StarTropics is the little game that almost could. Developed by Nintendo of America and released exclusively in North America and Europe (most NES games made their way to North America after being released in Japan), this game gets an awful lot right. And the stuff is gets wrong can be overlooked or chalked up to system limitations and industry standards in the late 80's.
The game stars some guy named Mike, and he travels from tropical island to tropical island (and eventually to spaceship, because video games) in search of his missing Uncle. Each "level" is a cave/temple that you have to find your way out of, battling enemies with yo-yos and baseball equipment. The strict "grid" movement (left/right/up/down one space at a time) can be frustrating, but the puzzle solving and exploration in the caves make up for it. Most of the time, anyway. It starts off pretty simple, but by the third or fourth level, this game gets viciously difficult. And a little cheap. It's still hella fun, though.
This is one of those games I never owned as a kid, but I have fond memories of playing anyways. I had a friend that lived across the street from me, and he owned it. I'd go over to play games with him and we'd spend hours dying on the same boss (that God damned fire guy). But we kept coming back for more. Something about this game just hooks you. As frustrating as it can be, it really is fun to play.
It also shipped with a letter (an actual physical, piece of paper letter), that had to be dipped in water to reveal a secret code necessary to finish the game. It might sound hokey in 2019, but in the early 90's, that was some crazy innovation! My friend and I never had that paper, but luckily for us we never got that far in the game, so it didn't matter.
StarTropics is a beauty, and it just released on Nintendo's Switch Online Service. If you haven't played it, I strongly recommend giving it a shot. But not until after you listen to my buddy Chris and I talk about it for half an hour on this week's podcast!