Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Top 10 Forgotten NES Games

The Nintendo Entertainment System--or NES as it's commonly referred--is one of the most legendary home gaming consoles ever to be launched. Not the most successful selling console of all time (that would be Sony's PlayStation 2), but definitely one of the de-facto, most talked about systems to come up in conversation whenever important milestones in gaming history are discussed. Although Atari and the Commodore 64 came out before it, and the Playstation 1 after, no one can deny that the NES is where the huge multi-billion dollar gaming industry of today really secured its footing in the hearts of countless eager young kids (and not just a few adults) back in the mid 80s.

I was first introduced to the NES around 2 weeks after it hit store shelves in the US back in October of 1985. A friend of my mom's had purchased the "deluxe" version of the set, which came with two games, a light gun "Zapper," a pint-sized robot named R.O.B., and a few other shiny accoutrements. At the precocious young age of 9 years old, I had never seen anything like it! But it was my mother who got hooked on the system, and would find excuses to visit her friend, kids in tow, just to end up literally spending 5 hours or more straight playing Duck Hunt over and over and over again. Sometimes we would fire up the robot and play Gyromite as well. But regardless, my mom was the true inspiration for my gaming interests. How many kids can make that claim?

When my mother passed away later that year, our world turned upside down and we had little reason to want to game again. But as 1986 came to a close I started reliving memories of late night gaming sessions with mom, when us kids would eventually tire and trundle off to bed leaving her behind to continue zapping away at those mischievous mallards or confounding clay pigeons until the wee hours of predawn. In short, I missed those times! And my little brother did as well. So that Christmas we asked our grandmother for, and received, a Nintendo Deluxe System all for our very own.

And from that moment on we were HOOKED!

My brother and I would go on to devour HUNDREDS of NES titles over the years. Some our grandmother, uncle, and auntie bought for us. Others we rented from the video rental store down the block, or swapped with our school buddies like unofficial tender between kids. I can proudly boast to having played the greater majority of Nintendo's premiere titles through these methods, as well as a goodly portion of their second- and third-tiered offerings as well. And, hey, every now and then a few stinkers fell into our laps which we didn't turn away, either. It was all good for a couple of well-intentioned, but supremely BORED, boys with nothing better to keep us occupied. We had tons of fun with many of those premiere NES titles, in fact.

But that's not what this article is about. This is not about the best NES games in history. Nor is it about the worst. No, I'm here to talk about the middle games in the awesome library of NES titles--those gems which were actually quite fun in their own special way, but which few modern gamers today seem to remember. These are the unsung heroes of my childhood. None of them as spectacularly successful as a Super Mario Bros. 3, perhaps, yet also not as dismally unfun as that infamous Back to the Future game, these titles listed below were special to me in their own way. They might not have resonated well with other gamers of the time, might not even be recognized by younger enthusiasts born after the NES' heydey today . . . but they sure meant something to me!

And so, without further fanfare, here is the list from least to best of my favorite:


10.  Elevator Action.

Developed and published by Taito, Elevator Action was a 1983 arcade favorite ported over to the NES in 1985 for North American gamers. Although the graphics are severely dated by today's standards, the simple gameplay and the repetitious, yet quite infectious, main theme music (composed by Yoshino Imamura) had a lasting impression on me. Even today, after all these years, I can still find myself humming the melody at the oddest times, especially while riding elevators in really tall office buildings. For reals!
A visiting friend of mine from school introduced us to the game one day, and all three of us ended up playing it throughout the night. Somehow, despite its flaws, the game was a gripper! You play as "Otto," a secret agent who infiltrates an office building via rooftop and must make his way down the 30 flights via a series of strategically moving elevators. Along the way, Otto must retrieve Top Secret documents from behind closed red doors, all the while engaging or dodging enemy agents via the increasingly sophisticated elevator and escalator connections to reach the basement level. Staying alive, retrieving as many documents as possible, and making it to the getaway car in the basement parking garage are the objects of this game. Endless fun is to be had!

This might seem an odd title to place as one of my childhood "favorites," but as I said above Elevator Action's subpar visuals and quirky mechanics are somehow overcome by the fantastic music and whimsical "Spy vs Spy" feel that makes this a game you simply can't put down. Check out the video below to understand what I'm getting at. And for you gaming enthusiasts out there, this could very well be a blast from your very own past.

9.  Astyanax.
To be honest, I don't remember much about the lead up to this Jaleco title before its release back in 1990. I vaguely recall a write-up in Nintendo Power, and some terribly lame tv commercial, but other than that Astyanax was a bit of a sleeper that never did reach "hit" status. In fact, it's been called one of Nintendo's most "godawful" games. I don't know, I think that's a bit harsh myself. I remember loving this title first and foremost because it had cinematic cutscenes like my beloved Ninja Gaiden. Cutscenes that tell a game's story are pretty ubiquitous in contemporary gaming today, but back in the late 80s and early 90s they were practically unheard of. But even back in my precocious pre-teen years I could always appreciate a good story, and so these types of games really appealed to me.

Did Asytanax have a good story? That's up for debate. See, you play as the eponymous hero, Astyanax -- a modern day 14 year old boy who gets sucked into a fantasy world and caught up in some evil wizard's plot to take over the kingdom of Remlia. You know, just like any typical day in the life of a high school freshman. It sounds like something that should have been right down my alley, right? Well, with the exception that the dialogue scenes are pretty stilted and insipid -- IT WAS! You'll see for yourself when checking out the video below.

I really enjoyed the heck out of this game! It had some very pretty graphics for its time (reminiscent of Castlevania III), and despite the poor hit detection and insanely cumbersome controls, the cutscenes and story kept me fighting all the way through 'til the end. And oh, what an ending it was! I think I had a little crush on Cutie the Faerie. :) I also enjoyed the fact that you could mix in spells with your axe- and sword-swinging carnage in this game, similar to that winning formula used in Golden Axe on the Sega Genesis. And to top it off, the soundtrack is one of the more memorable ones that still remains with me even after all these years.

To this day, though, I just wish someone would explain to me why anyone would name their kid after such an inauspicious Illiad reference (and especially this particular one)? It was definitely one of the harder to pronounce NES titles back in those days, an issue that no doubt only added to the ridicule from the game's many detractors.

8.  Karnov.
You know, I don't think I've ever met anyone who's played this game. It's not really all that obscure I would imagine, since I seem to recall there were a lot of commercials promoting this title around the time my brother and I first laid hands on it back in 1988. Still, for whatever reason, this never did make it to the top tier of great Nintendo games the late 80s is known for. And while publisher Data East was never one of my favorite game companies, I must admit they made a pretty fun and addicting game here. Karnov is a curious case. It has no story, is not based on any popular comic, toy, or media property, does not even have a particularly memorable soundtrack, and does not star a recognizeable protagonist. Who or what the hell is a "Karnov" anyway? All I can say is that when you are 11 years old and bored, none of this matters. Especially not with video games. And my lil bro and I played the hell out of this one!

Known affectionately by us as "that game with the fat man who shoots fireballs out of his armpits," Karnov is supposed to be a Russian strongman who spits fire and is set loose on a rampage. At least, that's what I vaguely recall finding out years later. I still don't know what happened to make him so angry, or why exactly he's being attacked by so many weird creatures like dinosaurs, hopping fish, skeletons, gargoyles, and even a dragon if memory serves correctly.

What I do remember is that the gameplay at the time reminded me of Double Dragon's graphics mixed with Alex Kidd's open platforming and crazy adventure. But what really endeared this game to us kids was the many different powerup items you could gather and even hold on to for use depending on the need. My favorites were the boots (granting Karnov augmented run and jump abilities), the boomerang, the diver's helmet (for use during the inventively fun water levels), and of course the wings, which allowed Karnov the ability to fly across the screen for short bursts --- wheeeeeeee!

Sure, none of this crazy stuff makes a lick of sense in this game, but the pacing was slick and fast, the enemies colorful and inventive, and the eccentric main character just zany enough in design and execution to make him memorable. While Karnov does seem like a game that was dreamed up by some pretty coked-out Japanese programming nerds in Tokyo, you gotta admit it has an odd old-school, 8-bit charm. Just check out the gameplay clip below and judge for yourself.

7.  Rescue: The Embassy Mission.
Not as obscure as some of the previous titles on this list, Rescue: The Embassy Mission has a bit of an identity crisis. Originally titled Hostages when it was released by Infogrames for the PC in 1988, the game was then titled Hostage: Rescue Mission in the U.S., while the NES home console port of the same game was renamed Rescue: The Embassy Mission upon its release under the Kemco label a year later. If all this seems a bit confusing, no matter: the game is seriously AWESOME! It is one of the earliest examples of the stealth action genre, combining gripping cloak and dagger detection avoidance strategy with thrilling gunplay action to satisfy the surliest James Bond wannabe among us.

The gist of the story is simple to the point of being a mere backdrop to the gameplay. Terrorists have taken over an embassy and are now holding high-ranking hostages. An elite Special Forces team is sent in to rescue those hostages, split into two squads of three men each.

Sniper Squad: comprised of agents "Mike," "Steve," and "Jumbo;" and
Assault Squad: made up of operatives "Ron," "Dick," and "Kemco."

The game itself is divided into three sections.

The first section consists of maneuvering your Sniper Squad by foot to a setup point directly across the street from the embassy. The gamer must successfully negotiate each member of his 3-man team past enemy search lights and take up point along different sides of the building. The objective is to get a line of sight on as many terrorists as possible milling about inside the fortified complex. As long as at least one sniper makes it to his position without being detected, the gamer can progress to the next stage.

The second section consists of sniping as many enemy aggressors as possible from the safety of your newly acquired vantage point across the street. The more snipers in your team who survived the initial stage, the more effective you are at diminishing the enemy's numbers before the next phase of the operation begins. This was my favorite part of the game, and perhaps accounts for why I love sniping missions in most spy or military shooter titles to this day.

After you snipe and kill as many enemies as possible, the third and final section can commence: the "rescue" portion of the title. At this point a helicopter drops behind the enemy's defenses and quickly dispatches "Ron," "Dick," and "Kemco" atop the embassy building. The gamer selects which operative he wants to attempt a rescue first, then carefully drops the man over the side of the building by rope. The operative must find a window and bust through the glass to gain entrance. Needless to say this sets the enemies off and, depending on how well your snipers did in the previous portion, can determine whether your operative has an easy clean up or not. The best strategy was to simply start from the top of the 3-story complex and methodically work your way down, canvassing each floor and never departing until every terrorist baddie had been gunned down.

This was an intense game despite its very dated look and three-toned color palette. Best of all, the music was off-the-hook SEXY for its time! To this day, if for some reason I find myself slinking through my house at night with the lights off, I always end up humming the main tune under my breath WITHOUT FAIL! Click on the vid below to hear the infectious soundtrack yourself:

6.  Wall Street Kid.
Yes, yes. I know. One of these games is not like the others on this list. But, hey, remember that part at the beginning of this post where I said we kids were B-O-R-E-D all the time? So desperate were we for entertainment locked away in our grandmother's apartment in the South Bronx that we honestly couldn't turn down any NES game given to us. Wall Street Kid was a game we borrowed in 1990 from a kid who lived upstairs from us, and even I must admit that I wasn't so sure about this one at first. I mean, Wall Street? Are you serious? Who the hell thought that would make a good game for kids?

But you know what? This ended up being one of my favorite games of all time! And at the same time -- dare I say it? -- I actually *gasped* learned something in the process. Yes, yes, imagine that? See, Wall Street Kid manages to teach you the rudimentary basics about the American stock market, while weaving a fairly far-fetched though amusing background story where the protagonist potentially comes into his family's multi-billion dollar fortune. Provided he learns how to master the stocks & trade game first. And yes, that's BILLIONS with a "B." Jeez, Louise!

Surprisingly, the marriage of education and plot works well in this game. The colorful and sometimes unintentionally hilarious cast of supporting characters adds greatly to the game's enjoyment value as well. And of course, like pretty much every other title on this Top 10 list, Wall Street Kid will infect you with its whimsically memorable soundtrack. Just hearing it now brings back such amazingly vivid memories of late nights and early Saturday mornings playing this game, trying desperately to amass a winning portfolio and marry my girlfriend before the provided time limit of four months is up. This game taught me that the stock market doesn't have to be a confusing, scary place. That discipline, know-how, common sense, and perhaps just a few choice connections (I kid, I kid) can take you far in the money game.

You know, I think I need to do a little research to see if a more modern and mature version of this game exists today. Surely the concept is ripe for exploration, even among much older gamers like myself who could stand to learn how to manage a stock portfolio better. If anyone knows of just such a game (on the PC, I'm guessing), please inform me in the comments section below.

In the meantime, check out this guy Jeremy's review of the game to get a better idea of why it rocks. Or not. If you're into the market at all, if anything I'm sure you'll get a good laugh at the simplicity on display here:

5.  BreakThru.
Yet another Data East game, but this one came out a year before Karnov. Data East had a knack for making these games that looked so generic on paper, but were revealed to be quite addictive once you sat down and actually played them. As a result, pretty much my entire experience with this company's games came by second-hand lending from friends who gave them great word-of-mouth. Because if you could only judge their games by the box in stores, well . . .

BreakThru is one such simplistic looking, yet wildly fun, car combat game. There's not really much to say, as I don't recall there ever being much of a setup in terms of story. All I remember is that you have to maneuver some kind of armored weaponized dune buggy past various obstacles and enemy soldiers. Or rather, I should say over them, seeing as how what made this game so much thrilling fun back in 1987 was the ability to make your vehicle jump over things. Yeah, it's that simple folks. That's all it took to make us little boys happy back in the 80s. The soundtrack was nothing to write home about, and the graphics were serviceable even in those early days of the NES. But, really, running down soldiers and jumping over land mines were the highlights of this title. I remember you had to traverse through various terrains divided up by levels. I recall there being a mountain level, a bridge level, and at one point you enter a city which is where things got really tough.

The video below might serve better to jog one's memory. When you see a buggy jump over a landslide, you will believe! It sticks in my memory because I wasn't expecting much when we first placed the cart in our tiny boxy NES, only to be blown away by the challenge and speed of the gameplay. Forced side scrolling shooters were an exciting feature at this point in gaming, made very popular with recent releases of titles such as Gradius and R-Type. And for whatever reason I really took a shine to BreakThru in particular, running it through its paces for countless hours late into the night.

BreakThru's also why I get a kick out of the awesome Queen song of the same name, I guess. If only the game itself had such a terrific thumping beat. Can we say lost opportunity, Data East? I think we can.

Still -- man, so much mileage I got outta such an unassuming little game! It boggles the mind what we made work for us back in a time when home video games were not the multimedia juggernauts they are today.

4.  Wrath of the Black Manta.
After Tecmo released Ninja Gaiden in 1989, you couldn't go a week without a new cinematic ninja game hitting the stores it seemed. But it wasn't just ninja games anymore, all games were wanting to cash in on this cutscene craze! My favorite NES game of all time, Ninja Gaiden really blew the doors open and let in a slew of other games utilizing cinematic story scenes between levels. Games that were somewhat decent, but mostly just plain awful. One fun game which managed to straddle the curve nicely--and cashing in on the ninja craze no less--was a lesser known title called Wrath of the Black Manta, released by Taito in 1990. I got hooked on this game because of the story, of course. Using the formula Gaiden made famous before it, Wrath's story unfolds in cinematic-like cutscenes and dialogue exchanges. Unlike it's more successful predecessor, however, Wrath's presentation sometimes left much to be desired. Oh welps.

But I loved this game! It had great music, a cause you could believe in at the center of its plot . . . and some of the goofiest looking bosses I've ever seen in an 8-bit game! And if you know your 8-bit games, you know that's a tall accolade.

This game is about a ninja named Black Manta who's tasked with finding his sensei's kidnapped student, Taro. Manta fights his way through the scum of New York City's criminal underworld and eventually uncovers the devious machinations of the crime boss known only as El Toro. Along the way, he can interrogate random enemies and uncover more details of this insidious plot to kidnap the city's children. I always thought that was so cool, and way ahead of the stealth action genre where such things are of course common. Manta employs typical ninja skills such as flipping while jumping (get OUT! Really?), throwing a virtual crate full of shurikens in his enemies' faces, and best of all: using the "ninja arts" at strategic moments to elicit maximum damage (best against the aforementioned zany bosses).

What I remember most about this game, besides that incredible soundtrack, is the quirky art style. First of all, Black Manta himself looks like he's wearing purple pajamas. How very intimidating! And whenever you interrogated a person, the close-up of their faces were so hilariously incongruous with real life as to be terrifying. Check out the video below to get a taste of this game's uniqueness yourself. But be forewarned, the writing is particularly atrocious. All in good fun to a 14 year old ninja loving fanatic such as yours truly. Watching this video makes me want to dig out the cartridge again for old time's sake.

Ahhhh, nostalgia!

3.  River City Ransom.
Ahh, this game. This game right here changed my world. Like many of the games on this list, Technos' River City Ransom was released on the NES at the tail-end of the 80s, which is apparently when all the now legendary first-run games came out for that console in the U.S. It was as if the system decided to really hit its stride just in time for the decade Gen X'rs like myself would come to own and call home: the 90s! And what a perfect game to bridge that gap. It would prepare me for what would later become one of my favorite Super Nintendo games ever, 1992's The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, with which it shares more than just a casual resemblance.

But at the time, River City Ransom was the first game I ever played that combined beat-em up gameplay with mild Role Playing Game (RPG) sensibilities. This marriage would be repeated many times after of course (and by the more powerful and popular next-gen home gaming systems just coming down the pipe at this point in time), but this is the game that I recall as starting it all. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I doubt it. It certainly blew my mind away at the time.

What is the game about? Well, it's about a high school gang lord named Slick (yeah) taking over an entire city and incidentally kidnapping the girlfriend of a rival high school gang leader's best friend, Ryan. Alex pledges his bestie to get her back, and the two pair up to enact some bare-knuckled payback on the hooligan and his greaseball goons. The game is like The West Side Story meets Double Dragon. In fact, I recall a lot of comparisons being made between this game and that latter blockbuster title, with wars of differing opinion breaking out as to which was the better co-op fighter game of the late 80s. But you know what? There is no debate for me. Even if you strip away the lite RPG elements from River City Ransom, it handily beats its more famous cousin by virtue of the more fluid game engine. RCR was not without its flaws, mind you. The jumping was cumbersome, regular enemies unfairly tough (way more so than the bosses), and grinding for money and EXP was a major PAIN IN THE ASS! Still, all that aside, the fighting could get pretty heated and inspired at times. This is what I remember best, the kicking major butt aspect! Because this game had that in mother-effin SPADES! Add in the ability to level up, assign upgrades, acquire makeshift "street" weapons on the fly, and purchase food and entertainment rewards (like spa treatments to improve health and stamina), and you had the recipe for a smash hit! At least to those early gamers willing to give this obscure title a chance.

I mean, the game had it all--with a zany sense of humor, quirky cartoonish art style, and a kick-ass soundtrack to boot! It was wildly addictive for me and my brother back in the day, and we played this one to death. More so my bro, who particularly took to this game with something approaching religious fervor!

And it would seem that he's not the only one to ever feel this way about River City. The game's gotten a bit of a cult following over the years, despite never reaching the popularity of the upper tier games like the aforementioned Double Dragon or the later Streets of Rage games. Check out the review on Retro Mondays' youtube channel below to get a glimpse of the greatness I speak of:

2.  The Adventures of Bayou Billy.
If there's one game on this list I'll get the most flak for including, it's probably this one. I've yet to find anyone who actually enjoys it, let alone would include it high up on the list of games that have had a positive emotional impact on their childhoods. Yet this is how I feel about Konami's The Adventures of Bayou Billy. Released in (yup, you guessed it) 1989 on the NES, Bayou Billy is yet another title that riffs off the Double Dragon fight mechanics playbook. As in that game and River City Ransom above, Billy has the ability to pick up weapons from downed enemies along the way. Being the Castlevania fanatic that I am, my favorite bayou-appropriate weapon was naturally the bull whip.

In The Adventures of Bayou Billy you play as Billy West, a kickass swamp rat based rather shamelessly on Crocodile Dundee. His main gal Annabelle Lane is kidnapped by the ruthless gang lord, Godfather Gordon--and Billy plans to get her back come hell or gator infested high water! For some reason, the rescue the girlfriend from the evil gang lord plot never seemed to lose its charm in the 80s. It got so bad that I almost didn't want a girlfriend, not at the risk of having to go on some kind of Double Dragon/RiverCity/Bayou Billy revenge rampage through the mean streets of the South Bronx to get her back. No thank you very much! And come on, Konami, can you really call such a plot an "adventure." I mean, really?

But what Bayou Billy is really famous for--besides its insane, rage-inducing difficulty--is for combining three of the most popular genres of video gaming at the time into one package. For not only does it contain the famously clunky fighting portions, but also copious driving and first-person shooter levels as well! The shooting levels were some of my favorites, as they reminded me a lot of that seminal arcade and NES classic shooter, Operation Wolf. God I loved that game! Of course Bayou Billy's shooter levels were a poor imitation, but at least they were a lot better than the driving portions--yech! Driving Billy's tricked out jeep on the open roads of the southern savannah was an exercise in futility, as the controls were so rigid and unresponsive during these levels as to truly test one's patience. Good thing for me I was always a very calm and forgiving gamer as a kid, because god only knows how I made it through those spots to the end.

As with every other game on this list, though, the music is ridiculously infectious here. Also, Bayou Billy was a bit revolutionary at the time as being one of the first games to make sparse use of, albeit scratchy, voice recordings. Even to this day I'll sometimes throw the game into my 26 yr old NES console (yes, it still works BABY!) just for the express purpose of watching the title screen fade and hearing the digitize voice shout out: THE ADVENTURES OF BAYOU BILLY! Seriously, that guy is awesome! Albeit way too enthusiastic, perhaps, but that's another story . . .

I've included the youtube video below of some god-like gamer blasting through the first levels of the game as if they were trivial. At last, someone who knows how to play this game like I do! I swear, the amount of complaints I hear from people who say this game is too hard to beat! It's refreshing to see that I wasn't the only neurotic fool back then who took his games serious enough to spend hours upon HOURS learning every enemy pattern and making it work to his advantage. Bravo, dude. Bravo! You make me proud.

1.  Rush'N Attack.
Ah, now we arrive at my Number 1 favorite title of this entire list. To be sure, it was tough narrowing this slot down between Bayou Billy and this game, Konami's 1987 classic: Rush'n Attack. Released in the arcades 2 years prior under the name Green Berets, no other game conjures up the Cold War fear we kids grew up with in the 80s than this one. A play on the title "Russian Attack," as a boy I always assumed Nintendo named it differently so as to avoid getting sued by the U.S.S.R. LOL! What did I know, huh? But the game itself kept myself, my brother, and our best friend who'd loaned us the cart up late at night just trying to get past that blasted first stage. For some reason, we had a tough time cracking this one. But these were the glory days of one-hit kills gaming, such as made infamous by Konami's other games Contra and Gradius, beloved by classic gamers to this day for their unrelenting difficulty. So, you see, we had an excuse. Games like this were ridiculously difficult! Eventually we got really good at it, though. Almost as good as the guy playing the game in the video clip below.

Like many of the games on this list, Rush'n Attack was brilliant in its simplicity. Barely given much of a story beyond the imperative to "destroy the enemy's secret weapon" and "good luck," your unnamed NATO agent is dropped by parachute behind enemy lines armed with nothing but a knife. Well, that's more than enough to do the job, yessir! It was certainly more than Solid Snake ever got in Metal Gear. The thing I remember and love the most about this game, however, is the air-raid siren that starts off the first stage. I. LOVE. THAT. SOUND! It gets my blood pumping every time, knowing I'm about to kick tons of Russian soldier ass! To make it even better, the game had 2-player co-op capability for either my bro or our friend to join in on the fun. You couldn't ask for more back in those days.

I love this game so much that I eventually purchased a copy of the original NES cart for my own collection. Recently it came to my attention that a modern update had been developed last year by a small studio called Vatra Games using the Unreal 3 game engine. Published by Konami and called Rush'n Attack: Ex-Patriot, the game was released on both the Playstation and Xbox Live online networks back in March 2011 to mediocre fanfare and review. I purchased it for myself just last month and absolutely had a blast tearing through this quick little title. Although vastly different from its 80s predecessor in both look and story, enough of the classic features and nods to the original were included as to instantly identify its pedigree to this super fan. Check out the rad trailer for it by clicking here.

Otherwise, click on the video of the NES original below and bask in some nostalgic goodness:


So there you have it! These are the not-so-popular 8-bit Nintendo games which rocked my pre-adolescent world in the late 1980s. Special mention must also go out to the runner-up titles that could not squeeze onto this list--games such as: Kung Fu; Operation Wolf; Hoops; Skate Or Die; and California Games, to name just a few.

Since I would very much like to know that I'm not alone in my singular enjoyment of these unsung classics, please feel free to discuss my selection in the comments below, for better or worse. I'm serious, if you absolutely disagree with any of these titles being on this list, let me know and suggest a game of your own to replace it. No suggestion is a bad one as, trust me, I've played them all and loved each obscure game in its own special way.



Yvonne said...

I think it's great that it was your mom that introduced you and your brother to these games. What's even better, is that you still have those memories to relive, whenever you want to. Nice post. Even though, I have nothing to contribute. You know I'm not a gamer. :)

David Batista said...

I know, Yvonne. I'm impressed you read it, though. :) And, yes, my mom got us boys hooked on gaming. She was big time Pac-man and Donkey Kong fanatic by the time I was old enough to understand such games at the age of 6. I think around the time I was born or shortly thereafter she was big on Space Invaders. I could never get into that game, but Pac-Man remain an addiction for me even to this day. If I owned a house, I would have a Mrs. Pac-man arcade cabinet in the basement fo sho! :)

Alittlesprite said...

I don't know any of those games as the first gaming system I had was a sega Megadrive. I do remember fondly the many late nights my sister and I stayed up playing "Streets of Rage" and "Cyborg Justice". Both excellent games.

David Batista said...

Whoa, you surprise me the more I get to know you Sprite! That's some pretty good gaming credentials to have under your belt. You're an old school gamer just like me! :)

Here in the states it was called the Sega Master System, and did rather poorly against the Nintendo. Still, we had one as well and my favorite games for it were Shinobi, Hang On, and Alex Kidd in Monster Land. I didn't play Streets of Rage until I was already a teenager. Ahh, those were the days!

David Batista said...

Oh, and I should add that you weren't supposed to know these games. I purposely kept away from including more popular titles in order to give these unsung heroes of my youth the recognition they deserve.

Yvonne said...

Pac Man! Now THAT I recognize! lol I was a big time Pac man freak, back in the day! ha!

Kim Kasch said...

My sons had Nintendo but only Mario sounds familiar to me. Of course my boys liked the Sega better tho' so talk of Sonic would bring back more memories for me :)

Alittlesprite said...

Played Shinobi as well. Also Golden Ax, but the other two I mentioned were our favourites. Cyborg Justice we had to rent from the video store..I think we were the only ones who rented it as we would re-rent it when we took it
We got pretty good at SoR, we would completely finish it every time in the end, having our strategies for defeating the big bosses. We always played paired though. No one on one, we'd get pissed off at each other too Didn't think SoR2 was very good.

Now we have a disc with all those old games on it to use with Hubby's xbox360.
OK.. he bought it for

David Batista said...

Sonic started on the Sega Genesis, which is after the time of these games. I wrote about the Nintendo Entertainment System, which is part of the generation of home videogame consoles immediately prior to the days of the Sega Genesis. The heydey of the Genesis was the first half of the 90s, whereas the time period I'm writing about with these games is the latter half of the 80s. I'm guessing your sons weren't playing video games in the 80s, right? Although I think you did mention them playing Super Mario Bros. 3, which does count since that is in fact the very last Mario game on the original Nintendo before the "Super" Nintendo debuted and dominated the early 90s.

The Frisky Virgin said...

HA! I remember Duck Hunt! lol Super Mario was like an addiction. I remember Duck Tales (Disney based game), too. I'm not sure if it was for Nintendo or not, but I remember a Dick Tracy game that I spent hours playing.

Such a fun post!

David Batista said...

GET OUT!!! You too, Frisky? Wow, I'm so impressed at all the wonderful gamer friends I have visiting this blog. Yes, Duck Tales was actually a fun little game for the Nintendo. It brought the company Capcom to my attention. And I played Dick Tracy a lot, too, but that was for the Genesis. A fun game that no one else seemed to like at the time. So I'm pleased to learn that you did. :)

Ashe Hunt said...

Another thing we have in common: My mom is the one who got me into games. We used to wile away hours playing Atari games. My mom's favorite was Megamania. I still love that game. So simple yet so fun, and still challenging as shit! They released it for the PS1 in an Atari collection disc a long time ago. I have to break that out when my mom comes up to see Talea. I only recognized like three games on your list. Surprisingly I remember the box art for Karnov, and I remember Rush 'N Attack, and I vaguely remember The Adventures of Bayou Billy. As soon as I saw the Bayou Billy art I said, "Oh yeah, the Crocodile Dundee rip-off game," and sure enough that's what you put in there. I think I remember Breakthru but I'm not sure.

You my friend are a TRUE gamer! That's why I always like watching you play, for me it's like watching a movie, from back in the days 'til today.

David Batista said...

As a kid, I always yearned for an Atari. The closest I got was having a Colecovision. But then Nintendo came out the next year and that basically killed the Atari and anything else out at the time. You're lucky to have these memories with your mom. Gamer moms ROCK!

Anonymous said...

I remember playing Blades Of Steel as my intro to the NES. My grandmother kicked my ass every time. Without a doubt, best hockey game ever put out.

David Batista said...

Yes, it really was the best Ice Hockey game ever, Anon! You got that right. Which is also why Blades of Steel was not on this list. :) It's too popular and beloved by many a young boy (such as myself) to qualify as a "forgotten gem." But that's very cool that your grandma whupped your ass in a video game--LOL! What an awesome granny!

Meowchies Hideout said...

I'm also a big fan of video games :D
links for download please?:)) XD

Telemachus said...

This was an excellent blog. Fresh perspective on an oft-written about subject. Thanks for it.

David Batista said...

Thanks so much for reading, Telemachus! I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was my aim to shine a spotlight on the less talked about 8-bit games of yore. ;) I'm pleased there are those out there who share my love of these retro titles. Glad you stopped by!

Unknown said...

Bayou Billy was way awesome in my book too, driving levels were insanely hard though

Ronnie said...

I was trying to remember the name of a certain game do i just googled "bald guy who throws fireballs" and it lead me here. I had Karnov on NES but also as one of those title hand held games. I also love Elevator Action and River City Ransom! Thx for the trip down memory lane!

You Might Also Like: