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Top 10 Video Games of the 3rd Generation

VO: Dan Paradis
With a huge leap in design, the games we play today owe everything to this generation. Join as we countdown our picks for the top 10 games of the 3rd Generation (NES, Master System, & PC and Arcade between 1983-1990) In Part 1 of 6 of our Top Video Games of All Time Series.

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Top 10 Video Games of the 3rd Generation

With a huge leap in design, the games we play today owe everything to the generation that revitalized the industry. Welcome to Watchmojo, and as part of our series to the best games of all time, we’re counting down the Top 10 Games of the 3rd Generation.

For those not in the know, the 3rd gereration covers everything from the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Master System, as well as Arcade and PC games released between 1983 to 1990. And remember we’re sticking with one game per franchise.

#10: “Duck Tales” (1989)

Based on the popular cartoon series, the player takes control of Scrooge McDuck as he travels the world with trusty pogo-cane in hand to collect 5 ancient treasures. Borrowing the successful formula of the Mega Man franchise, Duck Tales made a name for itself as one of the NES’ best games by offering non-linear gameplay, excellent control and presentation, a great soundtrack, and an overall sense of adventure and fun.

#9: “Bubble Bobble” (1987)

This action-platformer stars twin dragons Bub and Bob as they blow bubbles to both defeat their enemies, and reach upper levels. Offering one hundred different stages and multiple endings, though this game was ported on many systems, the original Arcade game remains the definitive version, as its physics were tweaked to perfection. This gem was addicting, challenging and at the same time: fun.

#8: “Metroid” (1986)

Featuring an impressive, interconnected world, a memorable soundtrack, and fantastic gameplay that focused on exploration and the retrieval of power-ups, Metroid stands as one of the best games on the NES. Nintendo proved to be ahead of its time by introducing one of the first female protagonists, Samus Aran, as she attempts to stop the Space Pirates from harvesting Metroids, parasitic organisms on planet Zebes.

#7: “King's Quest: Quest for the Crown” (1984)

An enhanced version of the original King’s Quest, Quest for the Crown gives us this classic point-and-click adventure. As the knight Graham, the player is tasked to rescue the Kingdom of Daventry by retrieving three legendary treasures. Notable at the time for its epic journey in which you fight all sorts of creatures and solve puzzles, players could take different routes to go about finding the treasures and saving the kingdom.

#6: “The Secret of Monkey Island” (1990)

Humorous and inventive, The Secret of Monkey Island takes place in the Caribbean during the golden age of piracy. The player takes control of Guybrush Threepwood on his quest to become a pirate, and ends up having to save the Governess from the Ghost Pirate LeChuck and his undead crew. Notable for its witty humour and iconic moments, Monkey Island remains one of the best Point and Click adventure games of all time.

#5: “Mega Man 2” (1988)

Capcom’s platforming-shooter meshes every aspect of a video game perfectly: focused combat, superb presentation, refined graphics, solid narrative - and of course, the music is absolutely fantastic. Taking the role of the Blue Bomber in Mega Man 2, the player set out to defeat the evil Dr. Wily as you face his robot masters, while acquiring new abilities after each defeat that would ultimately prove to be Wily’s downfall … again.

#4: “Alex Kidd in Miracle World” (1987)

Arguably the best game on the Sega Master System, Alex Kidd in Miracle World rivalled Super Mario Bros long before a certain hedgehog appeared. As the titular Kidd, you used your fists to battle Janken the Great and his henchmen throughout 17 bright, colourful stages. The vehicular sequences, as well as the rock-paper-scissors boss fights were all ahead of their time. This game came preloaded on some Master Systems, ensuring owners of the Console never got bored of him.

#3: “The Legend of Zelda” (1987)

The game that started one of the greatest franchises in video game history, The Legend of Zelda effortlessly combines adventure, roleplaying, action, and puzzle-solving. Our hero Link gathers the 8 pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom in order to stop Ganon and his Triforce of Power. With an epic score and deep gameplay mechanics, as well as the previously unheard of ability to save your progress, the land of Hyrule and its Legends would soon become household mainstay.

#2: “Tetris” (1984)

Who knew placing blocks would create a gaming phenomenon? The Russians, apparently, as this USSR produced blockbuster lit the gaming world on fire. With gamers matching falling puzzle pieces in order to clear lines and get that elusive high score for decades, Tetris has set itself as a timeless classic with multiple iterations that keep the core gameplay intact. As such this is our first worthy contender for our Best of All Time list.

Before we reveal our number one game of the 3rd Generation, here’s a look at some of our Honourable Mentions:

“Contra” (1987)

“Maniac Mansion” (1987)

“Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!” (1987)

“Altered Beast” (1988)

“Dragon’s Lair” (1983)

#1: “Super Mario Bros. 3” (1990)

Pushing the NES to its limits, Super Mario Bros. 3 hit the nail on the head in every department. With 8 worlds to explore, as well as new power-ups Raccoon, Frog and Tanooki suits, the game has Mario and Luigi face off against the Koopalings and Bowser in order to, once again, save the Mushroom Kingdom. While the original Super Mario Bros will always remain a classic and a blue print for all video games that follow, Super Mario Bros. 3 is the epitome of the perfect NES game and another game worthy of our all time list.

Disagree with our picks? Let us know which games from the 3rd generation you would include among your favourites. For more awesome Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to


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