Top 10 Games of 1986

Top 10 Games of 1986

A revolutionary year for gaming

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Miscellaneous Top 10s on

The mid-80s was an exciting time for gaming whether you preferred playing on a PC, NES, or arcade machine. Last year on New Year's Eve, I counted down the best games of 1995 but this year we're going back even further. Step into your hot tub time machine and put on the latest Pet Shop Boys album because here are the best games from thirty years ago!

10 Salamander / Life Force

Shoot 'em up fans were just coming down from the high that Gradius gave them the year before when Konami released the game-changing Salamander (known as Life Force in North America). Now, arcade-goers could play alongside a friend and experience a mix of vertically and horizontally scrolling shooting action. For more on this fantastic arcade shooter, read my full Salamander review.

9 Adventure Island

Hudson has always been one of my favourite developers and Adventure Island was my go-to game for frantic platforming when I was a wee lad. Heck, I still pop it in nowadays for a quick fix of crazy 2D action. The tropical setting, cute enemies, satisfying power-ups, plenty of hidden secrets, and addictive need to keep eating fruit before you croak keeps me hooked for hours. Later, I found out that Adventure Island isn't much more than a port of Wonder Boy but you can read all about that in my Wonder Boy retrospective.

Adventure Island screenshot
Master Higgins needs to get his head out of the clouds

8 Kid Icarus

Some games can be both incredibly frustrating and undeniably addictive. Kid Icarus will make your hands tense up with rage but once you start to uncover the Enchanted Weapons and Sacred Treasures, you'll soon get your revenge. There are so many weird moments and enemies (like those pesky Reapers) that'll make you scratch your head yet the odd nature of it all is strangely compelling.

7 Out Run

Developers were striving to make realistic racers for years yet Sega turned the genre on its head with this surprise arcade hit. In fact, it isn't even a racing game since you're not actually competing. Instead, you drive as far as you can within the time limit. With a pretty girl by your side in a luxury convertible and the branching open road ahead, no wonder arcade junkies couldn't get enough of this revolutionary driving experience. There's nothing quite like choosing your favourite tune then putting the pedal to the metal!

Out Run screenshot
You can almost feel the wind blowing through your hair...

6 Starflight

We've had a few NES and arcade games but here's a PC title that not many gamers are aware of. Starflight was one of the pioneers of the open-world sandbox genre by providing a non-linear space exploration adventure where you combat enemy ships, mine for materials, and form diplomatic relationships with alien races. Assembling a crew of capable chums then heading out into the vastness of space in order to explore new planets, discover interesting creatures, and make a heck of a lot of money in the process is just awesome.

5 Bubble Bobble

Before creating Bubble Bobble, Fukio Mitsuji noticed one omission in arcades: games that appeal to girls. So, he created a non-violent experience featuring cute characters and items, colourful visuals, and one of the catchiest songs ever composed. Little did he know, gamers of all backgrounds would consider Bubble Bobble a timeless arcade classic and still be enjoying it in 2016. Rest in peace, Fukio Mitsuji; Bub and Bob are proud to have you as a father! To learn more, read my complete Bubble Bobble review.

Bubble Bobble screenshot
Don't eat too much popcorn, Bub, you might get a tummy ache!

4 Castlevania

Games such as Mega Man, Adventure Island, and Bomberman defined my childhood. However, no series brings back as many memories as the groundbreaking Castlevania franchise. When it first debuted, gamers were captivated by its satisfying 2D action gameplay and horror setting featuring a cast of various albeit cliché monsters such as skeletons, mummies, bats, and zombies. Similar games came across as silly yet Castlevania's serious tone, amazing soundtrack, and eerie environments set it apart as a must-have NES masterpiece.

3 Dragon Warrior (AKA Dragon Quest)

Although modern gamers know Dragon Quest primarily for spin-offs such as Builders and Heroes, most don't realise that it was actually one of the first RPGs (even predating Final Fantasy). Before Dragon Quest, RPGs were inaccessible and only appealed to hardcore genre enthusiasts. However, Yuji Horii and team developed an easy to pick up and play experience. You control a hero on a mission to defeat the Dragonlord. Unlike future RPGs, you play as one character as opposed to a party. This makes for a more intimate battle system as you can perish at any moment. I could go on all day but instead, just read Mary's article: Why We Need More Dragon Quest.

Dragon Warrior screenshot
If ghosts are really that cute then what are people so afraid of?

2 Metroid

The concept of an open-world 2D action game was something fresh and exciting. Therefore, Metroid's maze-like planet Zebes sparked gamers' imaginations as they explored every nook and cranny hoping to uncover new treasures as well as encounter a variety of dastardly aliens. It's also quite an early game to feature a female protagonist. Equipped with a powerful upgradable suit and a beam-firing arm cannon, Samus Aran remains an iconic bad-ass when it comes to video game heroes. Watch out, Mother Brain!

1 The Legend of Zelda

From the ever-impressive Shigeru Miyamoto, The Legend of Zelda encapsulates everything that goes on in a child's imagination when they're left to their own devices as you're thrown into the world of Hyrule as the elf-like Link who tries to gather pieces of the Triforce so he can rescue Princess Zelda from the evil Ganon. Exploring your surroundings as you aimlessly discover the world around you is a satisfying gameplay premise that continues to be a staple of gaming thirty years later. Before The Legend of Zelda, no console game allowed you to save your progress without using a password so good thing Nintendo decided to start putting batteries into cartridges! Overall, The Legend of Zelda is one of the greatest games of all time and it holds up wonderfully even in this day and age.

The Legend of Zelda screenshot
Link contemplates his life decisions that led him to entering a tree's mouth
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