10 Weirdest NES Games
The original NES was a miraculous piece of hardware— for many gamers, it became the portal to the first virtual adventures they’d ever have. They jumped with Mario, plumbed the depths with Samus, and found the treasure with Link. But not every NES adventure was as straightforward as these, oh no. Maybe the developers wanted to break the mold, or maybe they were just plain crazy, but there were a few beautiful weirdo games who slipped into the NES catalogue, managing to simultaneously delight and confuse gamers. Here are a few of such oddball pieces of NES history.
Little Nemo the Dream Master
How many games can you think of that are based on a comic strip from 1905 came out for the NES? Zero. Outside of its historical eccentricity, two major factors contribute to Nemo’s weirdness: firstly, instead of fighting enemies by using weapons or jumping on them, Nemo first had to befriend animals by giving them candy, and could “ride” the animal, a process which often involved Nemo changing size and/or color. Secondly, the game’s stages are each set in Nemo’s dreams. Forget typical levels like “desert,” or “ice world,” Little Nemo brought you into worlds like the Mushroom Forest, or the toy train level, which has Nemo stuck atop a toy train as it goes through a house filled with animated playthings, evil flying squirrels, and spiked ceilings.
As a game, there was nothing particularly strange about Yo! Noid. It was a fairly typical platformer, filled with all of the elements common to the genre. What made it strange was that it starred the Noid, the mascot for Domino’s Pizza. I guess ’90s Capcom would make a game about friggin’ anything.
Monster in my Pocket
A vampire and a Frankenstein’s monster-like creature, cleverly named Vampire and Monster, are hanging out, watching TV when a bunch of other monsters decide to be douchebags and take over the world. From there you’d battle against other familiar, but never copyright infringing, monsters, like Bigfoot and Medusa, in some two-player platforming/beat-em-up action.
Taboo: The Sixth Sense
To some, Taboo is a video game that flirts with the supernatural and gives little kids something to do and giggle about during sleepovers. To others, it’s a dark gateway into the occult. Why Rare thought this “game,” which was basically a digital set of tarot cards, would be a hit is beyond me.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The TMNT were huge in the late ’80s/early ’90s, so it only stood to reason that someone would make a video game about them. And what a game it was, too, featuring classic ninja turtle foes like Rocksteady and Bebop. The Ninja Turtles had a hefty rogue’s gallery for the game developers to plumb through, and yet, they chose instead to primarily use original, freaking weird enemies. Don’t worry though, you do end up fighting Shredder in the Technodrome. Plus, the developers would later go on to create the awesome Ninja Turtles beat-em-up arcade games, complete with nothing but classic turtle foes. This first game is just the black sheep (or turtle) of the family.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
You know what kids love? Literary characters from the 1800s. They also love obtuse gameplay elements, such as Dr. Jekyll’s bizarre rules involving transforming back and forth between Jekyll and Hyde, and the game killing you seemingly at random with bolts of lightning.
Uninvited is a point-and-click adventure game in the style of Maniac Mansion. The thing that makes this one stick out, though, is how dark and often terrifying it was for an NES game. Do you see the Mysterious Lady pictured next to this article? God help you if you were an unprepared kid playing this game and you got her attention. Not only was this chick horrifying to behold, but she’d turn around and eat your freaking face off. Game over!
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti
Don’t let the cutesy cover fool you: there’s plenty of splattering to be found in Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti. Serving as a precursor to the beat-em-up games, S:WG is more of a tongue-in-cheek horror platformer. Sure, there’s blood and bullets, but there’s also evil pumpkin-headed kids, and a vampire dressed as Michael Jackson from ‘Thriller’. It was a cute, kind of dark game, perfect for the oddball little kid who was into weird stuff like ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’, Tim Burton movies, or ‘Golden Girls‘.
A gargoyle dude named Bert comes crashing down from space and asks you to help him kick the asses of some evil monsters. This is the story told to you through the title cards of ‘Monster Party’, and it only gets weirder from there. The game’s foes are bizarre things, like shadow men, bubble-spitting giant pitcher plants, and what looks like evil legs kicking out of the ground. Plus the game would occasionally take a turn into Silent Hill territory by placing you in a twisted, even more bizarre version of the previous level. The smiley faces and happy cacti decorating the background were now vomiting, bruised, and evil. Sweet! Childhood nightmares ahoy!
In Zombie Nation, aliens have attacked the Earth, and you play as the decapitated, undead head of a samurai warrior in a flying shoot-em-up as you try to force the aliens off of your planet. Seriously. I’m not sure what else to say about this gleaming oddball other than your life meter is comprised of tiny versions of your face, and every time you’re hit, one of your faces turns into a skull.