Best NES RPGs of all time
The NES or Nintendo Entertainment System introduced some awesome games when it was released. Bringing 8-bit graphics that were, at the time, revolutionizing the gaming industry and enough memory to really allow players to experience games with depth and story.
I can remember spending hours on every RPG released on the NES because of one title that got me hooked. But before we get to the NES RPG that I think is the best let me list some of the best NES RPGs of all time.
Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest)
I believe Dragon Warrior was the first true RPG I ever played on the NES. My best friend introduced it and I always thought the idea of fighting a slime was just weird but it worked.
Dragon Warrior introduced some great ideas and had a story that really felt engaging. Even though now this game doesn’t hold up to its sequels it was still a solid game after it was released and one of the best RPGs on the NES
Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord
I cannot tell you how many hours I put into this game. And the worse part was I would just start over and over trying to get perfect rolls and experiment with different classes. As a big D&D nerd, this game really brought Dungeons and Dragons to life for me.
The uniqueness of it being “somewhat” of a first-person dungeon crawler also had me hooked. I think this is the game that made me love first-person-style games as I always wanted to revisit this fantastic NES RPG.
Ultima: Exodus (Ultima 3)
Ultima offered a lot of unique things to the RPG genre on the NES. Although the traditional birds-eye view was there the battle system moved into a more strategic take on RPG battles.
The storytelling and interaction with NPCs to learn more about the world made this one of the best RPGs on the NES. I always wished they would remake the entire series starting with Ultima 1 and modernize the graphics but you can still enjoy them on emulators.
AD&D Pool of Radiance
One of the early attempts to take official Dungeon and Dragon rulesets and cram them into a game. Was it perfect? No. But it was enjoyable enough to keep you busy for hours. And at the time this was released, you didn’t have many options for true role-playing experiences on the NES.
It was also the only D&D port for the NES. Although they switched up some of the game and it had some issues it was still one of the best RPGs on the NES.
When you think of fantasy games on the NES Faxanadu has to be top on your list. Although some would argue that this isn’t a true RPG I have to add it to my list.
The world-building and storytelling along with the platforming make this a worthy RPG on the NES. It also had a unique password system to allow you to track progress.
Earthbound Beginnings (Mother)
While this game probably wasn’t as popular in the US as it was in Japan, it was probably one you didn’t want to miss.
Earthbound Beginnings was essentially an RPG done in a modern-day atmosphere. I always enjoyed it when developers took a step out of the traditional Dungeons and Dragons realm of fighting in Dungeons and brought it to real life.
Earthbound on the Super Nintendo is probably a game more people would remember but the roots were set deep in this awesome NES RPG.
The Legend of Zelda
I think The Legend of Zelda has to be one of the most debated games in the history of gaming. The first argument my friends and I have is “Is the Legend of Zelda an RPG?”. I say yes. My friends say no.
But to me you level up a character, you interact with NPCs, you solve puzzles, and you fight monsters. To me, that is what an RPG is all about. Now I would probably classify the original Zelda as more of an ARPG (Action RPG), but we are just splitting hairs now.
The Legend of Zelda was fantastic. Hidden entries, upgradable weapons, and puzzles in dungeons. It was both unique and a fun time to play. Even though some may say it isn’t an RPG I think it deserves to be ranked with the best RPGs of the NES.
Swords and Serpents
While light on story and plot, Swords and Serpents brought something that most RPGs of even today lacked, multiplayer. Even though the multiplayer wasn’t the best it was still a unique situation to be able to dive into dungeons with your friends.
This is another one that might put some people in an uproar. And I even doubted whether I would include it or not. But Shadowgate always felt like what I would call a PRPG or Puzzle RPG. The mood, visuals, story, and puzzles all made it feel like it should have been part of an RPG, but that is about where the similarities end.
I just had a ton of fun playing Shadowgate. The premise was basically what escape rooms are today except in this game if you made the wrong decision it ended in death.
Another game that some can argue is a true RPG or not. In fact, some called it a Legend of Zelda clone. But I really enjoyed playing Startropics. Another more modern take on the RPG genre even though it was a little far-fetched. I mean you are fighting enemies with a yo-yo.
Startropics just had that awesome blend of story and action that could keep you going. And since I loved playing baseball as a kid the baseball references scattered throughout were always fun
This game. Where do I start? In my mind, this will always be the perfect RPG. Even though I know it was imperfect, it still ranks as my best RPG on the NES. The ability to pick varying party members with different classes. The story and lore. The airship to travel. It just had it all.
There is a reason they have made a billion Final Fantasy games. This game sucked in so many people and the sequels just kept improving on the previous generation. But for me, this one still stands above the rest. Most of that is nostalgia talking, but I will die on that hill that the original Final Fantasy is and will always be the best RPG on the NES.
Whether it is a puzzle, character creation, rulesets, or just action that draws you into role-playing games the NES brought some fantastic titles to enjoy. While I preferred more traditional titles that had you exploring dungeons and defeating dragons there were plenty of RPGs that broke the mold.
Nintendo and RPGs have always been together and as the game consoles evolved the RPG hits just kept coming for Nintendo. But Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest), and Wizardry will always hold a special place in my heart for introducing me to 8-bit greatness.
For more videos and tips for your favorite games visit our YouTube channel: Year of the Dad Gaming