An NES launch title, Excitebike was a side-scrolling motocross game that pretty much everyone would have played at some point. It was eventually updated for the Gameboy as well. Questionable bike physics aside, racing other motocross riders through a course of bumps and jumps was a lot more fun than it sounds - we swear it isn’t just a nostalgia thing.
Known as Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out in the USA, and thus having updated sprites that bore his resemblance, the original Punch-Out started in the arcades and ended up on the NES. You played as a boxer named Little Mac going up against a variety of uglier and increasingly bigger-looking opponents in your quest for the WBA title. The first popular boxing game with surprisingly complex gameplay, it really set the stage for sports titles in the years to come.
Ice Climber (1984)
Nintendo’s vertical platformer was such a staple of our youths that we’re honestly a bit ashamed that we never knew that our protagonists were even named Popo and Nana.
The ultimate aim of the game was to get your vegetables back from a Pterodactyl, and to reach it you had to ascend floors of ice by knocking blocks out of the floors above before jumping up, all while beating back Yetis and seemingly harmless birds with a hammer.
Popo and Nana’s popularity was cemented in their appearance in the Super Smash Bros series, much to the delight of older gamers.