Top 30 Best Multiplayer NES Games: Listing The Best Of All TimeThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
The Nintendo Entertainment System brought console gaming to life, following the terrible 1983 video game crash.
Nintendo’s strategy was to deliver only the best possible games and nothing else.
This strategy paid off in the long run, giving way to a library of excellent titles that are still cherished today by retro gamers.
The NES library obviously also includes some great multiplayer games in there too. Most of them are pretty simple and straightforward, especially compared to today’s standards.
But there’s a lot to love about the NES multiplayer stuff, and these titles offer a great way to spend an afternoon in Nostalgialand.
30. Balloon Fight
Welcome back to the 80s, an era when simple was more than enough.
Balloon Fight is an extremely straightforward arcade game.
Controlling a bird with two balloons strapped to its back, you and another friend will traverse different stages with platform arrangements and hazards along the way.
Your goal? Defeat enemies by popping their balloons.
The addition of a Ballon Race mode, which adds a time limit and side-scrolling stages, does help make a somewhat basic experience more varied.
But do not expect to play Balloon Fight for hours upon hours: the simplicity will eventually pop your balloon and bring you back to 2020 after a while.
29. Ice Climbers
Like Baloon Fight, Ice Climbers harkens back to an era long gone.
In this game from 1985, you’ll have to climb a high mountain to reach the condor that slone food from our main characters Popo and Nana.
Armed only with a hammer and an impressively high jump, you and one other friend will have to break layers of ice, defeat bad guys, and avoid traps to reach the goals.
While the level design is tight, the game never reaches an excessive level of complexity, making Ice Climbers a good multiplayer game for older players and younger kids alike.
28. Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers
Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers belongs to a time when Disney-licensed games were a sight to behold, and a real joy to play.
Starring the two popular chipmunks, you and another friend can join in together to complete the game’s stages set in locations throughout the city.
While Rescue Rangers is a very straightforward 2D puzzle game that does everything you would expect, the amazing level design more than makes up for the lack of innovation.
Who said that you’ve always got to be revolutionary to be good?
Excitebike is a true Nintendo classic. And it plays like one!
Excitebike is an extremely straightforward racing game where you race solo, or against someone on a bunch of masterfully-designed tracks that’ll put your racing skills to the test.
Especially if you’re racing against AI, as they act more like obstacles than real opponents.
The thrill of the race is heightened tenfold with another player, as all races become a chaotic mess where only the player who can master it will emerge victorious.
This is one of those games you like more as you play it more.
Most people know ROB through Super Smash Bros.
But did you know that the cute robot was actually an NES peripheral?
Gyronmite is one of the few games that actually made use of ROB, as the game is built around multiplayer. And the tiny robot can take the place of a second player if nobody wants to actually play with you(I’m sorry).
Controlling Professor Hector, players have to navigate stages to collect dynamite and avoid enemies.
Each stage has red and blue gates that are operated by a second player, or through ROB, requiring coordination between two players to be both quick and effective.
As such, Gyronmite is different from most NES multiplayer games. And it’s a breath of fresh air despite the somewhat straightforward experience.
Can you think of anything more ludicrous than jousting on an ostrich? I honestly cannot.
Despite its wacky premise, Joust is a very fun arcade game that’s simple to understand, but a little harder to master.
Controlling a fearless knight mounted on an ostrich, you have to navigate different levels featuring platforms to take down enemy knights riding buzzards.
Yep you read that right.
As you can imagine, things get heated rather quickly. Multiple hazards are introduced as the game proceeds, and only a fellow ostrich knight will make sure you can win your sacred war against these buzzards.
24. Legendary Wings
Legendary Wings is truly a godsend for classic shooter games aficionados.
I mean, which game features both top-down and side-scrolling shooting?
The game is not just remarkable for its gameplay variety, but also for its weapon upgrade system. By shooting down enemies and avoiding any hits yourself, you’ll be able to acquire multiple upgraded weapons that will also act as armor.
Basically in the vein of Super Mario Bros., so you’ll only level down once when you’re hit and not just die(like in pretty much all classic shooter games).
Not getting hit, however, is a feat in itself. Due to the relentless waves of enemies the game sends your way.
But by enlisting a friend you’ll be able to get to the end of the game and stop the terrible supercomputer gone haywire, saving the world once again.
Jackal isn’t just a throwback to those overhead shooters that were so popular in the early 80s, but a great shooter in its own right.
Controlling up to two fully-armed jeeps, you and another player have to explore a variety of dangerous enemy territories, rescue POWs, and bring them to safety.
Saving prisoners not only makes you feel good about yourself(I guess), but will also reward you in-game with more powerful weapons.
Yet much like with Dark Souls, you lose your weapons if you lose a life.
With the ability to control screen scrolling, Jackal is a definite step up from the glorious shooters that came before it. And an explosive way to spend an old-school flavored evening with a friend.
22. Mario Bros.
Mario and Luigi haven’t always been the heroes we know today. Their beginnings were extremely humble.
Mario Bros. feels more like a sequel to Donkey Kong rather than the first evolutionary step for the Super Mario series.
Sure, Mario Bros. introduced staples like the Koopas and the POW block.
But the game’s slow pace, floaty physics, and score-based progression feel nothing like the series we’ve loved since 1985.
This is not to say that the game is a bad one. The contrary actually, as coming up with effective strategies to take down the Koopas together with a friend is so much fun.
Maybe not as much as blasting them with the Fire Flower powers, but it will do for an evening or two.
21. Marble Madness
Double the marble spheres to double the fun!
The original Marble Madness is an amazing arcade experience that still holds up incredibly well today.
Thanks in large part to the excellent levels that put a greater focus on maintaining the marble sphere’s momentum, rather than just avoiding the obstacles and enemies.
In two-player mode everything shifts to a higher gear, transforming each stage into a hectic race where obstacles will be the least of your problems.
20. Super Dodge Ball
Dodge Ball is a sport that only true men and women can enjoy. Especially on the NES.
Even if there were other dodge ball games on the NES, they would never stand a chance against Super Dodge Ball, thanks to its over the top experience that allows players to unleash some wild special shots.
These shots are a requirement for any self-respecting dodge baller, as just hitting opponents once is not enough to eliminate them: you have to knock them down!
And if you get the itch of showing your team members who’s boss, you can play Bean Ball mode. This’ll let you have at them with your special teleporting shot!
One or two players, fun is always guaranteed.
19. Dr. Mario
A career jump is not something easy to accomplish. But Mario made his PhD look effortless.
Dr. Mario is a rather straightforward puzzle game that tweaks the formula made popular by Tetris.
At the start of each stage you’ll find different configurations of viruses. These can be cleared by matching the viruses’ colors with those of falling pills.
The multiplayer mode plays pretty much like the single-player mode, only that creating chains causes additional capsules to fall onto the opponent’s screen, making virus clearing far more complicated.
A simple and straightforward NES experience that you do not need a medical degree to enjoy.
18. Smash T.V
The evolution of TV shows will take a very wrong turn in the future, if it’s anything like this.
Smash T.V. on the NES is a straight port of the top-down shooter arcade game that sees up to two players clear different stages featuring paths, hordes of enemies, and powerful bosses.
Your objective is to take them all down for the joy of the audience.
Given how easy it is for enemies to overwhelm a single player, playing Smash T.V. with a friend is the way to go to. Just to see how it ends and win big money and mysterious prizes.
17. Blades of Steel
The best hockey game ever released on the NES is also an incredibly fun multiplayer game too.
While most of the experience is straightforward, Blades of Steel is a fast-paced game that makes virtual hockey feel fun.
Just pick any of the eight teams, start the match, and make sure to score as many goals as possible. Easy, right?
Some rounds will often involve completing a frantic mini-game where you will have to literally beat your opponent and send him to the penalty box.
And here you thought that hockey games weren’t any fun!
Fancy some early tower defense with a pinch of Tetris sprinkled on top?
Rampart was so ahead of its time that no game managed to replicate or improve its formula to this day.
The main goal of the game is to protect your castle by building fortifications and cannons, which will be used to shoot down enemy ships coming from the coast.
But nothing is as straightforward as it seems.
Fortifications are built using randomly generated Tetriminoes-like pieces, and a wrong piece can turn the building phase into a nightmare.
If the single-player mode is too challenging for you, and believe me it is hard… well then you can challenge another player at building fortifications & cannons without having to worry about waves of enemy ships.
Two different play styles, both a whole lotta NES fun.
15. Bomberman II
With Bomberman II, everyone can learn to love the bomb… man.
Bomberman II is arguably one of the best entries in the series that almost no one played, as it was released very late into the NES era.
Plus most fans picked up Super Bomberman 2 for the SNES instead. It was just a newer title with better graphics/music and the SNES really made the classic NES feel so old.
Which is a shame, as the original game established many of the features that have been expanded upon in future entries. Stuff like the cutesy Bomberman character design, the labyrinths full of blocks to blow-up with upgradeable bombs, and the exciting nail-biting multiplayer mode.
This pits two players against eachother to see who is the truest Bomberman in the world. Or, in the maze.
14. Tetris 2
While the addition of a simple versus mode in Tetris 2 is remarkable by itself, it isn’t the only thing the game has going for it.
Instead of presenting the puzzle game experience that millions of fans have come to know on the Game Boy, Tetris 2 changed the rules by making players match the colors of the now irregular Tetriminoes, and fit them around blocks that are already present on the board.
These twists work rather well, spicing up a formula that risked becoming stale after a while.
Simple twists, but bold and terribly effective!
13. Gauntlet II
Two players is always double the fun.
Four players, four times the angry shouting!
The NES port of the classic arcade Gauntlet II is a more than solid. It’s one of the very few home versions of the game that can be played by four players together.
Picking one between the Warrior, Valkyrie, Wizard, and Elf, four players have to explore 100 complex mazes filled with hordes enemies to defeat.
The relatively straightforward co-op experience is enhanced by the massive differences between the classes and the level of coordination needed to survive until the end.
This includes features that make Gauntlet II one of the best co-op multiplayer experiences of all time, esepcially for an old-school RPG vibe.
Basically we’ve got Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with different anthropomorphic animals, and a real attitude.
That’s Battletoads on NES.
Heavily inspired by TMNT as well as side-scrolling beat’em up games like Double Dragon, Battletoads is a hardcore experience that only battle-hardened players will be able to conquer.
Most due to its extremely high difficulty level and limited number of extra lives.
Controlling either Pimple, Zitz, or Rash, up to two players will have to dig through dungeon-y locations and beat up anything that moves with their fists.
Or maybe pick up one of the many weapons lying around.
Making the experience more exciting is the level design that brings some platforming mechanics to the mix. Well, and the fact that you can damage your companion, potential turning Battletoads into a battle royale where no one is truly safe.
11. Spy Vs Spy
How do you stop a sneaky spy? With another sneaky spy, of course.
Spy Vs Spy features a unique combination of action and strategy elements that hold up great 35+ years after the game’s original release.
Controlling two spies who are out for one another, you play inside an embassy featuring interconnected rooms.
The winner is whichever player reaches the exit before the other does, trying to stop each other by laying out traps along the way.
The experience is made deeper and more engaging not only by the limited number of traps out at once, but also by the fact that traps can be triggered by either player.
Sometimes, we really are our greatest enemy.
10. R.C. Pro-Am II
R.C. Pro-Am II is your game if you have more than a few friends over your house.
And a lot of extra controllers.
The best racing game ever released on the NES is also among the best multiplayer games ever released on the console.
Race, collect money, and become the best racer in your friend group. Well, on the NES anyway.
With great track design you’ll never get bored.
And with an upgrade system that allows players to use money to improve vehicles and purchase weapons, you can keep this interesting for hours.
Plus you’re playing through a unique isometric camera view, so you’ll hardly find anything better on the NES if you have a desperate need for speed.
9. Track & Field
Sports are always physically demanding, even if they’re virtual sports.
Track & Field is among the best, if not the best, sports games ever released on the NES.
Far from being the most realistic simulation ever, Track & Field still manages to be fun thanks to the many variations of the “press the A and B button as quickly as possible” mechanics.
While you will have to be fast in the 100m events, the other events alternate between lightning-fast button presses and more accurate inputs, making this a joy to play in both single and multiplayer modes.
Contra is a game that needs no introduction.
It has a legacy that is still revered to this day.
By reading about the game’s mechanics, however, you may wonder how this NES title could be possible, considering the simplicity of the straightforward side-scrolling shooting experience.
By playing it together with a friend you’ll understand why Contra is so revered.
Yhe action is fast-paced and exciting, the enemies fierce, the power-ups explosive, and the boss battles epic.
The NES port masterfully captures the true spirit of Contra, with an extremely important benefit: you won’t need dozens of quarters to make it to the end. Only patience.
So much patience.
7. Snow Brothers
Something I learned from this game is that snowmen can be really scary.
Despite the obvious similarities in stage design and premise, Snow Brothers is not exactly a Bubble Bobble clone.
Unlike the classic arcade game, Snow Brothers features some interesting, almost puzzle-games like mechanics. If you’re good, you can take down all of the enemies in a single stage with a well-placed snowball.
Even if you do fail over & over again, Snow Brothers is still a lot of fun. Partly thanks to the many power-ups that improve your snowball-making skillset.
And it’ll keep you busy fighting bosses that constantly throw fire at snow creatures. Life’s never easy for a snowman!
6. Double Dragon II: The Revenge
Billy and Jimmy Lee are back with a vengeance on the NES, and they can finally fight evil together!
The biggest addition of Double Dragon II: The Revenge over the original is the co-op multiplayer mode, so it makes sense to rank highly on this list.
And it’s strange that multiplayer was mysteriously absent in the original game.
Two players can take on the Black Warriors gang and their leader Willy together, and avenge the beautiful Marian.
With improved combat controls, enhanced smoothness, and more complex yet fun-to-play-through levels, Double Dragon II: The Revenge is an incredibly tight experience.
It’s still fun decades after release and there’s a good reason people love this title so much.
5. Tecmo Super Bowl
Finding decent sports games on the NES was rather rare.
Playing a more-than-decent American Football game was not.
Tecmo Super Bowl is not only one of the best multiplayer games ever released on the NES, but also the first-ever licensed sports game.
Thanks to the NFL license, players could play as their favorite team and also take part in a real NFL season, complete with a Super Bowl and Pro Bowl.
The gameplay is still arcade oriented, as it always was at the time.
But the streamlined football rules help the game with a fast-paced experience that even those who don’t understand football can enjoy thoroughly.
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game
You spent thousands of quarters, picked between the four Ninja Turtles, and saved April from the clutches of the Foot Clan at the arcade.
It’s time to take the experience home.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game is a straight port of the excellent arcade sidescrolling beat’em up.
So you’ll venture out in New York City and beyond, beating up the members of the Foot Clan and taking on powerful bosses like Bebop, Rocksteady, and Shredder.
All with the familiar cast of Leo, Don, Mike, and Raphael.
Despite the obvious downsizing in terms of graphics and total number of players(only 2-player on NES), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II is still really fun. Something that every TMNT fan should try at least once.
It’s Pizza Time!
3. River City Ransom
River City Ransom is not just lighthearted take on the Double Dragon formula, but something much more.
River City Ransom is the first proper side-scrolling beat’em up meets role-playing game ever released.
Controlling Alex and Ryan, two players can fight waves of street thugs to reach the school where Cindy(Alex’s girlfriend) is kept. Saving a damsel in distress, surprising huh?
While the duo starts somewhat weak, the money you get from defeating enemies can be used to purchase powerful special moves like Stone Hands and Dragon Feet. These make the combat way more dynamic than in a regular beat’em up.
With the two character’s stats being upgradable as well, there’s truly no deeper beat’em up than River City Ransom on the NES: the game where two dragons are clearly left behind.
2. Super Mario Bros. 3
Sometimes I wish I could get my memory erased to experience Super Mario Bros 3 for the first time all over again.
I’m sure a lot of you share my feelings too.
SMB3 is among the best games ever released on any console.
It offers some seriously masterful level design and totally new power-ups that allow Mario to turn into a frog or a raccoon, which was incredible at the time of this game’s release.
Greatness is doubled with the multiplayer mode too, as it allows two players to control both Mario and Luigi, take turns to complete stages, and access some exclusive mini-games that play like the classic Mario Bros.
Two is better than one, but three definitely takes the cake!
1. Bubble Bobble
Bubble Bobble is a classic among classics, and the best NES multiplayer game ever released.
This arcade-turned-console game is still today an extremely enjoyable experience. If you’ve never played, you’ll get it pretty fast.
It sees up to two players control the bubble-shooting dinosaurs Bub and Bob, aiming to defeat all the colorful baddies found in the game’s many stages.
The balanced yet tough levels effortlessly made the jump to the NES, which makes it a great way to enjoy the game at home.
Even with the obvious graphics downgrade that prevents it from being an arcade-perfect port, this is still a multiplayer NES title for the record books.