Listing The Best TurboGrafx-16 Games From The 16-Bit Era

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When the 16-bit era kicked off with a bang, the best TurboGrafx-16 games were ready and waiting for players to experience a new gaming revolution.

Well, they were in Japan and France, at any rate.

Some of you might know the TurboGrafx-16 as the ‘PC Engine’, the name it went under in Japan and subsequently after it was imported for French gamers to get their hands on.

The marketing was strong, and the console went on to become the Super Famicom’s main rival.

In North America, however, the TurboGrafx-16 (same console, cooler name) received poor marketing support and instead came out around the time of the Genesis and the rebranded Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

It’s a shame that gamers didn’t get onto the best titles sooner as there are some absolute classics for those consoles.

The delay and general dithering around the console’s release, twinned with the confusion as to whether the modified 8-bit CPU actually made this unit a 16-bit home console, meant that the TurboGrafx-16 joined the ranks of ‘could have been’ consoles alongside the Sega CD and the Dreamcast.

Still, if you’ve sidled over to the PC Engine section on your trusty retro gaming handhelds and liked what you’ve seen, then you should definitely consider grabbing a TurboGrafx-16 and all of the titles in our list.

We’ve made a compendium of the 16 best games for the TurboGrafx-16 (clever, huh? I’m just not looking forward to the Atari 5200 list!)

Check them out below, and get your game on!

1. Ninja Spirit (1990)

Ninja Spirit (1990)
image credit: moby games/Activision

I loved this game from start to finish. It has a bit of a Prince of Persia feel about it crossed with Ninja elements and Japanese folklore – basically, all of the good stuff.

You play as Tsukikage, a character that is on a mission to avenge his father’s death at the hands of a mythical beast.

I’m getting excited just writing about it!

Ninja Spirit gameplay (1990)
image credit: moby games/activision

The enemies in this game were incredible, and I hope you agree when I say that the graphics were pretty amazing for the time too.

The detail in the caves and the woodland areas in the various stages that you have to fight your way through is pretty astounding when you compare it to the classics that appeared on the Sega Genesis.

Armed with your faithful sword, Righteous Cloud, you must slash every enemy in sight including a boss at the end of each level.

The player can also get bonus items such as Shurikens and call upon Ninja ghosts to join the fray!

If you have the Ninja Spirit lurking inside you, then I urge you to give this game a try.

You won’t regret it!

2. Devil’s Crush (1990)

Devil's Crush (1990)
image credit: moby games/Konami

From gruesome monsters to the devil himself, the second slot in our list is reserved for Satan’s very own pinball machine.

With an occult theme featuring ghouls, skulls, demons, and ghosties, this is an arcade game that Tim Burton’s Oogie Boogie would certainly be proud of.

Devil's Crush gameplay (1990)
image credit: moby games/Konami

This is a pinball game that should come with an ‘addictive’ warning message.

It’s so realistic to the point of actually giving you the ability to cheat via nudging and tilting the table.

If you tilt too much, however, the flippers won’t work, and you may lose valuable time while the table rights itself.

I guess the devil doesn’t play fair, so neither should you!

The designers of Devil’s Crush must have been on a Mötley Crüe-style binge when they made this game.

Playing ‘Shout at the Devil’ in its entirety also helps with the general ambience of this game, but the original soundtrack is pretty great too.

3. Splatterhouse (1990)

Splatterhouse (1990)
image credit: moby games/bandai namco

This classic Namco beat ’em up game pays homage to all of the gruesome 80s horror films that we loved to get freaked out by growing up.

The content might not look anywhere near as brutal as some of the fatalities that we might see on Mortal Kombat these days, but this game actually came with a parental guidance message back in the day.

It read ‘The horrifying theme of this game may be inappropriate for young children… and cowards’.

I reckon I would have fallen into both categories there…

Splatterhouse gameplay (1990)
image credit: moby games/bandai namco

Featuring a house with a womb that spawns monsters, a hell mask that resurrects a student who wanders too far, and tonnes of references to Western horror classics such as Friday the 13th, Splatterhouse is a must-have for anyone who loves to get frightened out of their wits.

The story isn’t the main element of this game, however. It’s a gruesome beat ’em up first and foremost, and one that is simple enough for anyone to jump straight into.

It’s no Dark Souls, but it’s a great game to have a go at (so long as you can see through your tears of terror, that is).

4. Cadash (1989)

Cadash (1989)
image credit: moby games/Taito corporation

Cadash is one of the best titles out there for any fans of epic Dungeons ‘n’ Dragons-style quests.

The official category for this game is ‘Sword and Sorcery’, and it’s one of the early games that would go on to form the much-loved ‘action/RPG’ genre that gamers can’t get enough of today.

If you’ve never played this game before, then I can best describe it as Lord of the Rings meets the Gauntlet series.

It’s high-fantasy and filled with magical action.

There’s even a Balrog in it!

Cadash gameplay (1989)
image credit: moby games/taito corporation

The TurboGrafx-16 version of the game differs from the arcade version by including greater emphasis on agility, defense, damage, and spell costs.

It also only allowed you to play with two players at once instead of four.

Looks like you won’t be dressing up as the kids from Stranger Things and having a go at this together, then!

This port was also brighter and graphically superior to the other versions too. So if you’re going to play any version, make sure it’s this one!

5. Lords Of Thunder (1993)

Lords Of Thunder (1993)
image credit: moby games/Hudson Soft

Hudson Soft and the makers of Bonk teamed up for the next title in our list.

The Lords of Thunder has one of the best soundtracks in any game I’ve ever played, hands down.

It’s heavy-metal-thunder (great Saxon tune) from start to finish, fueling the player into a frenzy as he or she takes on some humongous bosses and evil villains.

Lords Of Thunder gamepaly (1993)
image credit: moby games/Hudson Soft

The Lords of Thunder sees players controlling a legendary knight named Duran. You can equip armour based on the four elements to help you with your quest, with your choice affecting the type of weapons that you can control.

Critics gave this game mixed reviews, but I loved it when I got hold of a TurboGrafx-16 and made some great memories playing it.

6. Castlevania: Rondo Of Blood (1993)

Castlevania: Rondo Of Blood (1993)
image credit: gamesdb/Konami

Now this is one entry in our list that doesn’t really need an introduction!

The adventures of Richter Belmont and his mission to kill Dracula are legendary.

And If I’m going to be honest, which I’m paid to do, Rondo of Blood looks the best on this system out of all of our favourite retro consoles.

This game is also one of my favourite Castlevania titles because of the non-timed levels and multiple endings to some stages.

Castlevania: Rondo Of Blood (1993) gameplay
image credit: theo litston/retro dodo

And you can play as Richter’s relative Maria, who uses a white tiger kitten as a weapon.

Talk about savage!

Richter can wield his trademark whip at the start of the game, moving onto daggers and holy water as he progresses in his quest to save his girlfriend from Dracula.

Konami pretty much cornered the ‘action/horror’ market during the golden age of gaming, and Rondo of Blood is as fine of an example of the genre as can be found.

7. Air Zonk (1992)

Air Zonk (1992)
image credit: moby games/Hudson Soft

It turns out that our mate Keith Courage isn’t the only half-man/half-robot in our list.

How many of our eagle-eyed readers have noticed a striking resemblance between Bonk and Air Zonk?

Well, it’s made by the same people, and this side-scrolling futuristic shooter is basically Bonk re-imagined.

He’s gone from prehistoric headbanger to space-age cyberpunk faster than you can spell Tyrannosaurus Rex!

Air Zonk (1992) gameplay
image credit: moby games/Hudson Soft

Air Zonk attempted to give the TurboGrafx-16 a cool, fresh, and punky look. It features many characters from the Bonk series including King Drool, who must have somehow cryogenically frozen himself to now be alive in the future.

Like Samus in the Metroid games, Zonk starts off with limited firepower but can increase his arsenal as he progresses.

Gameplay revolves around shooting and bombing pretty much everything as you power through each stage, accompanied by a cybercat with cool shades.

Fans of Bonk will love the familiar light-hearted characteristics of this game, and newbies to the series will enjoy the humorous content and easy-play feel.

8. Dungeon Explorer (1989)

Dungeon Explorer (1989)
image credit: moby games/Hudson Soft

If Gauntlet: Dark Legacy and Zelda were fused together into one game, then I reckon that it might look a little something like this.

Dungeon Explorer is one of my favourite RPG titles on any console. You play as one of eight main characters as you try to rid your land of an alien race that thought it would be a good idea to take over your home.

There are a lot of aliens featured in this list; maybe the developers were trying to prepare us for what is to come in the year 2059 or something!

Dungeon Explorer (1989) gameplay
image credit: moby games/Hudson Soft

Up to five players could play Dungeon Explorer simultaneously, which was pretty groundbreaking for back in the late 80s.

The game is considered by many in the know (that includes Brandon and I) as being one of the pioneering titles that helped to push the RPG genre to greater heights.

Perhaps we wouldn’t have had epic quests like Phantasy Star Online without it!

Pick a class (obviously Warlock), find a dungeon, and kick some Alien butt.

Job done.

9. Blazing Lazers (1989)

Blazing Lazers (1989)
image credit: moby games/Hudson Soft

We’re heading back into outer space for the next title in out list!

This rebranded version of ‘Gunhed’ by Hudson Soft was, and still is, an absolute belter of a game, with early Metroid-style graphics twinned with an immersive forward-scrolling shoot-’em-up platform.

The player pilots the Gunhed Advanced Star Fighter as you take on the forces of the Dark Squadron through nine nail-biting levels.

Are you up to the task?

Blazing Lazers (1989) gameplay
image credit: moby games/Hudson Soft

As with other games in this genre, you start off with pretty weak firepower that can be upgraded as you progress through each level.

Staying alive is trickier than you might think too. You can pick up extra 1-Ups as you blast your way through each level. But get hit, and you’ll instantly lose a life.

Defeat all the enemies, pat yourself on the back, and proceed to the next level. It’s a tried and tested concept and one that works every time.

10. Parasol Stars: The Story Of Bubble Bobble III (1991)

Parasol Stars: The Story Of Bubble Bobble III (1991)
image credit: moby games/Taito corporation

Next up on our list is Parasol Stars, another ‘cutesy’ platformer with Super Mario Bros and Sonic vibes from the outset.

Every one of these ‘best of’ retro gaming lists seems to have a Bubble Bobble game in it, so you’ll be pleased to know that the TurboGrafx-16 also had some Bubble Bobble love!

Parasol Stars is part of the Bubble Bobble universe and the sequel to Rainbow Islands. Everyone’s favourite miniature dragons are back in their human forms once again, and the game is a bit of a mixture of both titles/series combined.

Parasol Stars: The Story Of Bubble Bobble III (1991) gameplay
image credit: moby games/Taito corporation

The result is a classic little game that is insanely addictive.

In true ‘Kingsman: Secret Service’ style, the player wields a parasol as the main weapon. You can use it to it as a shield, to stun enemies, capture droplets that can be used as weapons, and for hurling bad guys into pixelated oblivion.

There are plenty of colourful worlds for you to try your hand at with more than a few secrets for you to uncover along the way,

Parasol Stars never made it to arcades, unlike seemingly every other Bubble Bobble title, but it was still a ‘star’ of the home console circuit and one that garnered rave reviews from critics of the time.

11. Galaga 88 (1987)

Galaga 88 (1987)
image credit: moby games/bandai namco

I’m going to come clean here; I was very confused when I typed in Galaga 88 and it kept coming up with TurboGrafx-16 pictures of Galaga 90, which sounds like some sort of Oasis tribute fan page.

Galaga 88 was the name of this game on the PC Engine, and due to the long time it took for the game to be released on the TurboGrafx-16, it was renamed Galaga 90.

Confusion over; let’s find out what this game is all about!

Galaga 88 (1987) gameplay
image credit: moby games/bandai namco

If you’ve never come across the Galaga series before, then this fixed-shooter classic is akin to titles like Asteroids, Space Invaders, and R-Type, one of the best Game Boy Color games of all time.

You control the Blast Fighter as you travel through space beating back the vengeful Galaga forces. Your mission is to blast them clean out of the skies, but colliding with an enemy alien or their projectiles will result in a life being lost.

This is a simple game that doesn’t take much thought to play, which makes it great for players who just want something easy to tackle or for anyone easing their way into the world of retro gaming.

And the soundtrack; man, did this thing game have some catchy background tunes!

Trust me; you’ll be annoying the people on your morning commute in no time!

12. Magical Chase (1991)

Magical Chase (1991)
image credit: gamesdb/pal Soft

Speaking of magic and ghouls, this next title deals with them both on a regular basis!

Players control a witch named Ripple, an apprentice to a horrible witch, who has put her foot in it by opening a magical book and releasing six demons, the bosses you’ll have to battle at the end of each of the six levels.

Threatened with being turned into a frog if she doesn’t get her act together and save the world, Ripple heads off with two elf-star friends to clean up her mess.

Magical Chase (1991) gameplay
image credit: moby games/pal Soft

Magical Chase is a side-scrolling shooter that is bright, colourful, and incredibly fun to play.

It might look a little ‘kiddy’, but that doesn’t stop it from being a great title to kick back with.

Power-ups can be bought during each level, a little like in Mario Party.

And unlike that annoying Flappy Bird game, you won’t die when you hit the roof or floor of a level.

13. YS: Book I & II (1989)

YS: Book I & II (1989)
image credit: moby games/Hudson Soft

Next up is YS I & II, the first action/role-playing game on our list.

The TurboGrafx-16 had some pretty exciting RPGs up its sleeve, and this remake of the original YS series for the Japanese PC-8801 console went down a storm with gamers all over the world.

One of the things that I hope you have noticed is how richly coloured these games have been so far. You can see why the PC Engine became a direct competitor for the Famicom in Japan, and it was games like YS I & II that helped push it to such great heights.

YS: Book I & II (1989) gameplay
image credit: moby games/Hudson Soft

In true RPG fashion, there are lots of names and places such as Zepik, Adol, and Jebah (no Keith though, surprisingly), and the plot is about as complicated as trying to understand ‘Sin Cos Tan’ as a 30-year-old who hated maths.

The game comes in two parts, as you might have guessed from the ‘I & II’ in the title.

The games follow on from one another too, so there’s no ‘waiting around’ to be had once you finish the first quest, which is a really nice touch.

Waiting for sequels is the worst!

Expect mammoth plot lines, tonnes of collectibles, and classic top-down RPG action crammed with magical baddies and ghouls galore.

14. Bonk 3: Bonk’s Big Adventure (1993)

Bonk 3: Bonk's Big Adventure (1993)
image credit: moby games/Hudson Soft

Bonk and his rock-hard bonce are back in the next title in our list of the best TurboGrafx-16 games.

We first wrote about Bonk when we covered the rarest NES games on the market today.

His TurboGrafx-16 career hasn’t made as big a wave in the second-hand market, unfortunately, but Bonk 3: Bonk’s Big Adventure will always be a classic title worth having in my humble opinion.

Bonk 3: Bonk's Big Adventure (1993) gameplay
image credit: moby games/hudson Soft

Using a cranium that could take down a small city as your main weapon, Bonk has to travel through a land of dinosaurs head-butting ass and taking names.

Why a small child is allowed so much destructive freedom I do not know. Where are Mr and Mrs Bonk, for crying out loud?

Bonk must use his rock-hard brains to defeat the evil King Drool and a host of other dino-enemies.

He can eat mushrooms to shrink or grow in size, and you can team up with a friend for twice the bonking action…

… yes, that last sentence did sound wrong, so let’s just move on.

15. Keith Courage In Alpha Zones (1988)

Keith Courage In Alpha Zones (1988)
image credit: moby games/hudson Soft

Keith isn’t a name that I would usually associate with a futuristic warrior.

Dex, Falco, and possibly Dan if the character looked cool enough, but certainly not Keith.

My uncle is called Keith and he’s a milkman. It’s a good, honest job, but he certainly doesn’t fly around on a jet pack or face up against robotic behemoths…

… unless you count Mrs Miggins at Number Seven, that is.

Keith Courage In Alpha Zones (1988) gameplay
image credit: moby games/Hudson Soft

Keith is a bit of a legend in North America as his game ‘Keith Courage in Alpha Zones’ came packaged with the TurboGrafx-16 itself.

This science-fiction/fantasy adventure is heralded as one of the best TurboGrafx-16 games ever made thanks to its compelling storyline and Keith’s bad-ass attitude to fighting aliens.

The story passes through seven levels as Keith tries to stop invaders from the planet B.A.D, which I-kid-you-not stands for ‘Beastly Alien Dudes’.

With the Nova suit, Keith becomes a half-man/half-robot fighting machine. Fighting to protect N.I.C.E (Nations of International Citizens for Earth), he must travel underworld and overworld like a crime-fighting Womble in a bid to save his people.

I was wrong to diss Keith; man’s a legend!

16. Neutopia II (1991)

Neutopia II (1991)
image credit: moby games/hudson Soft

When I first read the blurb for this game back when I was a kid, I though that you had to defeat ‘dirt’.

Cleaning is never fun, even when it’s on a game. Though thankfully, Neutopia II is far more exciting than spring cleaning your granny’s attic.

Hudson Soft know how to make cracking games, and Neutopia II is no exception.

It’s a direct sequel to the first Neutopia game and sees Jazetta’s son on a quest to rescue his father and defeat ‘Dirth’.

See how I got confused?

Neutopia II (1991) gameplay
image credit: moby games/hudson Soft

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and no, this wasn’t a new Zelda game.

Neutopia II certainly had a very striking resemblance to the Legend of Zelda titles of the era, a fact that Hudson Soft probably knew and worked to their advantage.

As the player, you have to explore all of the areas in this top-down world, completing tasks that are sometimes offered up in a linear order and others that can be completed in an order of your choosing.

Apart from the limited open-world elements, this is Zelda through and through, so fans of the series will gel with Neutopia II straight away.

Caves, flashing swords, and monsters; what’s not to love?

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