NES Hidden Gems (Part 1)

NES Hidden Gems (Part 1)

5 timeless 8-bit treasures

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Retrospectives on

The NES has such a vast library of games that it's easy to miss out on some worthy retro experiences. I carefully combed through my collection of cartridges and found a handful of games that I think more classic gamers should play so let's get to it!

Kiwi Kraze / New Zealand Story

It seems like I just can't get enough Taito lately. Although we know it as Kiwi Kraze in North America, everyone else knows it as New Zealand Story. It's a super-cute 2D platformer that stars a Kiwi (the bird, not the fruit) named Tiki who's on a mission to rescue his friends and love interest Phee Phee. This 8-bit port definitely isn't as visually appealing as its arcade counterpart but the gameplay is simple and enjoyable and the music is so catchy that you'll find yourself tapping your toes as you hop and fly around the stages. One of its best features is the hidden warp system that lets you get through the campaign a lot faster if you know where to find them.

Kiwi Kraze / New Zealand Story screenshot
That glass whale thing is no match for this adorable little bird and his snazzy sneakers

Guerrilla War

If SNK's Ikari Warriors left a sour taste in your mouth then Guerrilla War is sure to put you back in a good mood. Also by SNK, this overhead run 'n' gun shooter is incredibly fun to play with a friend. What's even more awesome is that you control Che Guevara and Fidel Castro on their mission to free an island from an oppressive dictator. The gameplay is spot-on for chaotic shooting action with satisfying power-ups, tanks that allow you to run over your adversaries, and plenty of hostages to rescue which grants you extra points. On top of all that, the explosive sound effects and detailed visuals hold up beautifully. Who knew Communism could kick this much ass?

Guerrilla War screenshot
Why visit Tren Blindado when you can re-enact it in a NES game?

Anticipation

What do you get when you combine Trivial Pursuit and Win, Lose or Draw? Anticipation for NES, of course. Before Rare made classics such as Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, and Killer Instinct, they created this rather addictive 8-bit board game. Basically, the computer draws a rudimentary picture from a certain category and it's your job to buzz in and guess what it is. It's a fantastic game to boot up at a party and can be played with up to four simultaneous players. Even though it's not the most involving party game, the ridiculousness of some of the drawings will definitely trigger at least a few laughs. The music will get stuck in your head for days, too.

Anticipation screenshot
What kind of topic is "Natural" anyway?

S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team

Also known as Action in New York in Europe and Final Mission in Japan, S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team is one of the best shoot 'em ups on NES. It's fairly short with only five stages but the gameplay is exceptional complete with multi-directional shooting and intense boss fights. The awesome soundtrack manages to make the onscreen action even more exciting. I could go on all day but instead, head over to my full S.C.A.T. for NES review to read more about this 8-bit shmup masterpiece.

S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team screenshot
Arnold should get his ass to Mars

Faxanadu

Falcom is one of the best developers when it comes to RPGs and their Xanadu series is superb. So, when Hudson Soft got to develop an NES spin-off, the result is a truly unique and memorable action-packed adventure. You play as a hero who goes on a quest to save the World Tree after he finds his hometown to be desolate. Along the way, you'll encounter many tricky situations, upgrade your hero in some very cool ways, and fight loads of dastardly beasts. To be honest, I don't think I ever finished Faxanadu but I played it for hours on end when I was a kid. Anyway, if you're into retro action RPGs then this is a game that you need to have in your collection.

Fun fact: the name Faxanadu is a combination of the words Famicom and Xanadu.

Faxanadu screenshot
I don't think meditating with this creep will give me peace of mind...

That's all for this collection of hidden gems. Stay tuned for part 2 as well as more retro gaming pieces. Please leave a comment below and tell me about some NES hidden gems that you'd like to see get more recognition. I'm always looking to expand my collection!

Gameplay video playlist for NES Hidden Gems (Part 1) 6:37
NES games Trivia

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