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A Time Mages Guide to Video Game Systems – Nintendo Entertainment System

Ho there!

Perfect timing, come in! Our friend, the Time Mage, is back. This month, he has tales of a system of pure entertainment, he calls the Nintendo. You know, old Balbo had a Kobold friend called Nynn Ten Toes.

I wonder if there is any relation. No? You don’t think so? Wait, isn’t there a tavern in that one town, far south, near the river… I recall the place was called The Nine End Os. Perhaps a connection there—

*cough* *cough*

Sorry, Marius. I’ll hand the room to you.

Marius: Thank you, Balbo. Nice to meet you all, my name is Marius Breaux. I am a Time Mage and I have traveled from a distant realm and time.

Where I have been, children of all ages play something they call video games, and one of the most popular and best-selling gaming systems ever made was called the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES.

What is the NES? (as if you don’t already know)

Known as an entry into the great Third Generation of Video Game Home Consoles, the NES was something new and exciting all the kids longed to have. When the NES was released in 1985, it breathed new life into the video game industry after its crash during the year of 1983.

Initially released with a light-gun and robot peripheral, the NES was unique for many reasons, one it was solely marketed to children. Yes, trust this old Time Mage when I say the 1980s were a ‘relaxed’ and special time. Kids of this era had all sorts of toy guns, some that were very realistic looking too! Could you imagine your child running about the farm with a real-looking toy crossbow? No? I thought so.

Well, anyway, unlike Atari 2600, which had a joystick, the NES had a small rectangular game controller with a few buttons to press and a cross-shaped “d” pad that was used in most games to direct the player’s character like…like a puppet. The NES controller was light and fragile compared to the Atari joystick, but it allowed for better options.

The NES was released with a fun set of 17 games, each stored and delivered on a cartridge just like the Atari 2600 games, but much larger. One of the most notable differences from the Atari 2600 to the NES was the graphics. The NES could put more pixels on the screen and use more colors at once than Atari could. Atari had a color palette of 128 whereas NES had one of 448. This allowed the NES to have more blended colors and shades. Another big difference was the NES had a composite output.

Nintendo’s 1985 launch games were an exciting variety that included: Duck Hunt (included with console), Gyromite (included with console), 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong Jr. Math, Excitebike, Golf, Hogan’s Alley, Ice Climber, Kung Fu, Mach Rider, Pinball, Stack-Up, Tennis, Wild Gunman, and Wrecking Crew. (Later, it was released with mega hit Super Mario Bros.)

The NES ruled the game world for many years, and released over 715 games in categories like sports, adventure, shooters, strategy, educations, platform, racing and much more! But for gamers who played on Second Generations video game consoles, if offered something new…role-playing games with a much deeper gaming experience.

The Best Fantasy Games on the NES

The Legend of Zelda

Let’s begin with one of the classic OGs, a game that is synonymous with the Nintendo Entertainment System.

The Legend of Zelda was released in 1987 and quickly rose in popularity due to its fun, exciting, and innovative gameplay all matched with music that stuck in your head like an earworm. This game had it all! Adventure, puzzle solving, cool weapons and gear, and nonstop action that could be a decent challenge at times. Gamers who played The Legend of Zelda will never forget the frustration of having a Like Like steal their new shield or a boulder crash into them, no matter how hard they tried to avoid being hit. It was like those things were laser-guided! Right?

One of the earliest games people played to “beat” or “solve,” The Legend of Zelda was massively popular when it came out and started a world-renown franchise that is alive and well today. Which Zelda games have you played?

Thank you Link, for all the good times we shared slaying Octoroks, Tektites, and Leveers toocause with your help this hero pulled through…

Final Fantasy

Heard of it?

NES’s Final Fantasy was the first installment in another massive game franchise that is immensely popular today. But back in 1987, when it was released, it could not rely on incredible CGI and lengthy video cut-scenes. There were no flashy characters or complex battle systems.

Games back then needed to be filled with fun gameplay and good stories to become popular and that is what Final Fantasy had.

You begin the game by picking four characters from the following classes: Fighter, Thief, Red Mage, White Mage, Black Mage, and Black Belt. Like most pen-and-paper RPG games, each character class has restrictions on what weapons and armor they can equip.

Final Fantasy also opened the gaming world to a large selection of magical spells! In this first game, magic is broken into Black and White types. Basically, offensive and defensive spells.

The game plays from an overhead perspective, and you spend most of your time in the overworld, towns, and dungeons. In combat, the side-by-side battles are turn-based, which gives you time to strategize.

Set aside around 20-30 hours to play this one. Possibly longer, because you will spend lots of time running around the world in search of random battle encounters to level up.

What makes this game so important? It’s a perfect example of a simple and easy RPG game with basic options and commands that acts as a great way to introduce gamers to the genre.


Faxanadu is a fun side-scrolling action-adventure role-playing game with some superb graphics (for its time) in a color palette that fits the genre perfectly. Faxanadu was released in 1989 and was considered enjoyable by players of Adventures of Link and other fantasy and platformer genre games.

Nintendo is known for having games that were hard to beat. Faxanadu is not one of them. If you get lost, the townsfolk will point you in the right direction. If you get stuck, one of your items will likely help you get yourself to the next stage.

Therefore, overall, the game gets good reviews, with one sticking point…a password saving system that brought nothing but pain and disappointment to many young gamers. The good news is the game is not that long and can finished in 1-3 sittings.

Along with good graphics, Faxanadu has a fun story and entertaining music, making it a polished game most gamers will try to finish. Have fun exploring the dungeons, sit back and enjoy the background music.

Just be extra careful when you jump. Faxandu’s nameless hero jumps with skills similar to Woody Harrelson in a basketball movie.

Dragon Warrior 3

Dragon Warrior 3 sold over 1 million copies on day one. It was released late on the NES in 1992, after several successful predecessors, and is often considered the best of the series on NES. However, there are many people that would argue that Dragon Warrior 4 deserves that title.

Regardless, Dragon Warrior 3 utilizes all the common role-playing game standards. You can expect to venture out into the world to fight and gain experience points while collecting and equipping new and better gear.

One part of the game that people enjoyed the most was the ability to form your own party of adventurers and add and/or remove characters from the group. Hot-swappable characters? Yep!

There are lots of places to go, lots of things to do, lots of cool-looking enemies to battle, and challenging boss battles.

If you played and enjoyed Dragon Warrior 1 and 2, then Dragon Warrior 3 will feel like a natural progression with good improvements. And you will have options on what system to play it.

Don’t have a NES? You can play it on Game Boy Color, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 4, or the Switch.

Upon completing this classic, you will feel like you have finished a good series of games and likely want to play it again. Oh, and have fun hunting those metal slimes.

Ultima: Exodus

Feeling very much like a true pen-and-paper RPG experience, Ultima: Exodus was released in 1987 and set its players on the path of a long harrowing adventure.

Expect to play this one anywhere from 20 to 60 hours with lots of time inside dungeons, grinding for experience and gold, and being caught by visible overworld random encounters.

Makes you wonder, are they truly random when you can see them? You just can’t seem to escape them as you chug through the forests.

Ultima: Exodus allows you to pick all the characters in your party and balance it however you want. Choose from 11 unique classes! Fighter, Paladin, Cleric, Wizard, Ranger, Thief, Barbarian, Illusionist, Lark, Alchemist, and Druid.

To add another layer of customization, the player also chooses from different races they want their characters to be. Those five races are: Human, Elf, Dwarf, Bobbit, or Fuzzy. Each race allows for bonuses to the basic characters stats required to level your classes properly and fully.

For example, a Dwarf Fighter will be allowed to level their Strength stats fully to 99 max points. Whereas creating a Fighter who is a Fuzzy will only allow their Strength to reach 25 points…but give them excellent Dexterity.

There are team builds that will make the game easier than others. So, the developers put a fraction of the game’s difficulty into the gamer’s hands.

Want a real challenge? Form a team using a Ranger, Lark, Illusionist, and Druid. 🙂

The game’s background music is fun, and the battles have an addictive yet repetitive melody that you will be humming during the hours you are not playing.

Remember, you might have reached the experience you need to level, but you will have to visit Lord British (the developers’ mascot of sorts) first. Only after a chat with Lord British can you reach the next level. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot ride your horses into the castle or defeat Lord British in combat. (Trust this Time Mage, he tried. Several times.)

Did you play Ultima: Exodus? Did you learn any of the tricks? Are you ashamed to admit you created extra characters just to sell their gear and blood…for just a small amount of extra gold? No, you never did that?

No…no… Marius never did that either…


Since the NES sold over 61 million systems worldwide, it is fair to say that Nintendo opened the world to some of its first real classic role-playing video games on home consoles.

As seen above, it was also the starting point of several massive video game franchises. It is nearly impossible to find a gamer, new or old, that has not heard of and probably played a game from the Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, or Zelda series.