Ranking the games from the NES Classic Console, worst to best


Apologies for a second post on the upcoming NES Classic Console, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it — and with that list of 30 games, I started mentally ranking them. When that happens, a baby blog post is born. Will this one grow up to be like his daddy?

The more I look at this list, the more I’m really pleased with the selections. It’s a really great cross-section of NES titles from different genres and years, and a majority of them are considered “classic.” So today I’m going to deliver my personal ranking, from worst to best, of the 30 titles that will come with this retro vintage console!

30. Balloon Fight: Most really old (1984-85) NES games were basically gussied-up Atari 2600 games, and I can’t see anyone clamoring for this one.

29. Mario Bros.: Mario or not, this is just the PvP arcade game that gets old after about 45 seconds. Only fun when you want to face-stomp a friend, I guess.

28. Pac-Man: Pac-Man IS a classic, but it’s not an NES classic. It just doesn’t belong here, like if we saw Pitfall or Space Invaders. Did you ever know anyone who played the NES Pac-Man?

27. Ice Climber: Another old title that nobody really played or talks about. Pass.

26. Donkey Kong: I guess Pac-Man needs a friend in the geriatric department? I guess its inclusion makes sense for Mario and Kong’s appearances, but it’s not something you’re going to sink hours into.

25. Donkey Kong Jr.: Putting this marginally higher on the list because it’s a little newer (1986) and has more gameplay to it.

24. Techmo Bowl: People loooooved this game — if they were football fans. I was and am not one.

23. Bubble Bobble: I suppose Bubble Bobble has a little bit of a legacy, but I never played it and am completely neutral on the subject.

22. Ghosts ‘n Goblins: Hard-as-nails (Nintendo Hard) platformer. I sort of, kind of like it, but it’s definitely not as good or fun as Castlevania.

21. Galaga: An older arcade shooter. My wife loves it and I guess it would be worth a boot up if I wanted to button mash.

20. Castlevania II: I really wish Castlevania III was included instead. C2 was kind of a weird experiment lacked in the RPG department and the side-scrolling platforming department. Still, great music and more Castlevania.

19. Punch-Out!!: Surprisingly fun, especially with a group of friends or family. I’m not huge into boxing but yeah, this is a classic (although I remember playing the Mike Tyson version back in the day).

18. Excitebike: The coolest thing about this title was being able to make and play your own courses. If the console lets you save them, then it’s a good decision.

17. Gradius: Need a side-scrolling SHMUP? Here you go. A little old but a solid pick.

16. Zelda II: Definitely a lot different than its predecessor, yet the RPG elements kind of work more here. I’ve never beat it, so put this on my to-play list.

15. Super C: Why Super C instead of classic Contra? That bugs me. At least we have a Contra here and I’m sure it’ll be just as fun… but it’s not the one from my youth.

14. StarTropics: I was totally surprised — in a good way — to see this be included. It’s a good decision, kind of a dark horse entry in the Zelda category.

13. Double Dragon II: Great co-op beat-em-up. Maybe not the best on the platform, but way up there.

12. Dr. Mario: This was a sleeper hit of a puzzle game with kick-butt music. Good pick.

11. Super Mario Bros. 2: I have fonder memories of this game than most people today, it seems. I’m glad all of the SMB games were included, although I will admit that this does get last place among the three.

10. Final Fantasy: On one hand, it’s the start of the Final Fantasy franchise and the only straight-up RPG on this list. On the other hand, it’s definitely the most basic (and story-lite) of all FF games.

9. Kirby’s Adventure: Really great platformer and one of the newer (1993) titles with a vibrant color scheme and nifty mechanics.

8. Kid Icarus: One of the launch-era classics that was more innovative than most platformers.

7. Ninja Gaiden: Tight controls, wall-flipping, frantic ninja fighting, cutscene storytelling. Also insanely hard.

6. The Legend of Zelda: Have I made anyone mad? Number 6 spot? Eh, it’s great, don’t get me wrong, but I just happen to personally enjoy the other five games more.

5. Mega Man 2: Definitely the best choice if you had to pick one of the six original Mega Man games. Lots of weapons, lots of ways to play through it.

4. Super Mario Bros.: My kids and I still have fun playing this to this day. Interesting to see if it has traction with younger gamers out there.

3. Castlevania: Gotta love me some classic Castlevania! Had to be on this list, hands-down.

2. Metroid: And here’s the other pair of the Metroidvania games that blew my mind as a kid with its exploration, gear, atmosphere, and ending.

1. Super Mario Bros. 3: Simply an enduring classic that shines in every way. So many levels with lots of power-ups, a vibrant art style, and different paths to progression. And I still hear that music in my head every day.

Happy World of Warcraft pre-expansion patch day


Got to say, it’s a little sad that the World of Warcraft community is so incredibly starved for new content that a pre-expansion patch is being received with such enthusiasm that you might think it was the day of the actual expansion’s launch.

In any case, count me in with the crowd leaping about in joy for having something — anything — new to do. It’s going to be a little scary to see what happens to my characters, but since they’re all relatively new to me, I’m not going to cry too much to see these changes. My plan with them is to check out one per day for a few days, experiment with their builds and rotations, and solidify my Legion forerunner (right now my DK is in the lead).

Transmog 2.0 should make for a fun for-now activity to tide us over until the expansion events and Legion arrives. I kind of like how they’re rolling all of this out — gives us some time to get used to the class changes before tossing us into the new content.

I’ll be sad to see money from my garrison missions go. I’m wondering if a lesser version of that might be using garrison resources from mission rewards to trade in for sacks of gold at the trader. Every little bit counts, and the price of a WoW token just came down 2,000 on my server.

I’ve been working hard at getting my four characters’ professions set. I made some drastic changes last week, mainly dumping engineering from all but my hunter and replacing that with herbalism. Engineering is fun and all, but I want money more and I don’t want to do it on more than one character.

For my second-tier characters — shaman and warlock — I’ll simply log in every day to keep mining and herbaling in the garrison to gradually raise those up to 700, since I probably won’t be playing them for a while anyway. I spent a couple of nights last week taking my death knight on an herbalism tour of several zones, getting her within striking distance of 700. Should be there by the end of August, at least.

Hope everyone’s having fun with the patch!

Battle Bards Episode 78: EverQuest


Before World of Warcraft, there was EverQuest — the king of the MMOs and the pioneer of true 3D graphics in virtual worlds. Today the Battle Bards pay homage to this classic game, going back to 1999 to see how the music (in its various formats) hold up. If you were waiting for an episode where Steff spends most of the time screeching in agony, this is it!

Episode 78 show notes

  • Intro (feat. “Main Theme,” “Bard’s Guild,” and “Karana Bridge”)
  • “Kerra Isle”
  • “Plane of Storms”
  • “Plane of Knowledge”
  • “Akanon”
  • “Tower of Soulsek Ro”
  • “Solitude”
  • “Toxxulia Forest”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Mail from Shannon Doyle
  • Jukebox picks (“Bridge Zone” from Sonic SMS, “From Past to Present” from Skyrim, and “Following Stanley” from The Stanley Parable)
  • Overclocked Podcast shout-out
  • Outro

Listen to episode 78 now!

Music Mondays: Sonic the Hedgehog (SMS)


Believe it or not, when Sega released its iconic Sonic the Hedgehog for the Genesis, the studio also made a version for its 8-bit Sega Master System (and Game Gear) as well. What’s interesting here is that a different composer made a (mostly) original soundtrack — and it’s quite good (which is unusual for the SMS). Here are some of my favorites!

Pop culture video game characters


One of the things that I truly do like more about single-player CRPGs is that they usually offer a lot more in the character building department. I’m not just talking about measly stats, but backgrounds, vocals, and a myriad of ways to fashion your character. The best systems are the ones where you start out with a concept in your head and are able to make (or at least approximate) it in the game.

For a new Pillars of Eternity run (one day I’ll finish this game…), I decided to buck my usual build and see if I could create Falcio from the Greatcoats novels (I might be reading the third one right now). Instead of picking which ever trait I thought was best, I tried to hew as close as possible to the character in the book. So video game Falcio ended up being a Paladin (because he’s noble, part of an order, and is a melee fighter) who uses twin rapiers, has a cocky voice, and hails from a sect that’s all about benevolence and honor. I’m trying to make him a master swordsman with some degree of intelligence (particularly about lore). So far… it’s working out far better than I would have thought.

I’d imagine that many of us, from time to time, create RPG characters that are based on someone, real or imaginary, rather than being a wholly new creation. You see this a lot in MMOs with that trope where there are a ton of Gandalfs and Sephiroths and the like running around. It’s the fantasy of always wanting to play those characters, just in whatever game you happen to be enjoying at the time.

Clone armies aside, I’m all for doing this. For one thing, it can be a blast to see how closely you can create an avatar that’s similar in look and function to a TV, movie, book, comic, or video game character. And since you already have an attachment to that fictional character and know of its backstory, then it’s a different experience playing it than it would be to start tabula rasa. Maybe it’s a bit of an imagination crutch, but that’s how play goes. It’s the “continued adventures” of our beloved characters.

I see this often with my kids. They’ll watch a show in the morning and then immediately want to enact that show in their play. Imitation, iteration, evolution, roleplay… it’s all a big bundle of fun that leaps off of a pop culture launchpad.

We were like that too as kids, I know. And maybe video games, especially CRPGs and MMORPGs, bring that out in us. We have the option to make a character any way we like, and what we sometimes desire is to bring our favorite imaginary friend along for the journey.

Quest for Glory II: Prince of Thieves


(This is part of my journey going checking out Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Day seven. The madness is setting in. I can’t seem to escape this desert hellhole and it seems that a murder spree may be my last resort.

So this is kind of funny: There’s this beggar right outside of the inn who is asking for money. I already gave to him, but fine, I’m sure it’ll bump up one of my skills and I’m a nice guy. But when I go to drop a coin in his bowl, the game blocks me from doing that, saying that I already gave him money. Even though he’s asking for more, the game won’t let me. Whoopsie.


Maybe back in 1990 there were a lot more players clamoring for poetry recitations in their games. I gotta say, in 2016 that kind of thing doesn’t fly. Also, Omar’s poetry isn’t even good stuff — it’s kind of like kiddy rhymes.

After he drones on and on about how awesome Paladins are with their bubble hearths, Omar departs while accidentally leaving his purse behind. Yes, I am TAKING that purse because this thief needs a win. I don’t care if it’s a cheap move.


Now on a roll, I practice lockpicking all the live-long day until my skill tops 100. Emboldened with prowess, I return to the weapons shop and break in. A little scouting around revealed a strongbox packed full of money. I’m rich, rich I tells ya! And all it took was to turn my back on my morals and rob some poor shopkeep of his livelihood.


Day eight begins with some hot, hot saurus love, as my mount ambushes me by the inn door and slobbers all over my face. OK, it’s kind of a funny moment, so I’ll give the game credit for that. Pesky saurus.


We’ve got bigger problems than rogue dinosaurs, however. Day eight marks the invasion of an air elemental in the city, so it’s time to track down some information about how to defeat it. I predict that this will get pretty tiresome by the fourth time around.

A neat touch in this game is that manners actually count. Thanking people for serving food or saying farewell before you leave are noted by the characters (and I got chided for not doing that once). Kind of a bit like roleplaying. I like it.


I don’t know whether to be amused or annoyed at this guy. Probably both. At least he sells me some “fooler’s earth,” which I might be able to use to fight the air elemental.


Darn you game for being so clever! Why won’t you just let me rob in peace?


Another piece of the puzzle to defeating the air elemental is obtaining some bellows. I thought the one above the weapons shop was just a flat picture, but no, it’s actually a pair of working bellows. Once I realized that, I used my magic rope(tm) to climb up and snag it. Master thief am I!


Tremble before this… average-sized elemental that will surely destroy the ENTIRE CITY or at least a FEW FLOWERPOTS!


The key to defeating the elemental is to throw some dirt into its funnel and then use the bellows to suck it in. Since this uses the throwing interface and a few stat rolls, it took me several tries before I got it. I liked how the elemental briefly is shown to have eyes that are angry, then shocked before he becomes my next prisoner. Say hello to the fire elemental in Syp Jail, partner!

Quest for Glory II: Adventurer extra-crispy

(This is part of my journey going checking out Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

One great design decision for this time-progression game is that Quest for Glory II doesn’t shove a main quest in your face from the get-go. Instead, it lets you simply explore, find some things to do, and generally grow to know and like the city. That way when day five arrives here and a fire elemental is threatening to burn everything to the ground, there’s a much better chance you actually care instead of shrugging and going, “Why me?”


Pro-tip: Do not try to hug a fire elemental. You actually have to kind of be very persistent about it to earn this death. I just wanted a hug today.


Lacking a hose or Smokey the Bear to fight the fire elemental, I have to figure out some other way to save the town. You’d think everyone would be out there with buckets of water, but no, the populace seems content to hunker down and wait for either salvation or a fiery inferno of pain.

Aziza the enchantress has a few words to say about elementals. She mentions that each of the four can only be weakened by the contrary element, after which they can be captured and put to good use. Like Pokémon, I suppose.


A plan starts to come together to defeat Mr. Fire Elemental. What I need to do is to lure it away from the plaza using incense, then douse it with water and force it into a container, where it will serve me as a magical flame for all time.


Once you have the necessary materials — waterskins, incense, and the lamp — it’s not too hard to put this elemental in its place. I lure it down a hallway, then splash it and scoop it up in the lamp. Now I’ve got a flashlight!


What I haven’t done a lot yet in this game is engage in actual thievery, and since the moneychanger isn’t giving me any jobs, I decide to rob the weapons dealer blind instead. Of course, it’s never a good idea to pick locks right as a guard is walking by. Whoops.

I am seriously the worst thief ever.