Nintendo was the first company to emerge from the “great video game crash” of the 1980s to get the industry back on track. The NES was a must-own system and since then, Nintendo has paved the way for other gaming companies. From the NES to the Game Boy, to the SNES and GameCube, the classic era of Nintendo has been much loved by gamers. So many of the games are still adored and played constantly, either on those old systems or via the Switch.
But some games, frankly, have not aged well at all. In fact, many a “classic” game comes off downright terrible by today’s standards. Even if you excuse the poorer graphics, the games just have bad play and rather horrible to try out. Some are too difficult, many are just ugly to see, and it’s obvious how nostalgia clouds a gamer’s judgement. Here are 20 Nintendo games almost any owner played that frankly suck today to show not every game stands the test of time.
20 Kirby’s Dreamland 3
While often ignored in terms of Nintendo mascots, Kirby has his fans. After a couple of entries on the Game Boy and NES, Kirby finally got the big SNES treatment with this game. Sadly, this was near the tail end of the SNES’ life and thus Nintendo wasn’t as interested in giving it as much attention as it should have. It lacked the charm of the earlier games with rough graphics and rougher gameplay. A Wii re-release showcased its serious drawbacks and it’s a shame cute little Kirby has such a terrible game to his legacy.
19 Mortal Kombat
Genesis’ motto was “We do what Ninten-Don’t.” That was sure true of the port for the smash hit arcade fighting game. It wasn’t just the slower graphics that made the combat sluggish and the characters look worse. The Nintendo version also cut out all blood and did away with several of the fatalities... in other words, the very things that made MK so playable. They did allow blood for MK II but still not as much as Genesis did. Even today, MK fans agree playing the saga on Nintendo is a total waste.
18 Super Mario 64
Mario fans generally agree that the series is always best when it’s a classic side-scrolling platformer rather than an epic 3-D adventure. While Super Mario Galaxy did a great job, this N64 launch title didn’t handle the 3-D action nearly as well. The camera could be bad at times to make the gameplay harder and it was too easy for gamers to get lost and not realize where they needed to go. The combat was also poor and the controls lacked polish. It took some trial and error to make a 3-D Mario work as this early effort doesn’t click today.
17 Super Mario Kart
Yes, the Mario Kart series is among Nintendo’s all-time best franchises. Each entry is amazing mixing so many characters into a wild race and players love competing with each other online to see who’s the best. Yet the first entry in this series just isn’t that fun to play today. The controls are sluggish and handle poorly while the camera angles are poor and cut off the action too much. Even the backgrounds just come off lame and wanting. It’s the modern entries Kart fans love, more than the first ride of the racing series.
16 Luigi’s Mansion
After years as the sidekick, Mario’s brother finally got the limelight in this game. Too bad it just doesn’t play that well today. The bizarre “ghostbusting” motif came off frustrating with Luigi having to suck these creatures into a vacuum cleaner for coins. Some of the puzzles were also too confusing for gamers to fully follow and the whole game was too dark as well. The sequels aren’t bad but the first Mansion visit isn’t the best for the green-clad plumber.
15 Super Mario Land
The launch title for the Game Boy, this promised to bring the classic Mario adventure to hand-held fans. Sadly, today, it shows how bad the early Game Boy titles were. There were a few fun bits like his “flying hat” but the sub/space vehicles levels didn’t work out as well as they should have. The tiny screen made it harder to handle Mario and the controls were also poor. Even Mario couldn’t make this initial Game Boy entry worthwhile for modern fans.
Some SNES fans hold that this game should get a modern reboot. That may be best considering the original really isn’t that fun to play today. It suffers from a lack of great graphics as the 3-D roads just don’t look that special. Also, there’s not as much difference between the various vehicles and the controls handle poorly. For a game focusing on futuristic racing, F-Zero is pretty stuck in the past and just a plain “zero” for modern gamers.
13 Metal Gear
Everyone loves the Metal Gear Solid series and its amazing mix of action and stealth. Those same fans would be appalled if they tried to play the original NES outing today. The game lacks the ingredients that made the later saga so notable with poor combat and the “stealth” mode is laughable. There’s also the terrible translation of the Japanese original (“I feel asleep”) and the final boss is... a computer. This game’s only resemblance to the awesome series is in the title.
12 Super Mario Bros 2
The first Mario follow-up was an odd game featuring Mario and friends heading into a dream world. It was actually a totally different platformer given a Mario makeover. There have been attempts to dress it up on Game Boy Advance, but it still doesn’t come off very fun. Mixing Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad can be okay but the bosses are lame, the levels lack real imagination, and there’s no world map. This is really a forgettable entry in the Mario saga.
11 Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest
The first Castlevania game was one of the NES' early hits as fans loved the simple tale of Simon going through a mansion hunting Dracula. The sequel puts Simon on a longer quest of wandering towns and investigating other castles. It wasn’t bad, but the technology of the time prevented it from working as it could have. The constant shifts from day to night without warning annoyed gamers and some of the puzzles were too confusing to handle. Later games returned to the simpler side-scrolling action as this was too big a jump for players to enjoy.
10 Mega Man
Mega Man has been one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises for 30 years. The later games are known for their great mix of platforming and combat and, while difficult, are also engaging. Which makes it more remarkable given just how poor the first game is by today’s standards. It seems even harder thanks to how short it is and the platforming can be too tricky to handle at times. There’s also a confusing score system to boot. It was the second game that turned this into the franchise we love with the first game also the weakest.
9 The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess
This may be a controversial pick to many. Let’s face it, there's something about Zelda games that makes people go wild and praise every entry as “the best game ever.” Twilight Princess got much the same response in its debut in 2006. But if those same Zelda fans were to play it today, they’d have to admit, it’s not as fun as it was. The opening sequence takes way too long, the “Wolf Link” bits are drawn out way too much, and the problems with combat were exposed by the Wii translation. There have been much better Zelda games since to show how overrated Twilight is.
8 Final Fantasy
Today, the Final Fantasy series is a must for PS4 owners. The original U.S. version of the iconic series was on the NES and today, it comes off pretty bad. It’s not just the very poor graphic,s but also how the gameplay lacks the charm and imagination the series would become known for. The battles are short and rough, and there's more wandering around various poorly drawn maps than any real action. Even the biggest FF fans would avoid the inaugural outing of the iconic franchise.
7 Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire
This was a huge game when it debuted in 1996 as a brand new original Star Wars adventure. It got attention for introducing a speeder level and some interesting third-person shooting. However, the graphics look pretty bad by today’s standards and the controls don’t handle nearly as well as they once did. The story is also rough and lacks some of the great charm the movies provide. Compared to stuff like Dark Forces and Jedi Academy, this really comes off as “rough draft” for much better games to come.
6 Killer Instinct
The arcade version of KI was actually good with its mix of combos and fun animations making it one of the better Mortal Kombat clones. However, the SNES version was seriously lacking. The weaker power of the console meant that characters were sluggish and not as dynamic as on the arcade screen. It felt like a cheap port despite how Nintendo had co-created the arcade version. Plus, it neutered the infamous finishers that were part of the game’s appeal. Nintendo managed to make this fighting game a lame port for fans.
5 Ghosts 'N Goblins
Ranking high on lists of “the hardest arcade games ever,” the NES version is worse. Even veterans of expert platformers feel the horrible challenge of handling the knight taking on an army of ghouls. The worst part is that one hit strips you of armor and the next defeats you. That makes the game a true chore to get through thanks to its difficulty level. There’s also how you finally seem to beat the final boss... only to learn you have the play the entire game again for the real victory. Games should not frustrate like this one does.
4 Star Fox
If it wasn’t for the awesome N64 version, folks may not remember this franchise so well. That game was great for its flying scenes and fun action. The original version, however, plays like a poor PC flight simulator. The 3D graphics look like cheaply made blocks and the flight mechanisms are hard to handle. The music and voice work also isn’t as fun as later games would provide. It’s remarkable this launched a hit franchise given just how poor the original version is for today’s gamers.
Many lists of the best SNES games ever includes this game. It’s supposed to be one of the greatest RPGs ever created and folks gush over it. But have they actually played it lately? Putting a classic RPG into a modern city was a good idea but the experience didn’t live up to the concept. The game had uncertain goals, bad battles, confusing maps, and way too many interruptions. It really seems a game boosted by a fan base hailing it for how it was great in its time and not revisiting it since.
2 Goldeneye 007
In its time, this was a groundbreaking first-person shooter and one of the best movie tie-in games ever. But time has not been kind to it. The graphics are horrible by today’s standards and the gameplay itself isn’t as fun as it used to be. Today’s FPS games are able to provide so much more action and draw you into the game. This just plays like a relic with rough controls and slow response time for everything. It was great in 1997 yet 007 has had far better outings since to show how even a pioneer of gaming can age poorly.
1 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The swimming level. Nothing drives old-school NES fans insane like being reminded of one of the single most impossible levels in gaming history. Even without that, the first Turtles title isn’t well-remembered today. The graphics are bad, the gameplay confusing with the mix of side-scrolling, and sky-camera action and the combat can be rough with poorly done enemies. But it’s also impossibly hard, especially that infamous underwater level that caused countless broken controllers. The Turtles have had much better games since and their first NES outing belongs in the sewer.