The Nintendo Entertainment System was responsible for saving the video game industry from the brink of oblivion. Super Mario Bros in particular reinvigorated interest in home consoles and innovated the side-scrolling platformer genre as we know it. No other title has been emulated as much as Super Mario and continues to be to this day. Plenty of Space Invaders and Pacman clones existed in the arcade and on the Atari 2600 but Mario surpassed them in terms of copycats. Mario however is far from being the only NES game to be imitated.

Along with Mario there were several other early releases for the NES dubbed the black box titles that shared similar package design. A couple of these titles shared more than similar box art and were even blatant ripoffs of earlier arcade titles. One such game is Balloon Fight. Nintendo, usually known for their innovations, rather borrowed heavily from the classic arcade title Joust. Balloon Fight has some snappier music and colorful sprites but at its heart it is just a re-skin of Joust. The very same core mechanics.

Ballon Fight


Another clone is the selectively released Devil World which is instantly recognizable as a Pacman clone with a few added features. These two early NES games are decent enough but what about truly excellent clones. Clones with that little special something to bring to the table that gives them a uniqueness all their own.

Devil World


A popular long-running series which originated on the NES is Megaman. Six Megaman titles call the NES their home but so do a couple of exceptional clones. The first of which is The Krion Conquest, published by Vic Tokai. Graphically it doesn’t do anything new. In actuality it even rips off the Megaman sprite and running animations by merely modifying them. While Krion isn’t exactly better than any Megaman title, it does do a few things differently to change things up. One such alteration is being able to select all abilities right from the outset rather than earning them through natural progression. Another small addition is the ability to duck. Speaking of duck, this brings us to our next Megaman clone, Darkwing Duck.
Based on the Disney afternoon animated program, Darkwing Duck is a Megaman clone that was actually developed by Capcom and therefore is less of a clone and more of a close relative. It is at its heart a sort of re-skin of Megaman but does have an excellent soundtrack and is very faithful to the TV series. It has that Capcom level of polish and is easily on par with any Megaman entry.


The Krion Conquest

Darkwing Duck

Another huge series of games that is much beloved and equally emulated is The Legend Of Zelda. Zelda has a satisfying formula of overworld exploration combined with dungeon crawling and item hunting in order to progress further and complete your quest. Of the many titles inspired by Zelda, one of the most noteworthy is Startropics and also its similar sequel. It may lack some of the open world elements but it still shares similar top-down dungeon crawling action, puzzles, and the polish you expect from a Nintendo developed title. A much more linear game compared to Zelda but retains its spirit with a flair all its own and a bit of humor too. 

The Legend of Zelda


The last game to be mentioned here is Rygar, a title originally released for the arcade in a standard side-scrolling hack and slash format. When it was eventually ported to the NES it transformed and featured some very different gameplay. A new overworld and set of items to discover in order to progress made for a very Zeldaesque experience. What sets it apart are the side-scrolling sections and action RPG experience point system which was implemented in Zelda 2 in fact just a year later.


Zelda 2

There are many more games on the NES never-mind other home consoles that have similar traits or are outright clones. If there are any that you feel deserve mention please speak up in the comments! Even if some of them can’t compare to the games they were inspired by, you know what they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

GameTrog Review By


Eringobrad is a perler artist and game enthusiast. If you enjoy retro games and art inspired by them find him on instagram and facebook.

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