Table of Contents:

Best Graphics

Mega Man II

Mega Man II quickly gained accolades for its graphics from gamers thanks to its clever opening, great level themes and cool enemies. But once everyone saw the Dragon in Dr. Wily's stage, it was all over. That single enemy impressed so many gamers, it was hard to look at bosses in other games from that point forward. This huge beast was relentless, charging our hero as he hopped from block to block; this not only underscored the trepidation one felt at breaching Dr. Wily's fortress but made the game, which was already impressive, legendary. The bosses beyond him did not disappoint, either. 

Dragon boss aside, the rest of the game was equally as spectacular. The unique theme of the game--that of malicious robots inhabiting their own unique demesne--gave Capcom's artists plenty of room to flex their talent. The lava-filled brickwork of Heat Man's stage contrasts with the flashing ice-blocks of Flash Man's lair. The dark forest of Wood Man's stage strikes a chord against the airy openness of Air Man's level, residing in the clouds. Crash Man's convolution of metal piping and increasingly starry skies is a counterpoint to the waterfalls and serene depths of Bubble Man's domain. Of course, the technological nightmares of the obstacles in Quick Man's level and the conveyor belts and cogwheels in Metal Man's area go hand in hand. Then the Dr. Wily stages bring us into the lair of a madman. Mega Man II brought graphics to a new level of importance and verve. 

Runners up: 

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos

The Ninja Gaiden games' tale of a ninja wandering the world in search of answers to the disappearance of his father and the fate of mankind gripped us all. The series really came into its own with the second title due to the collusion of all the elements being just right, including the top-notch visuals. The Ninja Gaiden series was one of the first games to tell its story via cinematic cut-scenes, and its anime-tinged graphics and cool characters were readily showcased in these impressive interludes. The levels, too, boasted an emphasis on style and theme as well as design. From rainforests with brewing storms to fast-moving trains all the way to the demonic lair of the enemy, Ninja Gaiden's graphics helped elevate the story of an action game above and beyond. 

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

While the earlier Castlevania titles had excellent ambience to convey a Transylvania steeped in decay, the third game in the series was among the graphical elite on the NES. The crumbling bricks, murky water and decrepit statues littering the landscape hearkened to the medieval terror we all dimly imagined to be real in our youth. Konami's almost impressionistic use of textures and tiles soaked the game in its own unique graphical flavoring.

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We've Got The Biggest NESticles of Them All
So, you want to play Nintendo games, but can't pony up the $20-30 to buy an actual system from eBay? Perhaps you should stop spending all that money on food and diapers, and think about your real needs. You can, however, emulate your favorite games. With NESticle, a popular NES emulator, one could play a game of RC Pro-Am while running Windows 98, provided they had the cartridge data saved on their hard drive in a "ROM file." According to law (or at least popular 'net lore), it is illegal to posses copies of these files unless you own the original cartridges. So please, before you load up that copy of Master Chu and the Drunken Hu, beat up a small child and take his or her copy. If you're looking for other options, or other systems, stop by Emu HQ

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