Which Nintendo Classic Mini NES games should you play first?

We've ranked all 30 classic titles, so you don't have to

So you've embraced nostalgia, gone retro and forked out fifty sheets for the new Nintendo Classic Mini: NES. But what should you play first?

The dinky console comes with 30 games pre-installed, and while none of them could conceivably be called stinkers, it's certainly true that some are significantly better than others. To make it easier for you to prioritise, we've picked through the entire line-up and ranked them in order of greatness, which also happens to be the order in which you should play them. So before you pick up your pad, take a read...

Additional words by Craig Grannell


30. Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong’s in the slammer, and it’s up to you to swing about, avoid critters unleashed by an evil Mario, and rescue the giant monkey. That is if you can deal with the rubbish controls, which you probably can’t. Sorry, Donkey Kong – you will never be free again.

29. Balloon Fight

An arena-style action game in which the player must clear each stage of enemies while floating around using a balloon, avoiding both the enemies and obstacles such as water and lightning strikes. Simple, but fun.

28. Ice Climber

A platform game with a twist: you’re constantly climbing up vertically, carving holes through colourful ice platforms in order to ascend. Different colours of ice denote different properties, adding welcome variety to this diverting game.

27. Pac-Man

You might wonder why the famous dot-muncher languishes so far down our list. First, Ms. Pac-Man is a much better game, yet absent here. Secondly, NES Pac-Man is merely an OK port. The NES deserved better.

26. Gradius

Side-on shooty fare, where your faction apparently only has one spaceship, the idiots. Unfortunately, the enemy has loads, and you’ll need to remember attack patterns to survive any length of time, even when armed to the teeth with power-ups.

25. Super C

Also known as Super Contra, this is a run and gun action game mixing side-scrolling and top-down vertical-scrolling levels. Tip: try the famous “Konami code” (Google it) at the title screen.

24. Ninja Gaiden

An action-platformer in the Castlevania mould, Ninja Gaiden is renowned for its tear-your-hair-out difficulty – you’ll need perfect timing to make the tricky jumps while avoiding enemy attacks. The anime-style cutscenes are welcome reward - and respite - for your travails.

23. Excitebike

An original NES launch title, Excitebike features five tracks – plus custom-built courses – of motocross action in which you can control not only the speed but the pitch of your two-wheeled steed as it powers over jumps.

22. Galaga

After years of merely marching back and forth, invaders from space finally got fidgety. Galaga finds them breaking away from the swarm, dive-bombing your ship and trying to snare it in a tractor beam. Yikes!

21. Mario Bros.

Before Mario went super, he leapt about single-screen sewers, saving them from evil. Jumping on heads isn’t enough here – enemies must be flipped by smacking the floor beneath them. Simple, but fun in two-player. Just don’t waste the POW brick.