Looking to add some unknown titles to your NES collection? Take a look at our list of the most underrated NES games of all time right here!
The NES had a total of 716 games in its back catalogue, and while many people could only name around 20 of the most famous titles for Ninty’s iconic console on a good day, there are so many under-appreciated games currently sitting in second-hand stores all around the world.
And it’s our job to give them a home!
So, if you’re looking to bolster your collection or just want to go wild and try a game you’ve never heard of before, here’s a list of the 10 best unknown titles that helped to push the NES to new heights (in their own little way)!
10. Rockin Cats (1991)
Rockin Cats takes the first spot in this list of the most underrated NES games of all time, a crazy little game with a cult following that finds the gameplay simply purrfect.
Yeah, I know that’s a terrible pun, but I couldn’t help it.
Your girlfriend has been kidnapped by an evil dude from the Dog Mafia, and it’s up to you to get her back!
There are only five stages, the first four of which can be played in which ever order you prefer. Don’t let that put you off though; the levels are super tough and provide you with a serious challenge.
And the TV-style game mechanic of playing through channels and buying items through a QVC-esque shopping channel is really different. It gives me Gex Enter The Gecko vibes!
Your moves are pretty wild too, with players taking control of jet sneakers and a glove that looks like something Knuckles and Wolverine might have worked together on!
Add in a minigame mode to keep players occupied after the main storyline has finished, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a NES game on your hands!
9. Krusty’s Fun House (1992)
Krusty’s Fun House takes the next spot on our list of the best underrated NES games, bringing Simpsons action to the table with what some might call an unlikely main character.
I guess considering the fact Bart is normally a prevalent character in the other 3 Nes games, you might be forgiven for thinking that this fame could be a bit of a damp squib.
But you’d be completely wrong. Krusty’s outing is amazing from start to finish. It’s colourful, wacky, and provides a nice change of pace from Acclaim’s other Springfield-licious titles.
Acclaim could have easily just made Krusty’s Fun House a carbon copy of the other games in the series, having Krusty embarking on simple side-scrolling platforming adventure with little imagination.
What they actually did was pave the way for a game where you have to exterminate mice. It’s a puzzlehead’s dream, with players solving problems and interacting with parts of the level in order to get those pesky mice out of the picture.
It feels a lot like the Mario vs Donkey Kong games for the GBA, just with a weird clown and Simpsons characters causing a ruckus in boss battles.
8. River City Ransom (1989)
Sometimes games just don’t get the attention that they deserved first time around. And in many cases, if a title doesn’t do well with players in America, then it doesn’t end up making big waves across the rest of the industry.
Still, don’t feel too sorry for River City Ransom; it’s built up a cult following over the years and has finally made it onto the most coveted Retro Gaming website of them all.
You know I’m talking about Retro Dodo, right?
Weirdly, this is a beat ‘em up the likes of which we had never seen before in 1989. Scratch that – it had features that were seriously ahead of their time too, with open world gameplay and the chance to soup up your fighter’s stats.
A fighter reading a magazine to increase their skill tree… I mean, it’s not in the realms of the impossible, right?
Unlike the serious beat-em-up feel of games like Streets of Rage, the combat has a more cartoony feel to it, with characters boasting bulging eyes when attacked and comical expressions.
It’s a little simple, but the formula works well. So much so, in fact, that the series ran all the way up to the 3DS!
7. Shatter Hand (1991)
I know Shatter Hand sounds a little like a distant relation of Mr Glass in Unbreakable, but it’s actually a whole lot cooler than Samuel L.L Jackson going up against Mel Gibson.
Remember when that guy lost his arm in 127 hours? Well, if he had been in this game, he might have received some sort of Jax Mortal Kombat-esque robotic arms to fight crime with.
Told you it was cool!
Players take a policeman with a pair of robotic arms fighting against a whole heap of pesky cyborg cretins who are vying for his blood.
The gameplay and level designs feels a lot like Double Dragon meets Metroid, which is a great combination if you ask us. It’s one of those games where there’s something new to catch you out around every corner, and while the game mechanics don’t vary that much as the game progresses, the levels get progressively tougher and throw some real curve balls into the mix.
6. Whomp ‘Em (1991)
I know that many of us might think that this is what the Whomping Willow is silently shouting while smashing Ron and Harry with its massive club branch… fist…thingys, but Whomp ‘Em is actually a side scrolling title that is way more brutal than you might expect from one of the best underrated NES games of all time.
So, what’s the score here?
Well, players have to take a Native American character on a side-scrolling fight-fest, killing some weird and wonderful enemies that have definitely taken inspiration from other Nintendo characters that have graced out screens via the NES.
And I know I said that this game was brutal, but it’s still only by the NES standards. You’re not going to get any kind of Mortal Kombat fatalities suddenly popping out of nowhere or anything!
5. Little Samson (1992)
One corelation that you’ll find with underrated NES games is that they are sometimes some of the most rare NES games in the collection too. I guess it stands to reason that if you can’t get hold of a game, then it’s going to fall into an unknown and underrated article like this one.
For players wanting to get hold of a sealed copy of Little Samson, they’ll need a whopping $5,500 spare to shell out for it.
If Taito had had the marketing capital behind them to really, really push this game, then the chance are that we could have been seeing a list of the best Little Samson games alongside our list of the best Mega Man Games.
Super strong Little Samson was designed to rival Mega Man and bring fast-paced, catchy action to our finger tips in a Mario meets Rocket Knight Adventures-esque game. If you ask us, Little Samson is a much better hero than the blue space wonder too. I mean, he punches Skeletons and players can play as a dragon.
Do I need to say anything else?
4. Bucky O Hare (1992)
Bucky O’Hare takes the 4th spot in this list of the most underrated NES games of all time. He’s a space-travelling hare that, instead of hopping around Farmer Maggot’s crop, is hopping across planets while kicking butt and taking names.
Like Little Samson, Bucky has a big price on his head, and that’s not because he’s into any bounty hunter business either.
Expect to pay upwards of $2,000 to get your hands on a sealed copy.
Like Star Fox, Blinky has a crew. And like Fox McCloud, Blinky will do anything for them.
Sadly, the game just wasn’t as popular as the incredible comic book series, The print run was very small, not many people played it, and for a long time no one remembered or even knew how great this game was.
Your mission is to rescue your team members, with each character that you save becoming available to use in the game. I’m a big fan of Deadeye, but I’m sure you’ll pick your own favourite as you move through the game!
This really is an under-appreciated game that should be in everyone’s NES collection. If only it had lived up to the initial hype of the arcade game; things could have been so different! We might have been playing Super Bucky Odyssey right now!
3. Darkwing Duck (1992)
The incredible Drake Mallard, a.k.a Darkwing Duck takes the 3rd spot in our list of the most underrated NES games of all time!
I can remember playing this game so much as a kid, taking Darkwing out through gloomy levels, playing through exciting levels with that all-important Duck Tales theme to them.
That’s right; Drake Mallard comes from the DuckTales series, and Darkwing is take on a Batman style character.
Bat Duck doesn’t really have the same wing to it now, does it?
This is more than just a game for me, however. I used to watch the TV show religiously and even had some Darkwing Duck collectible toys too.
Needless to say I was a big fan, and once you see Darkwing firing his gas gun, you will be too!
2. Crystallis (1990)
Crystalis sadly isn’t a game that sees players searching for Caterpies and waiting for them to turn into Kakunas.
How’ this for a fact too – when the game first released, it brought about the idea that 1997 would be the end of the world.
Talk about getting deep, right?
I think we can all feel pretty confident that this didn’t happen. I mean, I’m now 33 and I was 7-years-old in 1997. So, either I’m long gone and have become a ghost writer (in the spiritual sense and not writing articles on someone else’s behalf), or we’re a-ok.
Don’t worry, the end of the world is just in the game, and the war that’s happening, whie feeling a bit Zelda-ish, is 100% fictional.
Go up against bosses three times your size after waking up from cryogenic sleep. Learn spells, upgrade armour…
Ok, so it’s definitely BotW just from 1990, but that can only ever be a good thing, right?
Or does that make BotW Crystalis from 2017? I think I need to lie down now!
1. The Krion Conquest (1990)
The results are in, the people have spoken, and The Krion Conquest is officially the most underrated NES game of all time!
The year 1999 wasn’t just the year that Prince wanted us to party like… well, 1999. It was also the setting for a battalion of cyborg killers descending to our planet.
I know that you’ve seen a lot of side-scrollers so far in this list, but I really saved the bezt character till last. Francesca the Witch is, without a doubt, one of the NES’ unsung heroes.
She probably taught that lass who comes running every time you ring a bell in A Link Between Worlds everything she know!
Fly on a broom, pick up cool elemental powers, and try not to throw your controller across the room when you die for the umpteenth time. The difficulty keeps me coming back time and time again in a bid to beat it quicker every time, and Francesca is a cute yet daring character that more than compliments the NES’ character catalogue.
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 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.