THE LEGEND OF THE MYSTICAL NINJA
Konami - SNES
Although he was called "Kid Ying" in this translation, Mystical Ninja for SNES was the first Goemon game to be released in America. A quirky game that combined action sidescrolling stages with RPG-like towns, Mystical Ninja quickly became one of my favorites! Mystical Ninja has a host of crazy boss fights, including one that is a giant face that gets bigger and bigger with each hit until it fills the entire screen, and another that consists of a group of ninjas on an airborne kite! Mystical Ninja also includes really fun bonus games, like the Mole Bop and the first level of Gradius. Complete with kickass Japanese-style graphics and music, Goemon is a game that's easy to enjoy and provides a good enough challenge.
Nintendo/Hudson Soft/Nihon Falcom - NES
Faxanadu was one of the first NES games I owned that truly stumped me. It's a sidescrolling adventure game through one of the most bizarre game worlds I've ever seen, in which you must find items, solve puzzles, and beat bosses. Many of the areas are maze-like caverns with interesting design and decor. Much of the game takes place inside a gigantic World Tree, which consists of such exotic locations as Mist Town - a city full of mist that resembles a scrambled screen, and Conflate - a network of hollowed-out tree branches. Faxanadu also has a really cool ending sequence and a decent soundtrack.
EVO: SEARCH FOR EDEN
Enix/Almanic - SNES
E.V.O. is a bizarre game that defies description! Basically, it's a sidescroller in which you control an animal that's constantly evolving. To make your animal grow and evolve, you must eat other animals for Experience Points, similar to RPGs. E.V.O. has unique gameplay, good graphics, and some really tough boss fights!
Enix/Quintet - SNES
Soul Blazer is a very interesting adventure game in which you defeat monsters to make people, buildings, plants, and animals appear in barren towns (it's hard to explain, but that's exactly what happens!) It has some decent boss fights and an interesting story. You can interact with many characters by tapping into their dreams, which is required to do some puzzle solving. With very addictive gameplay, Soul Blazer's only flaw is that it's too easy to beat, but it's good while it lasts.
OGRE BATTLE 64
Nintendo/Atlus/Quest - N64
Ogre Battle for the SNES was a game I didn't care for that much, but OB64 took that style of gameplay and perfected it. With a quicker battle system, a more illustrious story, and more reasonable control over your character's alignment, Ogre Battle 64 is one of the best strategy-RPGs I've ever played. OB64 has multiple paths that you can take, depending on the decisions you make and your performance in battles, so you could play through many times and still not have done it all.
KIRBY'S DREAM LAND 3
Nintendo/Hal Laboratory - SNES
Kirby 3 features some of the most unique-styled graphics I've ever seen, but the fun doesn't end there. The gameplay is basically the same as Kirby's Adventure, except that Kirby now has the help of several different animal friends (my favorite is a rolypoly cat named Nago) and a sidekick called Gooey. Kirby can steal powers from his enemies and then combine those powers with his animal friends for even more special attacks. The levels and boss fights are done pretty well. Another unique feature is that in each world, Kirby must complete a different special task in order to receive a secret star. These are used to unlock secret game options.
Tecmo - NES
Rygar is a very early NES game that, in some ways, seemed ahead of its time. It was the first NES game released in America to have an experience-building system in which your character would get stronger by fighting more enemies. Rygar has both sidescrolling and overhead-view areas, and is somewhat non-linear. Basically, you had to search out and destroy bosses in order to receive items that would help you reach other areas of the game, including the final area. Some of the items were really neat, such as a rope that would extende between poles so you could ride a pulley across gaps, and a grappling hook that extended straight up so you could reach higher ledges. The graphics still look good even today (remember how the sun would stay in place in the background, even as the foreground scrolled?) And some of the music is quite good. A save feature may have been the only thing Rygar really needed, since the game is rather long.
Sega/Climax - Saturn
This is another game that has its share of ups and downs, but what's good about it is really, really good. Dark Savior is very similar to the Alundra games, and has much of the same kind of puzzle-solving and action platforming, it just isn't as challenging. Even so, the Silver Castle Clock Tower and Mine Cart Rides should give you quite a workout.
Enix/Quintet - SNES
Robotrek is yet another RPG that doesn't get the credit it truly deserves. In this RPG with a modern setting, you can build and customize robots to use in battles. Robotrek has an interesting battle system in which you can position your robot in designated areas around the field, and attack foes either directly with sword-like weapons or from far away with guns. Robotrek has a humorous story and an interesting world to explore and interact with.
Konami - Gameboy
Kid Dracula is a fantastic platformer, and certainly one of the best Gameboy games I've yet played. It's challenging, fun, long, has interesting boss battles, and is filled with humor. There are many cameos and references to other Konami games (mostly Castlevania and Gradius), as well as spoofs of famous game series like Super Mario Bros and Mega Man. There's a good variety of action, including standard platforming, a hectic roller coaster ride, a manic elevator shaft, and even reverse gravity.
FINAL FANTASY MYSTIC QUEST
Squaresoft - SNES
I know that many people dislike this game, but I couldn't help but adore it! It's not the best Final Fantasy there is, but Mystic Quest offers some really decent boss fights and rockin' hard music! You can also solve puzzles by pushing blocks, jumping, and/or using weapons in overhead-view areas - something that many RPGs lack. Don't believe the hype - FFMQ is short, but very sweet!
Kemco/Infogrames - SNES
A much-improved sequel to Drakkhen, Dragon View offered a real-time battle system, a 3D Mode 7 World to explore, and sidescrolling areas reminiscent of Zelda 2. Dragon View is not the best adventure game, ever, but it does have a decent amount of puzzle-solving and boss fighting, and really doesn't get enough credit.
GARGOYLE'S QUEST 2
Capcom - NES
Gargoyle's Quest 2 is a huge action game disguised as an adventure. Although you travel about an overworld, talk to people, and occasionally buy stuff, the heart of this game's soul is in its many sidescrolling action sequences, which are often quite challenging! You play as Firebrand, the red gargoyle, who can cling to walls, shoot fire from his mouth, and fly for limited periods of time. Firebrand gains many power-ups to increase his strength and fights many colorful bosses on his quest to save the Ghoul Realm from the invading Black Light. The graphics are excellent and very reminiscent of Castlevania 3.
ILLUSION OF GAIA
Nintendo/Enix/Quintet - SNES
Although it's not my top favorite adventure game, Illusion of Gaia did feature some good puzzle-solving, decent music, and challenging boss fights. The Zelda-style fighting is the high point, especially with all of the cool moves that Will can learn. The story is weird, but the play control is fluid and Will's animation is excellent.
Atari - Atari 2600
Many Atari 2600 games were mildly entertaining and many were downright awful. But Yars Revenge is one of the few that has stood the test of time well and is still fun and challenging to this day. The Yar must defeat the Qotile, but it won't be easy, since an ever-changing host of game elements will constantly be trying to thwart his progress. If you missed out on this game and would like to give it a try, a Game Boy Color version is available.
THE GUARDIAN LEGEND
Broderbund/IREM/Compile - NES
The Guardian Legend is a unique NES game that combined Zanac-style shooter levels with Zelda-style adventure mazes. The guardian character gets a multitude of power-ups that can be used in each mode. Some of the boss fights are challenging and entertaining, and there's even a harder second quest in which you only fly through the shooting stages.
Nintendo - NES
StarTropics is a highly-challenging adventure game in the Zelda vein. The game takes place on a chain of tropical islands, as Mike Jones tries to discover the reason for his Uncle's disappearance. StarTropics has an interesting plot, some really good action stages, and a cool ending sequence.
ZODA'S REVENGE: STARTROPICS 2
Nintendo - NES
Zoda's Revenge has more of the same great action, gameplay, and boss fights that StarTropics had, but this time there are more logic puzzles (not just hitting switches) and the play control was greatly improved. The story, although it tends to be a little silly at times, involves Mike Jones hopping through time, meeting up with many historical characters.
Tradewest/Rare - NES
Despised by many gamers for its outrageous difficulty, Battletoads is a true gamer's game - and one that I was obsessed with for months, trying to beat! Every level of Battletoads has a unique play style. There are beat-em-up levels, a surfing stage, pipe mazes full of hazards, a bike course, a unicycle race, a rotating tower, and even a snake pit where you have to ride giant snakes to reach the exits. Battletoads has some of the very best graphics available on the NES (even parallax scrolling in some stages)! Althrough a very tough game, I found it to become easier with each play and it's fun memorizing the levels. (Just wish I could beat the final level.)
WANDERERS FROM YS
American Sammy/Nihon Falcom - SNES
Although I wouldn't expect everyone to have the same high opinion of Ys 3 that I have, I was quite charmed and enthralled with this mini-adventure game when I played it years ago. It was one of the first games I played that had a fully-realized plot with a main hero who wasn't "mute". Adol also has the fastest sword in history, which makes fighting simple, quick, and fun! To top it off, Ys 3 has great music and one of the toughest final boss fights of all time (he still scares me to this day!)
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