30 Awesome Famicom Games that Didn’t Come to North America
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Nintendo’s Family Computer (Famicom) console, better known to us westerners as the Nintendo Entertainment System. For the most part, both consoles received the same games including classics like Super Mario Bros. 3 and DuckTales. However, the Japanese audience got to enjoy a multitude of games that never made an appearance in North America. To celebrate the Famicom’s 30th anniversary, I’ve decided to compile a list of 30 awesome Famicom games that didn’t come to North America.
1. Binary Land
Binary Land is a charming puzzle game starring two penguins; a male penguin named Gurin, and a female penguin named Malon. This game is unique as it forces players to control both penguins at the same time. If one penguin moves left, the other is forced to move right. The objective in each level is to position both penguins on each side of a cage holding a heart. This may sound quite easy, but it quickly becomes challenging as enemies, and spider-webs block your path, plus, you’ll be fighting against a timer, as well. Fans of the puzzle genre will absolutely love Binary Land.
2. Chester Field
Chester Field is a sidescrolling action game with some interesting RPG elements. The game was published by Vic Tokai in 1987, the same year that Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was released. Its formula is similar to Zelda II, so it’s possible that Zelda II was a big inspiration during development. I didn’t get far – and can’t understand Japanese – but if given some effort and time, I could see fans of Zelda II and action games really liking this title.
This game is an awesome find and I’m a little surprised I haven’t discovered it until now. Cocoron is a sidescrolling platformer with an awesome twist; you get to customize the main character! Surprisingly, the customization runs deep with many choices to be had. You get to choose your character’s head, body, and weapon, meaning there are a lot of different ways to play. I chose the alien head with a winged body and a boomerang for a weapon. I was able to fly for a limited time and throw boomerangs when playing through the game’s first stage. My creation seemed to be a formidable force, but I bet there are super creations waiting to be discovered.
4. Crisis Force
Konami – no stranger to the shoot ‘em up genre – developed Crisis Force exclusively for the Famicom. This game is full of frantic shoot ‘em up action, awesome Konami chiptunes, and that sweet, sweet Konami pause jingle. You control a ship called the Aurawing, which has the ability to shift forms during gameplay; the default form uses a focused forward shot, the second form gives you a weaker forward and backwards shot, while the third form gives you a forward shot with two side shots. Collecting power-ups is essential for wiping out enemies as it not only gives you amazing shooting power, but it can also save your ship. If you’re shot while powered up, you will degrade instead of losing a ship. This game is a toughie, but it’s a lot of fun. Oh yeah, the Konami code totally works with this game.
5. Akumajou Special – Boku Dracula-kun – I’m Kid Dracula
I’m Kid Dracula is an awesome game – from Konami – that parodies the Castlevania series. It’s a little more kid friendly in its difficulty and appeal, but don’t let that deter you from the game. You play as Kid Dracula, and instead of a whip, you have the ability to throw fireballs. Enemies are cartoony versions of traditional horror monsters, and plenty of pits are waiting to be cleared while you make your way to the stage boss. As you progress, you’ll gain new abilities like the homing attack. This series did actually come to North America in the form of Kid Dracula for the Game Boy.
6. Devil World
Devil World will inevitably be compared to Pac-Man for its maze-like and dot eating gameplay, but there are a few mechanics that make Devil World significantly different. Yes, your objective is to eat the dots on most stages, but in order to do this, Tamagon – our valiant hero – must be carrying a cross to eat those dots; he can also shoot fireballs while carrying a cross. That isn’t the only difference, as you can see the snazzy blue Devil standing atop the screen, dictating the direction the maze scrolls. You can get trapped by walls, or defeated by enemies, so you’ll need to be swift to overcome the Devil’s trickery. Other stages see you collecting Bibles that need to be put into a seal to clear the stage. Devil World is an interesting take on the Pac-Man formula, and many will enjoy its high level of challenge.
7. Door Door
I first discovered Door Door on the popular Japanese show known as GameCenter CX. Door Door is an arcade-style game where your objective is to open doors and trap enemies inside them. It’s a very simple game to learn, but mastering it is quite challenging. You can multiply your score by trapping multiple enemies inside a door, plus you’ll have to be decisive when moving around the board as enemies can quickly back you into a corner. It’s a fun, fun game that I believe lovers of arcade games will enjoy.
8. Famicom Wars
This series eventually made its way to North America in the form Advance Wars for the Game Boy Advance handheld, but the “Wars” series started much earlier on the Famicom. Famicom Wars is a turn-based military game that pits two nations against each other. The objective is to either defeat all the enemies’ units, or conquer their headquarters building. There are 15 maps to play, and hours of strategic gameplay for those that enjoy these types of games. You can also play against a friend by switching the opposite team to “player” in the options menu.
9. Fantasy Zone
Fantasy Zone is one of a few Sega developed games to be released on the Famicom. Fantasy Zone is a unique shoot ‘em up experience because its stages loop instead of scrolling from the beginning to end. To clear a stage in Fantasy Zone you must destroy all of its bases, and then destroy the stage boss. You can also defeat enemies to gather coins, which can then be spent in the shop to upgrade your ship. It’s also absolutely gorgeous with lots of colors and smart art design flowing throughout the game.
10. Final Fantasy II & III
I decided to include both Final Fantasy games on this list because both weren’t released in North America – not counting the remakes – and both introduced elements that would become staples of the series. Final Fantasy II, while it retained many elements from the first game, introduced Chocobos and Cid, both of which would continuously be featured in later entries. Final Fantasy III combined elements of the previous games, but focused on the job system, a mechanic that would appear again in later entries. Fans of RPGs and Final Fantasy games should definitely check out both games, plus they are more accessible today as opposed to during the NES era.