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Show & Tell 02: My Top 5 Favorite NES Games

When I was very little, the first gaming system I remember having in the house was an Intellivision.  I believe it was my Dad's, and he was nice enough to let my brother and I play with it when we were barely out of the toddler stage.  My brother was always better at gaming, being 3 years older, and he was very fond of a game called Night Stalker.  I, probably somewhere between 3 and 5, preferred the games more manageable for younger kids, like Donkey Kong or Frogger.  

Then, one Christmas, after much begging, we finally got the Nintendo NES system, complete with Super Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt, and the bright orange gun.  My brother was quite good at playing NES too.  He could devote hours of his time, snaking his way through mazes and levels as I watched in amazement.  Back then, you couldn't save your progress, and if he had to stop for school, Church, or bedtime, all of his progress was lost.  

Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed watching him play, I was the typical hyper little brother who couldn't sit still and was a big distraction.  As I mentioned on the debut episode of The Gnarly 90s Podcast (which you can find wherever podcasts are downloaded), my brother quickly made me sit in the corner facing the wall if I wanted to "watch" him play.  Otherwise, I was just bad luck (so he said), and he'd lose.  Eventually, he got into sports or girls or whatever, and the NES became mine.  

I had a decent-sized stack of games that we'd buy from "the cage" at Toys R US on Sundays after Church (and a trip to Roy Rogers.)  Most of them were old rentals we purchased used from Dollar Video, though.  

While I had more than a few, five of them stand out as being played so often that they probably wore out (blowing in them eventually stopped working!)  As part of this week's "Show and Tell" blog event, here is my list of My Top 5 Nintendo Games, in no particular order.

Super Mario Brothers 2 -  Easily my favorite of the trilogy, this game was released in 1988, but we didn't start playing it until much later.  See, this is where my memory gets fuzzy.  I'm sure if I looked back through photo albums, I could figure out what year we first got our NES, but I feel like it was closer to 1990 than its release in 1985.  I started playing Super Mario Brothers at the kid down the street's house.  He had a few Nintendo games, and I always begged him to let me borrow them, and he never did (except for that entirely awful Ghostbusters game I couldn't figure out how to play).  When we got our own copy of Mario 2, and I spent many hours playing it.  Eventually, we picked up Mario 3 somewhere, and my brother also defeated that game.  I could never get past the first "land," although I enjoyed the "flying" abilities when you found the special leaf.

The colors and graphics of Mario 2 were worlds better than the first Mario, so it was much more visually appealing to me.  I thought the game flowed better and was more enjoyable.  You could also select your character for gameplay.  I always picked Princess Peach because she floated when she jumped, giving me an advantage over King Koopa's henchmen.  What character did you choose?  

The Adventures of Bayou Billy - I wouldn't call Bayou Billy a "favorite" of mine, but I don't know when I'll ever get to talk about it again, so here we are.  I never got past the first few stages of this game, but I tried an awful lot.  The artwork in the manual and on the box and game cartridge made me WANT to like this game.  It just... wasn't that good.  It was a challenging game, even for a self-proclaimed "good" gamer like myself.  

What the game DID have, however, was this awesome feature you could access through the start-up Menu screen that allowed you to tinker with, play, or modify the sound effects and background music from the game.  I spent more time in this section than in the actual game.  I would hold my tape recorder (I know, I'm old) up to the TV and record sound effects and music that I would later act out using the script in my brain with my Ninja Turtles and Dick Tracy figures.   

Tecmo Bowl Football - When I was in either Kindergarten or First Grade, my local high school won the New York State Football Championship.  We were always big on school sports spirit (Raider Pride!) in my house, so when they held a grand celebration at the high school, my Dad took me with him.  I remember being bored during the ceremony, but I was floored when I got to meet the kids on the team after!  They were like celebrities or superstars to me!  They even looked like grown men, most with beards and leather jackets, and in my imagination, I like to picture them holding cigarettes and fighting off women who threw themselves at them.  Then again, I've often thought that back then, people "looked" older than they do at the same age now.  Must be something in the water.

Anyway, I rushed home and dusted off one of the games we had picked up at some point.  I was not a big football fan and didn't know all the rules, but I picked the San Francisco 49ers because they wore red like my high school did.  I played the game long enough over the next few months to figure out the rules of the sport and even want to follow it, not that I actually did, though.  Playing Tecmo came in handy later on when the hometown Giants beat the Bills in the Super Bowl, and I had to pretend like I knew what everyone was talking about in school.  

Blades of Steel -  I grew up in a family of hockey fans, so it was only natural I became one as well.  I started playing hockey in kindergarten, skating in clinics at Bear Mountain before joining my first team in 2nd grade.  These days I have very little spare time, and following any sport has taken a back seat to life.  Back to Nintendo, though, the one game my brother and I played together as often as we could was Blades of Steel.  

Yes, the graphics weren't great, and the crowd noise can be considered annoying, but before we played on ice for real, and when we couldn't be outside playing street hockey, we were playing on Nintendo.  We'd always play seriously at first, but it would eventually devolve into us trying to get two players into a fight.  Since they were generic teams and players, I always picked random ones because I liked the bright colors on the various uniforms.  My brother, however, faithfully picked New York every time.

If you twisted my arm, I'd say Blades was my all-time favorite NES game.

Cabal - Blades of Steel may be my favorite all-time game, but Cabal is the one I think of most fondly.  I told the story on The Gnarly 90s, but one night my Dad sat down with me to play Cabal, and he ended up beating the entire game!  I'll never forget that night and that feeling of excitement when we beat the game together.  In all honesty, Dad beat the game.  I was killed off somewhere halfway through the game, and he was all on his own.

Cabal was a basic shooter game of its day, and every level was pretty similar but increasing in difficulty.  I used to love establishing my cover position behind a wall and trying to hold on as long as I could before the wall was destroyed by enemy fire.  I also loved lobbing the grenades up and over at the approaching enemy.  

I love the memory of this game so much that I spent a large bit of money buying one in mint condition for my little nostalgia museum here at the compound.  


  1. Check out these other entries into the Show and Tell Event:

    Jason -
    PikaPal -
    Brandon -
    Mickey -