Top 100 NES/Famicom Games List: #6

NES & Famicom Games

Arguably the most beloved console of all time, the Nintendo Entertainment System, commonly abbreviated as NES, is now well over 25 years old. With over two thousand games produced worldwide for the legendary hardware, the NES, despite it’s age, has an eternal staying power. As retro gaming continues to grow in popularity, more and more gamers flock to Nintendo’s first home console to get their gaming fix.

Welcome to the final top 10 countdown for my personal picks of the greatest games to grace the NES and Famicom. I will be posting one update per day on my march towards the number one position. This has been a long time coming, and I want to thank you, my readers, for all of your support.

Now then, as before, I am ranking every game on its overall difficulty using a simple scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is brain dead easy and 10 is….well,  Battletoads. A 5 on this scale means it’s average difficulty with perhaps some challenging elements, but nothing the average gamer should get stuck on for too long.

I’m also including many links to videos and other online information sources. Links are indicated by orange words. Please open these links in a new tab/window so you don’t have to navigate away from this article.

Previous entries:

part 1, #100-90
part 2, #89-80
part 3, #79-70
part 4, #69-60
part 5, #59-50
part 6, #49-40
part 7, #39-30
part 8, #29-20
part 9, #19-11
Final top 10: #10
Final top 10: #9
Final top 10: #8
Final top 10: #7

So without further ado, here is entry #6!

#6Final Fantasy I logoFinal Fantasy
1987
Square
RPG
Price range: $10-20
Difficulty: 6-8 [depending on party choice]
Region: All

On an unarmed adventure! The world is veiled in darkness. Winds don’t blow, the seas are stormy, and the earth rots. All people can hope for is that the ancient prophecy will be finally fulfilled. “When the world is veiled in darkness, four warriors will come…” And indeed, they come – four warriors bathed in pure light arrive in the kingdom of Coneria, ready to begin their quest to restore light to the world.

Why you should play it

Although there were console RPGs before it, none were even close to Final Fantasy. Compared even to the Enix’s massive Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy oozes craftsmanship, polish, and a downright epic scope. This one title would revolutionize what RPGs were, and it would also become the benchmark for every console RPG to follow it.

From the moment you press Start, you’re presented with a game that defied pre-existing RPG conventions and created its own in their place. Rather than playing as a single soldier traveling across the land aimlessly, Final Fantasy has you assemble a party of any four warriors out of six character classes. This marked one of the first console RPGs that allowed a party of multiple characters, let alone one that allowed you to assemble your own party.

The ability to make any party from the six character classes is really at the core of what makes this game so fantastic. Each class has individual strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Fighter is strong and has high defenses, but can’t use any magic. The Black Mage has weak physical attacks and awful defenses, but they can conjure powerful elemental spells. The White Mage has the weakest attacks of all, but she can cast vital healing and support magic to aid the party in battle. Creating a balanced mix of characters that compensate for each others weakness is a key strategy, but again, what makes Final Fantasy so unique is that you don’t necessarily have to make a balanced party. Want a party of four fighters without any healers? Your call. Want to try a party of four Black Mages? Not the best idea, but go for it. The party you choose at the start of the game largely determines how difficult your journey will be, allowing the player to tailor the game’s challenge to suit their own tastes.

The battle system is entirely turn based and menu driven, allowing you to choose commands for each of your warriors individually every turn. This allows you to dynamically adapt to any given situation by telling some members to attack, use magic, use an item, or even run while others do completely different actions. It might seem obvious that the game would use a battle system like this, but before Final Fantasy, RPG battle systems weren’t nearly this complex. Still, the battle system does has some flaws and shows signs of age. Among the more annoying aspects, if you command two or more characters to attack a single enemy and the first character kills it, all remaining party members told to attack that enemy will simply attack the area where the enemy was, thus wasting their turn. Another issue comes from the game’s magic system. Instead of using a more modern MP magic system, Final Fantasy uses a strange “charge” system where your magic users will only be able to use spells a few times before running out of charges. There are no ethers here; if you want to recharge your magic, you need to find a town, which is a huge problem when exploring caves and dungeons. As a result, you’ll find yourself rationing magic only for times when you truly need it.

Visually, Final Fantasy is a remarkably colorful, lush game that masterfully shows what could be done with small sprites on limited hardware. There are several dozen enemy designs you’ll face throughout the game to keep things fresh, as well as many varied environments such as forests, caves, mountains and even underwater ruins. Luckily, you won’t have to travel the vast world on foot alone – eventually you will gain a ship to travel the seas, a canoe to travel rivers too narrow for your ship, and eventually an airship, allowing you to try anywhere in the world.

As fans of the series know, Final Fantasy does not disappoint on the audio front. Square’s now famous Nobuo Uematsu composed what can only be described as one of the best soundtracks on the NES. There are a great many tunes in the game and each of them are memorable, iconic, and instantly recognizable. Even if you’ve never played Final Fantasy before you’ve nevertheless undoubtedly heard the Prelude, Anthem, and Victory Fanfare themes at least a few times. They are as much of videogame pop culture as the Super Mario or Zelda themes are.

Despite how many early RPG conventions it broke, Final Fantasy is firmly rooted in 80’s RPG design when it comes to leveling. The game has often steep difficulty curves that can only be surmounted with a considerable amount of level grinding. The good news is that for the most part, battles become easier and faster the more you level up, but even so, it is important to know what you’re getting into if you choose to play the original version of Final Fantasy.

It seem unimaginable now, but there was a time when Final Fantasy was just another game on the store shelf with an untested idea that Americans could care about RPGs enough for the game to be a hit. Over two decades later, the series enjoys a level of popularity that leads the entire gaming industry, and it can all be traced back to the quality of this original version. It may be crude by today’s standards, but Final Fantasy was truly groundbreaking and is without a doubt, the best RPG on the NES and Famicom.

For those interested in playing the original Final Fantasy, here’s a helpful map, taken from the GBA remake.

Fun fact

By 1987, a small Japanese publisher named Square was in financial trouble. Most of their games were not selling very well. Hironobu Sakaguchi, Square’s lead designer, director and producer, decided to attempt one more game. He felt that if this project was not successful, it would mean he was not cut out for his line of work and would retire from the gaming industry as a result. After several action games such as King’s Knight and 3D World Runner, Sakaguchi wanted to focus his talents on telling a fantasy driven story. He ironically named this do or die final project “Final Fantasy”.

When the game was successful in Japan, the team got the go ahead to produce a sequel called Final Fantasy II. By 1990, the team had reached critical success with their release of Final Fantasy III. Around the same time, Nintendo of America expressed interest in the game, and shortly after Final Fantasy III launched in Japan, North American gamers were treated to the original game for the first time. Although Final Fantasy was successful in North America, it came somewhat late and didn’t have nearly the splash it saw in Japan. Most western gamers felt put-off by RPGs.

In 1991, the Super NES was launched, and along with it, Final Fantasy IV.  It was decided that Final Fantasy had sold well enough to warrant translating Final Fantasy IV, but it would also require a name change to Final Fantasy II,  as the real Final Fantasy II, as well as Final Fantasy III, were skipped over in the west. It wouldn’t be until decades later that western gamers would be able to play the missing games and every Final Fantasy game would be available in English.

Late in the Famicom’s life, Final Fantasy was packaged with Final Fantasy II and released together in a single cartridge. This version came in an attractive large white Famicom cartridge in the style of an NES cartridge. It unfortunately features many bugs in both games that make it inferior to the original standalone releases. Nevertheless, the Final Fantasy I-II double set is a collector’s item that is sought after by fans of the series.

Over the years, Final Fantasy has been remade on multiple platforms including the Playstation’s Final Fantasy Origins, GBA’s Final Fantasy Dawn of Souls, and the PSP’s Final Fantasy 20th Anniversary. Of all the remakes, the PSP remake is hands down the best, with beautiful redrawn HD sprites and a masterfully arranged soundtrack.

Awesome commercial for Final Fantasy I-II

Feel free to leave your comments, memories, and whatever else in the comments Below. Stay tuned tomorrow for the next entry, or better yet, subscribe! Subscribers get notified via email the instant I publish a new post, so you’ll never be guessing as to when the next entry will be!

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10 Responses to “Top 100 NES/Famicom Games List: #6”

  1. I have to question the often repeated tale of Final Fantasy being the game that pulled Square out of bankruptcy. As Dr. Sparkle explains in his retro show, Square’s pre FF games 3-D World Runner and Rad Racer both sold more units than FF itself. I know the story comes from Uematsu himself, but there’s reason to at least seek out further clarification.

    You can watch Dr. S’ video here (sorry, it’s quite long)

    http://www.archive.org/details/ChrontendoVolume26

    • satoshimatrix Says:

      Maybe in America this was true, but in Japan, 3D World Runner, Rad Racer and King’s Knight were not very successful at all. Even so, I was careful not to prepetuate the bankruppcy angle too much. It was Sakaguchi himself who pinned all his hopes on Final Fantasy, not so much Square themselves.

  2. One of my most beloved games of all times. It was like Dragon Warrior, with more characters, a huge world map to explore, and a great history to hear.

  3. …and it also provided the sprites for http://www.nuklearpower.com. :-)

  4. #6 gets ff…1? *shudder*

  5. [...] top 10: #10 Final top 10: #9 Final top 10: #8 Final top 10: #7 Final top 10: #6 Final top 10: #5 Final top 10: #4 Final top 10: #3 Final top 10: [...]

  6. Uh…
    I’m honestly surprised this even got the top 20. The PS1/P/N version is fine, but this version is a complete and utter mess that only had one programmer/tester, and it shows.

    • satoshimatrix Says:

      I appreciate all the comments you’ve left, but I again do not agree. Final Fantasy 1 remains one of the most important Famicom games ever and has aged much better than Dragon Quest. Again, you need to have a particular mindset when approaching it as the original has its 80s mindset to game design. Grinding, careful management of the magic system and slow gameplay are all things you just need to be prepared for. They aren’t flaws, they’re simply how the game is designed.

  7. I agree with your review, and this too is my #1 favorite RPG on the NES. The whole “pick your own classes, regardless if the combo’s good or not” is hands-down the best part of the game with me. It’s funny but it took me literally YEARS before I made a party with a white mage in it. My first team was Fighter / Red Mage / Blackbelt / Black Mage. Even with its bugs, the original NES classic is my favorite FF game still.

    • satoshimatrix Says:

      FF1 sure is charming isn’t it? If you can, I highly recommend a trek through the PSP Final Fantasy 20th Anniversary remake released in 2007. It changes everything to make Final Fantasy 1 match up to the modern FF battle formula and removes some of the obtuse puzzles and makes the game flow better, plus it sure is pretty, has a fantastic remixed soundtrack and even bonus post game content. FF1 absolutely rocks.

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