Retro Videogame Recommendations

List of Retro Videogame Recommendations written, compiled, and curated by Greyor Last updated 13 Sep. 2019

TABLE OF CONTENTS

0.0. FOREWORD

N.B. & DISCLAIMER: Many of these are JRPGs or Japanese-only games, and will require a translation patch to make them playable in English. ROMHacking.net links are included, but you'll have to find the ROMs yourself; no links are provided here for that.

In this document, I've provided a fairly comprehensive roundup of NES/SNES games that I think are worth playing, or at least historical curiosities. These are games I love and think you may love as well. I hope that you find this useful in your own gaming.

I initially posted this on PrivacyTools.io's pastebin (http://bin.privacytools.io/), but soon I was pointed to here as a more apt medium for this post.

I may end up adding a PSX/PS2 section to this down the road, but it's taken me 2-3 hours to put just this document together with these two systems. Perhaps I'll add Game Boy as well. Later on, though.

Please feel free to comment with suggestions, thoughts, &c.

Happy gaming!

0.1. LICENSE

This document is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. From https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/: “You are free to: Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms. Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use. NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes. ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.”

0.2. CONTACT

Feel free to find me on Mastodon: http://freeradical.zone/@greyor

1.0. TOOLS

For ROM patching, I recommend the following utility: Floating IPS (FLIPS) (Windows, Linux; CLI on OS X): https://www.romhacking.net/utilities/1040/ * Note that the version linked above is old; see Github for source to pull and compile a fresh copy: https://github.com/Alcaro/Flips * I tend to pull from git and compile every once in awhile on Linux; best IPS/BPS patcher I've ever used.

I also really like NSRT (“Nach's SNES ROM Tool”), which will let you add/remove headers and check CRCs on SNES ROMs. I haven't yet found a tool nearly as good for NES ROMs. * NSRT can be found here, for multiple platforms: https://www.zophar.net/utilities/snesaud/nsrt.html

For many PSX games (and later systems), I'd recommend xdelta3, as many patches come in that format. * Xdelta3 can be found at: https://github.com/jmacd/xdelta (If you're on Debian or *buntu, simply drop to a terminal and type `sudo apt install xdelta3')

2.0. NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM (NES) GAMES

2.1. OFFICIAL ENGLISH LOCALIZATIONS

2.2. NES FAN-TRANSLATIONS (you may have never heard of any of these!)

Chaos World (JP, 1991): Ridiculously hard JRPG. I'd like to spend some more time with it, but haven't gotten very far. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/3907/

Columbus: Ougon no Yoake (JP, 1992): Really bizarre, insanely hard NES JRPG set around the time of Columbus. Haven't really done much with it but apparently it's worth a play. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/1285/

Crystalis (JP, 1990): An excellent NES RPG. Set in 199X, you emerge from what appears to be a cryosleep vault after a worldwide cataclysm of sorts (implied to be nuclear war). It's kind of a mixture of Final Fantasy and Zelda (not quite like Final Fantasy Adventure, though, which is similar). There are elements, and sword powerups, and lots of lands to visit. It is mercilessly hard at times, though, but is very generous about saving and teleportation. Highly recommended.

Special note on this: the game was called *God Slayer: Haruka Tenkuu no Sonata (“God Slayer: Sonata of the Distant Heavens”) in Japan, and with Nintendo of America's strict guidelines on no religious symbolism, &c., &c., we lost out on the original intent of the game. See https://legendsoflocalization.com/game-localization-and-nintendo-of-americas-content-policies-in-the-1990s/ for a fascinating read on these policies. The RHDN link I'm providing is to a decensored, restored God Slayer retranslated into English. You can easily find the English version, but this will be better. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/3793/

Final Fantasy: Everyone's probably played this game, and here's a nice new translation by ChaosRush (2019). – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/4868/

Final Fantasy II (JP, 1988): Can't say I've played this one yet, but it is apparently decent. I have Final Fantasy Origins for PSX, and only played FF1 on there. However, ChaosRush put out a nice translation update in 2016 of the older Demiforce translation. Worth a try. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/2656/

Final Fantasy III (JP, 1990): One of the lesser-known Final Fantasy games; I grew up thinking that FF3 on SNES was the 3rd game, but of course it is FF6J. FF3J has an early version of the Jobs system that would be perfected in FF5, and the story is fairly compelling. Many will have played FF3J on Nintendo DS, which I hear is a decent version, but I have a soft spot for the NES. You have your pick of a few translations, but here is my suggestion: * Patch the ROM with the Neill Corlett/Alex W. Jackson (AWJ) 1999 translation (not perfect, but it works fine): https://www.romhacking.net/translations/141/ * Patch the already-patched ROM with Silent Enigma's “Battle Interface Upgrade,” which will remove a number of annoyances from the battle system: http://silentenigma.site88.net/ff3/ff3.html

If you're interested in a better translation, though, do check out ChaosRush's 2019 translation: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/4760/ (I just don't want to give up the battle interface enhancements, which apparently aren't compatible with ChaosRush's translation)

Grand Master (JP, 1991): Strange Zelda clone that seems ridiculously hard so far. I grew up on the NES, but I worry that maybe, even with save states, I don't have the skills or fortitude to play these games any more. Games have gotten so much easier these days. Worth a play. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/1540/

Indora no Hikari (JP, 1987): Another strange Zelda clone; “The Light of Indra” in English. Really hard game as far as I can tell. Also, the ROM is ridiculously hard to patch; from the instructions, “Use a program such as NFlate to expand the PRG-ROM from 128KB to 256KB (or use a hex editor to manually insert the extra 128KB just before the last 16KB of the original ROM data).” NFlate wasn't very easy to use, so I think I ended up using dd in a shell. All I know is that this may not be worth the trouble, but if you're interested, check it out. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/3153/

Lagrange Point (JP, 1991): This is a fascinating-looking RPG set in space and made by Konami. They don't make 'em like this any more, or rather, maybe this was a jumping-off point for games like Star Ocean vel sim. I've only played through a bit but think it has real promise. Definitely check it out. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/2294/

Moon Crystal (JP, 1992): Bizarre Castlevania-style platformer. Definitely worth checking out. Reminds me a lot of Castlevania 2. Note that the developer is Hector, who published the absolutely lovely Ihatovo Monogatari, which I'll mention in the SNES section below. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/189/

Mouryou Senki Madara (JP, 1990): Ridiculously hard JRPG by Konami. Haven't played much as I have a lot of RPGs I am currently working on, but I think it's promising. Japan really kept a lot of fascinating games there, and I am astounded that a lot of these never came Stateside. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/1047/

Sweet Home (JP, 1989): This game basically kick-started the survival horror genre, and is a direct precursor to Resident Evil. It's also insanely difficult. Basically, you're exploring a haunted house in Japan, with ghosts and other terrors trying to kill you. I've never been able to get very far in this, but I acknowledge it's a great game. Reminds me a lot of the Fatal Frame games, too, but on NES. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/222/

Armed Fantasy Dragon Villgust (JP, 1993, Kouryuu Densetsu Villgust Gaiden): I actually haven't played this yet, but am really excited to check it out, as well as its counterpart on the SNES (see below). Apparently it's based on an anime & manga. Looks like a great oldschool JRPG. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/3863/

Youkai Douchuuki (JP, 1988): This is absolutely bananas. It's a platformer where you're a soul travelling through the Japanese underworld. I haven't been able to get very far, but it's totally worth checking out for how insane it is. This translation is apparently retranslated from a Spanish localization, FWIW. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/4353/

3.0. SUPER NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM (SNES) GAMES

3.1. OFFICIAL ENGLISH LOCALIZATIONS

3.2. SNES FAN-TRANSLATIONS

Alcahest (JP, 1993): Strange, medieval fantasy-themed action JRPG. I played through a decent amount of it so far and have enjoyed it. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/278/

Aretha (JP, 1993): I am sure I will enjoy this fun-looking JRPG whenever I get around to playing it. It looks like a pretty standard JRPG, and the graphics seem nice. Haven't heard anything bad about it. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/3836/

Brandish 2: The Planet Buster (JP, 1995): No idea why the first game hasn't been translated. This game looks pretty cool, but I also haven't gotten around to playing it yet. Looks like a fun action RPG. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/1442/

Chrono Trigger (US, 1995): An excellent RPG where you travel through multiple time periods trying to save the world! If you haven't heard of this, I'd be really surprised. This is in the fan-translations section because I've found that, while the US localization was good, updates are even better. There are a ton of these on RHDN, but my preferred version is the “Doctor L Relocalizaton,” which is a bugfix for a retranslation done by “Doctor L.” – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/3072/ * If you want Doctor L's original retranslation, check here: http://www.romhacking.net/translations/1258/

Dark Half (JP, 1996): This game looks pretty cool, but I admit I haven't played it yet either. Somewhat of a tactical RPG. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/2344/

Dark Law: Meaning of Death (JP, 1997): One of the last games released for the SNES, I also haven't yet played this one. Apparently it's the third in a loose trilogy (cf. Soul Blazer/Terranigma/Illusion of Gaia, as the page says). Late-state SNES games are pretty cool (see Rudra no Hihou below!). – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/307/

Dual Orb II (JP, 1994): Apparently this game is decent at least. No idea about the first game, but this one is translated. Haven't played it yet either. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/345/

Far East of Eden Zero (JP, 1995, Tengai Makyou Zero): This game has been a “white whale” for emulator developers and translators for ages, mostly because of the special chips on the SNES ROM. Famed emulator developer byuu found a way to support the chips, though, in his emulator higan/bsnes, and this translation is the culmination of hours and hours of effort. The game is a nice, fun, SNES JRPG with a good deal of humor and comic relief, and is set in what seems to be medieval Japan. Check it out, if only for the rarity of the experience outside Japan. Note that these patches will work with SNES9X, but I'd recommend higan/bsnes. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/3243/

Final Fantasy IV (JP, 1991): One of my favorite Final Fantasy games ever, and actually the first I ever played. Basic save-the-world story, but you go to all sorts of different places (underworld; moon; &c.)! Well worth playing. I liked the original translation okay, but I think that this retranslation is really nice. Note that it is applied to a Japanese copy, too, which automagically decensors it from the US localization changes. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/2623/ * For a weird, unique experience, check out FF4 Free Enterprise, which lets you apply all sorts of random hacks: http://ff4fe.com/

Final Fantasy V (JP, 1992): I loved FFV when I played it on PSX as part of Final Fantasy Anthology. Bizarre game spread across different dimensions, with a cool jobs system and a really fascinating story. I found a retranslation of it that is really nice and even fixes some bugs. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/3499/

Final Fantasy VI (JP, 1994): One of the best Final Fantasy games ever made, IMHO. High technology fused with magic! Steampunk! Airships! All the things that make Final Fantasy a great series. I've looked at a lot of retranslations, and my favorite is the “Ted Woolsey Uncensored Edition.” It keeps a lot of the nuance and fun of the original Ted Woolsey script, but restores elements censored in the US. Again, everyone has different tastes on this, and there are a ton of FFVI translations, but this is my favorite. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/hacks/1386/

G.O.D.: Growth or Devolution: Heed the Call to Awaken (JP, 1996): This is a late-stage SNES game, and really one of my favorites. It is set in modern times, starts in Japan, and eventually takes your party all over the Earth. I don't think I have seen a sadder story in an RPG than this, or at least haven't very often. The writing is crisp, funny, and touching at the same time. I thought it had a great story, and it's really worth the many hours' play you will get from it. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/3515/

Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof (JP, 1997): This game is ridiculously fun. It's basically a Wild West clone of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It's an action RPG with all sorts of guns, and reminds me a lot of Link's Awakening too. Seriously, go play it. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/622/

Gulliver Boy (JP, 1996, Kuusou Kagaku Sekai Gulliver Boy): This game is absolutely bananas. It's set in Renaissance times, and you are fighting against the might of Spain. I haven't gotten very far in it, but it's quite fun. It's sort of an action RPG/platformer. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/365/

Laplace's Demon (JP, 1995, Laplace no Ma): Really strange, Lovecraftian horror-style RPG. Haven't gotten very far in it but would definitely play more. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/308/

Lennus II: Fuuin no Shito (JP, 1996): Haven't played this JRPG yet but definitely would like to. No idea about the first game being translated or not. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/1332/

Lufia & the Fortress of Doom (US, 1993): Here is a nice bugfix/enhancement for this oldschool RPG. Pretty standard RPG fare, but fun. I'm somewhere in the game but have no idea what to do now — one of the dangers of playing old games and not tracking your progress. The US version is fine, but this provides some fixes if you're interested. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/hacks/2744/

Magna Braban (JP, 1994): Haven't played this JRPG yet but I am sure it will be good. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/388/

Marvelous: Mouhitotsu no Takarajima (JP, 1996): Another great late-stage SNES game, also reminiscent of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I've only played through a bit of it so far, but it's pretty fun. You play as a group of 3 kids trying to protect their island from pirates, and explore the secrets on the island. It has a lot of humor and playfulness to it so far. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/2558/

Princess Minerva (JP, 1995): This game is pretty comedic and ridiculous at times, but basically gives you a party of 9 super-powerful women who are fighting to protect their kingdom. It is pretty light-hearted overall and just fun, and has an absurd amount of fan-service. Apparently it served as a prequel to an anime that came out later. Well worth checking out. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/3355/

Radical Dreamers (JP, 1996, Nusumenai Houseki): A fan-favorite fan-translation of the game that is largely a prototype/precursor of Chrono Cross (PSX). Fun, visual text-adventure game with multiple endings that follows Kid, Serge, and Magil (= Magus!) as they fight their way towards the Frozen Flame. Well worth playing at least once, and one of the first ROM hacks I'd ever heard about. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/403/

Secret of Mana (US, 1993): A fun action RPG that is pretty much universally beloved. I've had trouble getting into it myself but enjoy what I've played so far. This relocalization has bugfixes and decensoring, but I've noticed some graphical glitches that are problematic. If you're interested in checking it out... – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/hacks/4324/

Seiken Densetsu 3 (JP, 1995): This is the third game in the Seiken Densetsu series (Secret of Mana being Seiken Densetsu 2). Haven't played it yet but hear it's great. I think this was just recently finally localized in the US on the Switch, IIRC, so that might deprecate this. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/440/

Song of the Angel (JP, 1994, Tenshi no Uta: Shiroki Tsubasa no Inori): I absolutely loved this JRPG gem for the SNES. It has a great story, tons to do, great music, and grinding is actually pretty fun. You can even parley with the enemies and build up that skill. It has some really nifty, unique features that I haven't really seen elsewhere. Do check it out. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/822/

Star Ocean (JP, 1996): Another great late-stage SNES game, never released Stateside until on the PSP as Star Ocean: First Departure. Really enjoying the game and it has a sci-fi vibe that is pretty cool. Great music also. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/452/

Stories of Ihatovo (JP, 1993, Ihatovo Monogatari): I can't say enough how much I love this game. Based on the stories of environmentalist, poet, and author Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933), this game is an adventure RPG set in the fictional Japanese area of Ihatovo. The area is based on Iwate Prefecture in Japan, where Miyazawa spent most of his life. The game has a really lovely, rustic, inviting atmosphere, and you really start to care about the people you meet and interact with. There are no enemies in the game, no combat, just exploration, talking, gathering information, and helping people. I absolutely loved this game and would happily play it again. After I learned about the game, I read many of Miyazawa's stories and really enjoyed them as well. Don't be thrown off by the slow pacing of the game, it is well worth playing. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/4116/

Tales of Phantasia (JP, 1995): Released just before Star Ocean, and developed by basically the same team, this is an excellent action RPG. The Tales series has a ton of games in it, apparently, but I've only played this one. Check it out. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/2335/

The Magical World of Wozz (JP, 1995, Choumahou Tairiku Wozz): One of the best RPGs, period, I've played in years. You play as three kids from Earth who were transported through a magical portal to the MAGICAL WORLD OF WOZZ. Great graphics, great music, and there is a crafting and vehicle-building system that is really fascinating. I had a great time playing through it, and was sad to reach the end. Play it!! – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/689/

Treasure of the Rudras (JP, 1996, Rudra no Hihou): This is one of Squaresoft's last RPGs for the SNES, and one of the last SNES games in general. This reminds me a lot of FFVI and some of the best Square RPGs, and has influences from Indian mythology, among others. Apocalyptic countdown to the world ending. Crazy stuff and very fun. Great soundtrack. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/669/

Treasure Hunter G (JP, 1996): Another late-stage SNES game by Square, this time a strategy RPG. I don't typically like strategy RPGs, but this one has been surprisingly playable and fun. Well worth checking out, and tons to do. – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/490/

Villgust (JP, 1992, Kouryuu Densetsu Villgust: Kieta Shoujo): Haven't played this game yet but it should be good. This is the SNES sequel to the earlier NES game (see above). – RHDN URL: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/494/

THE END (so far!)