Super Mario Bros. 3

Original version: Super Mario Bros. 3, released on 1988/10/23 for Nintendo Famicom

Recommended version: The WiiU Virtual Console re-release of Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3, released on 2003/07/11 for Game Boy Advance

After the immense success of Super Mario Bros., it was inevitable that a sequel would be made. Nintendo actually went about this in two different ways. The first sequel was called Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels and featured the same gameplay and art assets of the original, but was cruelly difficult. It was meant to be a satisfying challenge for those who mastered SMB and hungered for more. The other sequel was a reskin of the game Doki-Doki Panic with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad being substituted for the original characters. Its gameplay was different from SMB in every way except that it was also a platformer. Both games are technically “Super Mario Bros. 2,” but neither was a genuine successor to the first one. But on one fateful day in 1988 gamers in Japan were treated to a game that was not just a sequel, but a veritable tour de force.

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Metal Gear (HONORABLE MENTION)

Original version: メタルギア, released on 1987/07/13 for MSX2

Recommended version: Disk 2 of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, released on 2005/12/22 for PlayStation 2

1987 was a very difficult year to evaluate. There were many, many great games that didn’t quite make the cut to receive a game appreciation article. Even more difficult was choosing which game ought to receive the honorable mention. I desperately wanted to include Final Fantasy, a buggy grind-fest, Contra, the game that popularized the Konami code because it’s unreasonably difficult, and Rock Man (Mega Man in the U.S.), which was a rough draft of the masterpiece Rock Man 2. I could pick only one game, however, and Metal Gear won out. So let’s take a look.

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Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

Original version: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, released on 1987/11/21 for Nintendo Entertainment System

It’s great to live in America, the land of opportunity, where any boy can grow up to be the queen. In the Punch-Out!! series, you play the role of underdog boxer “Little” Mac, a new, up-and-coming fighter set on claiming the championship title. But standing between you and the title is none other than world-renowned boxer and World Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson! Lend me your ear and I’ll tell you why this game is good.

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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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Super Mario Bros.

Original version: Super Mario Bros., released on 1985/09/13 for Nintendo Famicom

Recommended version: Super Mario Bros., released on 1986/02/21 for Nintendo Famicom Disk System

I’m pretty sure you already heard that music in your head before playing the audio file. It is burned into all our brains! The impact that Super Mario Bros. has had on modern culture is astounding. And why shouldn’t it be? SMB defined the platformer genre and inspired generations of games. Although not the first platformer, it stands in history as the iconic grandfather of modern platformers and is the earliest memory I have from my childhood. Before I could even speak full sentences I was already defeating Bowser.

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