1986, ALF landed on Earth and on our television sets, there was Big Trouble in Little China, David Bowie did the “Magic Dance” in Labyrinth, and the Nintendo Entertainment System had it’s wide release in America.
My time with the Nintendo Entertainment System was very short lived. It’s really surprising when I look back at the actual years when that little gray box sat under the family television. It’s hold on my memories always seem to place me younger and it’s time longer than it really was. Between the years of 1986 to 1990, the NES ruled my world. I will go over each year with a top 5 list and even though there were bigger and better games those years, these are the games that helped put calluses on my thumbs.
1. Excitebike (Nintendo)
Excitebike is one of my favorite games of all time. It was a great primer for the agony of defeat against “cheating” racing games (that still happens today). It opened your eyes to the possibility that the computer racers didn’t have to adhere to the same rules as human racers did like overheating and thinking about precision jumping. It was also the first “extreme” motocross game that came out that actually looked like motocross. But one of the defining aspects of Excitebike was the course creator. The course creator was the most rudimentary of creator modes, but hey it was one of the first. Excitebike is a classic and is a fun play even today.
2. Kung Fu (Nintendo)
Once a popular game in the arcade, Kung-Fu Master was ported over the NES and re-named simply Kung-Fu. It’s hard to believe that a few years before this, we were playing boxes that either ran from or fought other boxes. Kung Fu was leaps and bounds above any game that came out during the generation before it. Daggers flew at you, midget martial artists ran at you, and baskets with snakes could drop on your head at any minute. In 1986 this game was a round house to the face…with entertainment. It is also credited to be the first in the “Beat ’em Up” genre.
3. Ghost & Goblins (Capcom)
Ghosts ‘n Goblins (or Demon World Village in Japan) burst onto the scene in 1985 in the arcades. In this Capcom game you control the hero Sir Arthur on his quest to save Princess Prin Prin from Satan, King of Demon World (no pressure right, it’s just Satan.).Along the way Sir Arthur fights monsters, ghosts, goblins, demons, and time itself. Sir Arthur also collects different weapons and armor on his quest and appears in his red jockey shorts when he loses his armor. This game was and is HARD. As a kid I got so F’n mad I bit my controller, so yeah, this game can make you temporality insane.
4. Popeye (Nintendo)
First making its appearance in arcades in 1982, Popeye made it’s way to all of the home consoles of the generation. My first exposer with this beloved game was on the ColecoVision but when the ColecoVision sailed off into the sunset, I updated to the NES version. Popeye capitalized on the same pre-platforming mechanics made popular by Donkey Kong but included enough fresh ideas to make it its own game. The object is to catch different items that Olive Oyl drops in each level (hearts, music notes, Letters that spell “HELP”), while avoiding perils like Brutus, and the Sea Hags vulture and skulls. Each level also had a can of spinach that allowed you to punch whoever was in your way. At its core it was a simple game but with it being Popeye and his crew it was one of my favorites.
5. Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt (Nintendo)
I have to give love to the two that started it all. These two games came bundled in the NES Action Set. When I first played Super Marion Bros. at a friends house it warped my mind. Hidden paths, underwater levels, and fire ball flowers!! The world was a brand new place after the fall of Atari and Mario was leading the charge with a laughing, jerk of a dog. Duck Hunt was akin to many games in the arcade and it was mind blowing to think you could have that same action in front of your TV. These two games showed the might of the NES right out of the gate and drove the first stake into the quarter sucking vampiric body of the local arcade.