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Top Ten Best Selling NES Games

Home video games is a way of life today, but back in the 1980’s, the home console was on the way out. Most people credit this to the huge let down that was E.T on the Atari, just check any sink hole in the south west and you may actually find a few discarded cartridges. All video game sales continued to drop sales and most companies began to pull the plug on all production, the end was near…until…enter…NINTENDO!

The one-time card playing company turned arcade game producer released the revolutionary Nintendo Entertainment System in North American (Famicom in Japan) in 1985 (1983 in Japan). This changed everything in the home video game console world! So how did Nintendo do it? How did they change the entire market and the public’s perception on home gaming? Of course, one of the key components of Nintendo has always been the amazing marketing team they put together but a marketing team is only as good as the product they are selling, and the product, the GAMES that Nintendo was putting out, there’s the rub! Nintendo released some of the best videos games ever made and still to this day, gamers all over the world dust off these cartridges and relive the love of the NES.

We put together this list of top ten best-selling NES games helped revive the home console market.



Sports games sort of started it all to be honest. Pong is really just a tennis simulation and if it wasn’t for pong, would we even have this list?

With this being the case it is no surprise that the number ten game on our list is a sports game, that game being Golf. Golf was released in 1985 and published by Nintendo. Not much to describe when it comes to a golf game, it is a relaxing golf outing from the comfort of your home.

This was the first golf game that used a power meter for swinging the club and almost every game since has had a power meter meaning that this game set the bar pretty high. The total sales of Golf for the NES were 4,010,000 making it the tenth best-selling game on the NES.



From one sport to the next, Excitebike has entered the ranks of best-selling games of all time and one of the most played games of anyone who grew up in the 1980s. Also released in 1985 in North America, this was a launch game for the NES. The first game in the series, Excitebike spawned Excitebike 64, Excite Truck, Excitebots: Trick Racing, Excitebike: World Rally and a 3D remake of the original. The game consisted of the player taking control of a motorcycle racer who can either play solo or against computer-assisted riders on their choice of five different tracks. The goal is to finish in the top three of the time trials to advance. There is a total of three game modes however, A, B and C. Game mode A is the solo play and B is where you can have the computer-assisted riders join. The main frustration with game mode B is that the CPU riders become another obstacle that can actually knock you off your bike. Game mode C is the designer mode allowing you the opportunity to create your own track. The total sales of Excitebike for the NES were 4,160,00 making it the ninth best-selling game on the NES.


Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link

Zelda is one of the most iconic games ever made. Walk into any hipster bar in North America and you will find a wide variety of Zelda inspired tattoos. The first Zelda game on the list is actually the second game in the franchise. Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link was released in North America in late 1988 almost a full two years after it was released in Japan. This was a direct sequel to number 5 on our list, Zelda, but we will get to that in a bit. You play as the hero Link who is on a quest to save the princess Zelda who has fallen asleep after a spell is cast upon her. The first game has a top down approach whereas in this sequel it is a side scrolling role playing game. Zelda 2 takes place six years after the events of the first game and involves a different Zelda from the first game. This Zelda is the true heir to Hyrule and was put into a deep sleep when her brother got angry at her and had a wizard cast a spell on her. The game was released with great success and sales bringing in over 4.38 million copies sold making it the 8th best-selling game on the NES.


Dr. Mario

The first puzzle game on the list, Dr. Mario was released in 1990 in North America and comes in at number 7 on our list. The game consists of a player field littered with viruses. The goal is for the player to match up capsules that are tossed in by the now PHD owning Mario (more about him later). As the capsules come into the player field, the player must manipulate them to match up the colors and ultimately destroy the viruses. The game was received with great success and has been added to many “Best of Nintendo” game lists. The player has the option to play a solo round where there is a timer that is clicking down, the player must remove all viruses before the clock runs out. The other option is to play in multiplayer mode where the goal is to clear your entire player field of all viruses before your opponent. Dr. Mario sold over 4,850,000 copies making it the 7th best-selling game on the NES.



Before Dr. Mario, we had number 6 on our list, Tetris. Tetris was released in North America in 1989 and quickly become the game in everyone’s house. This was one of the first games that got not only kids interested in home video games, but parents as well. Televisions all across the country in 1989 were being taken over by moms and dads who wanted to see what this puzzle game was all about. Much like Dr. Mario, Tetris consists of a playing field only this time there are no viruses to defeat. The objective here is to clear as many lines as you possibly can and get the high score. After its release on the NES, Tetris has gone on to have many ports spanning multiple systems including the iPhone and other modern devises. Tetris sold 5,580,000 making it the 6th best-selling NES game of all time.


The Legend of Zelda

Now let’s get back to that Zelda game we were talking about earlier. The first in the Zelda series simply named, The Legend of Zelda, was released in North America on July 14th, 1987. This was the first home game cartridge that had the ability to save progress due to the use of a n internal battery. Being able to save your progress in a complex game like this was a game changer for many gamers. The game incorporates action, role playing and adventure in a way no other game had done up to date. The game begins with a brief story (more detailed in the instruction manual) of a land called Hyrule that has been over run by an army controlled by the ruler of darkness, Ganon. Players take control of a small boy named Link who is destined to save the princess Zelda. This game sold over 6,510,000 making it the 5th best-selling NES game of all time.


Super Mario Bros. 2

The first entry on our list that is a part of the Super Mario Franchise is, Super Mario Bros. 2 which was released on October 9th, 1988. The history behind this game is a little more complex than most Nintendo produced games. With the success of Super Mario Bros. world wide a sequel was inevitable. The original sequel had two players going against each other being able to lift and throw their opponent as well as objects around the screen. However, the North American marketing team thought this was not only too difficult but too similar to the original game and wanted to make some changes. A Japanese released game, Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic had the perfect set up and game play for what they were wanting so with a little rendering of some characters, Super Mario Bros. 2 was born. Now with the ability to play a variety of characters, players move through this side scrolling platformer defeating strange enemy’s and bosses. After its release the positive reviews came pouring in as well as sales reaching over 7,460,000 making it the 4th best-selling NES game of all time.


Super Mario Bros. 3

Considered to be not only one of the best NES games of all time, but one of THE BEST games of all times in general is number 3 on our list, Super Mario Bros. 3. This was one of the main games anyone who owned an NES played and still talks about today. Released in North America on July 15th, 1989 it was received with great success and only positive reviews. The first look most people got at this game was in the Fred Savage movie “The Wizard” about a young man who is a fantastic gamer making his way to a championship game and unveiling Super Mario Bros. 3. The game play and design of this game was truly breathtaking and has held up to the test of time. To this day, if you pick up a controller and play through this game, you will feel the same love and appreciating most felt in 1989. Sales went through the roof with over 18 million copies sold making this the 3rd best-selling NES game of all time.


Duck Hunt

The number two spot on our list is held by a light shooter gun named Duck Hunt. In this game the player uses a NES Zapper to shoot ducks that pop up on the screen, mostly out of the grass that your dog scares up. They appear one or two at a time and the player is only given three shots (because we all know most guns have three shells) to shoot the duck. There is a certain number of ducks per round that the player must shoot in order to move on to the next round or get the dreaded, GAME OVER. The release of the game was met with mild praise and minimum reviews but sold a ton of copies due to the fact that it was part of the pack in promotion with the NES. The game sold over 28,300,300 copies making it the 2nd best-selling NES game of all time.


Super Mario Bros.

Number one on our list should be no surprise to anyone who knows anything about the NES. Super Mario Bros. was released in North America in late 1985 and was met with high praise and love from almost every gamer world-wide. Changing the way, one looks at and plays video games, SMB world 1-1 sets the tone for how one should play a platformer game. It acts as a tutorial with the enemies and jumps perfectly designed giving the player an understanding of what is to come. The objective is to run from left to right and make it through each obstacle and world until you reach the final level in world 8, where you must defeat bowser and save Princess Toadstool who was taken captive by Bowser. This is still regarded as one of the best games ever made and it is no wonder why it sold over 40,240,000 copies making it THE best-selling NES of all time.

Written exclusively for our company by Jacob Ruble

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