Saturday, February 18, 2012

Top 100 Famicom games – as voted by the Japanese

In 2003, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Famicom, Famitsu magazine in Japan conducted a nation-wide poll to find the country’s 100 all-time favourite Famicom titles. I translated the list for an article on NTSC-uk many years ago, but since being rebranded as Bordersdown all their old articles have been lost. In light of the Famicom’s 30th anniversary next year, and the fact that several HG101 staff have been reading France’s La Bible NES almanac (chronicling every Famicom game ever), I thought it time to repost the list. I’ve made several translation corrections, plus there’s commentary. Heading photo taken from the Famicom Blog.

Like all voted for lists, this won’t necessarily represent the zeitgeist. I’ve no idea how many people took part, how the voting criteria worked, or even who the intended demographic was (current readers, old people, everyone?). When Famitsu was running it I browsed their website and looked through the set-up. It seemed fairly standard, and I’m pretty sure I was able to vote, though they were obviously missing western exclusive titles.

Regardless, with Famitsu being the largest magazine in Japan, and because it was run in conjunction with Nintendo, plus there was a DVD released featuring interviews and commentary, this list stands as Japan’s official statement as to what they regard as the top 100 (or rather 120) games for the system.

Mostly though it’s absurd, baffling, and actually rather dreadful. It re-affirms my belief that democracy as a concept is fundamentally broken, and the general populations of the world are unthinking sheep, utterly incapable of critical thought and in desperate need of a stern authoritative hand to mould them. I also think there’s far too much Dragon Quest in the list.

The list is based on Famicom cartridge games and Disk System titles. There are likely some errors due to my poor translation.

Let’s begin...

1) Dragon Quest 3
2) SMB
3) SMB 3
4) Final Fantasy 3
5) Dragon Quest 4
6) Dragon Quest 2
7) Dragon Quest
8) Legend of Zelda
9) Mother
10) Mario Bros (not SMB)

The top 10, that hallowed realm of debate and contention. Nearly half the list is Dragon Quest, a whopping 40%. There is though a Dragon Quest clone in the form of Mother, effectively filling half, with DQ’s main Final Fantasy filling the list with another turn-based RPG. And Mother is the only one which is remotely interesting. Then there’s a action-RPG in the form of Zelda, effectively making 70% of this list an RPG of some form. The remaining three games are all Mario-based platformers, with no.10 being that horrible single-screen title with the POW block.

As the crowning titles for the list, this is not a great start and highlights the obsession Japan has (or certainly had) with RPGs and Dragon Question in particular. As HG101 once stated though, in a Crank Gamer’s entry, all the Dragon Quest games are garbage. Yes, I said it, and yes, I went there.

11) Final Fantasy
12) Kirby
13) Downtown Special - Kunio Kun no Jidaigeki Dayo Zenin Shuugou! (Kunio in Feudal Japan)
14) Downtown Nekketsu Koushin Kyoku: Soreyuke Dai Undoukai (Kunio sports)
15) Spartan X (Kung-Fu)
16) SMB 2 (Lost Levels)
17) Nekketsu Koukou Dodgeball Club (Kunio Dodgeball)
18) Final Fantasy 2
19) Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryuu to Hikari no Ken
20) Sanma no Meitantei (visual novel)

21) Xevious
22) Ice Climber
23) Spelunker
24) Akumajou Dracula (Castlevania)
25) Gradius
26) Goonies
27) Captain Tsubasa
28) Konami Wai Wai World
29) Metroid
30) Takeshi no Chousejou (Takeshi “Beat” Kitano kusoge)

The list starts to get interesting from 11 onwards, with several beat-em-ups and sports titles, especially those by Technos which are excellent, plus a lot of great games which would probably make the top 20 of a US-based list. There’s a couple of weird choices, like the awful Spelunker, and super kusoge Takeshi no Chousenjou, but maybe some older people were feeling nostalgic. Unfortunately entry 31 reminds us that this list is ridiculous by featuring the compilation cartridge of FF 1&2, despite FF1 coming in at 11 and FF2 coming in at 18. Whoever collated the votes should have found a solution so as to omit this. Either by compiling FF1 and FF2 votes into one, ignoring all compilation votes, or perhaps collating them separately and then splitting them evenly between FF1 and 2.

31) Final Fantasy 1+2 (compilation cartridge)
32) Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken (Yuji Horii visual novel)
33) Nekketsu Kouha Kunio Kun (Renegade)
34) Bomberman
35) Ganbare Goemon
36) Wizardry
37) Donkey Kong
38) Okhotsk ni Kiyu - Hokkaido Rensa Satsujin (visual novel)
39) Pro Yakkyu Family Stadium (baseball game)
40) Twinbee

41) Dr Mario
42) Metal Gear
43) Excitebike
44) Fire Emblem Gaiden
46) Dai 2 Ji Super Robot Taisen
47) Tetris
48) Rockman 2
49) Kunio Kun no Nekketsu Soccer League
50) Rockman

The top 50 is rounded off with further Technos games, proving just how popular the company’s Kunio series was. I’m pleased to see this, because all of the Kunio games, with the exception of Renegade, were incredibly awesome. The big surprise of course is that SMB USA ranked 45, despite in fact being a sprite reskin of Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic. Who says the Japanese don’t like American games, hey?

51) Captain Tsubasa 2 Super Striker
52) Ikki
53) Kinnikuman Muscle Tag Match (aka M.U.S.C.L.E)
54) Star Soldier
55) Dragon Ball Z
56) Tower of Druaga
57) Dragon Ball Z II - Gekigami Freeze!!
58) SD “Gundam” Gachapon 2
59) Dragon Ball Z Gaiden Saya-jin Zetsumetsu Keikaku
60) Takahashi Meijin no Boukenjima (Adventure Island)

Man, that’s a lot of Dragon Ball hovering around the 60 mark. It makes me question the score tallying. Did a few guys all submit 100% Dragon Ball lists? How many people voted? What explanation could there be for such a close grouping of similarly themed titles? The Dragon Quest stuff in the top 10 I can understand, because everyone would have voted for them. But a grouping so low down the list would imply... Those who studied Statistics in college, post in the comments section.

61) Ghosts 'n' Goblins
62) Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari
63) Hatori Kun
64) Metal Slader Glory
65) Lode Runner
66) Waganland
67) Balloon Fight
68) Famicom Tantei Club 2: Ushiro ni Tatsu Shoujo Kouhen (visual novel)
69) Valkyrie no Bouken - Tokinokagi Densetsu
70) Momotarou Densetsu: Peachboy Legend

I just want to point out, Momotarou Densetsu (70) is entirely different to Momotarou Dentetsu (73). The first is an RPG, the second a board game. The fact two such similarly named titles are clumped together makes me think very few voted, and those that did must have all put them together on their list.

71) Akumajou Densetsu (Castlevania III)
72) Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link
73) Momotarou Dentetsu (board game)
74) Contra
75) Meikyu Kumikyoku: Milon no daibouken (Milon’s Secret Castle)
76) Rockman 5
77) Rockman 3
78) Hanjuku Hero
79) Dragon Ball Z 3
80) Famista ‘89 – Kaimaku Ban!!

81) Famicom Tantei Club 2: Ushiro ni Tatsu Shoujo Zenpen (visual novel)
82) Kaijuu Monogatari
83) Famicom Wars
84) Family Jockey
85) Rockman 6
86) Dragon Ball
87) Rockman 4
88) Ganbare Goemon 2
89) SD Gundam Gaiden: Knight Gundam Monogatari
90) Legend of Kage

91) Sweet Home (pseudo-prequel to Biohazard)
92) Famicom Jump
93) Yoshi no Tamago (Yoshi’s Egg)
94) Dragon Ball 3
95) Famicom Tantei Club: Kieta Koukeisha Kouhen
96) Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star)
97) Famicom Tantei Club Kieta Koukeisha Zenpen
98) Nekketsu Kakutou Densetsu (4p brawler)
99) Gundam Z Hot Scramble
100) Gradius 2

And there we have it. The final lot included most Megaman games, plus quite a few visual novels, plus another Technos Kunio game. For whatever reason, they also decided to include an unnumbered “Select 20” list. I’m not entirely sure of the criteria for including them, but they were originally in Japanese alphabetical order.

Atlantis no Nazo
City Connection
Clu Clu Land
Devil World
Donkey Kong Junior
JuJu Densetsu
Kanshaku Tamanage Kantarou no Toukaidou Gojuusan-tsugi
Metro Cross
Mighty Bombjack
Nuts and Milk
Route 16 Turbo
Star Force
Yie are Kung-Fu

The entire list is odd, with many strange additions and many even stranger omissions. There wasn’t a single Ninja Gaiden (Ninja Ryukenden) title in the list. Did no one have any fondness for the series? What about Legacy of the Wizard (Dragon Slayer IV)? And why are there so many crappy first entries in a series listed, such as Bomberman, despite the sequels being so much better?

This represents roughly 10% of the entire Famicom back-catalogue. That’s one in every ten games represented. And remember, the Famicom was the foundation of Japanese console gaming even more strongly than the NES was for the US. Production of the systems lasted for two decades (1983-2003). Some of the biggest franchises started on it. The word Famicom itself became synonymous with the idea of home video games. Well, obviously NEC’s home computer ranger was also important to Japan, but for consoles the Famicom wasn’t so much king, as rather Zeus himself.

Do the Japanese have bad taste? It’s hard to say – they had more games than the US, but the US also had many exclusives the Japanese did not see, such as Jurassic Park and GI Joe, both of which were pretty great. Each country was conditioned towards specific games and types of games by availability and the marketing push of publishers. Because of region specific exclusivity, I’d argue that the countries best suited to make judgement on the best games were actually those which existed solely on bootlegs from all regions – where one had access to almost everything.

More importantly, readers of Hardcore Gaming 101, what do you think of the top 120 as chosen by Japan, to represent itself? Post in the comments or on our forums. The list may be out of date by 10 years, but if they were to revote for the 30th, I don’t think there’d be that much change.


  1. Kunio Kun no Nekketsu Soccer League is NOT Nintendo World Cup. The former was never released outside Japan. NWC = Nekketsu Koukou Dodgeball Bu: Soccer Hen. In fact, Nekketsu Soccer League is a (much better) sequel to this game.

  2. You totally lost me when you called the original Mario Bros. "horrible".

  3. Yes, yes you went there. To the place of wrongness!

    Dragon Quest I? Yeah, it's pretty much grinding for its own sake. DQII is better though, and DQIII quite good -- if you choose a balanced party you won't do much grinding at all, but it's still a decent challenge. It's probably better to play it in its SNES or GBC form, though.

    1. I agree with you so much so that I am not even going to counter point the other guy who said that dq3 was unplayable. You get it, the games grew and changed so while the first 2 were rather bad each dragon quest game got something new and in 3(Which is better than final fantasy one in every way and is basically the same set up) it really becomes worth it.

  4. It's Takeshi no Chousenjou, not Choujin. And Adventure of Link, not Adventures.

    Also, I think it's pretty clear that the Japanese have shitty taste. Didn't they vote FFX as the best game of all time in another of Famitsu's polls?

  5. I`m not surprised to see DQ 3 in the top spot. There is a video on YouTube that is quite interesting. Its a Japanese news clip from 1988 documenting the release of that game. They show the usual line up of people snaking around the block, and feature a discussion of how so many high school kids were skipping class to wait in line for the game that the school board was having to take countermeasures. I think the release of that game more than any other in the Famicom`s lifespan was one of those cultural milestones in Japan.

    Its just a shame that the game is basically unplayable.

    I agree though, the list is quite strange. You are probably right in implying that the lower down on the list you go the easier it would have been for people to manipulate the outcome with just a few votes. I`m guessing not many people actually took part in the voting.

    I`d be interested to see how people outside Japan would vote. Probably 70% of these games wouldn`t be in the top 100.

  6. Yes, you don't like it so its garbage. I am really starting to dislike you Sketcz.

    I like how you mention dragon quest games are garbage but then back it up by bringing up games that you like that most would consider garbage (Gi Joe and Jurassic Park which was damn meh). Also I like how you say that hg101 as a whole considers dq garbage yet you have an article that gushes over it on this very site. Please stop acting like word of god, a site like this is a collaboration and the dragon quest games while starting out crap are a consent evolution that gets better in every episode.

  7. Boo! Almost no Sunsoft games such as "Journey to Silius", "Blaster Master", "Batman", "Fester's Quest". No "Little Nemo" or "Ninja Gaiden" either. Pretty weird list indeed.

  8. People were voting with their hearts. Although not the most "hardcore" basis for an opinion, it is perfectly valid and interesting in its own right. The list is loaded up with arcade ports and early platformers and RPGs because that's what was being released for the Famicom at the height of its popularity. This is what everyone grew up playing, and why I think the voters were overwhelmingly middle-aged.

    If you polled a similar demographic in the United States (as opposed to nerds like me), you'd find the combination cartridge SMB / Duck Hunt near the very top, probably above the stand-alone versions. You'd also find stuff like Deadly Towers, RC Pro-Am, Blades of Steel, Wizards And Warriors, Friday the 13th, RBI Baseball, Rad Racer, etc. VERY well represented, simply because those were the games everyone played back in 1988 and 1989, when most Americans first got an NES.

    Conversely, a similar poll for the Sega Genesis would be heavier on Sonic 2-era games, because that's when everyone was getting a Genesis. Personally, I'd love to see more polls like that. I already know what 1UP and Kotaku and RacketBoy think are the best Genesis games.

  9. @Piotyr
    "I like how you mention dragon quest games are garbage but then back it up by bringing up games that you like that most would consider garbage"

    I know, there's a delicious irony in that, isn't there?

    "Also I like how you say that hg101 as a whole considers dq garbage yet you have an article that gushes over it on this very site."

    So it's almost like different people write for the site and contribute different views? I'm glad we agree that this is a collaborative effort.

    As for my dislike of DQ, it falls down to its archaic menu system. I never bothered with V, but I-IV insisted of having me navigate a menu to search, open, use stairs, look down, fix my hair, unsheath the sword, and dial for pizza.

    Final Fantasy on the other hand saw this system and eloquently made everything a single context sensitive button press. It blows my mind every time I think about Horii and his team and their decision to stick with their broken system.

    I don't want to get into a DQ vs FF debate, but I will never be able to take the early DQ games seriously when they have such a ridiculous and arbitrary control scheme, especially when after DQII was released there were other RPGs being made which fixed its problems.

  10. As an addendum, I thought our Cranky Gamers entry on DQ8, covering the entire series, hit all the right buttons:

  11. It's definitely a weird list but I can't get over the omission of Bionic Commando.

  12. Some minor nitpicks:
    17) Nekketsu Koukou Dodgeball Bu
    This was released in the US as "Super Dodge Ball" (if we're going to include overseas titles in parentheses).

    30) Takeshi no Chousejou (Takeshi “Beat” Kitano kusoge)
    It's "Takeshi no Chōsenjō" (Takeshi's Challenge)

    39) Pro Yakyū Family Stadium (baseball game)
    I think this was the same game Tengen released as the original RBI Baseball in the US (before Tengen started making their own independent sequels), but I'm not too familiar with either franchise

    57) Dragon Ball Z II - Gekigami Freeze!!
    Should be "Dragon Ball Z II: Gekishin Freeza!!"

    96) Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star)
    This isn't the same Fist of the North Star game that was released in the US by Taxan (that was actually the sequel, Hokuto no Ken 2).

    99) Gundam Z Hot Scramble
    It's "Zeta Gundam: Hot Scramble".

    68) Famicom Tantei Club 2: Ushiro ni Tatsu Shoujo Kouhen (visual novel)
    81) Famicom Tantei Club 2: Ushiro ni Tatsu Shoujo Zenpen (visual novel)
    These are different portions of the same game that were sold separately (Zenpen = Volume 1, Kōhen = Volume 2).

    95) Famicom Tantei Club: Kieta Koukeisha Kouhen
    97) Famicom Tantei Club Kieta Koukeisha Zenpen
    Ditto for the first Famicom Detective Club game.

  13. "I like how you mention dragon quest games are garbage but then back it up by bringing up games that you like that most would consider garbage (Gi Joe and Jurassic Park which was damn meh)."

    I can't speak for Jurassic Park, but both GI Joe games for the NES were good. Don't automatically assume they're bad just because they're based on a toyline. Kickmaster (by the same developers) was better though.

  14. I'm still amazed at how you manage to get some people so ridiculously riled up, Sketcz! Maybe one day, they will finally comprehend your brilliantly subtle humour. Until then, Ganbare Sketcz!

  15. Was SUPER shocked to see any Metroid games on there, since Japanese gamers (inexplicably) dislike the classic, timeless, forward-thinking, genius Metroid titles.

    Was also surprised to see no Ico at all. Damn! A lack of puzzle games stings as well, and so does the fact that there's no D2. All in all, an EXTREMELY straightforward, mostly pretty predictable list, which was chockfull of me-toos, also-rans, and games that... just... kinda... are... uh... there. Shrug,

    1. There's no Ico and D2 because this is a Famicom-only list.

  16. Haha, Sketcz, my man, you are the king of bad taste. Never change.

  17. The idea that Dragon Quest 3 is unplayable is flat-out absurd. It's a fine example of an 8-bit RPG.

    Now, personally, I'd never put the original Dragon Quest in the top 10, but I can totally see DQ3 taking the top spot.

    I will agree that it's a weird list, though, as there are quite a few games that I'd never consider putting near my top 100. But I guess that just highlights the subjectivity of judging games. And my guess is that the responses were rather limited, as well. I suspect that's how you end up with some of the groupings that occurred.

    1. DQ3 is the best NES/Famicom game. I've always thought so myself. Don't know about 1 or 2, though.

  18. DQIII is technically decent for an 8-bit RPG...but I can't stand the way the NES/FC era DQ games play. They're so incredibly clunky. The SNES version in particular beats the pants off it - the GBC version is better.

  19. Can't believe JOURNEY TO SILIUS wasn't on here!

  20. No surprise that Dragon Quest III is sat at the top! Although I'm shocked that Rockman 2 is so far down.

  21. Calling the Dragon Quest series garbage just makes YOU look like the stupid one man. I'm not a big fan of sports games, but that dosent mean they all suck. Plus, think of how ground breaking those games were for their time. It's easy to pick on old RPG's, but they've given us something great today and I respect them for that alone.
    - Anyways... glad to see Mother made top ten! woot! I am surprised Ninja Gaiden isn't on this list, I love those games. :/

  22. Your statement about Dragon Quest is nonsense. Have you even played a DQ title to completion? 3, 5, 7, 8, and 9 are the gems of the series. Subsequent ports an remakes have addressed your only concrete complaint, namely the controls. Go and play any version of Dragon Quest 5 and try to call it a bad game.

  23. I only got to the second paragraph after the list started before I HAD to comment. Dude, if you have such a problem with jrpg's, then WHY THE HELL are you critiquing a Japanese "best of famicom list"?? Lol
    Did you you really expect double dragon and battle toads
    to top this list just cause it tops yours? And c'mon... Callin' dragon quest garbage?... Seriously? You sound like you're 8 years old. For shame.

  24. You sir are an idiot! Have you even played Dragon Quest!? The whole series is incredible. The reason they have so many RPG's on the top 10 list is maybe because they aren't so easily amused as some Americans. They like a great epic story with challenging gameplay. I can't believe you. Why did you even write this if you don't agree with it? You do sound like your 8 years old! Why don't you grow up and actually put a little bit of your mind into your video gaming experiences. Stupid Asshole.

  25. I love how badly you triggered the Dragon Quest fans.

  26. "These are great games, but to me this is an accurate list top 15. Sum of these games, weren't in this vid.

    Anyone have different opinion?

    1. Megaman X2
    2. Megaman X3
    3. Killer Instinct
    4.: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
    5. Mortal Kombat 2.
    6. Turtles in Time
    7. X Men Mutant Apocalypse
    8. Street fighter
    9. Street Fighter 2
    10 Aladdin
    11. Super Mario All Stars
    12. Spiderman the animated series
    13. Donkey Kong Country
    14. Donkey Kong Country 2
    15. The Jungle Book"

    Regards: Eve Hunt

  27. shit games actually in top of that list