Some people don’t realize how important the Nintendo Entertainment System was to video games in North America. The NES revived the industry after the video game crash and made video games mainstream in North America again.
There were 716 video games released for the console in North America. That number does not account for the unofficial Nintendo games released or video games that were exclusive to other regions.
Just as much as people love to play Nintendo, it’s even more fun with a friend. There are many games that could make the list of the best 2-player NES games. So we are going to break down our choices for the best multiplayer games ever released on the NES? Let’s check out.
The Best Two Player Games For The NES
The original arcade had up to three people who could pick a monster, destroy buildings, eat people and fight off the army trying to shoot your monster off buildings.
Unfortunately, the Nintendo only offered only two different monsters but that’s about the only drawback. Two players could work together to get through the 128 levels.
There was also a competitive aspect since each player had their own score so you could compete against one another while working together.
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
This game demonstrated how you handle a sequel.
The first Double Dragon only allowed 2 players to fight each other after picking from a few characters. Now 2 players could fight through the levels cooperatively to avenge the death of Billy’s girlfriend.
There were two modes of multiplayer. Mode B would let you take life away from each other if you hit your partner while attacking. If you landed the death blow to your partner, you would get their life. This made working together hard so you could pick mode A and you wouldn’t be able to hurt each other with your attacks.
Of the trilogy on Nintendo, I think Double Dragon II was the best Double Dragon game.
Blades Of Steel
This may look like a normal hockey game but it’s one that doesn’t ruin the fun by enforcing the rules. If there is a fistfight, the loser is the one that goes to the penalty box!
Blades Of Steel offers eight teams to choose from. While there were a lot of different sports games released on Nintendo, very few are looked at as fondly as Blades Of Steel. This is not just another hockey game, it was the hockey game, and it still holds up today.
Your girlfriend went out for a walk and was kidnapped, now you have to defeat all the enemies and get her back. Probably one of the best co-op games of all time, you must defeat enemies by trapping them in bubbles then popping them.
When you kill the enemies, they turn into fruits, vegetables, or other snacks. Eat them all up then it’s off to the next level (all 100 of them).
It’s not as easy as it sounds. Every level the enemies get harder, and you have to be quick. Take too long on a level and the Skel-Monsta will appear making it even harder.
As you go through levels, there is some help. There are tons of hidden specials such as one-ups, level warps, and power-ups that help your bubbles fly faster and farther.
The viruses are on the loose, but Dr. Mario has the cure. The viruses are red, yellow, and blue and Mario will throw pills of the same color in an attempt to wipe them out.
It’s a color-matching version of Tetris where you need to line up 3 half capsules with a virus of the same color.
While it is a fun single-player experience, it shines in head-to-head competition. In two-player mode you play a best of 3 series to see who wins so even if you lose, you have a chance to recover, but the action is fast, and mistakes are costly.
Balloon Fight was Nintendo’s answer to Joust. Leave it to Nintendo to take a good game and make it better.
You fly around with two balloons strapped to your back and frantically try to pop your opponent’s balloons. At the same time, they are frantically trying to pop yours.
It is a matter of who has the high ground (Obi-Wan would be proud).
If you are playing with a friend then you can work together on the enemies and compete to see who gets the better score.
Snow Bros. is a little-known arcade port that has a Bubble Bobble vibe to it. Some may argue that it is more of a knock-off than an homage they expanded on a lot of o things
The princess has been kidnapped and it’s up to Tom and Nick to rescue her. Instead of bubbles, you are equipped with snowballs. You entrap enemies by shooting them with snow until they are in one big snowball that you can launch into oblivion.
Like Bubble Bobble the enemies get harder, there are tons of levels and similar power-ups to collect. But the game takes things up a notch with epic and well-thought-out boss fights that will force you to work as a team.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers
After the success of DuckTales, what would be the next game based on afternoon cartoons to get a video game adaptation?
The next game chosen was Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers.
Two main characters means two players. This game allows you to go through the levels of your neighborhood together throwing things like blocks and you could even resort to throwing each other to take out enemies.
Everybody who has played this game remembers holding the Nintendo zapper and shooting at ducks on their television. What most people do not know is 2 players could play this game against one another.
A second player could plug a controller into port #2 and control the duck as player 1 with the zapper tried to shoot the duck down. And that changes everything!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game
Nobody will argue that the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on Nintendo was disappointing. They didn’t even allow cooperative gameplay on that game since it was one player.
When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game came out, it seemed Konami gave the fans what they wanted. People could team up with a friend to take on the foot soldiers and the villains from the cartoons that we recognized.
This game was a Nintendo port of the arcade game but there was an extra level put in this game that was not originally in the arcade game. So if you wanted to team up with a friend to kick the butt of the foot clan then you had the game at home that would allow you to do that.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project
Shredder has kidnapped April so it’s time for the turtles to cut their vacation short and teach Shredder and the foot clan a lesson.
This game was beating up the foot clan until you got to the boss and then defeating the boss to move on to the next level. That was also in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade game, but the Manhattan Project did bring some new things to the table.
The old attack you used to kill foot soldiers is gone but you can flip foot soldiers behind you which worked well especially if you were surrounded.
Also, every ninja turtle has its own special attack they could use which would take health away. If you died in the middle of a level, you could pick another turtle to play as.
This game may be the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on the Nintendo but it was only a few months after this game came out when people got Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time.
If you love run and gun gaming then this is the game for you.
You can team up with a friend and you have different kinds of guns like the machine gun, the laser, and the beloved spread gun to kill all the enemies in your way.
Contra is a really tough game for people who never played it, but the Konami code will let you and a friend start with 30 lives each. So enter that code, get a friend to play with you, and play the best shooter on Nintendo.
The aliens are up to no good and it’s up to you and a friend to take them out again. Many of the guns you used in Contra are back so you are well equipped.
Unfortunately, beginners will have to make sure they work together because they don’t have the same benefits that the Konami code gave you in the previous game. In this installment, the Konami code lets you start out with 10 lives instead of 30 so you and a friend are going to have to be skilled if you want to get through this game.
Super Mario Bros 3
Critics argue that the best game on Nintendo is either Super Mario Bros 3 or the Legend of Zelda. However, Zelda didn’t let two players play together so Super Mario Bros. 3 is definitely the best multiplayer game on Nintendo.
Everybody loved the original Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros. 3 built on that. Instead of a few different types of levels like outside, the cave, and a castle, we had eight worlds of levels to go through to rescue the Princess.
Two players would take turns trying to complete levels to get through the worlds and you could save items that you got from Toad’s house when you met up with him.
If you love Super Mario Bros, you are not going to find a better experience than playing Super Mario Bros 3.
Little Ninja Brothers
This game also known as Super Chinese 2 may look like a normal roleplaying genre. There is one big difference that separates this from the Final Fantasy and Dragon Warriors of the time. The combat.
Throughout the game, you fight enemies on a single screen in a beat ’em up style. When you get to the boss the pace changes to more of a turn-based roleplaying system.
This is one where you want to bring a partner as the game is difficult if you decide to play alone. Two players can play together as a team which makes the difficulty fairer but it still is challenging even if you team up with someone.
Legendary Wings is a unique shmup where instead of a plane or space ship, you control flying soldiers with magical wings. If you like games like Life Force and Xevious then you will like Legendary Wings.
Two players can work together if you have a friend to play the game with you.
While some enemies seem to repeat, the backgrounds continue to change up. So if you like shooters, and have a friend to play with then you should give Legendary Wings a try.
The game show where you risk your life for prizes like money, toasters, and VCRs. Smash T.V. is run and gun slaughter-fest that has you going from room to room shooting all the enemies coming after you.
In the arcade, this was a dual joystick game with one joystick controlling your direction and the other your gun. If you have an NES four score then each player could use two NES controllers with one d-pad controlling where you move and the other d-pad controlling which direction you shoot.
If you try to play the game with one controller then you end up moving in the direction you are shooting which makes the game more difficult (but still fun).
Two players work together but each player has their own score and it’s all about the loot. Nothing else matters. Get that money!
This is only on the Tengen version but you can play multiplayer co-op on Ms. Pac-Man. One will control Pac-Man while the other player controls Ms. Pac-Man!
When the ghosts touch one Pac-man, only the one that got touched loses a life but both players have to start from the ready position.
If both players touch each other, one player bounces off the other. This may be harder because you have to stay near each other so one player doesn’t disappear off-screen.
On the other hand, there are two targets for the ghosts to chase instead of the ghosts only coming after you. So whichever strategy you prefer.
Co-op Pac-Man has become very popular over the years. It amazing the Tengen was so far ahead of their time. It was just as fun then as it is now.
Just like the last game, 2-player is only available on the Tengen release.
It was the rarer version of the game for the console and was a near-perfect arcade port. Much better than the official Nintendo version.
Not only does the Tengen version have head-to-head battle mode, they even feature a unique co-op mode that has you both placing bricks on the same board.
Greatness comes at a cost. Due to licensing issues, many of these cartridges had to be destroyed back in the day making it one of the most sought-after NES games for collectors. Pricing online is well over $500 for a complete copy.
River City Ransom
River City Ransom is a cross between a beat ’em up and a roleplaying game.
You go through levels beating up enemies and they drop coins. You collect the coins and you can spend that money on new moves or food to restore health.
You play as a person named Alex and Ryan. Slick is holding Ryan’s girlfriend hostage and he claims to hold the rest of the city captive and he has demands.
Never understood why Ryan is player two. If you play single player, you play as Alex, and the goal is to rescue Ryan’s girlfriend? Plot aside, fun Beat ’em up action for all.
Another game that is all about the loot! This one is much harder than Smash TV, but just as fun.
Like all the games on this list, two players can work together as they go through the levels and you won’t lose as much health as you would if you were playing by yourself.
Multiple character classes to choose from, tons of secrets, and 100 levels add to the replayability.
Throughout the years, this has become the franchise where if you wanted to succeed, you needed backup.
There are a lot of games to choose from if you want to play on Nintendo with a friend. However, these are the NES games that would give you the best multiplayer experience.
Now that the Switch is offering classic NES games with their online service, you have a chance to jump back into some of these games even if you don’t own the original console.
So if you haven’t had the pleasure of playing all of these, call over some friends to play some great games. If you have played these, call a friend over anyway and play some of the best games of the Nintendo library.