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Underrated NES Games


In the Toys R Us and Blockbuster stores of old, beneath a cavalcade of neon lights and oversized price stickers, lived a treasure trove of classic games to behold. 


In a crowded field of classics, not every NES game got their due. 

In order to come up with a list I had to create some criteria for "underrated." First, would be lack of name recognition. Second, would be universal appeal. A lot of games on the NES I have a personal affinity for like Solstice but can't really recommend them to everybody. So I narrowed down a list of some of my favorite games on the console that I think everyone can enjoy. 

Without further ado, here is a list of truly underrated games on the NES that are worthwhile. 

5. Rampart


Love Tetris? Try Rampart, the little game that could!

This crowd-pleaser combines different gameplay mechanics into a truly rewarding experience. This is a game that I have come to appreciate even more as an adult. 

Build your fortresses with puzzle-shaped wall sections as the clock ticks down. Only completed castle sections can house cannons. Then prepare to fire against enemy ships but watch out, they can fire back at you! The next time you try to build, there will be battle damage and sometimes even enemy troops if they are able to make it to shore. You need to build as fast as you can before the time runs out. 

Rampart has a multiplayer mode in which players are awarded points for building the biggest castles and destroying the most ships. 

Rampart also has a pretty great gameover screen- 

  

4. Dragon Spirit: The New Legend


Dragon Spirit is one of the most epic games on the NES. In this SHMUP, you play as Prince Lace who wields a magic sword that allows him to transform into a mighty dragon.

As you blast and bomb your way across diverse levels you can power up your dragon. You can become a two and even three-headed dragon to majorly increase your firepower. Other upgrades affect your dragon breath and some can even shrink you in size. 

As you play, you become familiar with the upgrades and develop your own preferences for them. My personal favorite is the three-headed Green Dragon which spews lava. 

 

Each level ends with a pulse-pounding boss battle. Most of them are prehistoric monsters straight out of a Godzilla movie including a giant spider, pterodactyl, plesiosaur, and many more. Give Dragon Spirit a go for some arcade-style action on the NES! 

3. Guerilla War


Welcome to the jungle! Guerilla War is one of the best two-player games on the NES, featuring non-stop action as you shoot and lob grenades across the warzone.

You play as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara during the Cuban Revolution... wait... what?? Yes, the original game was called Guevara but was changed for American audiences. 

The political context went completely over my head as my brother and I played this game repeatedly. It is an arcade port so you get killed in one shot but have unlimited continues. 


Guerilla War features weapon power ups and even driveable tanks as you blast your way through the jungle. You can also rescue hostages but like Whose Line is it Anyway, the points don't really matter. There are some great mini-boss battles against helicopters, trains, and even a battleship!  

I highly recommend Guerilla War for the fast-paced cooperative gameplay! 

2. Conquest of the Crystal Palace


Conquest of the Crystal Palace is my personal favorite game on the NES. It is criminally underrated and virtually unknown despite its beautiful design and technical achievements. 

You play as Farron who must defeat the evil king Zaras with the help of your trusty dog Zap who can be summoned with a magic whistle.

As an action platformer, you slice and dice your way through the mythical Japanese landscape. Conquest of the Crystal Palace feature some great mid-air controls, making the difference between a heroic strike or falling to your doom. I would recommend buying the "jump boots" as soon as you can. 

There is also an item shop that was pretty groundbreaking for the time, featuring in-game cutscenes. 


The game difficulty can be a little off-putting but it is a far cry from games like Ninja Gaiden. Stage 2 in particular can be challenging. There are these hand monsters that look like Thing from the Addams Family that drag you into pits but you can easily farm coins to buy extra lives. Also, there is a secret room where you can save the princess and receive the moon mirror. 

The boss battles really standout for an NES title as well. 


1. Felix the Cat

Felix the Cat is the crown jewel of underrated games for the NES. It might also be one of the best platformer games of all-time. 


Arriving in 1992, after the Super Nintendo console had already been released, Felix the Cat sets the benchmark for what the NES can do.

Gorgeous graphics and stellar gameplay, Felix the Cat is a pure joy to play! 

Felix must use his magical bag of tricks to save his girlfriend Kitty from the evil Professor. He gains magical power-ups across nine different worlds that vary from under the sea to even space!


You can fly as hot air balloon Felix, deep sea dive as a submarine, or even ride a dolphin depending on the environment. Each world offers different gameplay experiences like flying above the pyramids in a plane or skating across the ice in an inflatable tube. There are ten different transformations!

Also, the boss battles are a lot of fun! 

Take on a flying robot, gunslinger cat, and even characters from the cartoon show like Rock Bottom. At the end of the game, you go toe-to-toe with the mad Professor himself in order to save the day!


Felix the Cat was one of my favorites as a kid. In fact, I think it holds the record for the game that I have beaten the most. It is just so much fun to pick up and play!

I hope that I have inspired you to checkout some of these great games on the NES. What underrated games would be on your list for the system?

Stay retro my friends! 

 


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jkatz Posted on Jun 01, 2019 at 06:01 AM

Felix the Cat looks like it would be a lot of fun! The changes in Guevara/Guerilla don't surprise me at all. Bionic Commando removed all references to Hitler and the nazis for the US release (but kept his exploding head!)

NLogan Posted on May 29, 2019 at 03:29 AM

I love playing Dragon Spirit! It was one of my favorites. We also played Rampart to death. Once you get to the Greek fire ships it becomes murderously hard. It was also a blast playing against each other turning the opponent's walls into Swiss cheese. I don't recommend Rampart in the arcade however as there was no joystick only a trackball that made building walls in time impossible.

Vaporman87 Posted on May 29, 2019 at 01:35 AM

Wow! I’ve not played any of these titles. Thanks for bringing them to our attention. Looks like I missed out on some fun play.

OldSchool80s Posted on May 28, 2019 at 11:46 PM

Surprisingly, don't remember playing any of these 5 games myself. I will have to take your word for it. Stay retro, yourself!

Mr Magic Posted on May 28, 2019 at 04:52 PM

Felix had his own game?

Benjanime Posted on May 28, 2019 at 04:37 PM

i have the nintendo power issue covering a guide for the felix the cat game, never got around to renting it but it looked like a fun, basic platform romp from the screenshots that were provided so after i bought my nes classic i added the game to it. some of these other games i've definitely never seen or heard about before. great read!

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