This is a section dedicated to a few games that either didn’t rank high enough to make the aggregate list, or just weren’t mentioned at all. There were over 700 games, official and unlicensed, released in North America and Europe so some good games are bound to be left out. In my experience, about half the games in the NES library would be considered good with maybe 150 being great. If you’re trying to find all the great games, here’s a few sites that have compiled some good neglected puppies lists:
I really like almost all the games those guys mentioned, but since this is my site let me share with you a few of what I would consider rad under appreciated NES games. If you find yourself saying “Hey! Where’s [insert game here]?”, it may be covered in the Top 100 List, in the above mentioned lists, or in the Top 2-Player Games, Outliers, or My First Games sections. If it’s a Japan only or unlicensed game odds are I didn’t give it a spot. Nothing against those games, but this site is really dedicated to the official NES library which excludes the Famicom and all the bootlegs. If there’s still some games that weren’t mentioned already, please feel free to list them in the comments section below.
I fucking love this game and if you don’t feel the same way you can just eat all the shits. This game truly separates the rads from the squares. You know how when you’re walking down the street and you pass a kid with a really wild colored mohawk? How do you react? Do you A) passively take note because you’ve seen hundreds of similar “outrageous” haircuts and you’re not impressed or do you B) stop, drop jaw, “y’huck” to yourself, take a picture, and then remark to no-one what a bunch of “crazy looking folk” there are around? OR do you C) hit that guy up for mushrooms, take some, and then spend the day lying face down staring into the grass and wondering what it’s like to “be” an ant? If you chose the option C, you’re ready for 3-D Worldrunner.
Worldrunner is often criticized for being a Space Harrier clone (and if that were true there are way worse games to be a clone of) but in truth the biggest similarity between them is the way the screen moves…and that’s just silly. You wouldn’t call Ninja Gaiden a clone of Super Mario Bros just because the character moves forward while the screen scrolls? Or is it just that more games lacked the mind unlocked awesomeness to have you view your character from behind as the world races toward him?
Anyway, if you’ve never played it here’s the gist. Your guy is running forward avoiding enemies, picking up power-ups, and jumping like he’s on a tiny version of the moon. You can get weapons, but your best bet is just to avoid everything and this is best done by mastering the jump. Like in Mario Bros, you can control how high or how far your guy goes by how hard you tap the button or by pressing back to lessen the distance of your jump. There are whole sections where you’re leaping across chasms for a solid minute (seriously the abyss stares back at you from it’s endless black nothingness) and one false jump equals death. At the end of the level the game goes from platformer to shooter and you’ll have to blast a dragon or two out of the sky to move on. Also now your guy can fly.
The graphics are super simple but clean and the music is incredibly catchy in a way I can only compare to Bubble Bobble, annoying and repetitive at first but eventually you won’t be able to live without it’s gentle mind-numbing melody. And honestly, there is absolutely no game like this on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It is truly unique in both style and gameplay.
Oh yeah, and it can be played in 3D! Spoiler alert!
This game’s full title is “Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2“, not to be confused with Bubble Bobble Part 2 which was also released on the NES in 1993. Rainbow Islands is very much in the same spirit as Bubble Bobble: you jump around killing bizarre but somewhat cutesy enemies while collecting food and jewels (story of my life, am I right?!?). Unlike Bubble Bobble’s static screen levels, Rainbow Islands makes you continually jump up and up and up to reach the end of each sub-level (4 per main level). There are 7 main levels in all (plus a bonus 8th level), and each one has a different theme ranging from classic horror to robots and at the end of each level is a different boss. There’s even a level made to look like Arkanoid!
What makes Rainbow Islands so fun is the gameplay. Your guy shoots rainbows which create bridges for him to walk on. He can shoot them directly at enemies, or shoot them above enemies and then jump to drop the rainbows on them. Performing the latter means you’ll collect a random diamond, the color of the which depends on where the bad guy’s corpse landed. If you collect all 7 diamonds you get a giant diamond after the boss fight and if you collect all the big diamonds you get to go to Level 8. You’ll also get powerups like the speed shoes, the pots which let you shoot faster or shoot two rainbows at once, and a whole slew of other weird stuff. AND LOOK AT ALL THIS SHIT. It’s insane!
What makes the game so fun and the replay value so good is that there are several ways to play. You could run straight through Rainbow Islands just blasting the multicolored shit out of bees and vampires until the game is over, or you could painstakingly and obsessively navigate each stage so that you get every diamond, big diamond, and power-up making you’re little dude (and by proxy you yourself) immortal. Be warned though, collecting the diamonds and items without being killed is like being on a roll with craps: when you’re winning you’re feeling euphoric – a cocaine rockstar playing a double necked bass on the moon – but eventually your luck’s going to run out and you get real low real quick.
In life, will you burn out or fade away? Let Rainbow Islands be your litmus test.
Holy sweet Christ this game is terrifying. Seriously, I’m home alone typing this and a text from my ex-girlfriend literally made me jump.
Uninvited is the third point and click style RPG from ICOM, along with Deja Vu and Shadowgate, and this is my favorite of the three. Point and click adventures are very primitive by today’s standards, but considering the first games I played were entirely text based (You find yourself in a dark room. To the east is a door. To the west, another door.) this looks pretty awesome to me. Basically you’re introduced to a static screen and given options like “Use”, “Move”, “Examine” etc. Depending on what you interact with and how you interact with it makes the events in the game occur. As you make your way through the haunted mansion, you’ll pick up items to help you (and sometimes harm you or sometimes do nothing) and encounter evil spirits and monsters.
There are two really great qualities to this game that make Uninvited stand out above other similar games. First, the atmosphere is perfect. The music and imagery mixes with the intense fear of dread to create a truly thrilling feeling while playing. Second, this game is fucked up. I mean seriously FUCKED UP. You know how when you were a child and you accidentally changed the channel and watched 15 minutes of Hellraiser or you and your friend went into his unfinished basement where the lights didn’t work and it smelled like dank dirt and monsters? Well, can you imagine playing a game like Uninvited as a kid and seeing screens like these:
You’d be scarred for life! And there’s no warning labels or anything like that since this was way before recommended ages were in place. So you’d be at the store like “gee mom this looks swell can I get it?” and then you go home to try out your brand new $50 joyful romp, only to have a zombie Two-Face bite you with the accompanying message “The miserable dead now welcome your company”!!!! That’s awful!
Speaking of awful here’s a full compilation of every death scene in Uninvited. Enjoy!
For this game I asked my good friend Scott Morris to contribute his thoughts and memories:
“I still try to dream that I’m in this game. No, I don’t dream that I’m playing it, I try to dream that I am living in this game. When I can’t sleep, especially when I’m on the road and in a strange bed, I pretend that I’m below deck, laying on a sturdy rack while my ship clips through deep ocean waters. I don’t reckon I’ve ever told anyone that before.
I must’ve got that darn game around 1993; we always got things like Nintendos a bit later than everyone. My folks were plenty generous, they just figured we could entertain ourselves in the yard or the nearby nature trail for a few years while they waited for the price to drop. It must have been around 1989 or 1990 before we even got an NES system. Either way, my parents quickly tired of Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt and my brother soon found girls far more interesting than playing a hand-me-down version of RBI Baseball 3 with his kid brother, so soon I had full control over the console. It even sat in my bedroom, connected to an old television set. Mom rode me up to the Sage Hill shopping center one summer day, across the bridge over Peachtree Creek where the old man sold tomatoes off of his tailgate, and into the Blockbuster Video. By junior or senior year of high school I’d be working in that very store, though I’d be over nintendos and after girls by that age, too. But that day, back in ’93 or so, inside that Blockbuster, I’d spend my chore money on a sort of NES Rosetta Stone: a brand new, glossy copy of Nintendo Power that promised to walk me through each and every level of The Legend of Zelda. Yes, the original 1987 Legend of Zelda. I told you we got things late at my house. Back at home, I immediately sat down and spent the summer slashing my way through underground levels and secret stairways, buyin’-somethin’-will-ya every chance I could. I still doubt I ever fully conquered Zelda. I just never was too good at video games.
One thing I was good at in those days, or at least enjoyed thoroughly, was reading. I often read the same thing, over and over. That copy of Nintendo Power was more ratty and dog-eared than a Playboy that your best friend’s older cousin stole from his dad’s house. It was probably the only video-game related magazine I’d ever purchased in my life; I generally stuck to the used copies of Reader’s Digest my Mom-Mom sent in the mail or an issue from Dad’s extensive National Geographic archives. Within its well-read pages – and I’m finally getting to the point here – was a three or four page review of what I consider the greatest cartridge ever produced for the Nintendo Entertainment System: Uncharted Waters. Just look at the cover. A ruggedly handsome captain in the finest 16th Century duds fighting off a pirate with one hand while his other wraps around the waist of a busty maiden? And right there, next to said busty maiden, in bold letters, the words “ALL HANDS AHOY!” I was sold.
Playing this game took hours. You began as a rather relatable teenager in Lisbon, and had to put in time on the short European trade routes amassing wealth before you could enter the world of warships, pirate battles, and sextant-guided exploration. It really took forever. I mean, a trip to the New World literally took 10-15 minutes of sailing across the same empty blue sea, screen after screen, and you might run into a storm and never make it. Uncharted Waters was like some kind of beefed-up, intensely detailed Oregon Trail. There were bar wenches to bribe, exotic goods to trade, crew members to recruit, random treasures to discover, foods to be rationed, and even poker games to be played at port. Maybe it’s just that I had never played a role playing game. Maybe I’d only ever read fantasy stories and had never actually been inside one, but I can tell you right now that I loved this game. I probably spent the good part of a year thinking about it nearly every day, even if I wasn’t playing. It probably wasn’t historically or geographically accurate and it seriously took forever to accomplish anything, but I beat the hell out of this game. Got the girl (a Portuguese princess nonetheless), got the gold, crossed the globe. To this day, Uncharted Waters is the only game I have ever had the attention span, or maybe ability, to complete. Is that part of why I love it? Sure, it’s gotta fit in there somewhere. But there has got to be something more to it. I mean, I’m thirty-four years old and I still try to dream that I am in this game.”
“1999 – What appeared to be a harmless meteorite crashing into the Nevada desert turned out to be Darc Seed, and evil alien creature with horrible powers. By shooting strange magnetic rays, Darc Seed had turned the helpless nation into zombies and had brought the Stature of Liberty to life to do his dirty work. These rays has also given him control over many deadly weapons, but none more powerful than the legendary samurai sword, Shura. When the great head of the samurai, Namakubi, heard the sword had fallen into evil hands. He set off immediately for the United States. For only he possessed the strength and knowledge to recapture the magical sword and free the US from the evil clutches of Darc Seed.”
Zombie Nation is absolutely one of the most bizarre games for the NES, beginning with your character. Unlike most shooters where you control a ship (or presumably you play as a person controlling the ship) in this game you play as a severed head of a dead samurai who drops vomit and shoots eyeballs. OH-KAY. You make this guy fly around America blowing up rocks and buildings along with numerous enemies all of which are built in front of a post-apocalyptic nightmare. You can blow up almost everything on the screen even if you can’t really tell what you can shoot and what you can avoid. Unlike most shooters, you have a lifebar so there’s no one hit one kill scenarios although there are weird background hazards like smokestacks and laserbeams that essentially do the same thing.
Like most shooters, Zombie Nation is incredibly difficult. You can play the boards on easy or on hard and believe me the easy setting is insanely difficult. The graphics are pretty amazing and the soundtrack is kickass. And if nothing else, it’s worth popping in just to experience its absurdity. Plus, it also has the best box art of any NES game ever:
- A) You’re a dragon.
- B) If you hold down B, you keep shooting. You’d be surprised how many old school shooters force you to repeatedly press the fire button.
- C) When you get certain power-ups you grow more heads. You eventually look exactly like King Geedorah (Take me to you Leader). Sometimes you get two baby dragons that flank you but then they’ll turn into extra heads. Paging Doctor Freud am I right? Eh? Eh?
- A) When you get hit once you lose all the power-ups you’ve acquired. Not only that, but some of them actually make you weaker. Why oh why would I intentionally want less than three heads? That’s crazy talk!
- B) Pressing B fires in the air and pressing A drops bombs. This is a common mechanic (a la Gun Nac) that forces you to attack enemies on the ground and in the air in two separate ways, thus adding to the challenge. Unfortunately since this game isn’t in three dimensions, there are certain sections where distinguishing between ground enemies and air enemies is absolutely impossible.
- C) The graphics are kinda doo-doo. I mean they’re not “Hide your Children!” ugly, but you probably ain’t taking them to prom or anything.
KICKMASTER North American Release Date: January 1992 Genre: Action / Adventure Developer: KID Publisher: Taito
In Kickmaster, you play as Thonolan who looks like a combination of Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden and Simon Belmont from Castelvania, and those games are pretty clearly the inspiration for Kickmaster. Unlike those guys, his only weapons are his feet and he wields that one-two combo with a vengeance! The graphics are excellent, the control is great and actually pushed the boundaries of what an NES controller can do, and the music and sounds are pretty good (if somewhat unexceptional). The real standout quality of this game though is it’s action.
Kickmaster has elements of RPGs such as use of magic and experience points leading to leveling up. Personally I only used one of the many magics you acquire (healing), but the leveling up part is very useful. Every time the Kickmaster levels up, he gains a new kick attack ranging from a drop knee attack from above to a sliding kick from below. They are for the most part very awesome and add a dynamic to the gameplay that is both fun and addictive. I say for the most part because a couple of them can really fuck you over. The flying jump kick for instance will absolutely send you flying uncontrollably into a pit, as will the slide kick. The one that’s a true mixed blessing is the regular kick. It upgrades twice over the course of the game and the final upgrade is a 2 second long animation which means if you missed your target (or were trying to do another move but the controller didn’t respond correctly) your dude just flails about leaving you totally vulnerable.
The game has a weird difficulty balance as well. The first 7 levels are pretty easy for an NES game and as you level up and get more magic your guy gets stronger which in turn makes the levels even easier. On top of that you have infinite continues so eventually you will succeed, that is until the final level. For the first time all game, your character can fall down pits and the level is designed to make you fall down all of them. Even with infinite continues you’ll start chucking you’re controller in frustration. It’s a very annoying change to the gameplay and is extremely reminiscent of some of the harder Castlevania III levels. Otherwise, this is a real gem in a genre that is chock full of them.
For being such a big developer with so many popular titles, Capcom actually has a few rare and expensive games. Taito is definitely king of the hard to find rarities, but Capcom is close behind with titles like Duck Tales 2, Snow Brothers (more on that bad boy in the 2-Players section), and Mighty Final Fight. Like those other titles, MFF is really good and while very much the NES take on the SNES game Final Fight, what it lacks in graphics it more than makes up for in charm.
You can play as one of three characters: Guy (fast but weak), Cody (medium everything), and Haggar (slow and strong as all fuck). Each of them has four special moves plus a desperation move and a super move you can learn by advancing levels. Like the original Double Dragon, your character learns skills by gaining experience points that you get from defeating bad guys. The technique you use to destroy them decides how many points you get for each kill. For a NES game, there’s a ton of variety in the fighting and like other beat-em ups such as TMNT III: The Manhattan Project, you have to weigh the reward of using more difficult attacks which will give you more points but also leave you more vulnerable to getting attacked yourself. Personally I like using Haggar because he has the most life-bar and his jumping piledriver not only gets you the most points but is also satisfying as all hell.
The character animation is really well done for 8-bit and the backgrounds and graphics are top notch. Also, for an especially obscure title, MFF has one of the best soundtracks on the NES and certainly some of the best Capcom music out there (which is saying plenty). This game would easily crack the Top 20 on my list if not for the fact that like Final Fight, MFF is 1-Player only. You’re just not supposed to play beat-em ups alone, it is truly the genre most perfectly designed to be played with a friend. However, all the great aspects of the game raise it’s profile considerably and the multiple characters and techniques make the replay value very high.
Without a doubt Rampart is one of the most unique games on the NES in that it mixes two very different styles of gameplay. At the start of the game, you automatically build a small fort wall around a castle and you are given three cannons to place down within that wall. Next, you move a cursor toward your enemy (ships in the water in 1-Player, another castle across the river in 2-Player) and the cursor tells the cannons where to fire. You spend a few seconds blasting the shit out of the enemies boats or walls as they likewise do to you, and this continues until time expires. That’s the first style of gameplay.
The second part is the real innovative, addictive, and stressful aspect of Rampart. To rebuild your walls, you’re randomly given a series of blocks similar in appearance to those in Tetris. You place them in the holes left by the cannon-fire which is easier said than done because a lot of the pieces are large weird shapes that do not fit easily and you’re timed so you’re frantically rushing to makes the pieces fit. If you manage to fully re-enclose your castle, you’ll regain your cannons and continue to the next round. If you’re a real baller at this game, you’ll also be able to enclose one of the other castles nearby, which means you’ll get even more cannons on your next turn. However, if you can’t finish a full wall in time, you lose the round.
The variation in gameplay and quick pace gives it a very frenetic feel and it’s a blast to play with friends. Everyone ends up yelling like crazy because putting that wall back together against the ticking clock feels like disarming a bomb. I think if anyone did a study of heartattacks amongst 7-10 year olds in 1992 they’d see a significant spike, and if their deductive skills were strong they’d piece together Rampart’s role in all of it. The graphics and music aren’t going to blow you away and you won’t be able to play it for Legend of Zelda length time periods or anything like that, but it’s an example of how good game design can make up for other shortcomings.
Good ol’ Puzznic. There are typically two kinds of puzzle games on the NES: fall down puzzle games like Tetris or Dr. Mario, or action puzzle games like Adventures of Lolo or Kickle Cubicle. There’s also a third less common type which is the timed weirdo games like Pipe Dream, Loopz, or the game in question Puzznic.
Puzznic is actually two games in one: Puzznic and Gravnic. Puzznic’s gameplay has you line up similar object types that disappear after they touch each other. There’s gravity, so you can only move the blocks down which in turn forces you to think really systematically so that all of them are moved in the right order. Otherwise, you’ll leave some of them stranded and have to retry. The levels are timed so you can’t just sit there and try to figure it out, you’ve got to act fast! Although in this modern age of digital photography, I suppose you could take a picture, pause the game, and then figure out the puzzle before un-pausing. But hey why are we bringing modern technology into this? This ain’t Back to the Future.
The second game is Gravnic. Gravnic has a similar objective to Puzznic, except that instead of moving the blocks you change the direction of gravity until everything lines up correctly. It is much more difficult to conceptualize and so much more of a headfuck to play. I would equate it to the feeling you have when you first play Portal and you get a sense of how the physics work…just as your mind gets blown!
Both Puzznic and Gravnic are very simple and the graphics even more so. The music is incredibly repetitive but not in an endearing way like Bubble Bobble or 3-D Worldrunner. Honestly, this is one cartridge that you don’t need the sound for, just thrown on your favorite album instead <cough> Run the Jewels 2 <cough>. I suppose you need to hear the timer, but even if the timer runs out you can continue as many times as you want so it doesn’t really matter.
All and all they’re both very fun and challenging pick-up and play type games.
There are five events in total:
- 400 Meter Hurdles – You race side by side with your opponent. You can either jump, slide, or smash through the multi-tiered hurdles. Since this is street rules, you can smash through the hurdles and throw the splintered wood at your opponent or you can do a spin jump (a la Double Dragon) and kick em’ back.
- Hammer Throw – You tap B repeatedly to build power and then hit A to release the ball and chain. Unlike a normal hammer throw, you keep throwing the hammer from where ever it lands until you reach the distant hole (just like golf…and sex). If you throw it really well, you get pulled along with it!
- Swimming – What appears to be a race is actually just you and the CPU attempting to drown each other. You can either jump on the other guy and hold him under water until his air runs out, or pull him under water and beat the shit out of him. When one of you runs out of HP, the event is over. Something about the ruthless drowning of teenagers makes this the most fucked up event of them all.
- Roof Top Jumping – Basically the world’s most dangerous obstacle course. You run across rooftops using pole vaulting or high wire unicycling to cross the gaps between buildings. Whoever clears the most buildings wins. The film “Man on Wire” causes less anxiety than this stage.
- Fighting Scene – This section is basically River City Ransom with one key addition. When you grab each other, you have to press B like crazy to then the grapple and throw your opponent. If you do so successfully, you again tap B super fast to scroll through the list of crazy moves. Each one is very creative, and it’s the variety of techniques at your disposal that make this section so fun.
Depending on the place you get in each event, you’ll get a certain amount of money. You’ll need it because between events, you get a chance to go shopping with your girlfriend which is both very cute and very necessary. The Sports Item Store has specific items that help in each event and you’ll need these to gain an advantage. My favorite is the piranha “Chomper” that randomly attacks your opponents in the swimming level. Just sit back and let that fish do the drowning for you!
The graphics, sound, and controls of Crash N’ the Boys are all really great, but what makes this game so good is it’s originality and variety. It takes a little getting used to for sure, but once you do it’s a lot of fun. Well honestly it’s incredibly difficult and it takes a lot of practice to get good at it especially with the Roof Top Jumping Stage.
At the end there’s an advertisement for a sequel “Crash ‘N the Boys Ice Challenge” which was sadly never released in North America. I did however get a reproduction copy (along with all the other awesome Japan-only Technos games) from this guy.
Anyway, I originally named this website “SnowWayBro” after Ski Or Die so it must be pretty great right? Well it is…mostly.
There’s 5 mini games to choose from:
- In “Snowball Blast” you sit in a central igloo and throw snowballs at other kids while rotating in 4 directions. It’s a cool concept that gets a tad repetitive and eventually a little painful because of the button mashing and long levels. Use a turbo controller.
- In “Downhill Blitz” you’re a skier navigating a treacherous mountainside. It’s a lot like another game I had “Heavy Shreddin” where patience and memorization eventually make it really fun.
- “Acro Aerials” is a giant ski jump. It takes some getting used to, but once you get that guy to reach space while doing all sorts of crazy tricks it’s totallyworth it.
- The “Innertube Thrash” is two tubers racing down a mountain dodging obstacles and bumping each other. You can slow the other person down by stabbing their tube with a fork or even better a pocket-knife. This one is much more fun on 2-Player.
- And last but absolutely not least is the best one of all “Snowboard Halfpipe” . This event alone makes this game awesome. It’s a downhill halfpipe where you avoid obstacles while trying to do as many tricks as possible to get points. If you’ve ever played Skate or Die, 720, or California Games, you’ll appreciate exactly how well this halfpipe game is programmed. Seriously, if they’d spent all their energy on this mini-game and left out the rest, Snowboard Halfpipe would be like SSX Tricky. Also, it’s the only event that for some reason has commentary, and the Kent Brockman look-alike is filled with comedy gold!