During the early 90s, the era of 8-bit gaming was coming to an end. With the mighty Sega Genesis dominating the western markets, Nintendo was forced to realize that they were no longer dominating the home console market. To combat higher and more difficult alternatives such as Sonic the HedgehogNintendo began to deviate from the NES and focused more of its resources towards its successor: the Super Nintendo.
However, while consumers were mostly focused on the 16-bit machines occupying store shelves, some hidden gems found their way onto the significantly less powerful system. These late-release titles served as outstanding swan songs for the aging NES.
Coming out in the same year as the 16-bit classics Sonic and Mario, Rare’s hybrid title Battletoads demonstrated that NES could still deliver dazzling visuals. The game put players in control of the titular amphibians as they faced off against the Dark Queen and her vile minions.
Battletoads gained notoriety for its brutal difficulty and blending of several different genres. Gameplay shifted from beat-’em-up to platformer to racing, depending on the stage. While the game was unfairly difficult and featured a broken borderline 2-player mode, it’s worth a look for any gamer looking for an old-school challenge.
9 Super Spy Hunter
Known as Battle formula in its native Japan, Sunsoft managed to grab Spy Hunter rights from Bally Midway for the North American release of the game. Super Spy Hunter approved the same drive up and shooting from her name. Sunsoft’s NES titles were well-regarded for their high-quality presentation and gameplay, with this title being no exception.
Spy Hunter’s outstanding visuals, high-octane driving action and a phenomenal soundtrack by Naoki Kodaka and Nobuyuki Hara made it a beloved title. This NES exclusive proved to be a more worthy experience than the maligned arcade only Spy Hunter II.
8 Kirby’s Adventure
Kirby titles have had a tendency to be released late in a Nintendo console’s life cycle, starting with its debut on the console in 1993. The Game Boy sequel Kirby’s The land of dreams, Adventure made some clever additions to the formula, such as his standard copy ability.
Director Masahiro Sakurai also aimed to address previous criticism Kirby the game’s lack of challenge while maintaining its elegant simplicity. The game took full advantage of the significantly more powerful hardware with charming character animations and some parallax movement in the stages. The result was a harder, more beautiful adventure with more lasting appeal.
7 MegaMan 6
In the same year that Mega Man X made its way to the Super Nintendo, MegaMan 6 marked the final entry of the blue bomber into the NES. Unlike previous installments, Nintendo handled publishing duties for its North American release instead of Capcom.
Aware that the classic formula was getting long in the tooth, MegaMan 6 tried to speed things up with stages that featured branching paths and new Rush upgrades. While consumer attention may understandably be focused more on Capcom’s 16-bit effort, Mega Man fans would be doing themselves a disservice by skipping this entry.
6 Duck Darkwing
Duck Darkwing was another addition to Capcom’s list of quality titles based on various Disney properties. The game put players in control of the titular mystery duck as he faced off against his colorful gallery of rogues in the city of St. Canard. Capcom’s fans Mega Man will feel at home with Darkwing Duck’s mix of platformer and shooter.
However, unlike Mega Man, Darkwing can dodge enemy attacks by landing or blocking their projectiles. While it may be a little too difficult for its intended audience, Duck Darkwing is a must have game for Disney fans and retro gamers.
5 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project
Instead of giving NES gamers another watered-down version of an arcade beater, Konami gave them a beat-’em-up that was custom-made for the system in The Manhattan Project. The game saw the evil Shredder turn all of Manhattan into a floating island while the turtles are vacationing in Florida.
Players chose between four of the brother turtle heroes to take on the Foot Clan and return NY City Hall to where it belongs. The game developed much like the previous title with the addition of new super moves. However, visually and audio-wise, it was a substantial improvement over the original port of the first arcade game.
4 Wario’s Woods
Often relegated to the background, Toad finally took a leading role Wario’s Woods. This falling puzzle tasked the Mushroom Kingdom resident to clear the field by matching a bomb with two pairs of the same color. Matches can be achieved vertically, horizontally and diagonally.
In contrast to titles such as Tetris, players directly controlled the hero on the playing field instead of rolling falling pieces. The game saw two versions released simultaneously on the NES and its 16-bit successor. It would also serve as the final officially licensed title to be released on the NES until 1994.
3 Gargoyle Quest II
Capcom once again placed the threat with wings from Ghosts N’ Goblins front and center inside Gargoyle Quest II. The game saw Firebrand exploring the Demon Realm in order to uncover the mystery behind the Black Light that destroyed his home. Like his predecessor, he adopted a top-down perspective on the afterlife The ultimate fantasy as you switch to a side-scrolling view of the game’s levels.
With the added horsepower of the NES, the sequel was free of the technical limitations that held back its handheld predecessor. The few downsides to the game were the uneven difficulty and the use of a password system instead of battery backup storage.
Aram, possessors Metal Storm offered a neat anti-gravity twist on the familiar run-n’-gun formula. Players controlled a fighting robot that was equipped with a special device that allowed it to climb ceilings. To activate the device, players only had to simultaneously press the up and jump buttons.
Each of the game’s seven stages is designed with this little ceiling-hugging trick in mind, tasking players with flipping back and forth. The game was also a visual stunner with highly detailed sprites and some great parallax animation. While unfairly overlooked upon its initial release, the game saw a collector’s edition from Retro Bit in 2019.
1 Bucky O’Hare
Based on the obscure comic series of the same name, Bucky O’Hare was a running title that put players in control of the titular hero and his companions as they battled the toad menace. very like Mega Manplayers could determine in which order they wanted to tackle the stages.
After clearing each planet, Bucky would be joined by another playable character with their own unique abilities. The game continued Konami’s reputation for high quality licensed titles on the NES. Many of the staff behind him would go on to form Treasure, the studio behind classics such as Gunstar Heroes, Ikaruga, AND Astro Boy: The Omega Factor.
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