10 Hidden Gems on the NES

To many, The Nintendo Entertainment System is considered to be the greatest video game console ever released. Not only did it revive the video game market after the crash of 1983, it also gave birth to dozens of IPs that we know and love today. However, with 714 licensed games, the search for a great game can be overwhelming and often the recommended library for the NES is more of a broken record than a suggestion: Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Tetris, Mega Man, Metroid, Rinse, & Repeat…

So here is my opinion of 10 HIDDEN GEMS ON THE NES.

1.       Bad News Baseball

Image via game-oldies.com

Image via game-oldies.com

Release Date: December 1989; NA 1990

Publisher: Tecmo

-By the late 80’s, baseball games were plentiful on the NES. You had many, including Temco Baseball which Tecmo released earlier that year. None of them, however, hold a torch to Bad News Baseball. What separated this game from all the rest was its funny & silly gameplay, as well as its Homerun cut scenes and ‘beat the throw’ animation.


I felt this game really pushed the boundaries of what the NES could do at the time.


The game is currently selling for $10 on eBay.


Oh, and this game also has bunny umpires…yes…the umpires are hind leg standing bunny’s in the standard umpire uniform.


2.       Cowboy Kid

Image via gamevaluenow.com

Image via gamevaluenow.com

Release Date: September 1991; NA January 1992

Publisher: Romstar & Visco Corporation

-This action adventure game went virtually undetected on the NES. You play as a cowboy traversing through towns & dungeons gathering information, items, & coins to gain new equipment and improve your skill set. Coins will allow you to stay at inns to regain your health and can be used to access the mini-games. One minute you’re riding atop a train fighting off enemies, the next minute you’re playing poker with some rowdy gunmen, and to round it all out, you can take it easy and play some carnival games.


What makes this game even better is that you can bring a friend along and beat it in 2 player mode.


Unfortunately, this game is very rare typically selling for over $300 nowadays. Time to break out the emulators.


3.       Crystalis


Release Date: April 1990; NA July 1990

Publisher: SNK

-This top down action RPG takes you through a post-apocalyptic adventure that would turn the heads of Fallout fans. In the story of Crystalis, our protagonist is awoken 100 years after a nuclear war to help stop Emperor Draygon from taking over the planet. The dungeons are difficult, yet fun, and the story really drives you.


The gameplay can be summarized as this; if you took the best parts of The Legend of Zelda & The Adventure of Link, the result would be Crystalis.


This game only sells for $10-12 on eBay so it’s not difficult to obtain.


4.       Felix the Cat

Image via NESGuide on Pinterest

Image via NESGuide on Pinterest

Release Date: October 1992

Publisher: Hudson Soft

One of the most fun shooting platformers you can play, this game follows Felix the Cat, famed cartoon character from the silent film era, on his quest to save his girlfriend Kitty. Felix travels through the levels collecting power-ups, making your attacks stronger. Some of these power-ups include driving a car, manning a tank, and flying a plane which is so much fun.


The controls are great and the game has a bright color pallet that makes the entire gameplay experience that much more enjoyable. That’s no surprise since the game was developed by Hudson soft, the people that brought you the colorful world of Dreamland in the Kirby series.


The cost of this game is not cheap however. Current price runs $55-60.


5.       Gargoyles Quest II: The Demon Darkness

Image via NintendoLife.com

Image via NintendoLife.com

Release Date: July 1992; NA October 1992

Publisher: Capcom

-Gargoyles Quest 2 has you play as Firebrand, a gargoyle on an adventure to prevent The Black Light from destroying civilizations and causing chaos in the world. The game transitions from a top-down view on the Overworld map & in towns, to a side-scrolling platformer in the caves & caverns. In the platform stages, you shoot various weapons from your mouth, and your jump contains a hang-time feature where you can glide through the air to reach areas off the beaten path.


As you progress, you earn powers-up to make your jumping, gliding, and climbing that much stronger.


You won’t typically find this game at your local stores, but if you do, it’s going to cost you $100 to bring it home.


6.       Little Samson

Image via DeviantArt.com

Image via DeviantArt.com

Release Date: June 1992; NA November 1992

Publisher: Taito

-Little Samson brings publisher Taito out of its Bubble Bobble so to speak with its gameplay unlike any other title they created. The game opens with destruction and mayhem as a dark mage is freed from his prison by a thunderstorm, and the King has no choice but to summon our four heroes (Samson, Kikira, Gamm, and KO) to save the Kingdom. You play as each hero while they travel to the Kingdom in what can be best described as tutorial stages. You will learn each characters specific abilities & attacks required to advance in the level.

Little Samson.png

Once the King informs you of your mission, you continue through the rest of the game with the ability to swap characters at any point. The variety of playable characters, the smooth platforming, and the intense boss fights are what I love most about this game.


This game has gained notoriety over the past several years due to its rarity and extremely high price tag for a physical cartridge, but for most of its life, Little Samson had been unknown making it a hidden gem.


Current price…let’s just say you’d save more money buying a 60” 4K HDR TV.


7.       Rescue: The Embassy Mission

Image via RomsMania.com

Image via RomsMania.com

Release Date: 1989

Publisher: Infogrames

-Originally known as ‘Hostage: Rescue Mission’ for several platforms prior, the stealthy-shooter was renamed ‘Rescue: The Embassy Mission’ on its NES port. The story is simple, a terrorist group have taken over an embassy in Paris. Your job is to go in with a six-man team to save the hostages before time runs out. There is a total of 15 different difficulty settings & the game is broken down into 3 sections; the side-scroller, the cursor shooter, and the over-the-shoulder shooter.


Rescue is the game I would say pushed the limits of what the NES could do, more than any other title in the 8-bit era. The imagery is so clean, you would think you were playing this on the SNES or Genesis, and I love the fact it plays like 3 games in one.


You can pick up this game SUPER cheap at the low price of $6-8.


If you would like to know more about this game, it was featured as the retro relapse on the April 20th, 2017 ‘Glitches’ episode of The Legend of Retro podcast. You should check that show out. ;)


8.       Shatterhand

Image via Vizzed.com

Image via Vizzed.com

Release Date: October 1991; NA December 1991

Publisher: Jaleco

-In this beat’em up platformer, you control Steve Hermann, a cyborg who lost both of his arms at the hands of the very gang he is out to destroy, as he punches…well, just about everything. Enemy in your way? You punch their lights out. Need to get on the other side of this wall? Give it the old 1, 2 punch. A guy is shooting a gun at you? Don’t dodge, just punch those bullets away. The game is so much fun, the cut-scenes are incredible, and the music is so good it could go toe to toe with most Mega Man tracks. I recommend this game to anyone who wishes their  Castlevania games had better controls.


Current listings on eBay has this game priced at around $50.


9.       Stinger

Image via Nintendo.wikia.com

Image via Nintendo.wikia.com

Release Date: September 1987

Publisher: Konami

-Released as Moero TwinBee in Japan, Stinger isn’t your typical aircraft shoot’em up like Gradius or Gun-Nac. With the possibility, to play 3-player co-op, this game switches from side-scrolling to vertical-scrolling between levels, making it like two games in one. What also makes this game stand out from the rest are its bizarre enemies and bosses. The boss of the first level is a giant slice of watermelon. Other bosses include an Angry Faucet & a Giant Stereo.


However, my favorite thing about this game is the music. This being one of composer Kiyohiro Sada’s first games to arrange, he would famously go on to do the music for Contra, Top Gun, & Blades of Steel just to name a few.


Stinger is another inexpensive game that you can find most places for around $10


10.   Tiny Toon Adventures


Release Date: December 1991

Publisher: Konami

-‘Tiny Toon Adventures’ is another platformer on my list (because you know I’m addicted to these). The game centers around Buster Bunny and his friends as they try to rescue his girlfriend Babs Bunny after being bunnynaped by Montana Max. Buster is teamed up with Plucky Duck, Dizzy, & Furball on this adventure. Before you start each of the 6 stages, you must select one character to accompany your protagonist. Each member of the team has their own unique abilities which come in handy in certain areas.


The game isn’t very long, but having the option to choose what character to bring with you gives this game a lot of replay ability. Lastly, it would be wrong of me not to mention how amazing the theme song for Tiny Toon Adventures sounds through the NES sound card.


Sound like a game you would like? Lucky for you it sells for $10-12


So there you go; 10 games that I feel get missed in the conversation of great titles on the NES. What games do you think are hidden gems on the Nintendo? Do you disagree with my choices? Leave a comment below, and be sure to click on the ‘next’ arrow to read more great blogs here at GameZilla Media.


Tony Morelli