If you’re talking about consoles with games you can really sink your teeth into, the original Nintendo Entertainment System probably isn’t the first hardware that would pop into your head. Although its library is packed with hidden gems, the NES is fairly primitive by modern standards of gaming, both in terms of graphical fidelity and performance, and it lacks much of the functionality that players of current-generation systems take for granted nowadays. Notably, the ability to save your game is not a given among its library. In fact, many NES games have no save functionality at all, giving players no way to continue a game across multiple play sessions.
However, while many of the most well-known NES games were designed as brief, replayable romps — such as "Super Mario Bros." and "Mega Man 2" — there are still plenty of games with extended runtimes on the system. More than a few landmark JRPG franchises got their start here, including "Final Fantasy" and "Dragon Quest," and these games offer up meaty experiences that can take players dozens of hours just to finish once. But while the NES game that actually takes the longest to beat is, indeed, a JRPG, it’s also not one of the usual suspects that players might anticipate.
Might and Magic takes the cake
According to aggregate player data on HowLongToBeat, the NES game that will take up the most hours of your time is "Might and Magic Book One: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum," a 1990 port of the 1986 Apple II game of the same name. The game’s page lists the average time to simply beat the main story as roughly 43-and-a-half hours, with the average for all playstyles clocking in at roughly 58 hours. That’s no slouch, even by modern standards. But what exactly do players spend all that time doing?
While some gamers may recognize "Might and Magic" today as a semi-dormant action-fantasy series from "Assassin’s Creed" publisher Ubisoft, it looked pretty different back on the NES. The first game thrusts players into the mystical world of VARN, where they control a party of characters searching for — go figure — the secret of the Inner Sanctum, a fabled location. While that premise may sound rote, the game’s story is surprisingly inspired, and some of its plot twists may genuinely catch players off-guard.
Might and Magic Book One has a LOT of content
As for gameplay, "Might and Magic Book One" uses a turn-based combat and movement system and employs "Dungeons & Dragons"-esque mechanics. Players can build characters, selecting from various classes, mythical races, and morality alignments. VARN is traversed from a first-person viewpoint, with random encounters shifting the player into combat.
While there’s no shortage of lengthy RPGs on the NES, those looking for a truly extended adventure on the system would do well to check "Might and Magic" out. Even better, some fans of the franchise feel that the NES port is the way to play the game, thanks to its added gameplay polish and updated art style from the original PC version. Others found its music to be way too annoying to put up with the long playtime required to complete the game. Your mileage may vary, but "Might and Magic Book One" definitely deserves kudos for delivering 8-bit role-playing on a grand scale.