With so many titles out there, it was easy for a lot of Nintendo Entertainment System games to go unnoticed. Many were similar to hit games like Tetris, Super Mario Bros, Mega Man, Donkey Kong, and Legend of Zelda, but just didn’t get the same amount of love. Luckily for gamers, most video games can be played at this point in one way or another.
If you’re a gamer, next time you get the itch for some retro games, but want to try out something new, try taking a look at these NES titles. No need for cartridges, fire up your favorite video game console emulator and check out these underrated retro video games.
Most Underrated NES Games
Tiny Toon Adventures
The cartoon show Tiny Toon itself was overshadowed by another popular show Animaniacs (you might have heard of it), so it’s no surprise the NES game was overlooked as well. Playing as the younger version of many looney toons favorites from the TV series, you work your way through some surprising tough stages, but overall fun gameplay. The graphics in the game are rather good too, making the experience even more enjoyable.
P.O.W. Prisoners of War
There was no shortage of beat ‘em up games for the NES, hey it worked. P.O.W. Prisoners of war is essential just another one in the mix, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t any good. Basically a copy of Double Dragon with a different storyline, you play as a hero who needs to bust out of a military prison. You then go on to take on the rest of the cold war era bad guys beating up every one of them in your way. Overall a really fun game to play.
The Guardian Legend
Guardian Legend wasn’t going to change the NES world, but still a very fun game to play. A typical “earth is going to be blown up by aliens” storyline, Guardian Legend mixes both the shoot ‘em up and adventure style of gameplay, keeping you engaged throughout the game. Another sleeper pick in the world of NES games if you ask me.
One of the first, if not the first NES to feature the Bizzaro Mario, Wario, Wario Woods takes its main game style from Mario too. The game is very similar to Dr. Mario with the matching\puzzle-like gameplay. The matching actually comes from the bottom up and the controls were a bit tough, but overall this was a difficult, but satisfying game to play when you got good at it.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Normally, games on the NES adapted from movies are bad, never mind the sequels. Gremlins 2 actually bucks the trend and was surprisingly fun to play. Playing as the loveable Gizmo in a top-down perspective, you take on of course the gremlins with all sorts of weapons, my favorite of which is the crossbow.
Another “move to game” that actually works is the Batman game. For one, it for the most part follows the storyline of the 1989 Batman movie, which is always nice. It has a very Ninja Gaiden-type feel to it which was already a popular game at the time. The game is difficult to beat, any stage could take you out well before you get to the final boss in the Joker, but this was always a fun one to play in my mind.
Zoda’s Revenge: Star Tropics 2
Star Tropics was a semi-success on the NES, but many don’t even realize there was a sequel. It was released late in the NES lifecycle with most players already moving on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, so it went largely unnoticed. The sequel takes what made the first game fun to play and improved upon it. The storyline is even a bit better with the main character Mike Jones traveling through time!
Any of the Adventure Island games could be picked as underrated, so I’ll throw them all together here. These games were unlike anything else on the NES and were a blast to play. The main character in a hula skirt, hurling stone axes, fireball, and even riding skateboards and dinosaurs, it was a whole lot of seemingly random ideas all thrown into one and it totally worked. All the games were long and hard to beat making the replay value through the roof.
Captain America and The Avengers
Many of the Marvel-related games on the NES were subpar, but not Captain America. The game actually ported over from the arcade game rather well. Developers even got the use of the shield as a weapon down fairly well. Not as fun as playing as Captain America, but Hawkeye makes an appearance as well. Overall not the best game out there, but still fun to play.
Magic of Scheharazade
Magic of Schedharazdae might be one of the least known titles out there for the NES. The combat system was ahead of its time with a mix of real-time and turn-based combat. The game has a Zelda-like feel and even lets you travel between five different time periods. The middle eastern theme is very unique, although it might be part of the reason it wasn’t a huge success.
River City Ransom
River City Ransom is another classic beat ‘em up game with a few major upgrades, boasting two features that were practically unheard of for its genre. RCR lets players explore an open world and allowed them to customize their characters through actual like eating certain food and reading magazines. The style of play wasn’t original, but the execution was so great, definitely a title you should look for in your next retro gaming kick.
You might have heard of Bucky O’Hare before he came to the NES from the comic books he starred in. Regardless, once being brought to the NES, it’s definitely a game you needed to play. Similar to MegaMan, you play as the title character battling your way through different worlds gaining multiple abilities and some friends along the way.
Clash at Demonhead
Clash at Demonhead had everything you could want in a game. Similar to Metroid and Castlevania, the main character could gain different abilities including but not limited to teleportation, shrinking, and a boomerang gun. With more than 40 ways to get to the end stage plus the ability to go back and revisit stages you already beat, this was a super fun game to play.
Vastly different from most NES games, Deja Vu was more of the point-and-click genre we know today. The developers nailed the 1940’s PI vibe though. Playing your way through a variety of clues and puzzles, you’re taken through the game as PI Ace Harding through the city of Chicago. It’s a tough game to beat and may have been a bit ahead of its time, but’s it’s certainly worth revisiting this game.
It’s been 100 years since nuclear war destroyed the world with a new evil empire reigning supreme. You’re a warrior that has just woken up from cryogenic sleep and it’s your job to save the world. The storyline may be a bit darker than most NES games, but that aside, still very engaging. Your mission is to find four elemental swords to help save the world and restore peace once again. Keep this game in the back of your mind when looking for a new NES game to try.
This game never got the hype or fanfare others may have on the NES, like Final Fantasy, but it’s worth checking out. Base on the George Lucas movie with the same title, this RPG is another that has a Zelda feel to it. The game fell into relative obscurity, but shouldn’t be overlooked as a very fun and challenging NES game.
Ikari Warriors is similar to many of its shoot ‘em brethren, but like the plethora of beat ‘em up games, that doesn’t mean that each and everyone wasn’t fun to play. Similar to the Konami hit Contra, but with an overhead view, this game was fun on your own, but better with a buddy in co-op mode. Improving on the Contra feel, you got the chance to control a few vehicles in the game like tanks and helicopters adding to the fun.
Duck Tales 2
Duck Tales 2 is essentially the same game as the original Duck Tales, which in itself is what makes it a fun game. Both were relatively short and easy to beat by original Nintendo standards, but hey, sometimes it was nice to actually not want to throw your controller through the TV when playing a game. Another example of coming out too late, Duck Tales 2 was also released after the SNES had captivated most gamers’ attention, leaving this title to live unnoticed.
Adventures of Lolo
Another classic game, Adventures of Lolo took some real thought to beat. With 50 stages of slide puzzle block gameplay, you had to really think about which blocks to move and when you could shoot the baddies if you wanted to be successful. The game spawned two also relatively unknown sequels that were just as difficult, but fun, to beat.
A Boy and His Blob
This game is so underrated, the main character doesn’t even have a name, but his blob does. It’s Blobert. Playing as the unnamed character, you and your blob had to make your way through various puzzles, avoid traps and make your way past obstacles. Never a dull moment for a Boy and His Blob.
Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu
Jackie Chan was a blast to watch in his movies. Always pulling off crazy kung fu moves. It was only a matter of time before he got his own NES game. Not the most original game, but still fun to play, you took Jackie on a kung fu adventure. Nothing earth-shattering, but just a joy to karate chop, kick and jump your way through as a lovable real-life person like Jackie Chan.
Getting vehicles in a shoot ‘em up game was always a huge bonus, so why not make a game where you are the vehicle, right? That’s what Tiger-Heli did. In an overhead shoot ‘em up game, you take on countless bad guys and are under constant enemy fire playing as a helicopter and it’s a blast. When you were really in trouble you could release a big bomb from your copter to really destroy the baddies.
Most gamers would point out that the original Robocop game was better, which is true, but it wasn’t all that underrated, that’s why the sequel makes the list here. Robocop 2 was still a very fun game to play, and you could even jump in this one!
As you might imagine from the title, Maniac Mansion was an odd game, but loads of fun. You attempted to guide multiple teenage characters through a mansion where an evil meteorite and family of mad scientists up to weird stuff. The gameplay was like no other and the ability to control multiple characters was seldom seen in the NES world.
Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2
Rescue Rangers 2 lets you play as Chip or Dale on your own, or play in a two-player mode using both. You make your way through many entertaining levels in the ever-raging battle against Fat Cat. All the characters you’d expect in Monterey Jack, Gadget, and Zipper all make their appearance in this adventure game. If you didn’t get to this game when it was first released, make it a point to play it now.
Bionic Commando takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. The BC neds to do everything he can, except jump, do stop a superweapon from starting WWIV. Despite the lack of jumping ability, the commando is able to use a grappling arm to get around plus a variety of other weapons you can gather along the way. Once you collected certain weapons, you can go back to previous stages to complete tasks you previously couldn’t. You can also make your way to the end in various paths for this game as well. Overall super fun, super underrated. us
Play as a Mario-like main character, you take to destroy every level you come across. Up against monsters like bad guys and fireballs standing in your way, it’s up to you to use everything at your disposal to figure out these puzzle stages. Once the entire level is “wrecked” you can move on to the next.
There were a ton of sports games available on the NES, but Base Wars might be one of the most underrated. Control a team of robot players, you could spend your season literally destroying other teams’ players while earning some cash to upgrade your own. This leads you to eventually being able to pitch obscenely fast, slow, or even blow up opponents in the batter’s box. Oh, did I mention every force play was decided by a robot battle? Yeah, there was nothing like turning a single into a home run by fighting your way through each base.