1986 video game notes

The year after the Famicom came to the US as the Nintendo Entertainment System, the American video game industry finally started to heat up again. Here are all of their efforts.

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Bowling simulation game which was follow-up to 1985’s Leaderboard.

Throwing darts game. You know, coz the IRL kind is so hard to come by.

Skateboarding game from Atari which was most likely built after Paperboy.

Clone of Anteater

Historically inaccurate flight sim set in WWII

Spy Hunter-type

Adaptation of Wonder Boy, this platformer is set in the Philippines according to MatPat

Tongue-in-cheek game where life bar is a little man walking towards a gravestone.

Arcade Maze game released only in Japan

Ambitious game that overstretched itself

Underrated platformer.

Another entry in the series

Pseudo-sequel to Highway Encounter (1985)

Bowling game

Interactive fiction by Square starring a heroine who goes through a situation similar to the Death Trap

Interesting RPG that lets you decide a person’s actions and then spells out the consequences. Tends to be preachy and gets repetitive later on.

Another too-ambitious game. One cool thing was the variable turn length

Tank simulator set in 2005 when aliens have taken over Antarctica

Vertical (with some horizontal) scrolling shooter that emphasizes quantity of enemy. Precursor to bullet hell games.

Bad shooting game in a jeep

Unbeatable because of a bug. This is what passed for a computer game back then.

Very basic top-down shooter

Bad platformer which was less accurate than God of War. Flyer did not advertise gameplay, go figure.

How convincing….

Choppy physics and one-hit deaths? Oh goodie!

Knight Lore-inspired title that doesn’t really offer anything new.

Built on Defender with warp mechanic and towers. Innovative but monotonous

Cute little game where you collect treasure chests while evading monsters

Puzzle game spinoff of Mole Mole series

More stuff and better graphics than the original, but tedious

First Batman game ever developed, an isometric ZX affair

Another vertical shooter, yay

Bare-bones trivia game

Realistic golf simulator

Basic beat-em-up originally praised then criticized years later as having no soul

Life sim about birds with very pleasing graphics for the NES

A fishing game centered around a challenge: catch as many bass as you can from sunup to sunset

Computer Gaming World called Black Belt a “straight ahead imitator” of Kung Fu, and mocked the Engrish documentation that stated that the player would fight “Black Women” and “Wang”.

Pretty good simulator

Marble Madness clone where ball is a sentient ball bearing trying to save his family

Sequel to Bored of the Rings

Alien invasion game

Sci-fi action adventure game which was likely the resurrection of the vaporware Bandersnatch

Vehicular shooting game with buggy that can jump

Precursor to Street Fighter

That music is now playing in your head. You’re welcome.

Fun text adventure set in the 1920s where you become a successful gangster

Crappy fusion of Dig Dug and Mr. Do

A very difficult platformer where you jump to escape a robot fortress. Difficulty comes from controls. Known as “Jumping Man” in several countries.

Ridiculously floaty puzzle platformer where you have to go through a castle pushing blocks & stuff.

Forgot to mention that in these Castle games there are more doors than keys. Open the wrong one and you’re screwed.

It’s Castlevania.

That title isn’t false advertising. You play as a pumpkin bouncing around a haunted castle.

Split-screen baseball simulator

Sequel to Super Sprint. Has different maps but is otherwise the same formula

Intended as a WWF game, but the license never came about

The first entry of the best-selling chess franchise in gaming history

Senselessly violent arcade game where you have to kill innocent prisoners as quickly as you can.

3D non-linear dungeon game of sorts

Text adventure closely based on the book of the same name

Arcade shooter intended to be obnoxiously sarcastic.

Another detective noir game. The bright colors of the ZX don’t exactly help the atmosphere… I like how the intro text randomizes every time (e.g. teaching the roaches to type, teaching the roaches to make coffee, etc.)

Space game by Square. It was their fifth game and Nobuo Uematsu’s first.


Jetpac-like game from Ultimate

Thoroughly unenjoyable vertical shooter where you play as a Godzilla-like monster.


A good platform-shooter that’s unfortunately filled with backtracking and the most grating explosion sound effect at the end.

Threequel to Moon Cresta. Vertical scrolling shooter

Scrolling shooter with three screens

Decent adventure for Apple, later made into horrible Sega/CD-I games

You know how in Contra the different guns are represented by different symbols so you know which ones to avoid? In this game they’re all the letter E. Gee, thanks.

Arcade puzzle maze game with pseudo-3D

Pretty forgettable sci-fi game that only came out on FDS

Oh man. This game.

1st-person RPG for FDS

Amiga title with extremely good graphics but oversimplified gameplay.

Adventure game where you have a very strict time limit to solve the murder of Angus McFungus

Pretty decent platformer. Considered a classic in England

Switches between overworld and 2-d sidescroller (like Zelda II). Has very catchy title music.

NES basketball game that was considered very realistic for its time but displays some design quirks that essentially force you to play a certain way.

First game to receive a 15+ rating from BBFC. Developers were disappointed because they were shooting for an 18.

Drag racing sim that has timer to milliseconds

A good game inspires the player to ask tough questions about life. This one makes you ask, “Where the f*** am I supposed to go?”

The first of the DQ series. Remade on the Super Famicom

Gauntlet for computers

Quite possibly the worst Manic Miner-inspired game I’ve played yet.

Puzzle game by HAL laboratory—precursor to Adventures of Lolo

Take on the mafia in this shooting gallery.

Space trading game similar to Elite

Dirt bike version of Hang-On

Time-trial game where you have to turn off a room’s security before you can clean up the radioactive waste. Awesome box art

Can’t be completed because of a bug on the last door.

Cute shooter similar to Defender, with boss at end of level

Player controls Fat Worm, a microscopic worm being chased around the circuit board of a Spectrum

Completely forgotten adventure game by Ubisoft

Cool premise but tedious execution

“You’re inside a spaceship trying to find a princess in distress; a really dumb game” If you leave the knight unattended for a while he’ll wave his arms to try to get your attention. Leave him alone and he’ll start to go berserk. Leave him longer still and his life will drain. In other words, not playing the game will drain the character’s life, but playing it will drain yours.

Computer game inspired by Galaga

Based on anime. Ship moves like a tank.

Cute little beat-em-up where player sadly moves like a tank

Incomprehensible and highly obtuse game. Read about the trivia on Wiki and Mobygames

Based on Qix, but squares are predetermined—you must move along grid.

Somewhat better than original, but still a quarter-sucker

Has nothing to do with Game Boy Advance. A spiritual successor of sorts to Dr. J. vs. Larry Bird

Boring Dungeons-and-Dragons-like

Very similar to that one Turbografx game with the monks and the frogs.

Why bother?

Fun little platform game, but nothing special

Mediocre beat-em-up in a castle

“Looks good from a distance, lacks real depth.”

Puzzle/platformer based on movie

Overhead racing game that came with some litigation (read on Wiki)

Based on movie of the same name. Did not age well at all.

Not so great Ice Hockey.

MSX shooter, second in a trilogy, by Fujishima.

Decent shooting gallery game for NES, where detective automatically walks to right. Shoot him to make him jump.

It has a nice title screen. It has that going for it, I guess.

Helicopter combat simulator game. Very good for its time

Very influential early MMORPG by LucasArts.

Expanded on its predecessor in terms of scope and accuracy, but with a difficulty curve to match.

Shooter where you have to defend planets from collision with comet

Similar to previous Odin titles such as Nodes of Yesod

Very good adventure RPG, but too obfuscated

There can be only one, but in this case it would’ve been better to have none.

Very challenging text adventure; one of the last “greats” from Infocom

Platformer/shooter with great ideas and terrible execution

Hop around on a pogo stick and stomp on the greatest number of statues to win.

Hottāman no Chitei Tanken

Mix between Dig Dug and Mr. Do, but it’s a collect-athon.

For the Intellivision. Originally meant to be a 3D game (with glasses)

More modern version of Pong

Decent scrolling shooter by Capcom

Text adventure in which you must gain the trust of an entity inhabiting your computer

Die. Hit A B B A. Die. Hit A B B A again.

Very well-polished puzzle platformer.

Find devices so you can unshrink shrunken Sid

Another example of great idea mixed with bad execution. Infiltrator is a combination of first-person helicopter simulator and isometric third-person espionage action.

Revisits world on Nonterraqueous. You must return home after a disaster but you have to go along a network between planets instead of being able to just fly there.

Mindless fun that doesn’t last. Ability to kill drunken, unconscious Nazis seems too cold.

Play as baby named Jack (based on Sweeney Toddler) and wreak havoc.

Overhead run-n-gun shooter. Rescue POWs from the enemy.

Legend of Kage… sort of

A 007 text adventure! Doesn’t that sound exciting?

Originally released as three separate games based on LotR, this compilation removes all relation for legal reasons. Nobody cares, anyway. The graphics are crude and puzzles illogical.

Update to Joust, its graphics were superior but gameplay inferior.


Educational arithmetic games that leave a bit to be desired

Graphical adventure game with a catchy track and not much else. No command will be understood. Attack the nasty whatever-maul? Be more specific! I can’t hear you!

A jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.

A side-scrolling platformer with no unique features

One of Taito’s … shall we say, inferior titles

Based on Movie King Kong Lives.

This was an RPG, whereas Ikari no Megatron Punch was an action game

Vertical scrolling shooter. Yet another game with great ideas and bad implementation

King’s Quest Series was staring to blossom here, but it’s not quite ripe.

Very divisive isometric puzzle game.

Vertical shooter on MSX that had very sophisticated graphics and a few innovative features

A knight in space. Why? Who knows?

Known in Japan as Super Chinese. You can’t make this stuff up, people.

LucasArts game based on movie of same name

Very first commercial game to be made in New Zealand.

Free-range shooter. Beat enough underlings and the boss will appear (like in Fantasy Zone, but this isn’t side-view like Defender)

Title screen is the best part. You know how in Simon’s Quest you have to kneel and wait for the tornado to take you away? Well, if you wait at the wall in this game the tornado will come to kill you.

8-bit golf. Hooray, now my life is complete.

Has player choose gender by deciding which bathroom to use early in the game.

Game author Simon Finch recalls: “Ah one of the most infamous pieces of cover art – Quite apart from it being plain terrible (someone wrote at the time it should have been called “Leg end of the Amazon Women”) it misrepresented the game in the most appalling way. I had no control over that and absolutely hated it.


Based on the myth of Icarus maybe? Anyway, game is half vertical shooter, half on-foot 2d shooter. The only good part about this game is that it quickly pans over the entire playfield before you start playing, so you can see the whole level.

Very popular light gun game

For a game made in 1986, this is pretty amazing.

Good, simple strategy game for C64. Based off of earlier Borderlands

In a way, it’s like a reverse Sinistar

Isometric shooting game by Ultimate

Crappy sequel to crappy arcade original

Collection of three light gun games for SMS

Golf game with course editor, making it superior to leaderboard by a longshot.

Mediocre shooting game

Open world game based on TV show. GTA: Vice City was inspired by this.

Adventure game about solar system

Very influential and expansive game, but requires hardcore dedication

Sophisticated pinball game

Game that punishes you for doing too well. Its initials are MBJ but they should have been LBJ.

Reviewed by AVGN. Terrible castle-exploring greased-feet platformer

Weird arcade-style game very similar to Marble Madness. Uses Amiga’s capabilities very well.

Nice sound and pretty graphics. Power-up stars drastically change the appearance of your ship from wimpy to diabolical. A short cutscene before gameplay shows this transformation.

Large, bleak, empty, and dull. Instruction manual is full of contradictory instructions.

MIST was notorious for its “dog eat dog” and “anything goes so long as some more powerful character doesn’t decide otherwise” philosophy, as well as its unparalleled bloodthirstiness.[3] Wanton killing, deception, and using magic powers to compel players to attack others without warning, were common and acceptable.

One of the rarest carts for the Famicom

Manages to combine two of the most overused aspects of PC games in the 80s: isometric viewpoint and maze gameplay. Kill me now.

Bizarre arcade game where protagonist ages a couple years every level, from six years to adulthood.

Interesting detective noir

An overpriced and glitch mess.

Interesting premise (destroy cities while playing as monsters) but gets tedious

Side-scroller based on Ishikawa Goemon.

Uninspired murder mystery that’s good but won’t knock your socks off.

Fighting game based on manga

Crappy sidescroller based on Puss ‘n Boots

Very similar to LoZ

Pretty standard Hudson Soft fare. Somewhat reminiscent of Legend of Kage

This game has no reason to exist.

Action adventure game set on a space station slowly drifting toward a black hole. Overall, quite forgettable. Player may only carry one item at a time; items are used to solve puzzles.

Graphical adventure. Escape your alien captors and bring your ship safely to Earth.

Game possibly inspired by Go.

Awesome racing game by Sega

An advertisement for paints, that you paid for. Yes, you had to pay for an ad.

Well-received by war enthusiasts but never became popular. Didn’t age well.

Kojima’s first game

Ultimate’s fifth filmation title. By now the public was getting tired of it, and for good reason.

Text-based MMO originally released in the 70s for mainframe computers

Hydrofoil simulator based on Pagasus-class ship used in the 70s.

Story was well-written but interface was tedious. Some graphical elements but mostly text

NES peripheral by Namco Bandai

Very basic fun, with cartoony graphics and a decent variety of moves.

Considered one of the best wrestling simulators. Today, it is best known for its Engrish message “A Winner Is You!”

Sequel to Athena. First video game with a vocal in-game soundtrack.

Isometric adventure somewhat inspired by Indiana Jones.

Four-player side-scrolling shooter meant to serve as Sega’s answer to Gauntlet.

An isometric shooter noted for its slow and jerky scrolling, despite the developer’s claim that it would be fixed by release. Oh, and it’s isometric. How fun.

An extremely obscure MUD

Very weird graphical adventure for Mac

First game to be licensed by MLBPA. Used real players’ names, but was not licensed by MLB itself so didn’t use team names or logos

Oh, dear. That’s all I can say. Nice intro music though.

Good mindless fun. Destroy cities as a monster. Can get tedious.

Fantasy game set in gothic Europe

The first in a series of edutainment games by TLC

Fantasy video game considered mediocre but a good game for beginners to RPGs

A direct predecessor to Double Dragon. Renegade first introduced several trademarks of the beat ’em up genre, including 4-directional control, punch-jump-kick play action, and enemies which can sustain multiple hits. It is considered to be one of the most influential titles of the video game industry.

Sequel to Tower of Druaga. Action game with light puzzles

Decent puzzle game by Costa Panayi, the creator of Alien Highway.

Meant to be an action blockbuster. Very unpredictable and hasn’t aged well, although it often serves its purpose of being “bubblegum.”

Early party game. Provides no CPU players so you must have three others.

Includes items called bio-chips that, among other things, would make sarcastic comments about the enemies and the hero alike.

A side-scrolling shooter with no redeeming qualities or a reason to exist. Playing this insulted me on a moral, intellectual, and human level. If I never have to play this abomination again I shall consider myself blessed.

Imagine Ice Climbers as a platformer

Time-travelling platformer. Success in this game relies on coming across a new pattern, dying, memorizing it, then repeating the process. This will apply to all except the most skilled players.

Metroid clone for Speccy

Very fun shooter with lots of fun powerups. Game overall is decent but not extraordinary.

One of the few side-scrolling shooters to have adjustable-rate autoscroll. More points are awarded for higher speed.

Better-than-average licensed game.

Murder mystery that sets an unreasonably strict time limit for cracking the case. As a result of this, the player will have to reset the game completely (perhaps several times) in order to solve it on time.

Vertical shooter taking place above the streets of Tokyo. Music is among the tinniest I’ve ever heard.

Defend America from Soviet attack in this ugly, almost incomprehensible game.

Escape the seabase.

Based on a popular metal band at the time. You must work to summon Satan in accordance with a prophecy.

Very interesting game. If I, Robot were a slow, strategic face-off, it would be this.

Very well-done Mahjong game by Activision. Looks great on all graphics modes.

Often compared unfavorably to Ultima III. Is less complex but suffers from stingy XP system.

Simply terrible NES game about Holmes

Eye-stabbing sports game

Really nice pool game with somewhat creepy drawings (think Leisure Suit Larry type)

Mission layout is unique. You shoot through planes, then you have to swoop down to pick up a bomb, fight through more planes, then drop the bomb on the target, and then land successfully. Control are clunky and awkward, but the basic premise of the game is pretty cool.

Run a drug called SKY in your place, then on motorbike

An average game by RARE for NES. Controls are squirrelly and game overall is rushed.

Scrolling shoot-em-up that loops forever

Game built in to the BIOS of the original Sega Master System. You can access it by starting the system without a cartridge in it, then hold Up, A, & B. 200 Model included Alex Kidd instead.

Atari 2600 game originally based on The Last Starfighter. Somewhat complex but rewarding.

One of the most frustratingly difficult games for the NES. Any contact with enemies results in death, and there are constantly, incessantly spawning enemies.

Shooter with female protagonist. Stages can be completed in any order just like in Mega Man. Password is displayed at top of screen at all times. Doesn’t take away your weapons and bonuses when you die.

Lots of self-referential humor. Dying is half the fun; the other half is looking up the codes for the stupid copy protection.

Computer clone of Marble Madness

Sliding square puzzle game

Very clumsy underwater shooter with catchy intro music. Killer whales assist you provided you don’t kill them (which is very easy to do).

North American version is rarest US cart in existence

Awesome space game. Inspired Mass Effect levels

Just glide right past this one, why don’t you.

Another game based on The Last Starfighter. Pretty graphics but repetitious gameplay.

Successor of Star Force

Very well-done text adventure

An unquestionably beautiful game with sheer fun factor


Text adventure by Square for FDS. Famous for its “fake song.”

Crappy computer port


More like Stupid Pitfall, am I right?

Mediocre bird’s eye racing game for up to three players

Levels loop until you warp to a different time period. Time mechanic was new for its time and may have inspired Sonic CD.

Shooter that requires you to solve a riddle to progress. If you don’t, the stage resets at a harder difficulty.

Side-scrolling shooter on ZX. Play as a dragon.

Jumping ball game, made into Flash game later. Fun distraction but that’s it.

First game to include single-channel delay

You have to rescue humans in stasis. Game takes place inside a hibernation dome in the future. Dome was damaged by nuclear war and survivors must be rescued.

Got an almost perfect score from “Your Sinclair,” as did every other game.

The game that made JonTron cry.

Game that is a distillation of 80s culture. Story is very strange yet interesting.

Soccer game

Escape a prison by controlling four characters (a la God Slayer). Strong sense of exploration—prison has 512 screens

Plan and execute a heist

Vector-based shooter with inertia and realistic physics

Inspired by real-life highway that went from Kyoto to Tokyo

Puzzle game with 64 rooms where you stack elbow-pipes on top of each other to make a staircase

Very whimsical arcade shooter with ragtime music

SMS game “inspired” by Transformers

Cheap fun. Received mixed reviews

The perfect example of a shameless tie-in. Do not play this.

An action RPG. Because clearly Transformers appeals only to a gentleman of intellect.

Puzzle-solving adventure starring a grimace-like creature

Very interesting text adventure concerning bombs. Too difficult to be appealing, though.+

Beat-em-up that doesn’t really have anything special to offer

Way ahead of its time. Open-world driving game.

1986 remake of Ultima is the best-known and most available version.

Crazy graphical adventure

Storyline is reminiscent of Pikmin:

Taking the part of Burt, the “Universal Hero”, the player must repair a space shuttle in order to make their way to a planet where they can pick up the spare parts needed to mend a space freighter which is out of control and on-course to destroy both Burt and his chances of returning to Earth.

Extremely basic by today’s standards, but at the time its controls and visuals were extensively praised, even garnering a few awards

First Finnish licensed game. Only sold 1,600 copies during Winter 1986

Anime-style beat-em-up starring blue-haired schoolgirl.

Action RPG with female protagonist. Do a lot of things right, including day/night cycle. Could have been as great as LoZ if not for squandered potential. Ends up being more like Hydlide.

The only notable things about this vertical shooter are that it has a jump button, and you simultaneously shoot lasers & lob cannonballs.

Sequel to Ikari

Nothing to see here.

One of the first games to support a commercial mouse. Graphics were also very detailed and smooth, although the developer had to letterbox the picture to accomplish this.

Vertical scrolling shooter

Based on a series of adventure books. Resembles Gauntlet.

Next in the series, after World.

The disappointment actually makes me angry. This could have been a great game. The music is cheery, the graphics are colorful and relaxing, and the inventory looks to be varied. But the enemies are so hard to kill that it’s better to run past them, and the “hold right to win” layout of the levels makes it boring. Thanks a lot, guys.

Adventure by Sierra. Comes with in-game instructions to make it easy for the little ones.

Possibly the worst controls of any game on the NES

Series of bright, colorful platformers that came in the wake of SMB

Worst soccer simulation ever. The box art didn’t even get it right, featuring a Brazilian team on an English game.

A fine example of reviewers settling for good enough, then bashing the game years after it came out (and forgetting that they gave it a great score).

Not much to say about this.

This either.

Scrolling platformer on three different planets with their own climates.

Hopelessly boring beat-em-ep that goes from right to left

Takes place in haunted mansion. All the rooms look the same and your weapon is pitiful.

Based on a British comedy show popular at the time. Had to use a different theme songs because of licensing troubles.xx

Unique AI and relaxing music, but steep difficulty curve

Well-received by magazines at the time, because people were on cocaine in the 80s.

Atmospheric zombie game which ZombiU would be a remake of.

The box art features the quotes, “You won’t zub me this time, you… zubs!”



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