8-Bit Games – The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

by | Apr 3, 2022 | NES

Nintendo, credited with popularizing 8-bit gaming, gained even more popularity with the release of their Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985. 8-bit games use 8-bit graphics, sound, and processing power. 8-bit gaming offered more realistic graphics and sounds than earlier video game systems, and was a major step up from the classic Atari 2600.

8-bit games
NES

The NES was a huge success, and 8-bit gaming became the standard for video games for the next several years. In the early 1990s, 16-bit gaming began to take over, but 8-bit games continued to be popular in arcades and on handheld systems. Even today, 8 bit games remain popular with retro gamers and collectors.

Some of the most popular Nintendo 8-bit games include Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Contra, and Mega Man. These games have been remade or ported to tons of platforms over the years, and continue to be enjoyed by gamers of all ages. Thanks to the 8 bit gaming revolution, we now have some of the most classic and beloved video games ever created.

1. Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros. was one of the first 8-bit games released for the NES, and it set the standard for all future 8-bit games. As a side-scroller, you play as Mario (A dashingly courageous plumber) who must rescue the princess from the evil King Koopa.

The graphics and sounds are simple but charming, and the game is challenging but addictive. Levels can sometimes be repetitive every so often, but it was an amazing challenge back in the day. Although simplistic in design and sound, SMB would eventually spawn tons of sequels, alternative games, and adventures for a multitude of platforms. 

[Read More About Super Mario Bros.]

Super Mario Bros. is a must-have for any retro gaming fan, and it’s still a lot of fun to play today. 


2. The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda is another classic 8-bit game that was released for the NES. The game is set in a vast and detailed world, coupled with many different enemies with unique behaviors and varying attacks. The overall goal is to rescue Princess Zelda and destroy the Prince of Evil, Ganon. 

Legend of Zelda NES
Legend of Zelda for NES

Despite having 8 bit graphics, the gameplay is simple and the music memorable. It’s also one of the first NES games to institute a ‘save’ feature. Its popularity would grow heavily over the years, with it being one of the most anticipated games that’s regularly released and rereleased.

The Legend of Zelda is a timeless classic that every gamer should experience.


3. Contra

Contra is a challenging 2-player, run-and-gun, side-scrolling shooter that was originally released for the NES. The graphics and sounds are incredibly realistic for an 8-bit game, and the gameplay is as fast and furious as ever. 

Known for the ever-famous Konami Code, Contra was an experience best played with another player. There was something fun about putting a barrage of holes in alien enemies, dodging weird psychos, and saving the world. More games would follow later, including some bizarre ones, along with sometimes terrible gameplay.

If you’re looking for a challenging retro gaming experience, Contra is definitely worth playing.


4. Mega Man

Mega Man is a classic side-scrolling platformer that was released for the NES in 1987. The game is set in a futuristic world where you must navigate your way through six challenging levels, battling evil robots along the way. 

Its graphics looked great for “back-in-the-day.” Of course, it had the same issues with the notorious “NES Slowdown”, where sprites would blink or downright vanish as the screen moved to the next. Sometimes it would work in your favor, sometimes it wouldn’t. Nevertheless, it’s a great challenging classic. 

[Read More About Mega Man]

Mega Man is one of the most beloved 8-bit games of all time, and it’s a must-play for any gamer who loves classic platformers.


5. Bubble Bobble

Bubble Bobble is an 8-bit arcade game released by Taito in 1986. The objective of the game is for players to guide their two characters, Bub and Bob, through a series of 100 levels, blowing bubbles to capture enemies and then popping the bubbles to release the captives. Along the way, players can collect items that will help them power up and defeat bosses at the end of each level.

The controls for Bubble Bobble are simple – players use the directional pad on the controller to move their characters around and the A button to blow bubbles. The game can be played by one or two players, and there is a cooperative mode where both players work together to complete the levels.

Bubble Bobble is a fun and challenging game that will keep players entertained for hours. The 8-bit graphics and soundtrack are charming, and the gameplay is addictive. 

[Read More: Bubble Bobble NES Review]

If you’re looking for a retro game to play, be sure to check out Bubble Bobble!


6. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is an addicting action-adventure game that was originally released for the NES. The game is set in a dark and spooky world, and you must use your wits and courage to overcome the obstacles in your way. 

Graphic-wise, it does well with the 8-bit limitations of the classic system. Over the years, hundreds of games following the history of the Belmonts (The legendary family of vampire hunters) would be created, as well as a popular Netflix animation featuring Trevor Belmont and Alucard. 

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest features cryptic puzzles, deadly traps, and nightmarish monsters. The game also has a complex inventory system, which makes it a challenging but rewarding experience.

If you’re looking for a challenging and atmospheric adventure game, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is definitely worth playing.


7. Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos is an intense action-adventure game that was released for the NES in 1990. The game is set in a dark and dangerous world, and you must use your skills and weapons to survive.

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos features fast-paced action, brutal violence, and complex puzzles. The game is also very challenging, which makes it a rewarding experience for gamers who enjoy a tough challenge.

Overall, Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos is an excellent action-adventure game that will keep you on your toes. 

[Read More About Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos]

If you’re looking for a challenging and rewarding experience, Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos is definitely worth playing.


8. Super Mario 3

Super Mario 3 is an iconic platformer that was first released for the NES in 1990. The game is set in the Mushroom Kingdom, and once again, you must use your skills and abilities to save Princess Peach from Bowser.

Super Mario 3 features colorful 8-bit graphics, catchy music, and challenging gameplay. The game is a lot of fun to play, and it’s one of the most beloved 8-bit games of all time. The game has been rehashed multiple times and is widely available on many platforms. Mario is just so damn popular. 

[Read More About Super Mario 3]

If you’re looking for a classic platformer that’s sure to keep you entertained, Super Mario 3 is a great choice.


9. Dragon Warrior

Dragon Warrior is an addictive RPG that was first released for the NES in 1989. The game is set in a vast and dangerous world, and you must use your skills and abilities to survive.

Dragon Warrior features interesting characters, addictive gameplay, and challenging puzzles. The graphics are nostalgic for 8-bit gamers, but they have no bearing on the gameplay. Plus, it’s quite lengthy, which makes it a great choice for gamers who enjoy a lengthy RPG adventure.

[Read More About Dragon Warrior]

Overall, Dragon Warrior is an excellent RPG that’s sure to keep you entertained for hours on end. If you’re looking for an addicting and challenging RPG, Dragon Warrior is definitely worth playing.


10. Kirby’s Adventure

Kirby’s Adventure is a delightful platformer that was first released for the NES in 1993. The game is set in a colorful world, and you must use your skills and abilities to save Dream Land from destruction.

Kirby’s Adventure features charming graphics, catchy music, and challenging gameplay. Speaking of catchy, Kirby’s original theme song is probably the most notorious song that immediately makes you remember that pink poofy floating character. 

[Read More About Kirby’s Adventure]

The game is a lot of fun to play, and it’s one of the most beloved NES games of all time. If you’re looking for a classic platformer that’s sure to keep you entertained, Kirby’s Adventure is a great choice.


What are Modern 8-Bit Games?

Modern 8-bit games have newer capabilities, but they use 8-bit graphics, typically with a resolution of 256×224 pixels. This style of graphics is often associated with early console gaming systems like the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Sega Genesis. However, many modern games use 8-bit graphics to create a retro aesthetic.

Popular games like Shovel Knight and Infernax, are sidescrolling platform games with a classic 8-bit appearance. The pixelated graphics give both games a distinctly retro feel, while their gameplay mechanics and level design are thoroughly modern. Most modern retro games are usually designed on PC, then ported to other platforms like Playstation, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices.

There are many other examples of 8-bit games that were released in recent years. These include games like Cave Story+, Hyper Light Drifter, and Owlboy. While the graphics of these games may not be on par with those of today’s AAA titles, they nonetheless evoke a sense of nostalgia for gamers who grew up playing 8-bit games in the 1980s and 1990s. In a world where most games are high-resolution and realistic, it’s refreshing to see developers embrace 8-bit graphics as a way to create unique and memorable gaming experiences.

What’s the Difference Between Classic and Modern 8 Bit Games?

Modern 8-bit games are those that use 8-bit graphics, sound, and processing power. While they don’t offer the same level of realism as 16-bit or higher games, they can still look and sound great. There’s a growing number of indie developers who create 8-bit games, and many classic 8-bit games have been remade for current systems.

While these are modernly-developed games, developers often choose the original “NES Hard Mode” difficulty that many of us 80s kids grew up with. That means these games tend to be hard. But, with strategic playing and persistence, you can finish them. These games offer challenging gameplay and great visuals and sounds, all in an 8-bit style. 

If you’re looking for a nostalgic gaming experience, or just want some good old-fashioned fun, then check out some of these great modern 8-bit games.

1. Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight is a 2D side-scrolling platformer that was released in 2014. The game is set in a medieval world, and you must use your skills and weapons to save the kingdom.

Shovel Knight features beautiful 8-bit graphics, catchy music, and challenging gameplay. The game is a lot of fun to play, and it’s one of the most beloved indie games of all time. 

[Read More About Shovel Knight]

If you’re looking for a challenging and rewarding platformer, Shovel Knight is definitely worth playing.


2. Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy is a brutally difficult 2D side-scrolling platformer that was released in 2010. The game is set in a twisted world of meat and bandages, and you must use your skills and abilities to save your girlfriend.

Super Meat Boy features mind-blowing graphics, catchy music, and insanely challenging gameplay. The game is so difficult that it’s almost impossible to finish, but that’s part of its charm. 

[Read More About Super Meat Boy]

If you’re looking for a challenging and frustrating platformer, Super Meat Boy is a great choice.


3. Undertale

Undertale is a 2D RPG that was released in 2015. The game is set in a dark and twisted world, and you must use your skills and abilities to save humanity.

Undertale features beautiful 8-bit graphics, charming music, and challenging gameplay. The game is a lot of fun to play, and it’s one of the most beloved indie games of all time. 

[Read More About Undertale]

If you’re looking for an excellent and rewarding RPG, Undertale is definitely worth playing.


4. Bit.Trip Runner

Bit.Trip Runner is a 2D platformer that was first released for the Wii in 2009. The game is set in a retro-inspired world, and you must use your skills and abilities to save the world from destruction.

Bit.Trip Runner features beautiful 8-bit graphics, catchy music, and challenging gameplay. The game is a lot of fun to play, and it’s one of the most beloved indie games of all time.

[Read More About Bit.Trip Runner]

If you’re looking for an excellent and challenging platformer, Bit.Trip Runner is a great choice.


5. Cave Story

Cave Story is a 2D platformer that was first released in 2004. The game is set in a mysterious world with unique alien-like rabbits who fear you for unknown reasons. Using your talents and gaining new ones, you have to save the world and a host of new friends.

Cave Story features beautiful 8-bit graphics, catchy music, and challenging gameplay. The game is a lot of fun to play, and it’s one of the most beloved indie games of all time. 

[Read More About Cave Story]

If you’re looking for an excellent and rewarding platformer, Cave Story is a great choice.


6. Downwell

Downwell is a 2D platformer that was first released in 2015. The game is set in a dark and twisted world, where you’re literally falling down. Sometimes you fight enemies, sometimes you visit shops. 

It employs vertical scrolling, platforming, and shooting elements found in most 8-bit video games. The graphics lean heavily on 8-bit, but also are reminiscent of Metroid for NES. Yet, weapons are unique and usage varies based on your choices.

Downwell is available for PS4, Switch, PC, iOS, and Android. 

[Read More About Downwell]

If you’re looking for an excellent and rewarding platformer, Downwell is a great choice.

Will 8-Bit Gaming Ever Get Old? 

There’s no doubt that 8-bit gaming is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Games like Shovel Knight, Super Meat Boy, Infernax, and Downwell are proving that there’s still a lot of life in those old-school graphics.

But will 8-bit gaming ever get old? I don’t think so. While it’s true that the pixelated graphics and simple gameplay might not appeal to everyone, there’s something undeniably appealing about those retro games. They’re challenging, nostalgic, and just plain fun.

There’s no doubt that 8-bit graphics and gameplay can be nostalgic and fun. But there’s also no doubt that they can be limiting. After all, 8-bit graphics can only do so much. And 8-bit gameplay can often be frustratingly difficult.

So I think 8-bit gaming will continue to be popular for years to come. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes even more popular in the future. Will it ever get old? Maybe someday. But right now, it’s back in style.

In conclusion, 8-bit gaming has come a long way since the release of Nintendo’s NES in 1985. While some modern games use 8-bit graphics and sound, it is important to note that this style of game offers less realism than 16-bit or higher video games. Still, they offer challenging gameplay and great visuals/sounds with an old-school feel. 

Remember: if you’re looking for nostalgic fun or just want a good time playing an easy but still enjoyable game then give these retro 8 bit games a try!

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