The best PC Engine Games might seem a little dated as you read this today, but back in 1987 at the dawn of the 16-bit era, they marked a major revolution for gamers
Ok, that statement was a little bold, but it’s definitely true for Japanese and French gamers.
You see, the PC Engine was very successful in Japan and France, and it was actually the Super Famicom’s main rival in Japan.
Some of you might know that the PC Engine has an alter ego, and by that I mean it went by a different name in the rest of the world – The Turbografx 16.
Sadly, the Turbografx 16 never really made waves in the US – it just didn’t get the marketing support that it deserved thanks to two other consoles dropping at the same time.
Maybe you’ve heard of them – the SNES and the Sega Genesis?
However, the PC Engine lives on as a classic, despite officially selling only 10 million copies with the Turbografx 16 combined. However, if like us you spend a lot of time checking out the best retro handhelds of all time, then you’ll no doubt you’ll have already played some of the best PC Engine games of all time but maybe never realised where they came from.
So, with that in mind, let’s check out which games made the cut and dive straight into Number 18!
Table of Contents
1. Ninja Spirit (1988)
Here it is, folks, the best PC Engine game of all time; Ninja Spirit!
This game is perfection from start to end. Imagine Prince of Persia mixed with Ninja fighters and mystical elements of Japanese folklore – basically, all the good stuff.
Players control a fearless warrior named Tsukikage. He’s out for revenge after a mythical beast kills his father.
Everyone loves a good revenge story!
The enemies in this game were amazing, as were the graphics for the time. Just check out the textures in that cave above and compare them to some of the best Sega Genesis games that released at the same time.
There’s no comparison!
Players wield a sword named Righteous Cloud while slashing every enemy that stands in their way, including a mighty boss at the end of each level. Shurikens and Ninja Ghosts are all available to help you in your quest too.
Yes, I just said Ninja Ghosts; this game is the coolest!
2. Devil’s Crush (1990)
From the spawn of hell to the ruler of hell himself, Devil’s Crush takes the Number 2 slot in our list of the best PC Engine games of all time!
There’s a heavy occult vibe in this arcade port that Aleister Crowley would have been proud of.
Devil’s Crush is a pinball game that is more addictive than Tetris, and that’s saying something!
It’s so realistic that cheating is actually an option. Players can nudge and tilt the table, but tilting too much renders the flippers useless and may cost gamers valuable time while the table rights itself.
Playing ‘Shout at the Devil’ in its entirety also helps with the general occulty vibe of this game, and also drowns out my shouting at the Devil on the pinball machine every time my cheating doesn’t pay off!
3. Splatterhouse (1988)
Things are starting to get a little gory as we approach the end of this best PC Engine games list.
Fans of 80s horror films will love Splatterhouse. In fact, there are lots of references in this game to the scenes that freaked us out while growing up.
It might look pretty tame compared to some of the stuff on TV these days, but this game still came with a parental guidance message on it.
It read, ‘The horrifying theme of this game may be inappropriate for young children… and cowards’!
The house in Splatterhouse has a womb that gives birth to all sorts of horrible creatures. There’s also a hell mask brings the main character back to life, and multiple subtle references to western horror classics like Friday the 13th.
So… classic bedtime gaming, then?
This game is a gruesome beat ’em up that doesn’t need much concentration to play. Sure, there’s a storyline, but it doesn’t matter if you pay it any attention. It’s all about splatting bad guys and being scared outta’ your wits!
4. Cadash (1989)
Dungeons and Dragons fans will be all over this next entry in our list of the best PC Engine games like a fly at a finger buffet! Cadash comes under the heading of ‘Sword and Sorcery’ games and is one of the early titles that formed the brilliant ‘action/RPG’ genre that gamers still go crazy for today.
How do I describe Cadash to gamers in 2021? Well, if you add a dash of Gauntlet and a touch of Lord of the Rings to a cauldron swimming with magical-fantasy goodness, then Cadash would be the result.
It even has a Balrog in it!
The PC Engine version of the game differs from the arcade version by including a greater emphasis on the player taking his or her time while playing. Gamers need to concentrate on agility, defence, damage, and spell costs as opposed to running around willy-nilly.
This port was graphically-superior to the other versions too and much easier to see up on a screen. Like Rondo of Blood, make sure you get the PC Engine version over any other.
5. Lords Of Thunder (1993)
PC Engine creators Hudson Soft and the makers of Bonk teamed up for the fifth title in our list of the best PC Engine games – Lords of Thunder.
This game has the best soundtrack of any title on any console – fact. Expect Hammer of the Gods style metal from start to end, with pumping tunes that never fail to fill players with adrenaline.
The Lords of Thunder sees players controlling a legendary knight named Duran (I wonder if his real name is Rio and if he dances on the sand?). He uses armour based on the four elemental powers that also affect which weapons players use as they progress.
Lords of Thunder didn’t exactly break review records as far as critics were concerned, but I still think this is an amazing game that everyone should play.
It’s definitely one of my favourites!
6. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (1993)
Now, this is one entry in our list of the best PC Engine games that needs no introduction!
Castlevania titles never fail to show up in our best games articles, and the adventures of Richter Belmont are the stuff of legend.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood looks the best on the PC Engine out of all the retro consoles. There, I’ve said it, and I mean it too. It’s one of my favourite titles because of the removal of any sort of time limit and the multiple endings. Oh, and the vibrant colours that make this dark, ghoulish game a treat to play!
Players can either control Richter or his relative Maria, who uses a white tiger kitten as a weapon.
Talk about brutal!
Richter, of course, wields his iconic whip in the beginning, with daggers and other projectiles such as holy water arriving on the scene as he searches for his girlfriend and her captor, the villain Dracula
Konami owned the ‘action/horror’ market throughout the entire golden age of gaming era, and Rondo of Blood remains one of the most influential titles in the genre to this day!
7. R-Type I (1988)
For some reason, R-Type came to the PC engine in 2 parts, aptly named R-Type I and R-Type II. The first part contains the first four levels, and the last contains the remaining 4 levels.
Of course, if you already know your arcade titles or spent any time in arcade halls in the 80s, you’ll know all about this side-scrolling marvel. It’s gaming royalty, for crying out loud, with players trying to stop the Bydo Empire from taking over the galaxy.
One thing you’ll have read in my past articles is that the bosses in this game were ginormous. If you think about the size of a spaceship and then translate that to how small they are on screen, and then consider how big the bad guys are… it would he utterly terrifying in real life!
R-Type’s bosses stand as a tester for any other boss I come across too; if you’ve ever played Hollow Knight, then you’ll also get that same ‘gargantuan’ feel when playing.
The levels are dark and foreboding and can also be as problematic for the player as the enemies within them – everyone and everything is out to kill you in this Metroid meets Alien arcade shooter!
8. Tengai Makyō II: Manjimaru (1992)
Tengai Makyō II: Manjimaru is up next, the best-selling game for the PC Engine!
If you know your Tengai Makyō, then you’ll already know that this is the follow up to Ziria, the first game in the trio.
Enter the world of Jipang, which is essentially an alternate and somewhat parody version of feudal Japan. Cipangu was the name that Marco Polo gave Japan, and the developers decided to take inspiration from that!
Take 4 characters through turn-based fights, garnering magical spells and getting lost in the fantastic anime-esque cutscenes and epic musical score.
Get this – the game had a team of over 100 people working on it. The original plan was to make a game that had more than 50 different endings, but there just wasn’t the kind of technology back then to make a game that insanely huge.
Can you imagine this? It would have made titles like Silent Hill 2 look like super simple!
9. Air Zonk (1992)
Watch out Keith Courage; you’re not the only half-man/half-robot in this compendium of the best PC Engine games!
Hang on; doesn’t Air Zonk look a little bit like Stone-Age Bonk?
Both games are made by the same people and this side-scrolling futuristic shooter is essentially a futuristic reimagining of Bonk and his prehistoric world.
Bonk’s gone from dino-bashing headbanger to futuristic robocop faster than you can spell Diplodocus!
Air Zonk served as a means of creating a fresh and raw punky vibe for the PC Engine. As we’ve already established, there are many similarities to the Bonk series including characters like King Drool. He must have cryogenically frozen himself in an iceberg or something to still be alive all these years later. .
Like everyone’s favourite bounty hunter Samus Aran, Zonk begins the game with limited firepower and upgrades his abilities as the game goes on.
Players must shoot and bomb anything and everything as they traverse the levels in this game, accompanied all the while by a cyber cat with funkadelic sunglasses.
Bonk fans (again, I’m talking about the game) will feel right at home with Air Zonk, and newbies to the canon will pick it up in no time.
10. Dungeon Explorer (1989)
Ever imagined what a fusion of Gauntlet: Dark Legacy and Zelda might look like? The answer is Dungeon Explorer, one of my all-time favourite RPG titles on any console.
Players control one of eight characters while fighting to banish an alien race that thought it would be a good idea to call your village ‘home’.
PC Engine games seem to have a heavy alien theme to them. Perhaps Hudson Soft know something that we don’t and were trying to prepare us for am iminent attack. Care to enlighten us, Mr or Mrs Hudson?
Dungeon Explorer allows up to five players to play simultaneously. That might not sound that impressive, but it was a pretty big deal back in the late 80s.
Dungeon Explorer still holds the title of being one of the pioneering RPG games that pushed the genre to greater heights. It’s safe to say that we wouldn’t have games like Final Fantasy or Fire Emblem without it!
Choose a class (everyone knows Wizards are the best), pick a dungeon, and kick some invading Alien ass.
Sound’s like a good days work to me!.
11. Blazing Lazers (1989)
Blazing Lazers takes the 10th spot on our list of the best PC Engine games ever made!
Some gamers may well know this game by its rebranded name of ‘Gunhed’. It’s a Hudson Soft title, and with its early Metroid-style graphics and exciting forward-scrolling shoot-’em-up gameplay style, remains one heck of a game even today!
Players control the awesome Gunhed Advanced Star Fighter while battling Dark Squadron across nine intense levels.
Blazing Lazers follows a similar ‘beef up your craft’ style to other games in the genre. Players start out with a weak ship and weak firepower and upgrade as they go.
Staying alive is tougher than the Bee Gees professed in their hit song too. Lives can be obtained through clever shooting, but it’s very easy to lose health in this game, so ‘keep your eyes on the skies’!
I’ve always wanted to write that line!
12. Parasol Stars (1991)
Parasol Stars takes the Number 11 spot in this list of the best PC Engine game of all time. It’s another ‘cutesy’ platformer that feels very much like the lovechild of Mario Bros and Sonic.
Bubble Bobble crops up in every best games list in some shape or form, and this list of the best PC Engine games is no exception!
Parasol Stars joins the Bubble Bobble universe serving as the sequel to Rainbow Islands. The famous blue and green miniature dragons are back, this time in their human forms. Parasol Stars is an amalagamation of both titles/series rolled into one.
The result is a game that’s so addictive it should be listed as a Class A substance!
In true ‘The Avengers’ style (the original, not the Iron Man version) players wield a parasol as their main weapon. It acts as a shield and can stun enemies. Plus, gamers also use it to capture droplets as weapons and for throwing bad guys off the edge of the game world.
There are tonnes of vibrant levels to explore with many hidden features to uncover along the way. This title never reached arcades, though every other Bubble Bobble game made up for that fact. Still, Parasol Stars was very much a star on the home console market and received lots of brilliant reviews from critics all over the world.
13. Galaga 88 (1988)
I know that this game sounds like some-sort-of Liam Gallagher tribute fan page, but there certainly isn’t some blessed Oasis to encounter in this title.
Galaga 88 was the name of this game on the PC Engine. Due to the insane amount of time it took for the game to be released on the Turbografx-16, the developers renamed it Galaga 90 in the US.
So, if you’re checking out our list of the best Turbografx 16 games at the same time for continuity, then that’s why the Number 11 slot looks different to this one!
For those that haven’t played the Galaga series before, they are very similar to classic titles such as Asteroids, Space Invaders, and R-Type, arguably one of the best Gameboy Color games of all time.
Players control the Blast Fighter while battling Galaga forces in the heart of space. The mission is to obliterate them from the skies, but don’t think it’s going to be easy. Colliding with an enemy alien or their projectiles results in gamers losing a life, so keep your wits about you!
Galaga 88 is a simple game to pick up and play, and the soundtrack was phenomenal. It’s full of those kinds of songs that stick in the brain for months after completing a game!
14. Magical Chase (1991)
Speaking of magic ghouls, and bad lads, this next title in our list of the best PC Engine games has lots of them!
Gamers play as a witch named Keith Ripple…
I’m joking; she’s just called Ripple, but she certainly has a lot of courage!
Ripple is a witch’s apprentice, though her boss is a bit of a word that rhymes with ‘witch’ (it’s a family magazine, but you can put two-and-two together I’m sure). Ripple mistakenly opens a magical book lets out six bosses and lots of other hellish stuff that you have to defeat.
Magical Chase is a side-scrolling shooter that is bright, colourful, and incredibly fun to play. Ok, so it’s a little kiddy, but all the best games are. I don’t here anyone complaining about Mario or Kirby games!
And unlike that annoying Flappy Bird game that almost drove me to insanity, Ripple doesn’t K.O when when she collides with the roof or the floor of a level.
15. YS I & II (1989)
Next up in our list of the best PC Engine games of all time and looking very much like a prog-rock album cover is YS I & II.
This is the first action/role-playing game in our list, and the PC Engine had some gnarly RPGs tucked away up its sleeve. This PC Engine game is a remake of the original YS series for the Japanese PC-8801 console, and it proved incredibly popular with players all over the globe.
Have you noticed how vibrant and richly textured these games have been so far? It’s not hard to see how the PC Engine became a direct competitor for the Famicom in Japan with titles like like YS I & II in its back catalogue!.
In true RPG fashion, YS I & II has lots of complicated elements that are harder to understand than Einstein’s bedtime puzzle book. Expect names and places such as Zepik, Adol, and Jebah (no Keith though, surprisingly), and the storyline makes me feel a little like I’m back in a secondary school maths class trying to remember Pythagarus’ Theorum.
That’s not a character from the game…
YS I & II comes in two parts that follow on from each other. It’s like binge-watching a Netflix series; you don’t have to wait for an age after finishing the first one to carry on with the adventure!
Get ready for gargantuan plot lines, collectables hidden in every corner, and classic top-down RPG action filled with demons, magic, ghouls, and bad lads that your mother told you not to hang out with.
16. Bonk 3: Bonk’s Big Adventure (1993)
Bonk and his bald bonce take the 15th spot in this list of the best PC Engine games ever made!
Some readers may well have come across Bonk back when Retro Dodo curated a list of the best rare NES games ever made.
Unfortunately for Bonk, he hasn’t become as big a hit for collectors in his PC Engine line, but Bonk 3: Bonk’s Big Adventure is a great little game that everyone should add to their gaming catalogue.
With a rock-hard cranium capable of crushing diamonds as your main weapon, players navigate a dinosaur-infested land, head-butting ass and drawing out symbols for names. (I’m guessing Bonk can’t write, but I might be wrong!)
Bonk must use his tough brains to defeat the evil King Drool and a host of other dino-enemies. I can only wonder where his parents are and what kind of people they must be to let their son go romping around the wilderness like this. Did prehistoric people not have child care services?
The great thing about Bonk 3 is that you can invite your crush over and play two-player for twice the bonking action…
… yes, that did sound as bad as I though it would when I read it out loud. Let’s continue… quickly!
17. Keith Courage in Alpha Zones (1988)
How many space-age warriors do you know named ‘Keith’?.
Samus, Fox, Astro Boy – yes, but certainly not Keith.
I have an uncle called Keith, but he’s a Milkman and not a futuristic fighter who travels through Alpha Zones…
… not that he’s told me about, at any rate!
Keith remains a legendary figure in North America (the guy above, not my uncle) thanks to ‘Keith Courage in Alpha Zones’ coming pre-packaged with the PC Engine itself.
Keith makes our list of the best PC Engine games of all time thanks to his adventures stoping invaders from the planet B.A.D entering earth.
B.A.D honestly stands for ‘Beastly Alien Dudes’; that’s no joke.
Wearing his powerful Nova suit, Keith morphs into a half-robot/half-man crusader. He must protect N.I.C.E (Nations of International Citizens for Earth – I’m not making this up) while bashing back bad-guys in underworld caverns and standing off against alien attacks in the world above.
I was wrong to say Keith wasn’t a worthy name for a warrior; he’s a bonafide legend!
18. Neutopia II (1991)
I was confused when I first read the blurb for Neutopia II as a kid. Defeat dirt? What was all that about? Kids don’t want to clean, they want to play!
It’s a direct sequel to the first Neutopia game and sees Jazetta’s son from the first game on a mission to save his father and defeat ‘Dirth’.
Dirt and Dirth are pretty similar when you’re a kid; can you blame me for making that mistake?
Now, I know what’s going through your heads as I’ve been thinking the same thing. No, this was never planned as a new Zelda game.
Neutopia II looks very similar to the Legend of Zelda titles of the era, of that there is no doubt. The enemies, the scenery, the top-down view; it’s almost like a carbon copy.
Hudson soft are clever people, and I imagine that they might have purposely borrowed a few of Link’s traits to help sell this game.
Explore this top-down, open-world game while slaying monsters with a flashing sword. Some tasks are linear and some can be tackled in any order. It’s a genuine Zelda-style action game that fans of Link’s Awakening will love!
19. Gekisha Boy (1992)
Let’s kick things off with a strange side-scroller! You’re essentially a Paparazzo in Gekisha Boy, snapping photos to make big money.
It’s like Pokemon Snap, but celebrity snap… kind of.
The weirder the photo, the more points you get!
To progress through the game, you’ll need to meet the minimum score needed to progress onto the next level. Just move your camera crosshairs, avoid danger, and snap the best photo possible in every scenario.
Can you capture an alien abduction? What about the perfect moment a Marilyn Monroe lookalike steps over a steam vent?
Honestly, it’s a little mad, bit it’s colourful and quirky and 100% one of the most fun games for the console!
20. Bomberman ’94 (1993)
Bomberman ’94 really needs no introduction. The multiplayer mode with the bomb-firing Kangaroos and the insanely bright explosion graphics has gone down in legend since the 90s.
I grew up playing this game on the Mega Drive, though the PC Engine version would have been much more fun. If only I had known back then that you could play with up to 5 players in the multiplayer; it would have been carnage.
A robotic army from a comet threaten the peaceful lives of the citizens on Planet Bomber (which sounds a little like a powder keg ready to explode, if you ask me). Your job is to save the Planet and rejoin its 5 shards back together, taking your kangaroo companion along for the ride with you.
And the amount of times I walked into my own bombs too… there should have been an award given for most deaths from incompetence!
I always remember the thrill of playing Bomberman 64 for the first time and seeing how far the format had come, but there’s something really relaxing about this early format. It’s the same as when we head back to play the early Mario Bros. games – that no-nonsense simplicity is very refreshing.
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 33 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.