1985 Review: Ranking the NES Launch Lineup

The NES Launch Lineup.

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome back to Georg Mack Plays the Classics. We’re going to take a moment here and talk about the NES launch year of 1985. There were seventeen games released on the console at the October 18th launch. Which of those were the best and which were the worst? Let’s answer that question today!

Note: I was not able to play Gyromite or Stack-Up in a way that was able to produce a grade. So, we’ll be looking at the other fifteen games that were released on that fateful day.

15. Golf – D (1.1)

Golf on NES was a poor title.

Golf is a destitute mix of terrible sound and terrible fun. I wouldn’t want to pop this in my system and play it.

14. Baseball – C- (1.6)

At least the view is behind the batter.

Baseball came in as a decent outing for the first baseball game on the system. It did everything average enough, except for the fun.

13. Wrecking Crew – C- (1.7)

Mario is better as a plumber.

Before Mario was codified as a plumber, they had him work on construction sites. Wrecking Crew is an example of one of Nintendo’s varied takes on the puzzle genre.

12. 10-Yard Fight – C (1.8)


While it isn’t an amazing football experience, 10-Yard Fight is something and what it does, it does well. It’s fun enough.

11. Ice Climber – C (2.0)

I rated this one too high.

Ice Climber is an odd little platformer that doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but is pretty much average across the board.

10. Soccer – C (2.1)

About to be a GOOOOAAALLL!!!

Soccer is an alright experience. It doesn’t have anything to keep you playing for a long time in one sitting, but a game here or there is fine.

9. Pinball – C+ (2.2)

I don’t care for the layout of the machine

Although graphics and sound were below average, the pinball gameplay worked well and it was fun to play.

T7. Wild Gunman – C+ (2.4)

Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes.

The first of the Nintendo Zapper games to show up on the list. The graphics are nice and the fun factor is there, but it could use a little more variety in gameplay.

T7. Tennis – C+ (2.4)

Prepare for a marathon session.

The best of the launch sports titles, Tennis can be a real marathon if you’re playing on the right difficulty.

T5. Hogan’s Alley – B- (2.5)

Which of these things is not like the others?

The light gun game I played the most as a kid, Hogan’s Alley has the right kind of difficulty to make it one of the top titles of 1985.

T5. Duck Hunt – B- (2.5)


If I’m honest, I think Duck Hunt benefited from nostalgia on my part. You can’t deny having a good time while playing, though.

4. Excitebike – B- (2.6)

Putting a big hill on my course.

The only racing game at Nintendo’s launch, Excitebike does enough to scratch that itch. Very good gameplay and the need to win the next race sets it apart.

3. Clu Clu Land – B- (2.7)

Finishing a puzzle is satisfying.

Probably my sleeper hit of 1985, Clu Clu Land brings enough to the yard in the gameplay, difficulty, and fun factor to really make a good game.

T1. Kung Fu – B (3.0)

Bob Sapp knocking my head off.

Tied in the top spot for best games of the NES launch lineup is Kung Fu. There is room for improvement, sure, but the top notch difficulty scaling and fun really make this a great game.

T1. Super Mario Bros. – B (3.0)

It’s the best game of 1985 for sure.

If you didn’t expect Super Mario to top the chart, you probably haven’t been watching my individual reviews. I’d argue it has the best graphics, sound, and gameplay, which parlays into a lot of fun.

There you have the top 15 games of the NES launch ranked. I was probably a little too generous with some of the grading in 1985, but I’ll stand by what I said. Averaging all grades together gives a 2.2 or a C. Not a bad start. 1986 has more than twice as many games over two systems. It should be interesting to see how they stack up. You can find a link to each video in the description. Give them a watch and let me know what you think about the ranking! We’ll see you next time, because it is your destiny!

Ranking the NES launch lineup Video on YouTube