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High Score - NES Hits from Holiday's Past on the Virtual Console

by: JMcEvoy2006 ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

In the late 80s and early 90s, just like today, the holidays were the prime time to get the hottest new game. Thanks to the Virtual Console, we can still enjoy these classics. Here is a run down of some of the Nintendo Entertainment System's best titles released during the holiday season.

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    It's the Best Time of the Year

    Back in the classic era of gaming, things were a bit different. You had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mega Man and Zelda. Well, you still have those franchises today, but the focus is on Halo ODST, DJ Hero and Left 4 Dead 2. While some aspects of gaming has changed a bit, much has stayed the same. Nintendo is still on top of the home gaming market, companies like Konami and Capcom are still churning out hits, and there is still an emphasis on holiday game sales and releases.

    Thanks to the Wii's Virtual Console, the old classics are still available for download for hours of nostalgic amusement. Here are some of the best holiday releases from first and best Nintendo console, the NES. Most of these are currently available, though a few aren't and need to be released ASAP!

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    Zelda II: The Adventure of Link - December 1988

    Side Scrolling with Zelda? Odd, but Enjoyable 

    The first Zelda sequel, released in time for Christmas 88', was and is still the black sheep of the Zelda franchise (as many don't even consider the CD-I titles as part of the canon.) As opposed to the overhead view, Zelda II had the typical side-scrolling platformer style of gameplay that was so typical of the era.

    This holiday title on the NES still has many RPG elements including spells, experience levels and non-playable characters who occasionally have useful information for our hero. In that it was a historic title and one of the best prominent examples of game that mixed platforming and RPG elements into one game. While not the best of the Zelda series it sold well and its rightful place in the history of the Zelda series cannot be denied.

    This title is a must-download from the Virtual Console to pour hours into, just like you did the first time it was a holiday title.

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    Mega Man - December 1987

    So Much Harder Than It Looks 

    Capcom's first Mega Man game debuted in the holiday season of 1987 and spurred five sequels on the NES alone. For the first time, gamers were able to harness Mega Man's power blaster and shoot through and tons and tons of Dr. Wily's evil robots. While the original game only includes six levels, this game is at least in this gamer's opinion, the hardest of the NES versions. Many of Mega Man's upgrades that would become a staple of the series would not be introduced until later and you had to rely on the blaster and your reflexes to survive.

    Apart from the game being difficult and unforgiving, its classic and addicting gameplay made it a must have during the 87' holiday season. This Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or what have you, download this title from the VC and relive one of the best, if not most challenging holiday NES release.

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    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game - December 1990

    One of My Favorite First Levels on the NES 

    This particular title, I remember with much fondness as a NES game I got on Christmas. It was released December 31st, 1990 so I didn't get it until the following December. I'm not sure what took my parents so long to get themselves in gear, but this title, based on the classic arcade game, was more than worth the wait.

    It's shown up on a bunch of my virtual console features and because of its addictive and enjoyable gameplay, it should come as no surprise to see it here again. Sadly, TMNT 2 still hasn't been released on the virtual console. So you'll have to wait another holiday season to download it from Nintendo. It's one of my favorite NES titles and the best multiplayer game not named Contra, Mario or Double Dragon. Speaking of Double Dragon...

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    Double Dragon II: The Revenge - January 1990

    Eat Fist 

    They just don't make games like this anymore. While it was technically released after the 89' holiday season. It was a title I eagerly used Grandma and Grandpa's XMAS money for. Double Dragon II represents 2D platformer fighting games at its best. It is the essence of the beat em' genre and is easily the best of the three NES Double Dragon games.

    The gameplay was fantastic, the controls were a bit confusing as the punch and kick buttons switched depending on which direction your character was facing, but once you adapted you were all set. The music was fantastic and the graphics were decent, though not spectacular. The game featured a ton of different environments and enemies to bash into a pulp. This game is a must download from the VC if you haven't already. What better way to celebrate the holiday season by beating the tar out of some gang member or ninja? I was utterly shocked when I found this title to be unavailable on the VC. The original Double Dragon, which is a decent game in its own right, is available, but not its superior sequel.

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    DuckTales - September 1989

    The Music on this Level is Legendary 

    The 8-bit era was a period of time when movie and television franchises were more successful in video games. DuckTales is a prime example of that and hit stores weeks before the 89' holiday season and Capcom had a winner on the NES.The game had, for the time, excellent graphics and engaging gameplay. The music was superb, especially the Moon level, which is a personal favorite.

    Scrooge McDuck can travel through levels in Mega Man-style of non-linear gameplay while on his quest to become the world's richest duck. Not the most original of story lines, but in the late 80s, it was more than enough of a premise for a video game. You also encounter other characters from the popular TV series. Though it was a commercial success, oftentimes, it gets lost in the shadows of Mario, Zelda and other iconic NES characters. Again, Nintendo hasn't yet included this title for the Virtual Console. Whether its due to licensing issues with Disney or another legal issue, the fact is gamers will download it as it was a gane that was both commercially and critically successful.