The Best Undiscovered TurboGrafx-16 Games

The Hidden Gems of the TurboGrafx-16

Usually, when you get a new-to-you console, you can usually find or remember the major games to check out. But what happens when you need something different to play? This is where the “Hidden Gems” come in. Our resident TG-16 expert, marurun, is back to take a look at what the TG16 has to offer.

Some of these TG16 games are flawed gems, but as the system itself was something of a hidden gem here in the US most of the truly great games have got their just desserts. Most of them, anyway. Here you will find a few additional, unheralded winners, as well as a couple wannabes that almost made it.
Read More About My Criteria For Hidden Gems
See All The Hidden Gems Articles

Action & Adventure

Obvious Choices: Bonk Series, Legendary Axe, Ninja Spirit, Splatterhouse, Strider, Castlevania X

Featured Game: Silent Debuggers (HuCard)

This first-person action game has you tracking aliens through a space station. There’s a sensor that pings out when you get close. The simulated “3D” corridor animation is a bit jerky but the graphics are colorful (in a creepy sort of way) and the music adds to the atmosphere.

Turbo2k’s Review:
“One of the coolest games for the TG16. You’re a “Debugger” assigned to investigate mysterious malfunctions on space station OHME. Relying on your buddy Leon and your sensors, your job is to seek out and destroy the aliens inhabiting the station before it’s too late. The eerie pinging of your sensors sets your heart racing. Be prepared to jump a few feet into the air when an alien jumps out at you attempting to eat your brain or other meaty organ.

The game doesn’t take long to beat, but the playability is so good that you’ll be playing this one years after you’ve beaten it for the 500th time. Smooth transitions for when you’re walking would be a nice touch. If you’re watching someone play it’s hard to tell if their character is moving backward or forward. The music does it’s best at making you feel ill at ease. Colorful graphics enhance this – almost, but not quite – 3D first-person shooter. “
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Featured Game: Beyond Shadowgate (Super CD)
An adventure game (King’s Quest style) that was probably also in co-development for the PC, but the PC version never game out. For once you can fight in real time by punching. Even when you have a sword. Ah well. Lots of good puzzles and an incredible number of interesting ways to die. Beyond Shadowgate is a creative and truly under-exposed entry in the adventure genre that most genre fans will love.

Universo PC-Engine’s Review:
“Icom Simulations games were usually amazing. Shape Shifter is a great example of Icom’s high quality productions, but it can’t really be compared to the magnificent Beyond Shadowgate, released only within the US, for the TG-16.

Prince Eric is the main character. His father, King Adam, was murdered while Eric was travelling around the world in search of wisdom. Eric returned, then, to his homeland, to meet with your sister Elizabeth, become a king and find out the murderers of his father. Unfortunately, he’s arrested by order of Royal Advisor Belezaar, convicted by murder and sentenced to death penalty on guillotine. His mission, now, is to escape from certain death and fight against the evil forces that are, now, in control of the Castle Shadowgate… in resume, the same “good vs evil” old story! 🙂

The common plot doesn’t compromise the game at all. Beyond Shadowgate reminds some beautiful AMIGA games a lot, such as “Universe”, in which strength and “brain cells” must be wisely used. The game structure is really good, with menus in which you can select special objects and actions, along with the normal character controlling. On action scenes, you can crouch and, also, punch your enemies really hard.”
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Featured Game: Somer Assault/Mesopotamia (HuCard)
Some people love this game and some hate it, but if one thing is certain it’s this game is weird. You are a combat-equipped slinky which can walk (slink) on walls. You navigate various levels to defeat zodiac-inspired bosses.

Video Game Den’s Review
“Mesopotamia is an original and cute platform game by Atlus. Player controls a weird looking creature that moves by sticking one of its end to walls, in a way similar to a caterpillar or more precicely like those metallic string toys that can go down the stairs. The game is based on Zodiacal elements and counts twelve big stages with a nasty boss at the end of each of them. Many other weird creatures are also spreaded around each maze and are there to stop you. Your creature has an extra ring in its middle which can fire back at those ennoying things. To increase the challenge a little, the player mush reach the exit of each time within a time limit. When destroyed, some enemies drop special power-ups, like extra life, shields or the priceless super-speed or bouncing-shots options…

Mesopotamia is an interesting and somehow entertaining platform game. The string like creature is very well designed and the fact you can also stick to the inside of the maze adds an amazing depth to the game. However, some stages are very large and it is very easy to get lost and I personnaly hate the fact that the boss fight is included in the time limit. That’s much too hard… however I love the super-speed option allowing you to more the tinny pink slug at super-fast speed through the mazes. All in all, you will probably have fun playing Mesopotamia, the game is far to be a milestone in Video game history, but it hides some nice surprises and unusual elements and it is one of a kind.”
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Fighting

Obvious Choices: Street Fighter 2, Fatal Fury, World Heroes

Featured Game: Godzilla (Super CD)
The TurboGrafx-16 saw very few fighting games in the US, and Godzilla was the best of them. In story mode you are limited to Godzilla, but by defeating a monster in story mode you unlock it for vs mode. There are some “hidden” bosses as well. The animation is about standard for a 16-bit era fighter, but the music is streamed off the CD and the sound effects are pretty darn good. The graphics are also colorful and detailed, making for a good looking and good sounding game. Given what wasn’t brought to the US on the TG-16, it’s odd that this title was, but TG-16 owners should be thankful as it’s a fun experience.

Video Game Critics’s Review:
“The 16-beast line-up includes Rodan, Gigan, Ghidorah, Megalon, Hedorah the smog monster, and Mecha-Godzilla. The gameplay borrows heavily from Street Fighter 2, but the action is much slower and more deliberate. That makes sense when you consider we’re dealing with lumbering beasts towering over 60 meters high. Some of the more powerful attacks are tricky to execute (up, left, right, button?) but most of the basic moves are no problem. I especially enjoyed unleashing Godzilla’s fire breath, which you can direct at several angles. You’ll witness a lot of unusual attacks, like Gigan’s “chainsaw stomach”, or Rodan’s ability to generate tornados (I think I actually saw that in a movie once).

The only creature I found to be particularly “cheap” was the “Biollante” water monster, whose tentacles seem impossible to defend against. Incidentally, he’s not available in two-player versus mode. Health meters tend to deplete slowly, but since there’s only one round, the matches are ideal in length. The creatures look respectable enough, although I do wish they were larger. The stages are surprisingly sparse, and the one with the frozen ocean waves looks especially bad. There are a few surprises however, like when a building collapses under your weight, or seeing two other monsters fighting in the distance in the Megalon stage (just like the movie). The audio is strong, with unique digitized sound effects for each creature. Hearing Godzilla’s distinctive roar is always a treat, and the game’s sweeping musical score also adds to the overall experience. Godzilla’s gameplay may be too slow for most casual gamers, but fans of the big green lizard will relish every bit of this rare title.”
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Shmups

Obvious Choices: R-Type, Blazing Lazers, Super Star Soldier, Soldier Blade, more

Featured Game: Syd Mead’s Terraforming (Super CD)
This shooter has average gameplay but some interesting visual design. The game has good music and adopts a pre-rendered graphical style with designs by futurist Syd Mead, who is responsible for the backdrops of productions like Blade Runner, Time Cop, and Star Trek.

Universo PC-Engine’s Review:
“Terraforming is a futuristic 2D horizontal shooter, with astounding background graphics (though a little bit repetitive) and well designed characters. Its musics and sound FX are quite originals and fit well their respective sceneries. The gameplay is pretty good as well.

The game starts when your ship take off from a space station and flies towards a planet filled with lots of gruesome and dangerous creatures. You´ll have to struggle fiercely against them along seven stages, until you face a huge alien ship, the final boss. To help you on this difficult mission, you can use three different kinds of weapons and control the speed of your ship. Terraforming is not a hard game, but it´s pretty common to find it difficult when playing it for the verry first time. As soon as you get the proper rhythm to play it, you´ll probably find Terraforming quite easy. “
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Strategy

Obivious Choices: Military Madness

Featured Game: Vasteel (CD)
Working Designs made a bold move in translating this sci-fi strategy game. There’s lots of text there and it’s a huge game. There’s a war for succession and you get to pick which side you’re on. You move mecha units around on a map and when two battle there’s an action scene. You can decide whether you or the computer will control your units. This means however long and hard the scenarios are, you can make sure you always have a chance by taking control yourself.

Some battle between mismatched units can take a long time to play out, however. The graphics are decent and some of the backgrounds are really trippy. There’s quite a bit of digitized speech in this game as well.

GameZero’s Review:
“Most often I do not like to sit and spend long hours with simulation games, but Vasteel is an exception. With the many action scenes tied in with the sim, it is not only fast, but captivating. The game also has an incredible amount of voice. For example when you check information on any of the many characters, an incredible voice starts up telling you about the mech! Little touches like these really make this game a winner. The whole package is topped off by an excellent soundtrack. Vasteel is a Duo owner must have.”
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Featured Game: Lords of the Rising Sun (CD)
This game is hard to describe. It’s a slow-moving strategy game until something happens. Then it becomes more action-packed as you defend your castle or command troops. Not everyone will like it but it does hold rewards for the patient and the strategy fans. Ultimately, this game is like 5 games in 1.

Zzap!’s Review (of Amiga version):

“The game begins with the selected Minamoto brother – either Yoritomo or Yoshitsune – having three armies under his command. Use the map of the Oriental islands to direct forces from castle to castle, gaining alliances or storming castles wherever possible. Via the map, forces under your command can be directed along the country’s pathways to distant castles, monasteries, cities and ports. Ports provide speedy sailing to other ports while monasteries can top up supplies if asked nicely (a sword at the throat would be just as easy).

Taking castles and cities is one way to success and obviously increases your force’s power. A siege takes the form of a Gauntlet-style sub-game as the attacking leader fights through guards to kill the Keep guard and claim the castle.
But like Defender of the Crown, it isn’t all battling and slashing. There is a love interest, but she’s locked up in one of the Taira’s castles (the Emperor’s daughter, just so you know). Rescue her and please the emperor, gaining some honour into the bargain.
Battling is the other way to ultimate victory in which opposing archers and troops stare each other out across the battlefield, charge at one another, and massacre fellow Japanese. If the enemy retreats you can chase after the leader on horseback hacking down and trampling underfoot his cowardly men while avoiding rocks and trees. Fun indeed, providing you get through to slay the leader.
If things are going badly, Ninja assassins can be hired to kill a powerful rival, but if they’re caught it’s the old sword in the stomach routine for you. However, you’re not the only one who can play dirty and if a Ninja pops up make sure you’ve got your swords handy!”
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Puzzle

Obvious Choices: Chew Man Fu, Parasol Stars

Featured Game: Splash Lake (CD)
I consider this the best action puzzle game on the system. There are tiles suspended over water, held in place by pedestals. You are an ostrich-looking bird. You try to sink enemies by sinking the suspended tiles they walk on. You crack tiles by pecking them with your beak, and by breaking enough tiles you can sink groups of them, the taking enemies with them.

Tiles regenerate over time and some enemies must be dunked multiple times. This puzzler can get very fast-paced, has super cutesy music and great sound effects, and can be quite challenging on later levels, particularly when you run into enemy ostriches which can peck tiles in attemps to sink you.

Video Game Den’s Review
“Splash lake is a kind of puzzle game where you control a bouncing ostrich. You always start on platforms over a lake and you must clear all baddies within a time limit to go to the next level. To do so, you have to break up tiles by pecking them (some tiles are indestructible so be careful!) Any connected tile will break and any creature standing on them will end up in the lake ! You can also jump over enemies and gaps. Of course, a two simultaneous players option is available. I think Splash lake is a great and funny game. Once again this is the kind of game where you will find yourself playing again, and again, especially in two players mode. Quite addictive stuff. “
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Featured Game: Pomping World / Buster Brothers (CD)
Under-appreciated on every platform, really, and sort of superseded by the Buster Bros Collection on PSX and Super Buster Bros on SNES, equally hidden gems on their respective platforms. This is still an awesome game. Known in Japanese arcades as Pang!, you shoot wires up at the top of the screen to break large bubbles into smaller bubbles, occasionally grabbing a power-up to enhance your firepower or freeze the screen. Once bubbles are small enough they disappear when hit. You clear the board to move to the next round. Tons of fun, easy to figure out, and, while common, dying isn’t as frustrating as in many other games.

Video Game Den’s Review:
“Pomping World is the conversion by Hudson Soft of the famous arcade game originaly created by Capcom. The goal of the game is extremely simple : The players (or 2 simultaneous) have to clean up all the huge colored bouncing spheres on screen. But, in a way similar to Atari’s Asteroid, each time a ball is hit, it will split in two, and in two, and so on. So a standard ball can split a total of eight times. And if a ball, even tinny, hits you, you lose a life. Adds on top of this small creatures who wonder around and freeze your weapon for a short amount of time. Your only weapon is a sort of hook that can only be fired vertically. Power-ups of course appear from time to time to help you in your quest, from laser-guns, to freeze-time options and special hook that can get stuck to the walls. The game is split into different group of stages which all represent a different location in the world (this reminds a lot Capcom’s Street Fighters) like the Taj Mahal or Paris…

I do not really know why, but I have always loved Pomping World. It is a very simple design but two players games are very addictive and fun. This PC Engine version is just excellent. Graphics are well drawn and detailed (even if some sprites are somehow lacking colors compared to other versions ) and the animation works very well. Add on top of this great CD quality musics and a technically flawless conversion (the screen doesn’t even flicker or slow down when covered with dozens of sprites) and you get a version which very close (if not identical) to the arcade and even offer some surprises. “
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Pinball

Obvious Choices: Alien Crush, Devils Crush

Time Cruise (HuCard)
The TG-16’s forgotten pinball game. It’s very different from the Crush games with an almost post-modern board spanning horizontally as well as vertically and a focus on varied and interesting bonus games. It’s not as intense as Devil’s Crush but it definitely has a personality and style all its own.

Video Game Critics’s Review:
“This exceptional video pinball game features a huge board that’s as wide as it is tall. The up and down scrolling is smooth, although the side scrolling is a bit choppy. Time Cruise’s control is responsive, although the ball has been known to hesitate momentarily. A nudge button comes in very handy for emergency situations.

The time-machine style graphics are both attractive and original, but all areas of the table look pretty much the same. The pinball action is solid, but it takes a back seat to the numerous bonus stages that can take you either backward or forward in time. Each of these unique stages offer its own unique brand of fun, usually in the form of mini-pinball games. One requires you to guide a ball through a maze by tilting a board, and while it’s quite challenging, it takes too long and slows down the pace of the game. Still, Time Cruise has a lot of depth for a pinball game. It’s more playable than Alien Crush, but not as good as Devil’s Crush.”
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23 Comments

  1. sir jorge says:

    I’m going to have to go back and play these games.

  2. Curlypaul says:

    Wow, these consoles and games are more expensive than I expected. I’ll have to get one at some point though

  3. Ivo says:

    Are you sure Pang /Buster Brothers is “undiscovered”? I always imagined it was an arcade hit – it was ported to loads of systems! In any case, it is quite a nice game. I played the Amiga version and I think it is fair to say it was widely known as a good game in that medium.

  4. Alex says:

    Hmmm… After watching a video, I’ve gotta say – Buster Brothers looks almost exactly like the old DOS game Pea-Shootin’ Pete. Although in my nostalgia-clouded vision, Pete had better presentation. Still, I might have to pick that up should it come to the Virtual Console.

  5. Pulstar says:

    Thanks for this list racketboy!

  6. Marurun says:

    Pang/Buster Brothers was bigger in Japan than it was here. Most retro gamers I know are not familiar with the game, sadly.

  7. racketboy says:

    Pulstar, thank Marurun.
    He put it together — I just formatted it and posted it 🙂

  8. gnome says:

    Excellent stuff as always, and the first time I can’t recognize but a handful of games…

  9. Alex says:

    I’ve only played the HuCard games but those were average at best..

  10. NEo says:

    Where are the Kunio Kun games…those absolutely rock.

  11. Marurun says:

    I stuck to US released titles. I may at some point, Racketboy permitting, do a couple pieces on Japanese games.

  12. racketboy says:

    You write it and I’ll gladly publish it 🙂

  13. butane bob says:

    That would be awesome coz the pc engine was similar to the Saturn in that a lot of great titles were japanese only. 🙂

  14. im a shooting game fan but terraforming sucks as hell. and the price i paid for it sucks too jejeje.

  15. I just Started My Turbo Collection and I used this Guide as a base of what games to buy first. In many ways this did me well and is very well writen. Silent Debuggers (HuCard)
    is the worst game I have played next to “double dungeons” (HuCard) but the Rest dead on I love “Somer Assault” I will Also Add Sidearms and Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu. I now have 50+ plus games and Love them all. Pac-Land is My Fav. I also Love Legendary Axe, Ordyne, Chew-man-fu.battle royale with 5 players,air zonk and Ballistix. Even Not really liking Silent Debuggers (HuCard)I still havnt found a Game not worth buying. Silent Debuggers (HuCard) is a great game in its own right just not for me.
    I love Racketboy.com Wouldnt know what to do without it. PS The Post about Collection Games you love not for the vaule was dope.
    -STD

  16. racketboy says:

    Thanks man — I appreciate it!
    And of course, Marurun put this one together, so thanks should go to him 🙂

  17. imparanoic says:

    you should include nexzr as i believe it’s the spirtual sucessor to super star soldier, even though it’s rock solid, shares very similar elements to SSS, i note that soldier blade is regards the sequel to SSS, but Nexzr was developed by the same people who created SSS.

    it’s suprising that not many people heard of this game.

  18. Culex says:

    This lacks RPGs and more importantly, Tengai Makyou.

  19. wizdom clam says:

    Silent Debuggers scared the fucking crap out of me.

  20. francochan says:

    Did the PC-Engine (JAP) version of Silent Debuggers play in English? Some people on the net seem to say it does, but I own a copy of it and it’s all in Japanese. Any help?

  21. Patrick BBE says:

    Gonna add the Ys series. Thanks to Johnny from Happy Console Gamer.

  22. Justin 84 says:

    I still have my turbo graffix. Blazing Lazers is downright addicting and explosive. Love that game. Also Keith Courage and the Alpha Zones is a very unusual castlevania-type game that has a very unique visual style as well as some badass looking enemies. Very difficult game imo though.

  23. JaWKe says:

    I loved the update to “beginner’s guide to the TG-16,” but this guide definitely needs an update as well! I like the deep library of the Turbo, but I really wish this guide (and the original “Games that defined” guide) would give more attention to the PC-Engine and its library. Focusing on mostly on localized NA games is missing more than half the story. You had a nice section of Imports in Games the Defined the TG-16, but it was SOOOooo short! I think a lot more could be done there.