Despite being older than quite a few of you reading this, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is still considered to be one of the greatest gaming consoles ever produced. The original NES revolutionized video gaming back in the 1980s and spawned timeless classics like The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers.
As beloved as those NES classics are to retro gamers, they’re a mere scratch on the surface of the 700 or so licensed games that were released on the console during its day. In this article, we’ve unearthed five of those forgotten gems that may still have some surprises in store for avid gamers, despite their lack of 21st-century bells and whistles like 4K res and online multiplayer capabilities.
Released in 1994, Wario’s Woods was the last NES game to be officially released in North America, so it’s a surprise that it has since fallen into obscurity.
The game itself is quite the anomaly, being unlike any of the other games in the unofficial Wario series. Wario’s Woods was actually the first solo outing for Mario’s nemesis, featuring match-3 gameplay of a similar style to the earlier Dr. Mario game; visually it still holds up for comparison today.
Even though Nintendo didn’t bring it to the NES Classic, it’s available to play on the Virtual Console if you fancy checking it out.
After the major success (and gaming innovation) of Mega Man and Super Mario Bros, very few platformers released later on the NES could compare in terms of playability and originality. Very few that is except for Adventure Island, released in 1988.
One of the few platform games on the console that actually required some real skills to play, especially with Master Higgins’ skateboard, Adventure Island was originally intended to be part of rival SEGA’s Wonder Boy arcade game. Sadly, despite the latter undergoing something of a resurgence recently, Adventure Island hasn’t made another appearance since that 2009 WiiWare game.
In the 21st Century, iGaming is the latest market to dominate the online gaming industry. Gaming brands like PokerStars have recently expanded into the US, and even SEGA has attempted to capitalize on the trend by releasing a strictly no-money slots app featuring Sonic the Hedgehog himself. Back in the 1980s, however, playing Casino Kid was one of the only ways to enjoy the thrill of Vegas on your screen.
While the Japanese version was more enjoyable to play, with its free mode that allowed players to experiment with different casino gaming strategies as well as the ability to fly (at a cost) to other casinos in cities like New York and Japan, the North American release still had its moments. Set in the fictional city of Lost Wages, in a casino that looks remarkably like the Golden Nugget in Vegas, Casino Kid was tasked with taking down the evil King of the Casino by playing various rounds of blackjack and five-card draw poker.
Ok, a top-down RPG may not be a particularly unique NES game, but SNK’s Crystalis stands out for good reason. Released in 1990, the storyline for the game was surprisingly dark for the period. 100 years after a nuclear war destroyed civilization, a diabolically evil empire has taken control, and our hero – a warrior with amnesia – is tasked with saving the world.
Thanks to the positive reviews the game generated in the decade after its release, Nintendo did put out a Game Boy remake in 2000, but with poorer quality graphics and sound.
Batman: The Video Game
One of the major trends in gaming during the late 80s and 90s was video game adaptations of hit movie releases. One such game still remains today one of the most enjoyable and difficult Nintendo games to complete – Sunsoft’s Batman (1990).
A faithful adaptation of Tim Burton’s 1989 masterpiece, Batman manages to follow the film’s plot well and ramps up the excitement level with nifty wall jumps and batarangs. The cutscenes, although lacking in terms of graphics quality these days, are no less entertaining, while the game’s soundtrack remains one of the best of all time.
I have played Adventure Island and Batman. The former is a cute little game, but the latter is one of the better superhero games on the NES. It’s challenging, looks great with awesome cut scenes. I didn’t get more than a few levels in though.