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Now that Switch Online is live, one of the for-pay service's benefits is access to a collection of great games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. At launch, these games include everything from Super Mario Bros. and Yoshi to The Legend of Zelda and River City Ransom. Another nine games are planned for launch before the year is out, too, including titles like NES Open Tournament Golf, Ninja Gaiden and Wario's Woods.
The initial games included in the Nintendo Switch Online NES collection are solid, but there's always room to grow. The NES had one of the greatest game collections of any console in history, and if the online service wants to be attractive to consumers who aren't interested in multiplayer gaming, it needs to leverage its library. Here are some of the best that need to be added sooner rather than later.
While fighting games didn't really take off until the next generation of consoles, Punch-Out for the NES was a great boxing game that introduced many of the genre's key components. As up-and-coming pugilist Little Mac, players took on a bizarre roster of increasingly difficult opponents on a quest to become the world champion. Punch-Out featured a stamina system players had to manage if they didn't want to get winded and opponents all had tells for their variety of attacks. The object of the game was to learn from your opponent's moves, dodge when appropriate and then attack when you found an opening, a gameplay loop that is alive and well to this day in games like the Dark Souls series.
Contra was one of the first "Hell Yeah!" games to launch for the NES, boasting a pair of musclebound commandos who toted big guns that fired a never-ending stream of bullets at an ocean of enemies. A healthy amount of platforming is thrown in for good measure, as well as some extreme spikes in difficulty that demanded players pay attention and keep moving. It's a classic shooter and, given the Switch NES collection's emphasis on multiplayer games, this two-player banger seems like an obvious addition to the catalog. Also, it's really hard to come by these days, so Konami might as well let the beast out of the cage.
Okay, Kirby's Adventure is probably a shoe-in to get added to the NES collection at some point but, since it's currently a no-show, it absolutely has to be included on this list. The NES was full of platformers, but there's a special place in our hearts for this bright and colorful romp through fun worlds crawling with goofy baddies. This game also introduced the pink puffball's copy ability, meaning players could choose to use enemies they sucked up as projectile weapons or steal one of their special characteristics. Kirby could breathe fire, turn into a rock or whack enemies with an electrified whip, adding an extra layer of depth to all of the fun exploration and boss fights.
Skate or Die
Hitting the scene in 1988, Skate or Die is a less-known gem of the NES era that let players live out their tubular dreams of shredding asphalt in a variety of skateboarding challenges. The game boasted a collection of five events including high jump, freestyle, a downhill race, a downhill jam and even a pool joust. These were all pretty tricky to master, encouraging repetitive play. Even better, the events offered multiplayer action that saw you facing off against a couch-based opponent or passing the controller to see who would win the virtual skater crown.
The original Metal Gear is perhaps best known as being the game that would eventually lead to Metal Gear Solid and all of its brilliant, yet street-rat-crazy sequels. What you might not know is that the original Metal Gear was also a really good NES action title. If you're a fan of the Metal Gear Solid games, you'll be surprised to learn how many of the series' staples were actually present and accounted for all the way back in the late '80s. Creator Hideo Kojima was always a forward thinker, and it's clear he pushed the NES hardware to its limits with his infiltration game that boasted complex enemy AI (for its time, anyway), unique weapon and item systems, and an emphasis on stealth.
While Gradius is already part of the Switch's NES collection, we'd love to see the spinoff title, Life Force, also join the roster. While Gradius let players fly across alien worlds, destroying mechanical enemies and installations, Life Force boasted a more organic aesthetic that felt far more otherworldly. Oh, and you also got to blast floating skulls that shoot their eyes at you and a massive brain that scared the hell out of many children of the '80s. Again, Life Force earns bonus points for being a single or two-player game and we really like the fact that its scrolling shooter action alternated between horizontal and vertical combat.
BurgerTime is a beloved platforming puzzle game that mixes Donkey Kong with Night of the Living Dead. The game's stages are a series of scaffolds connected by ladders. Spread across these scaffolds are burger ingredients, such as buns, lettuce and meant patties. The object is to run across each ingredient, causing it to fall to the platform below. If you got all of the ingredients to the lowest level, they formed burgers and allowed you to progress to the next puzzle. The hook is that you're constantly being chased by anthropomorphic hotdogs and fried eggs, meaning you'll have to be clever and plan your route carefully if you want to survive. BurgerTime is an NES classic and it absolutely deserves to be playable on the Switch.
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Sure, we'd love to see all three of the NES' Castlevania games on the Switch, but we figure Nintendo is aiming for a "sampling" of great games rather than a complete collection. That being the case, we've picked the best Castlevania game of the era, Dracula's Curse. While levels were more linear than future outings, Castlevania III made up for a lack of exploration with solid mechanics, an insanely good soundtrack, legendary monsters aplenty and the ability to play as several assist characters. What's extra cool is that the player gets to choose between branching paths leading to different levels at certain points in the game, encouraging repeat plays. Also, your ending depends on what choices you made along the way, once again bolstering the replayability.
Mega Man 2
Similar to Castlevania, we decided to pick the best Mega Man game on the NES to represent the legendary franchise. Considered by many to be the absolute best experience for fans of the Blue Bomber, Mega Man 2 features great maps to dash and leap your way through, a wide variety of enemies to learn, fantastic boss fights and one of the best game soundtracks of all time. It should also be noted that Mega Man 2 is extremely difficult at times, demanding that players truly master its limited set of mechanics. It's a heck of a lot of fun and we hope to see it pop up on the Switch's NES library sometime soon.
Another lesser-known gem, R.C. Pro-Am was the best racing game to appear on Nintendo's first home console. As you might have guessed from the name, players steer R.C. cars around twisting, winding tracks that eventually become littered with various obstacles. You've got a gas button, a brake button, and steering is handled by simply holding left or right on the D-pad. The game feels like organized chaos at first but, once you've learned how to steer your R.C. car and masterfully maintain momentum, you'll uncover a surprisingly deep racer that's overflowing with fun for one to four players.