There are a lot of important games from my youth in my NES collection but the ones I will covering in this post aren’t going to be the IMPORTANT (note the all caps). These games don’t necessarily have a cultural significance that has transcended the video games niche and penetrated pop culture (with one notable exception I will point out later). These aren’t your Zelda, Mario, Castlevania, Mega Man, et al titles. These are the games that I happened to either own very early on in my life with my NES, or close friends owned and I borrowed for significant amounts of time, or they were typical weekend rentals from the local video store. The common thread with all of these titles is that they weren’t considered IMPORTANT but in spite of that, still trigger significant childhood memories.
The games from this list that I owned as a kid were Ghosts n Goblins, Commando & Tecmo Bowl. I bought Ghosts n Goblins from a schoolyard acquaintance who was looking to unload it so he could buy a different NES game. At this point, I only had a few games in my collection, Super Mario Bros, Tennis and Ice Climber. I wanted a new title badly and even though Ghosts n Goblins wasn’t at the top of my wish list, I was willing to spend some of my paper route money to have his copy just to get something new. I remember playing GnG here and there in the arcades and recall it being extremely difficult and the NES port fell right in line with the arcade version. GnG today is considered one of the most challenging NES titles and I have never personally finished it. The copy of GnG that I have today isn’t the version I had as a kid either. That version was sold off many years ago along with the box and manual (sad).
Two other games I had as a kid from this set are Commando and Tecmo Bowl. Commando was another game I either bought or traded for from a friend and Tecmo Bowl I bought used from a video game store towards the end of the NES’s life. Both were games I played all the time in the first couple years of owning my NES. Commando is a top down military shooter where you run around and blast enemies with your gun while using grenades to open up hidden passageways. I always enjoyed this game and I can still recall some of the locations where you had to throw grenades in order to find hidden point bags and doorways. The game does get a bit repetitive but it was always fun to play it co-op style with friends to see how far we could get. I never had the box for this game as I either traded or bought it used from a friend, but the cartridge and manual I have today are the originals from my youth.
Tecmo Bowl was a regular rental that we’d play all weekend long while keeping track of our records against our friends. As anyone that is familiar with the game knows, there were a few teams with unstoppable running backs and Los Angeles Raiders were one of them with their dual RB attack of Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen. Kansas City Chiefs were also very tough with Christian Okoye breaking tackles left and right. After awhile we’d determine that certain teams were off limits for choosing when playing against each other and these two teams were often on that list. The Philadelphia Eagles were another tough team to play against because your opponent could run a QB sneak with Randall Cunningham all game long and he’d be unstoppable as well. Lots of great memories with this game and one of the most iconic sports games for the NES which qualifies it as IMPORTANT.
Another sports title I would play often as a kid was Double Dribble. Konami’s foray into the sports genre was a serviceable game in 1987-88 and I had a lot of fun trying to move my way up the difficulty levels. Anyone that has played this game as much as I did would have eventually found the 3 point hot spots where you would always make your shot no matter how out of control your player appears to be when you shoot it. Also, what’s with all the missed slam dunks? I just assumed that you were getting your shot blocked and they simply didn’t have an animation for that. Another Konami title that made my frequently played list was Goonies 2. I had to recently inquire on the internet to find anything about Goonies 1 as it wasn’t offered on the NES and I had never heard of or played it before. I guess it was available on a version of the Playchoice 10 in arcades but I must have been so focused on Super Mario Bros to notice it. Goonies 2 was a bit obtuse and complex for me at that age and I don’t remember being very good at figuring out where to go but I sure played it a lot regardless. Back then, the Goonies were indeed good enough for me.
Ikari Warriors was a Commando clone but less fun. I think I had better memories of the arcade game than I did of the NES port, which is frustratingly hard. Another co-op favorite, Ikari Warriors in the arcades was notable for its rotary joystick which obviously wasn’t able to be mimicked with the NES controller. I never owned this game but borrowed and rented it enough to provide hours of gameplay as a kid. The complete copy I have today was purchased from a video rental store that was going out of business several years ago. The video store stickers adorn the box and were on the manual until I recently removed them.
The rest of the titles covered in this post; Karnov, Metal Gear, Skate or Die, T&C Surf Design, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and TMNT 2: The Arcade Game were never owned by me until I started collecting almost 20 years ago. I have vague memories of trading games from my collection like Legend of Zelda, Zelda 2, Super Mario Bros 2, Metroid, etc. after I had beat them to gain several weeks with all of these games. I’m sure some of these games were rentals as well but whether I borrowed, traded for or rented, I have distinct recollections of playing and spending time with all of them. I’m sure many NES owners have similar memories as I do of trading their games for different ones with their friends when the games they owned were getting stale or running out to the closest video store to find something new to play for the week. This was always the cheapest way to get your hands on as many games as possible in the 80’s & 90’s. It was always my goal to add these games to my permanent collection as soon as possible once the collecting bug had bitten me.
Currently in my collection:
Commando – game & manual B+
Double Dribble – game only B
Ghosts n Goblins – game only B+
Goonies 2 – game & manual B-
Ikari Warriors – game, manual & box C
Karnov – game only B
Metal Gear – game only C+
Skate or Die – game & manual B-
T&C Surf Designs – game only C
Tecmo Bowl – game & manual A
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – game & manual B
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game – game only B+