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Nintendo Power's Top 10 Reviewed Games of 1989
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on October 01, 2015   |   Episode 83 (Show Archive)  

When Nintendo Power first launched in 1988, it was primarily known for its previews and strategy guides. One year in, Nintendo decided to add review scores, giving players a chance to see what the editors thought of the presentation, play control, challenge and, most importantly, fun. While the editorials were the furthest thing from hard-hitting, the review scores helped weed out the bad from the good.

In 1989, Nintendo Power reviewed a total of sixty games. These were all for their 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, and centered around titles published by third-parties. Whether it was to help prop up other companies or simply not admit their own games had flaws, Nintendo rarely scored their own games in the early years.

Using the scores found in Nintendo Power, today we're going to count down the top ten games of 1989. With mostly third party games on the list, I guarantee you'll never be able to guess the ten games in question. Don't believe me; see for yourself as we list Nintendo Power's Top 10 Games of 1989.

Wheel of Fortune Jr.
When it comes to syndicated TV game shows, you're either a 'Wheel Watcher' or somebody who prefers Jeopardy. You may like both, but when push comes to shove, everybody has a preference. In 1989, Nintendo Power chose Wheel of Fortune. Noting the game's slick presentation and great gameplay, the editors of Nintendo Power gave Wheel of Fortune Jr. high marks across the board. They were even impressed with the difficulty, which would challenge even adults, they asserted. For what it's worth, they also liked Jeopardy Jr., giving it near equal marks. However, the deciding factor came down to the gameplay.
Disney's DuckTales
Long before Lara Croft raided tombs, Scrooge McDuck traveled the world digging up buried treasures. DuckTales is, without a doubt, one of the best 8-bit action games of all time, and Nintendo Powers agreed. They loved this treasure hunt, noting that it's one of the best looking games of 1989. Other magazines largely echoed Nintendo Power's praise, though many disliked the easy difficulty. EGM's Sushi X complained that DuckTales was "toned down for the younger players," while Raze wished the game was made with more interesting characters in mind. More interesting characters? I think it's safe to say that Scrooge McDuck is the most interesting duck in the world.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
When today's gamers look back at the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cart on the Nintendo Entertainment System, it's usually to mock its terrible controls and frustrating difficulty. But there was a time when Nintendo Power couldn't stop gushing over this miserable action game. In their words, they liked the "fantastic action and control," as well as the "cool storyboard graphics." GamePro disagreed, noting the absence of multiplayer and average gameplay. Electronic Gaming Monthly was even harsher, giving it a 4 out of 10 and concluding it is "not a true Konami game."
From a pure visual standpoint, few games impressed Nintendo Power more than P.O.W. This SNK brawler offered a dizzying amount of levels and enemies. Although they compare it to Double Dragon, Nintendo Power loved the hand-to-hand combat and spent the whole review praising the gameplay, graphics, sound and theme. But more than anything, the magazine enjoyed the story, including the central villain -- Government of Offensive Network (GOON). They liked the idea of taking the beat-em-up out of the street. I tend to agree.
Batman: The Video Game
Even in 1989, players knew to be cautious of games based on popular movies. Batman: The Video Game defied expectations and became one of the best games of the year. The sixth best game of the year, according to Nintendo Power. They loved the dark level designs and cinema scenes right out of the movie. Batman was universally praised by other critics, so it shouldn't surprise anybody to see it on the list. For what it's worth, some magazines complained that the game didn't adhere to the movie's plot. Computers + Video Games called the action title a "letdown," but ultimately gave it a solid score.
The Adventures of Bayou Billy
"There's crack shoot'n, four-wheeling, mud-flying, fist fighting action packed into Konami's soon to be released game" trumpets Nintendo Power. They're not wrong. The Adventures of Bayou Billy is like a cross between Patrick Swayze in Road House and a fever dream. Nintendo Power loved the game's varied missions and great graphics. They were also won over by the unique storytelling and character. Billy not only offered the usual beat-em-up stages, but also light gun levels and even driving missions. In an era when games rarely mixed genres, it's easy to see why Nintendo Power was so impressed with The Adventures of Bayou Billy.
Fester's Quest
Despite concluding its run in the late 1970s, The Addams Family continued to live on through reruns. Apparently it was popular enough to warrant Fester's Quest, the action/adventure game Nintendo Power couldn't stop talking about. Giving it a 4.5, this was one of the magazine's favorite games of 1989. They were especially impressed with the different types of gameplay and the large boss creatures. In the same month, Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the game an average score of 5 out of 10, calling out the extreme difficulty and unbeatable bosses. "Fester's Quest is a very average game," lamented Ed Semrad in 1989.
Stealth ATF
In a world filled with 2D sidescrolling platformers, it's easy to see why Stealth ATF impressed the editors at Nintendo Power. This is an action-packed air combat simulator complete with an impressive cockpit view. Sure, the scaling and animation isn't very good, but there weren't a lot of games like this on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. The magazine gushed over the gameplay and challenge, though didn't seem as keen on the overall presentation. For whatever reason, Nintendo Power chose to call this game Stealth Eagle instead of its actual name, Stealth ATF.
Proving yet again that Nintendo Power was open to new experiences, the editors gave Shadowgate the second highest score of the year. They raved about the graphics and puzzles, calling it "a gaming experience like no other." Unfortunately, not all critics were sold on this point and click adventure. Nintendo Magazine System called the puzzles "illogical" and called Shadowgate an "annoying adventure with crappy graphics and nauseating sound." They gave it a 26 out of 100, one of the lowest scores of the year. I'm with Nintendo Power on this one, Shadowgate is a classic.
The Three Stooges
With a score of 4.7, The Three Stooges was Nintendo Power's best reviewed game for nearly a full year. The magazine was impressed by the variety of stages and the over-the-top humor. But other magazines weren't as excited about the exploits of Larry, Curly and Moe. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave it tepid scores, calling it a collection of "simple obstacle courses." They complained that there wasn't a lot of excitement, but at least "the graphics and sounds are absolutely incredible." But for whatever reason, this Three Stooges mini-game collection spoke to Nintendo Power. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.
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