5 of the best 16-bit games on Evercade
Ever since games consoles went HD and started to be designed more like PCs, hardware generations have started to blur into one another somewhat. Sure, performance and resolution tends to improve a fair bit with each new generation of consoles, but the differences are much less radical than they were between, say, 8-bit and 16-bit games.
16-bit games represent a sweet spot for a lot of retro gaming enthusiasts, as it was around that time home gaming hardware started to approach the capabilities of what was going on in the arcades. Graphics became more colourful and detailed, sound went far beyond the blips and bloops of earlier gaming, and genres that were just defining and establishing themselves in the 8-bit era started to find more solid ground to build on. So today we’re going to celebrate some of the best 16-bit games that you can play right now on Evercade — including both classics from “back in the day” and more modern titles.
Midnight Resistance on Data East Collection 1 is a great port of an arcade game. In fact, in some ways it’s superior to its arcade counterpart — most notably with regard to its music, which is more elaborately orchestrated in its home console version. This will perhaps not be a surprise when you learn that the music for the 16-bit home console version is the work of Hitoshi Sakimoto, today best known for his contributions to the Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics series. The soundtrack is definitely a highlight of the Midnight Resistance experience, and a great example of how video game composers started to become more ambitious in the 16-bit era thanks to the popular platforms’ considerably more advanced sonic capabilities than those of the previous generation.
And Midnight Resistance is a great game, too, offering challenging but rewarding run-and-gun action with an unusual but effective control scheme. Key to mastering Midnight Resistance is getting to grips with both the way in which you toggle autofire on and off with the X button and can lock your character’s firing direction by holding the A button. While holding A, you can continue firing in one direction while moving in another, allowing you to keep dealing damage to your foes while avoiding their shots. A great example of this comes relatively early in the game, during a sequence where you’re standing atop a platform firing downwards at a missile-launching vehicle. Locking your firing direction makes this part a whole lot easier than it might otherwise be!
Make no mistake, Midnight Resistance is tough, and it’ll likely take you a fair bit of practice (or judicious use of save states) before you can make significant progress. But it’s well worth putting in that effort, as the game is a top-notch run and gun title well worth blasting your way through.
We whizz forward to the modern day for our next 16-bit title Tanglewood, one of the two games on the Xeno Crisis/Tanglewood dual cartridge. (Xeno Crisis is also an amazing 16-bit game, but we featured that in our shoot ’em ups roundup a while back, so it’s Tanglewood’s turn in the spotlight!)
In Tanglewood, you take on the role of a fox-like creature named Nymn. The game is extremely minimalist in its storytelling, eschewing dialogue completely in favour of atmospheric visuals, music and sound effects. It opens with Nymn awakening in a forest around dusk, and it’s clear that all is not well. There’s a malevolent gloom in the air, though exactly what that means is for you to discover as you progress through the game. Your immediate concern is simply to progress through each stage of the game, collecting fireflies and solving puzzles in order to progress. There are action sequences, usually involving running away from something large with pointy teeth, but for the most part, Tanglewood is a game about figuring out how to use the environment and the objects in it to get you to your destination.
Of central importance are the fuzzy creatures known as Fuzzls. Progressing further often requires that you help a Fuzzl get back to its nest by pushing and rolling it; once it’s safely back home, it will confer a colour-coded special power on Nymn, such as being able to float or stop time. By making good use of these abilities, you’ll be able to traverse the various obstacles, outwit Nymn’s enemies and make your way through the game’s eight chapters.
Striking a fun balance between RPG-style exploration and the immediacy of an action game, Arcus Odyssey on Renovation Collection 1 is an excellent 16-bit game — indeed, if you’re particularly fond of the distinctive look, feel and sound of 16-bit home console titles, Renovation Collection 1 is an entire cartridge you’re sure to love.
In Arcus Odyssey, you (and, optionally, a friend) take on the role of one of four different playable characters, each with their own distinctive way of fighting. You’ll progress through a series of isometric stages, completing various tasks along the way. Unlike a straight-up RPG, there’s no “overworld” to explore in Arcus Odyssey and no going back to dungeons you’ve previously cleared, so make sure you search each stage thoroughly to find helpful items and upgrades. Keep a particular eye out for the “Doll of Life” items, which allow you to immediately come back to life when your health is depleted. These are rare and valuable!
The game is split into eight Acts with several stages each. It’s possible to blast through the whole game in a single sitting if you know what you’re doing — but it’ll take a bit of practice to get there. Bringing a friend along certainly helps even the odds a little; just be sure to agree on how you’re going to handle loot before you start playing!
Zero Tolerance, found on Piko Interactive Collection 3, is a great example of how games released late in the commercial lifespan of a platform often pushed the boundaries of what was thought to be “possible” on the system in question. First-person shooters had firmly established themselves in the mid-to-high-end PC market by 1994, but consoles seemed to be a little slower to adopt the genre — at least partly due to how these games were some of the most technically demanding titles on the market at the time.
But then along comes creator Randel Reiss and his development company Technopop to show that it was very much possible to make an eminently playable first-person shooter on 16-bit console hardware. Sure, more powerful systems were capable of more technically advanced games — when compared to its contemporaries, Zero Tolerance lacks floor and ceiling textures as well as variable-height floors and ceilings, for example — but the fact this game runs on its original host hardware at all is something of a technological marvel.
Plus it’s a fun game, too. The concept is simple: on each stage, you have to destroy all the enemies before moving on to the next. A handy on-screen counter keeps track of how many more foes need blowing away, and a helpful automap keeps track of where you are and warns you of incoming enemies. Additional equipment, ammunition and healing items can be found on-site. Now get to it, soldier!
Demons of Asteborg
Finally, we come to another recent release: Demons of Asteborg, which shares a cartridge with the equally worthy Astebros. This is the sort of game that, had it been released back in the day, would have been top of many people’s “must-play” lists. With stunning graphics, excellent music and solid gameplay, Demons of Asteborg is an atmospheric action platformer that is sure to scratch an itch for those who are a fan of a certain Gothic-inspired vampire-busting series.
But Demons of Asteborg isn’t a clone of that series; it very much carves out its own identity. The environments you have to traverse as protagonist Gareth are varied and interesting, and each new stage brings new things to discover, both in the form of enemies and obstacles to deal with and new abilities for Gareth to make use of on his quest. The latter involves helping the ancient spirit Uther uncover the memories that were taken from him by the game’s antagonist Zadimus.
Demons of Asteborg is a tricky game, but practice makes perfect, and the gorgeous presentation ensures that any time you make progress you feel like you’ve been amply rewarded for your efforts. Make use of Evercade’s save states if you need to — then once you feel like you’ve got the hang of things, see if you can blast through the whole thing in one go!
These are just some of the great 16-bit games available for Evercade, and we’re sure you have your own picks, too! Why not let us know about them on our social media channels? Check out Evercade on Facebook, Twitter and Discord.
With over 260 games available