Table of Contents:

NES Games
Before genres can become stale, outdated and milked, they have to be invented first. To that end, no game console has more genre-defining titles than the Nintendo Entertainment System. Modern gaming owes very little to the simple shooters that dominated the 2600's library and much more to the incredible flexibility the NES had to offer in its power. Below is a bit of what we owe Nintendo and its licensees for innovating. (And check out our tribute to the NES' library when we choose our favorite games from each genre -- you might be surprised!) · 

The "action" game: Always a bit of an encompassing genre, it was first defined by Nintendo's "Action Series," which included Super Mario Bros and Castlevania. The former went on to become the best-selling game of all time worldwide and gave Nintendo that magic touch which still survives in many of their games today. Castlevania, along with other first wave titles like Stinger and Gradius, established Konami as a premiere action game developer. Spike pits, hidden items, power-ups, secret passages located above the screen - all the frustration and angst you've learned to love first began on the NES. 

The console RPG: Up until Dragon Warrior's release in the U.S., the best machine for role-playing games was something akin to an Apple II computer. That all changed with the phenomenal success of Enix's Dragon Warrior and Square's Final Fantasy, both brought over from Japan by Nintendo of America. The genre used a system that emphasized storytelling and exploration over endless dungeon crawling. It took a while for console RPGs to become mainstream in the US (NOA never did popularize the genre themselves), but play the first Final Fantasy today and you'll be surprised how close it feels to the upcoming ninth game in the series. 

The action/RPG: This hybrid genre took off in the US much more quickly than its more methodical and slower-paced cousin, the traditional RPG. Western gamers found it much easier to acclimate to the arcade-like gameplay of action/RPGs. The Legend of Zelda, one of Nintendo of America's first NES-exclusive hits, has become the standard by which all action/RPGs are judged. SNK's lone NES action/ RPG entry, Crystalis, has even outlasted its insolvent parent company by getting re-released on the Game Boy Color earlier this year by Nintendo. 

The 2D shooter: We're obviously not saying the NES invented 2D shooters (duh), but games like Gradius and Alpha Mission refined the genre to new heights. Sure, River Raid and Scramble were earlier examples of vertical and horizontal shooters, but it was only a hollow framework aching to be filled. Gameplay necessities like power-ups, elaborate level designs, huge end-level bosses and a tangible "ending" have forever changed the landscape of shooters. 

Of course, like all good revolutions, there are to be a few casualties. If we could go back to 1987, break into NOA headquarters and alter history, here are two things we would have changed: 

Milking sports game franchises: While we appreciate Jaleco for developing the basic look for all modern baseball games in Bases Loaded, did they really need to crank out three sequels that looked (and played) exactly the same? The same could be said (although to a lesser degree) of Tengen's RBI Baseball series. 

Perpetuating bad movie/TV license games: It started with crap like E.T., Return of the Jedi, Cloak and Dagger and Raiders of the Lost Ark on the 2600, and continued on the NES with The Addams Family, Airwolf and Friday the 13th. THQ got its start in the business by rushing out NES junk like Home Alone and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. (Both games you'll be getting hands-on with when you enter the Seventh Circle of Hell.) Bad movie licensed games haven't gone away, and probably won't anytime in the near future.

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Most of the really rare games are unlicensed, and therefore lack the "Official Nintendo Seal of Quality." These include such cream of the crap as Menace Beach, Cheetah Men II and the legendary Operation Secret Storm.

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