1986 video game notes

The year after the Famicom came to the US as the Nintendo Entertainment System, the American video game industry finally started to heat up again. Here are all of their efforts.

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Runners-up of 1986

Following the success of Super Mario Bros. in 1985/86, there was an explosion of games in the US, especially for the NES. Most of these, I must confess, were awful. But among the fields of thorns there were quite a few roses. These are the ones that almost made it into the bouquet, but had to be pruned off for the benefit of the fair recipient (that would be you).

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Castlevania (HONORABLE MENTION)

Original Version: 悪魔城ドラキュラ, released in 1986 for the Nintendo Famicom Disk System and for the Nintendo Famicom

This is one of the classics right here. Castlevania takes all the staples of horror movies–vampires, bats, mummies, creaky old castles, etc.–and mashes them all together in one action-packed platformer.

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The Legend of Zelda

Original version: The Legend of Zelda, released on 1986/02/21 for Famicom Disk System

Recommended version: Classic NES Series: The Legend of Zelda for the Game Boy Advance, released on 2004/02/14.

Every legend has a beginning. Some are more humble than others, but what almost all of them have in common is starting with a very rough first draft. The Legend of Zelda, on the other hand, seemed to hatch fully grown. Of course, it was still a first draft in that it established rules and conventions that later entries built upon, but a surprising amount of its structure began here. It seems to have everything: an open world that emphasizes exploration and secret-finding, items such as the ocarina and boomerang, the main cast of characters, and the instantly recognizable theme music that we couldn’t imagine going along with any other game. Let’s take a look at what made this first entry in the long-running series so legendary.

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