The TurboGrafx-16 Edition of the Totes Mathematical Top Ten Game List for Every Console Ever!

This entry is part 17 of 19 in the series Console Lists

I bid you welcome! To the wonderful world that is the TurboGrafx-16!

I mean. Look how excited that guy is! He knows he’s in for a treat, and so are you!

Known in Japan (And periodically through this article) as the PC Engine, the TG-16 was a console developed by Hudson Soft and NEC and was released in North America in 1989. It was the first console made in the 16 bit era in Japan and in fact, beat the Genesis to market by over a year there.

Unfortunately it took two years to release a system in North America and the console ended up being released two weeks after the Sega Genesis.

Sales were pretty dismal. But why? Why didn’t the TG-16 reach the heights of its brethren consoles in the U.S.? Why did it take so long to get here? Why don’t you fondly remember this console with the zeitgeist of its competitors? Good questions! Let’s get into it and explore that which was TurboGrafx-16. Behold and marvel at it.

The Higher Energy Video Game System

Released: 1989
Generation of Home Consoles: Fourth
Graphics: 16 bit / 8 bit hybrid.
Rating: Not great, Bob.

So as with a lot of things of the era, the TG-16 came about due to a failed business relationship with Nintendo. Hudson Soft was a fairly successful game developer but wanted some of that sweet, sweet, hardware moneys. They attempted to sell 16 bit graphics chips to Nintendo, but Nintendo was quite happy with their NES sales and weren’t quite ready to make the jump into the fourth generation console market just yet.

With their R&D in hand, they got into bed with the NEC corporation, (Famous for building a lot of good stuff, although zero video game devices.) The two companies tossed their chips into a tiny box and dubbed their masterpiece the PC-Engine.

In Japan they hit the ground running and sold pretty well, marketing themselves as the first 16 bit system. Although, that’s somewhat inaccurate. While the graphics processor was indeed 16 bits, the CPU itself was a standard 8 bit/3rd generation chip. So while the graphics were certainly a significant improvement over the NES, the Sega Genesis, which had both a 16 bit graphics processor as well as a 16 bit CPU, blew the thing out of the water when it came to how quickly those graphics could be rendered. (Sonic Speed, baby!) Once the Genesis launched, sales of the PC-Engine diminished in Japan.

Meanwhile they didn’t get a North American version here fast enough. Had they released a year previous to the Genesis, they may have made a significant foothold, however, as mentioned, they launched two weeks after. When both systems were compared side to side, the Genesis won out.

And their response to being beat up?

The TG-16 made a valiant attempt to sell the CD-Rom add-on as a big feature, however, it seemed that North American audiences simply weren’t ready for the cost or even the concept of having games on a disk as opposed to a nice sturdy cartridge which the kids couldn’t break. It should also be noted that there were an extremely limited number of games released on CD and the games themselves were pretty unremarkable and in most cases outright bad. I included them in the algorithm and only one managed to end up in the top ten.

Additionally, when compared to the Genesis, the controller was limited. TG-16 opted to just copy the original NES controller whereas Genesis introduced a controller with 3 input buttons. It seems like a small and silly thing, but it was a selling point. 3 is more than 2. The TG-16 also launched with a pretty sub par pack in-game called Keith Courage in Alpha Zone which didn’t exactly set the world on fire the way that Sonic did.

Finally, there was very little third-party support. Most of the big third-party developers were locked into deals with Nintendo. The TG-16 games library was mostly just localized versions of popular Japanese games and games from the Hudson Soft library. Unfortunately, a lot of games just weren’t suited to an American appetite.

Pictured. Your target audience.

Compare that to the Sega Genesis who developed games specifically for North America and featured sports games and American movie tie in games, etc. Genesis out marketed the hell out of the TG-16 and hurt their sales significantly. Once the SNES came out, they were burnt to a crisp and never really made a dent in the industry again.

All of that said, and despite poor sales, it was a good machine and there WERE some very quality games made for the system. If it pleases the crowd, The Totes Mathematical Top Ten Games List for Every Console Ever is proud to present you with the Top Ten games for the TurboGrafx-16.

Enjoy. And ponder what could have been.

10. Soldier Blade. 1992. Turbochip. (Hudson Soft)
This was a great example of the scrolling shoot-em ups Hudson was known for. It was the fourth game in the Star Soldier series and it was popular enough that you can still find it on modern virtual consoles. In the distant future, resources on Earth were dwindling. We sent out teams to go ravage the galaxy and bring stuff back to Earth. It turned out that the aliens we encountered didn’t want to be ravaged by humans and fought back. Earth developed a new weapon to counter attack the original counter attack and the plot is that you control one of these fighters and go kill all of the aliens. That all sounds about right. It’s what I feel humans would actually do. It was a great shooter and a good start to the top ten.

9. Bomberman 93. 1993. Turbochip. (Hudson Soft)
At number nine, we have another Hudson Soft game and another game still available on various virtual consoles. Bomberman is as close to a mascot as Hudson has. This was the seventh entry into the series of the eponymous bomber what bombs at midnight. (If you include collections, the series is actually up to over forty games on consoles alone.) The game play has remained the same over Bomberman’s life. You’re in a little maze and you break through the maze and kill various enemies with your bombs. Power-ups can increase the blast radius of your explosive devices, although the bigger the radius, the bigger the chance that you will blow yourself up along with whatever else you were trying to kill. The game was awarded the best TG-16 game of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly and was a wonderful addition to any TG-16 library.

8. Neutopia. 1990. Turbochip. (Hudson Soft)
Neutopia was Hudson’s answer to Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda game. Although Hudson made considerable graphic improvements to the concept, the gameplay was almost exactly the same. An evil demon has kidnapped a princess and stolen her eight medallions which had been used for good, although under his control were used for evil instead. Each medallion is guarded by a big beast at the end of a labyrinth. Gameplay itself uses the standard Zelda top down view. To get through the various dungeons you needed to collect different weapons and…yeah. Sounds like Zelda. But it was super fun and truly gorgeous at the time. Like a lot of games on this list, you can still find versions on various virtual consoles. It’s worth picking up as it’s pretty cheap. Plus even if it is a Zelda clone, is that a bad thing, really?

7. Devil’s Crush. 1990. Turbochip. (NAXAT Soft/Compile)
Our first non Hudson developed game on the top ten for the TG-16 was Devil’s Crush. This was a pinball simulator and sequel to the game Alien Crush which had been released two years prior. The field of play consisted of three screens worth of “table” where various bad guys would wander around. Your goal was to kill them dead. Wiping out all of the enemies would take you to various bonus stages where you could use your flippers and the ball to kill larger demons, skeletons, five headed dragons, etc. If you like pinball and hate Satan, this game was a must have.

6. R-Type. 1989. Turbochip. (Irem)
Released in the arcades in 1987, and ported to the TurboGrafx 16 in 1989, R-Type is probably one of the few games on the list that everyone will be familiar with. It was a beautiful side scrolling shoot ‘em up which was loved by critics and fans alike, but known for being brutally difficult. One does not simply sit down and beat R-Type the first time they play. If one wants to beat R-Type, one must prepare to only be playing that game for a while. The TurboGrafx port was fairly true to the original, although the console’s inability to render graphics as quickly as the arcade machine limited resolution, color palette, and speed. That said, it’s a great game and a very decent port.

5. Bonk’s Revenge. 1992. Turbochip. (Red Company)
A sequel to Bonk’s Adventure, this 2D platfomer pit a hard-headed caveman named Bonk against various dinosaurs and prehistoric baddies. The game also featured a time traveling element which saw the titular caveman explore outer-space, underwater worlds, and other various stages which were not caveman specific. Bonk’s gimmick was using his head as a weapon and giving his enemies a bonking to remember. It was an incredibly solid platformer and this entry is when the series really came into its own. Although Bonk never attained the prestige of a Mario or Sonic, it carved its own tiny niche of dedicated fans and a well deserved fifth spot on the TG-16 list.

4. Splatterhouse. 1990. Turbochip. (Namco)
Splatterhouse started as side scrolling “Beat ‘em up” arcade game released in 1998 which was ported over to the TurboGrafx 16 in 1990. You play as Rick and fight your way through a mansion full of monsters to try to save your lady friend Jennifer. The game took a number of themes from popular horror films and a number of enemies are pretty much direct rip offs of popular movie villains. Heck, Rick’s character design is basically Jason from Friday the 13th. The arcade game had some notoriety for its violent and bloody graphics and sound effects. The violence and imagery were toned down considerably for the American TG-16 release, and references to Christian themes were all removed. It’s as if they thought American moms would freak out over a bunch of inverted crosses! Which, let’s be fair. They absolutely would have. Still, it’s very fun for what it is, although the game play mechanics feel a bit dated by today’s standards.

3. Ninja Spirit. 1998. Turbochip. (Irem)
Starting out the top three was a little number called Ninja Spirit. This was another arcade platformer which was ported to the TG-16 by the good folks at Irem. It was the first game to ever receive a perfect 10 score in Electronic Gaming Monthly (Although take that with a grain of salt. I read it on wiki and can’t confirm it.) You play a young ninja named Gekkou who slashes his way through feudal Japan on a revenge rampage. At the end of each level was a boss character who needed extra slashing. The graphics were exceptional and the game play was remarkably fluid. You utilized a number of ninja weapons including your ever present katana blade and every evil ninja which you encountered learned a harsh lesson about killing your pa.

2. Blazing Lazers. 1989. Turbochip. (Hudson Soft)
The number 2 game on the top ten is a Hudson Soft vertical scrolling shoot ‘em up. In this one, the Dark Squadron has built eight super weapons which threaten your existence and only through sheer force of will and endless artillery and lazers, can you save your people. It is considered by many to be one of the best vertical scrolling shmups ever released and certainly was a big favorite on the console. The bosses were large, the graphics crisp, the soundtrack was dope and all together it made for a near perfect game. It’s certainly a must have for anyone trying to grow a library of games for the TG-16 and it is highly revered by all who have played it.

But there’s only room for one game on top of Turbo Mountain. What managed to defeat the rest and claim dominance over all things TurboGrafx? What did the Excel algorithm calculate as the best game on the system by far? It is the one, the only…

1. Ys Book I & 2. 1990. CD. (Nihon Falcom)

This is the only CD game which managed to crack the top ten, but oh man did they crack it! Jumping ahead of nine “Turbochip” games and destroying all of the other CD games is Ys Book 1 & 2..

Ys was the flagship franchise of the Nihon Falcom corporation and a wonderful series of games. Ys 1 & 2 was an enhanced collection of the first two games in the franchise. Nihon Falcom had originally intended to release both as a single game, but the scope was such that to remain cost-effective, they needed to split the game in half. With the advent of the CD-Rom, Nihon could finally release the game as they intended. They also updated the game with enhanced graphics and sound. The game won numerous honors from a lot of magazines and many thought that if this was what we could expect from games released for the TurboGrafx CD, we’d be in for some epic gaming. (There was no epic gaming to be had, unfortunately. Only Ys.)

Gameplay was a bit of a mix between a Final Fantasy style RPG and a Legend of Zelda style action RPG but polished beautifully into its very own sort of creature. You played as Adol Christin. A young ginger warrior. Evil has swept the land of Esteria and only you can stop it by collecting the six books of Ys and using the wisdom contained within to kick evil’s butt. It’s a great game which remains fun to play and I’d recommend it to retro RPG lovers and modern RPG lovers alike. It’s a wonderful adventure and very worthy of carrying the crown of the TurboGrafx-16 games list.

So that’s the top ten! Upset that Keith Courage didn’t make the list? (Looking at you, Kanye West) tweet me @Whentheicebreak or chatter in the comments!

Before I bid you adieu, however, we have a little housecleaning to get out-of-the-way. First, there was VERY little sales information available for the games for this system. So my usual algorithm had to be tweaked. Mostly I aggregated a LOT of top games lists and weighted them based on how close the reviewers came to the lists where I HAD sales info. I’ll probably have to use the same method for some of the more obscure consoles. I have no idea if it worked per se, but I’m happy with the results. Thanks for reading! And remember! The sun is bright and full of terrors so don’t go outside! Stay in and play video games!

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About Philippe L.

When not out exploring the stars with his good friend Hotblack Desiato, he makes his living here on Earth keeping other people's money safe from the hands of thieves and spinning the occasional yarn. He enjoys beer and coffee very much, but unfortunately he can't eat shellfish or tomatoes.

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