The 5 best TurboGrafx-16 games – Underdog gems

The TurboGrafx-16

The recently announced TurbGrafx-16 Mini has many of us looking back at NEC’s failed yet pretty darn cool console. You might remember it as the also-ran of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis era, or you might even recall some of its more popular titles like Bonk and Cadash. Whether or not you had a chance to play it, you are probably familiar with other series like Adventure Island that made their way to other consoles. In short, the TurboGrafx-16 was no joke and, indeed, had a library of amazing games.

Of course, there is a whole Japanese counterpart with a different name called the PC Engine. I will cover that in another list. In the meanwhile, here are what I think are by far the 5 best TurboGrafx-16 games. This should help get you pumped for the release next year of the mini console, which will have many of these titles on offer.

(Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that – at no additional cost to you – if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a commission)

5. Bonk’s Adventure (developed by Red Company/Atlus, published by NEC Home Electronics 1990)

Bonk's adventure for the TurboGrafx-16

Mario and Sonic are obviously in another league, but we are talking about a pretty decent 90s platformer

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, every console that was serious about its effort had to have a mascot as the public face of the system. Nintendo pioneered this in many ways with Mario and Sega continued this trend with the marketing study that still is Sonic the Hedgehog. So what was NEC to do to make sure that their console, the TurboGrafx-16, also had a face that people could instantly associate with the system and the brand.

The company tried this initially with a game called Keith Courage, but it did not exactly stick, despite being a pretty great game by all accounts. That is when Bonk entered the stage. A cave man with an oversized head and that distinct Hudson Soft art style, his conceit was using his head to dispatch with enemies and by using meat-based power ups to give him a boost in levels. He could also spin jump to extend his jump’s glide time.

A totally charming, if somewhat basic, action platformer, Bonk’s Adventure would spawn two sequels and a spinoff series, thus solidifying his position as the console’s mascot.

4. The Legendary Axe (developed by Victor Musical Industries, published by NEC 1989)

The Legendary Axe for the TurboGrafx-16

A mix of Wonderboy, Pitfall and Rastan. Here is The Legendary Axe!

One of the TurboGrafx-16’s launch titles, The Legendary Axe puts you in the role of Gogan the barbarian, who has to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend named Flare. It is pretty basic stuff, but the gameplay is anything but that. It is a mixture of action platforming and a little bit of RPG elements.

This game was so compelling that many people wondered why it was not the pack-in title with the system. The game is a little basic by today’s standards, but it is nonetheless a really fun retro game. Tough without being maddening, The Legendary Axe is a great introduction to the TurboGrafx-16 system and remains so even today.

3. Devil’s Crush (developed by Compile, published by NEC 1990)

Devil's crush for the TurboGrafx-16

Probably, one the most fun pinball games ever released on a home console…

You probably would not consider a pinball game to be the perfect console experience but Devil’s Crush is an amazingly great game with a rocking soundtrack and weird, Geiger-esque visuals that firmly place in the 1980s hair-metal era. Beyond all of that, though, the game is just bonkers good and really, really does justice to the console format.

You will be more concerned with points and advancement than anything else once you get the hang of this title. A true study in just how different the games on the TurboGrafx-16 could be, Devil’s Crush deserves to be praised and it is a shame stuff like this really did not make an appearance on the other systems to this degree of quality.

This and The Legendary Axe are probably the best games to get started with if you are an older gamer from the day that never got to experience the TGX-16’s technology.

2. Ys: Book I & II (developed by Alfa System, published by Hudson Soft 1990)

Ys Book: I & II for the TurboGrafx-16

A very odd battle system, and an overall out-of-the-ordinary game, but as a true rpg fan, I love it!

The beginnings of the saga, Ys: Book I & and II is a remake of the original games compiled into one game. The quest is basic – you need to retrieve the 6 books of Ys – but what makes this game a standout for both its time and now is the unique gameplay that underpins it all.

Story is front and center in Ys and the interface clues you into that really quick. Beautiful, large drawings accompany some scenes and everything has a manga-inspired feel to it when it comes to the artwork. But the gameplay is really strange by some standards and, while utilizing all of the stats and accouterments associated with RPGs, might not be for everyone. Basically you run into enemies to defeat them and that is the basic gist of it. An amazingly classic game that is unique on multiple levels, (again) it might not be for everyone, but it is certainly one of the best titles on the entire system.

Honorable mention:

TV Sports Hockey (developed by Victor Interactive Software, published by NEC Home Electronics 1991)

TV Sports Hockey for the TurboGrafx-16

Cannot say I am a Hockey fan, but this game helped me become interested… It was hard to find an equally atmospheric sports game, back then.

A really cool hockey sim game for TurboGrafx-16 that combines arcade style gameplay with a pretty detailed hockey game. There are cutscenes to introduce changes in gameplay, as well as a pretty basic but easy to understand interface.

Hockey was not really the biggest title on consoles, but TV Sports Hockey made it a big deal on the TGX-16. A good game for fans of older sports titles, but gamers that have never really enjoyed that genre will not have their mind changed by this title.

Alright, number one is next, just one scroll down away… 😉

1. Parasol Stars (developed by Ocean, published by Working Designs 1991)

Parasol Stars for the TurboGrafx-16

In case you had not noticed it, I love Bubble Bobble and its sequels lol

Also known as Bubble Bobble III, Parasol Stars has eight main worlds and seven rounds per world with only your parasol – or umbrella – as your weapon. You can open it to block, deflect, glide down, and throw things. The central conceit here is an action game mixed with a platformer and puzzle game.

It takes a lot of the same skills that make you good at each genre and blends them in such a way, that you never really notice the influences. Naturally, starting from the Bubble Bobble series as a premise helps Parasol Stars tremendously, but it is also a game that could easily stand on its own.

Bubby and Bobby in their human forms do not disappoint, they keep providing lots of fun!

So retro folks, another retro journey is over, but what about you? Did you own a TurboGrafx-16? What did you think of the system? Let me know your favorite memories – and games – in the comments below.

Till next retro list!

About Andrew A.

Andrew is the founder and owner of RetroGamingLoft. He considers himself a natural-born gamer and is on a mission to keep our younger gaming years alive through the medium of Retro Stories. His event recount includes hopes, dreams, broken joysticks, magic, nostalgia and another final boss defeated.

10 thoughts on “The 5 best TurboGrafx-16 games – Underdog gems

  1. Tracy

    Oh my God! You’ve joggled my memory back in time and I’ve remembered all those special momenntsythat I own a TurboGrafx then, being the fact I have flare for a soft game but with a very challenging feel, I played the devils crush a lot. Among my friends, I was rated as the best player then. Time flies too fast, I must say, discovering this website and browsing through other contents makes me elated, I’m surely going to be on the lookout to see the next posts from you. Thanks for sharing this

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Tracy and welcome to my blog, it is always a pleasure to bring back fun memories. 🙂
      Oh, so you were the best? Kudos to you! Devil’s Crush is a challenging game, especially when more and more enemies start crowding the play field. Really, not easy one bit.
      Thank you very much for your nice comments and compliments, until next retro post!

  2. drinkteahub

    This is such a blast from the past! A friend of mine owned a TGX-16 (I was stuck with my old Commodore 64 at the time because my parents believed it was “educational”) because her parents couldn’t (or wouldn’t) afford a SNES or Genesis (called the MegaDrive here in the UK) but it was so exciting because it had bright colours and fun music and good games. I absolutely loved Parasol Stars, and all the Bubble Bobble games. Such a shame that NEC lost out to Nintendo and Sega at the time because I remember this being a great console. Thanks for the memories!

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Drinkteahub and welcome to my blog, it is my own pleasure to bring back nice memories. 🙂
      You are aright, it was a great console and the games on this list do prove it.
      Yeah, it is a pity Nec lost out to Nintendo and Sega, but they were honestly one step above the TurboGrafx-16. I believe it is another case of wrong timing had it been launched in 1987 (just like the PC Engine in Japan), rather than in 1989, I believe we would be telling a different story, today. Anyway (and fortunately), we are going to see a remake next year and I cannot wait for it!
      Thanks again for your nice comments, it would be nice if you would become a regular here!

  3. Henderson

    No, we never owned a  TurboGrafx, my brother in those days preferred the Sega games but he had a friend who owned something like this. We went there together to play games on a regular and then the games were really cool. Its nice ti see when you bring those memories of this old games. Good one.

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Henderson, I really cannot thank you enough for being so supportive.
      Yeah, the TurboGrafx-16 had some great games and honestly, I am looking forward to the remake. I am sure it will get the recognition it deserves.
      Thanks again and… Until next post! 🙂

  4. AJ

    Nostalgic!!!!!! I love this! I am a big sports fan and I am glad that you mention TV sports hockey! I love this game and it made me want to play it again. There’s something about the simplicity of these games that I truly miss. I am thinking of bringing back my old school game consoles! 

    All the best!

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Aj and welcome to my blog!
      Tv Sports Hockey is a simple, yet atmospherical game, I can see why you like it. It definitely brings back memories, it was one of the first sports games that tried to feature matches as if they were broadcast on tv.
      Not only were we players, we were also part of the tv audience… The feeling was great, honestly.
      Thank again for your comment, please stay tuned for more retro posts!

  5. Ricky

    Man I dont know what it is about pinball but that game alone makes me want to check out this system. I’ve never heard of it until now.

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Happy to be of service Ricky, keeping memories alive and unearthing forgotten gems is what my blog is all about.
      Thanks for your comment, hope you become a regular here! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *