1. Super Mario Bros.
Unbeatable classic. Would rather play this than All-Stars version.
Fantastic adventure game that ached for a save or password feature. Needs an an Xbox Live remake/sequel. Probably the most satisfying of all the Rygar games.
3. Super Mario Bros. 3
Was a bolt from the heavens. So much to do, so much to see. Getting both flutes was a rite of passage. EXCERPT FROM CONSERVATION HEARD ON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PLAYGROUND: ". . . and when he's a raccoon, he can fly and kill things with his tail."
"Uh-huh! And my uncle knows a trick that makes Mario's head explode!"
Can play this one over and over. Takes a little work to get good, but once you master it, becomes a life-affirming ritual that never grows old. So glad that I never learned the classic Konami code.
5. Super C
Even more hardcore than the first. But otherwise, same caption as Contra.
Short and sweet with one truly wicked boss, the Grim Reaper. I have to beat this at least twice a year. Set itself apart from other platformers of the day by giving player character uncorrectable jumping trajectory, or to put it simply, lead-ass.
7. Kung-Fu Master
This is not box for NES version. Short, good flow, perfect to play before work in the morning. Pink men love you to death, little people bounce off your head.
8. The Legend of Zelda
I did not have the patience to beat this until my teen years. A niche-carving little block of code with the best manual ever. Strange to think there are video game-playing children today who don't know what a stalfos is.
9. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Dared to be different, much maligned for it. I say it was a successful experiment that should be replicated today. If I could program and draw really well, I'd do an action-RPG sidescroller much like this, but with a wicked-awesome parry and weapon stun system.
Weird top-down puzzle-action game with terrific graphics and an unusual setting: the South Pacific. Jumping from block to block has a strange, syncopated rhythm to it. Like Simon B., Mike has lead-ass. The hopping is pleasing to me. I did not like the inclusion of kidnapped alien children. Didn't fit.
Great science fantasy adventure that should have spawned several sequels. Nods to Miyazaki's Nausicaa abound, including a "Valley of the Wind" and giant ohmu-like insects.
12. Ninja Gaiden
Hardcore action-adventure. Experienced Gaiden-players can learn to burn through it effortlessly until the final boss, whose attacks have an element of randomness. Live, grow, kill demons and learn to like girls with Ryu Hayabusa.
13. Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
The best game in the original trilogy. Best gameplay, best graphics, and the most balanced difficulty. Ryu's not as fast as in the previous two games and his jumping is a bit floatier. Very few fans of the first game like this one for some reason. Maybe it's because there are limited lives this time around. That lengthens the amount of time required to master it.
14. The Guardian Legend
Very long, very strange synthesis of Zelda-like and shmup. The Guardian is a perky and pixelated manga girl who transforms into a heavily armed little spaceship at intervals. Very hard and takes much patience.