Five Fine NES Arcade Ports ‘s Five Fine NES Series Reminder: The following choices are in no particular order, and do not reflect a “best of” list, but merely a summarized list of examples per category on the Nintendo Entertainment System. In this case, Five Fine NES Arcade Ports.

In the Arcade Age, competitive gamers lined up to give their best shot on popular cabinet titles that tested their skills to the core. Once console gaming became a viable industry again, especially in the United States, many of the most popular games soon earned a port release onto home machines such as the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Some of these conversions were very similar to their arcade predecessors, while others wildly varied in order to fit onto the cartridges. Opinions widely differ as to the quality of such transitions, even on a title-by-title basis, but the following five examples are possibly among the best.

Double Dragon

Developer Technos created an earlier beat-‘em-up game called Renegade, which would serve to heavily influence future titles of the genre. One of those legendary original classics that went on to spawn a popular franchise was Double Dragon, which followed the street-fighting chronicles of brothers Billy Lee and Jimmy Lee. With its hard-hitting action, worthy challenge level, and atmospheric visuals, not only was the arcade cabinet a popular choice but the NES version still stands as a solid game as well.


Now this is a distinctive video game, a puzzler-platformer hybrid that casts a mesmerizing spell onto all those who attempt to master its isometric pyramid-like board with crazy enemy creatures and one wacky big-nosed protagonist. Attempting to turn all spaces into the same color was a hardy challenge that propelled some amazing high-score competition. Although the act of putting one’s initials into the scoreboard does not have quite the same effect on a home console as it did in the coin-op days, the NES version still presents a unique diversion well worth a look for old-school fans.

Defender II

The shoot-‘em-up genre (or “shooter,” or even “shmup”) still has its passionately loyal adherents, and the category as a whole once represented a vast amount of the arcade gaming scenes, with spaceships blasting other objects and crafts against the stark black background of the universe void proving to be a rather popular gameplay concept. As the titles grew more sophisticated and nuanced in their differences, one of the legendary franchises that were born of such innovation was the renowned Defender franchise. The NES did not even get the original game, Defender, but at least was able to snag its excellent sequel, Defender II, allowing home-console gamers to relive the thrill of side-scrolling space-shooter fast-paced ship-blasting action from the comfort of their living rooms.

Track & Field

Some retro games test a person’s reaction time, while others may gauge hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, pattern recognition, concentration, decision-making, or even endurance. Then there is Track & Field, which may be the father of the button-mashers, a video game that seems to mostly be focused purely on testing a player’s capacity for tapping a button as fast as humanly possible. The handful of track events posed a fun test for arcade gamers, and would only continue to do so on the NES.


Then there is the ultimate run-‘n’-gun game, the immortal Contra, which is likely actually better known for its iteration on the NES console rather than its original arcade rendition. Either way, this alien-slaughtering good time represents an adrenaline-pumping ride for anyone fortunate enough to give it a playthrough on either platform.

Honorable mentions: Marble Madness, 1942, Galaga, Pin*Bot, Jackal, Mighty Bomb Jack, BurgerTime, Paperboy, RoadBlasters, Rolling Thunder, and Smash TV.

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