991 title from Aicom and Sammy features gorgeous visuals for the time period, plus solid gameplay across multiple genres. This isn’t a super well-known game, but is well worth a play.

Volleyball

This 1986 sports title is a bit of a stinker, with clunky controls and unclear mechanics. While some of the other NES sports titles are still fun today, this one is best avoided.

Vs. Excitebike

It’s Excitebike, again. This time around, there’s some new courses, new visuals, new colour palettes and an excellent two-player mode. Definitely worth a play for fans of the original.

Wario’s Woods

A thoroughly weird puzzle game from 1994 that is initially very difficult to get to grips with thanks to its unusual control scheme. It’s simpler than it looks, though, so persevere and there’s fun to be had.

Wrecking Crew

One of Mario’s most oft-forgotten adventures from 1985, in which he must demolish various building sites without falling foul of nasties. A really enjoyable take on action puzzling.

Xevious

It’s dangerous, it’s devious, it’s Xevious! Namco’s classic vertically scrolling shoot ’em up helped codify a whole genre, and still holds up well today.

Yoshi

Another tricky puzzler from 1991, developed by Game Freak. In this one, you must match Mario enemies or trap them inside egg halves to release Yoshis. A rewarding brain-bender.

Zelda II: Adventure of Link

While not everyone loves this side-scrolling, more RPG-esque take on Zelda, it’s still a challenging game worth exploring — and one that’s perhaps worthy of a remake at some point.

The NES app for Nintendo Switch Online is available for free for subscribers to the Nintendo Switch Online service.

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