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
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
Another entry in the series
Pseudo-sequel to Highway Encounter (1985)
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.
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
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.
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
Very similar to that one Turbografx game with the monks and the frogs.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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!”