The Best Classic Nintendo Arcade Games

Over 400 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best Classic Nintendo Arcade Games
Voting Rules
Games don't have to be console exclusive, as long as they were released for Nintendo Entertainment System at some point.

If you owned a NES at any time during your life, then it's safe to say there were probably a few great Nintendo arcade games in your collection. With so many great options to choose from, there was never a shortage of epic titles to dive into. Since some games were much better than others, we've decided to rank the best NES Arcade games of all time.

This list features the most popular and best selling Arcade games that were released for NES, including fan-favorites like Contra, Duck Hunt, and Double Dragon. While many of these games were console exclusive, we're allowing non-exclusives to be a part of the list as well. Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong are included on this list, along with many more. How many of these classic Nintendo arcade games do you remember playing?

Check out the top NES arcade games below and vote up the ones you think are the most fun to play.

Most divisive: Ice Climber
Ranked by
  • Super Mario Bros.
    184 votes

    Perhaps the epitome of platforming, Super Mario Bros. revolutionized the gaming landscape with its intuitive design and colorful worlds. The game saw players take on the role of Nintendo's iconic plumber, Mario, as he embarked on his quest to save Princess Peach from the nefarious Bowser. Each level offered exciting challenges and hidden secrets, encouraging exploration and skillful play while introducing power-ups like the Super Mushroom and Fire Flower. To this day, the impact of Super Mario Bros. can be felt throughout the industry, as it laid the groundwork for countless platformers that followed in its wake.

  • Contra
    165 votes
    Jan 01 1987

    A game that challenged the limits of human reflexes, Contra offered players a symphony of fast-paced action and unforgiving gameplay. Its iconic side-scrolling, run-and-gun mechanics struck a chord with gamers, as they fought through waves of enemies and intricate platforming sections. With an arsenal of unique weapons, like the fan-favorite spread gun, Contra established itself as a staple in the action genre, and its introduction of a cooperative multiplayer mode only cemented its mark in history. Naturally, the legendary Konami Code emerged from this game, offering players a helping hand in their battle against the alien menace.

  • Cooperative brawling at its finest, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game allowed players to take control of their favorite heroes in a half-shell as they battled their way through hordes of Foot Clan ninjas. Its varied cast of characters, each boasting their unique fighting style and weapon, provided a level of depth that was uncommon in the beat 'em up genre. Players could team up with friends, making for unforgettable memories filled with pizza and camaraderie. On top of its engaging gameplay, the game's incredibly detailed art style, varied environments, and faithful adherence to the source material make it a fan favorite to this day.

  • Pac-Man
    120 votes
    May 22 1980

    A testament to elegant design, Pac-Man took the world by storm with its simple-yet-addictive gameplay that saw players guiding a small yellow creature through a maze filled with pellets and ghosts. Each ghost had its distinct personality, making for dynamic gameplay as players adapted to the ever-changing conditions within the maze. The game also included bonus items, such as fruits, that offered extra points to players daring enough to snatch them up before the ghosts closed in. This iconic game's legacy endures, as it spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, and countless imitators, securing its spot in gaming history.

  • Donkey Kong
    123 votes
    Jan 01 1981

    The debut of both Jumpman (later known as Mario) and the titular Donkey Kong, this arcade classic challenged players to conquer its vertically-oriented levels, dodging barrels and fireballs along the way. With each stage offering unique obstacles and tight platforming, Donkey Kong captivated players with its nuanced gameplay and charming character designs. Climbing ladders and hammering obstacles, players pushed their skills to the limit in pursuit of the kidnapped Pauline. The game's enduring popularity led to numerous sequels and adaptations, cementing Donkey Kong's status as a gaming icon.

  • Double Dragon
    125 votes
    Jan 01 1987

    Pioneering the beat 'em up genre, Double Dragon delivered a compelling tale of brotherhood and revenge set against a backdrop of urban decay. With tight controls and an impressive array of moves at their disposal, players faced off against gangs of street thugs on their quest to rescue the captured Marian. The game's cooperative multiplayer mode provided endless hours of fun, as players honed their teamwork and fought side-by-side to bring down waves of enemies. The inclusion of memorable boss battles and diverse environments only added to the game's charm and appeal.