5 Facts About the TurboGrafx-16

  • While marketed as a 16-bit system, the TurboGrafx-16 only had an 8-bit CPU.
  • Around 17 different models of the TurboGrafx-16 were produced.
  • The TurboGrafx-16 was the first console to use a CD-ROM system.
  • The PC Engine, which is the Japanese TBGFX 16, is the smallest traditional home consoled produced.
  • A portable version of the TurboGrafx-16 was launched as the TurboExpress in 1990.

Whether you were a gamer in the 90s or just appreciate retro games, the TurboGrafx-16 was an interesting choice. After spending countless hours with the TurboGrafx-16 mini, we decided to put together a list of the best TurboGrafx-16 exclusive games that gamers may have missed.

Many of these titles were bound to that console, which left Nintendo fans out in the cold. While some received ports to new consoles decades later, there is nothing like playing these classics on the systems they were built for.

Quick Facts

Original price
$299
Units Sold
6.59 million+

The History of the TurboGrafx-16 Console: What to Know

Hudson Soft is a well-known name among retro gamers, and the company responsible for the TurboGrafx-16. They designed the console, which was sold by NEC and helped to usher in the 4th generation of gaming consoles.

The TurboGrafx-16 was launched across the United States in 1989 but is known as the PC Engine in Europe and other countries. It was originally intended to compete against the NES, but delays meant the system would launch against the SNES and the Sega Genesis.

While the TurboGrafx-16 arrived in the United States to much fanfare, the Sega Genesis quickly stole the spotlight with a true 16-bit CPU and a game called Altered Beast. By comparison, early versions of the TurboGrafx-16 shipped with Keith Courage in the Alpha Zone, which wasn’t exactly beloved in the West.

Despite various add-ons to the system including a CD-ROM drive that boosted graphics, sales began to decline and the console was overproduced at launch. It was overtaken quickly by the SNES and Sega Genesis despite a re-launch of the console as the TurboDuo.

While the TurboGrafx-16 was ahead of its time in several ways, the lack of third-party support and the overall selection of games sealed its fate. The console was discontinued in 1994, only 5 years after it was launched in the United States.

DesignerHudson Soft
ManufacturerNEC Home Electronics
Release DateAugust 29, 1989 (North America)
DiscontinuedMay 1994
Generation4th
Display512 color palette, 482 on-screen
Audio5-10 bit Stereo PCM
CPU8-bit Hudson Soft HuC6280
RAM8KB
VRAM64KB
MediaHuCard, CD-ROM
A scene from the TurboGrafx 16 game called Splatterhouse

The Best TurboGrafx-16 Games

Splatterhouse
  • Exciting Horror Themed Side Scroller
  • 16 Bit Graphics
  • Hu-Card is very durable

Horror games didn’t find their footing until the Resident Evil franchise came along, but retro gamers will fondly remember Splatterhouse. This TurboGrafx-16 exclusive follows Rick Taylor as he tries to find shelter from a storm, and encounters a house full of horrors.

Splatterhouse is a sidescrolling game that involves plenty of kicking, punching, and jumping. Our hero can also utilize a number of weapons as he finds his way through the mansion. There are plenty of surprises along the way, and a boss battle waiting for Rick at the end of every stage. This American port isn’t quite as gruesome as the Japanese version of Splatterhouse but still remained true to the original. 

Namco released Splatterhouse in 1989, and it still holds plenty of its original charm today. It’s one of the earlier horror games for home consoles and an excellent alternative to NES games like Friday the 13th. You can play Splatterhouse on the mini console, through emulators, or as part of the Namco Museum collection on the Nintendo Switch.

Check out Splatterhouse on Amazon.

Neutopia II
  • Number of players: 1

If you owned an NES console in the 80s or 90s, one game you missed was The Legend of Zelda. Gamers that owned a TurboGrafx-16 were able to get the next best thing with Neutopia. It’s considered a Zelda clone, but with some interesting differences.

This Hudson Soft classic was released in 1990 and takes place in a mythical land with a hero named Jazeta. Our hero is out to free a princess from an evil villain in a 16-bit setting which includes an ample amount of goblins, knights, and mysterious caves. You can get tips from NPCs, just like in Zelda, and can resume your progress through the code system.

Neutopia is a more streamlined version of Zelda that was well received at the time and still holds up today. It was one of the first games to copy LOZ’s popular formula and certainly won’t be the last. Neutopia like many forgotten classics was revitalized through modern services on the Wii, Wii U, and PlayStation Networks.

Check out Neutopia on Amazon.

3. Blazing Lasers

There weren’t nearly as many games based on films for the TurboGrafx-16 as compared to the NES and other early consoles. One jewel that escaped Nintendo fans’ grasp was Blazing Lazers, a shooter produced by Hudson Soft and Compile.

As one of the more intense shooters of its day, Blazing Lasers puts you in command of a Gunhed Star Fighter from the movie of the same name. The goal is to take on the enemy and take down the Dark Squadron along the way. Rapid-fire cannons and a handful of lives get you started, but a variety of upgrades help as you make your way through each stage.

This is another highly-rated game that eventually came to modern devices through PSN and the virtual console more than a decade later. It’s one of the best TurboGrafx-16 games, and one of the top vertically scrolling shooters of the 90s as well.

Bonk's Adventure
  • Single player
  • Action PLatforming Game

Mario and Sonic were two of the earliest mascots for Nintendo and Sega. One forgotten mascot was born on the TurboGrafx-16 in the form of Bonk. This quirky caveman lived up to his namesake and brought hours of enjoyment by simply using his head.

Cavemen have a love for wooden clubs, but Bonk uses his oversized forehead as a weapon. When Bonk takes damage, his heart meter goes down, while fruit and veggies provide reinvigorate him. Meat acts as a power-up, and while the levels feel short, it’s an absolute blast to play with excellent background design and music.

NES owners may not be familiar with Bonk, but this little caveman had enough fans to spawn several sequels. Bonk’s Revenge and Bonk 3: Bonk’s Big Adventure followed on the TurboGrafx-16 before the original eventually wound up on PSN, the Wii U, and the TurboGrafx-16 Mini.

Check out Bonk’s Adventure on Amazon.

Cinemaware was a company that released some unique titles during the 80s like the King of Chicago and Rocket Ranger. It Came from the Desert is one of three games the company produced on the TurboGrafx-16. It’s also one of the early adventure games that took advantage of full-motion video.

In this action-adventure game, you play a geologist that heads to the desert to study a meteor crash. We won’t spoil the plot, but the 50s setting harkens back to the old Sci-Fi monster movies of that decade. The gameplay alternates between top-down action with weapons and adventure, which involves puzzles and mini-games.

From games of chicken to fully-acted scenes, It Came from the Desert is a joy to behold. The TurboGrafx-16 port has a completely different feel than the PC version, however. It was also popular enough to spawn an expansion called Antheads in Europe, which was only available through the mail in the United States.

Check out It Came from the Desert on Amazon.

One game typically found in an arcade that didn’t involve cabinets was pinball machines. They are a natural fit to make the transition to consoles, however. One of the best pinball games of the 90s is found on the TurboGrafx-16 with Devil’s Crush from Compile.

Unlike traditional pinball video games, Devil’s Crush lets the action play out across multiple screens. It’s a “scrolling” pinball game that utilizes three screens instead of one. It also sends demons your way if you end up in the bumpers too often. Bonus screens and wild graphics are only part of this TurboGrafx-16 pinball games charm.

Devil’s Crush was notable for its music, gameplay, and design. It’s one of those games that is hard to put down once you get started and the replay factor will keep you busy for days on end. There are more accurate pinball games on consoles from that decade, but none are quite as fun as Devil’s Crush.

Check out Devil’s Crush on Amazon.

7. The Legendary Axe

One of the best games overall for the TurboGrafx-16 was The Legendary Axe, which helped move a lot of consoles in the early 90s. It’s a classic platformer with simplistic gameplay, but one that allowed the console to show off its graphical prowess and audio.

In this game, players found themselves jumping and slashing their way through hordes of enemies as Gogan. Our hero has six themed worlds he’ll need to traverse to defeat Jagu and save his childhood friend. Features like the strength meter are a nice touch along with a variety of power-ups obtained through Jagu idols.

The varied environments, graphics, and soundtrack were just a few reasons this game was so popular upon its release. It was one of the few original launch titles for the TurboGrafx-16 in North America and is highly regarded by all the major gaming publications of the day including IGN, EVG, and CVG.

If you wanted to make gamers envious of your TurboGrafx-16 console in the 90s, one way to do so was with Beyond Shadowgate. It’s the sequel to the incredibly popular NES game Shadowgate, although it was never ported on any of Nintendo’s systems.

There are many similarities between Shadowgate and Beyond Shadowgate, although the sequel has a different layout with updated graphics. It’s as eerie as the original and picks up where that one left off. You play a descendant of Lord Jair and battle your way through a castle full of deadly traps to set things right. 

If you enjoyed the original game and its challenging puzzles, you’ll love Beyond Shadowgate. It’s a frustrating game that will leave your character dead more often than not. It’s also something you can only play through the TurboGrafx-16 console.

Check out Beyond Shadowgate on Amazon.

9. Cadash

Taito produced some fantastic games including one of the most popular cabinet games of all time, with Space Invaders in 1978. They ported a number of their titles to consoles over the next few decades, including an amazing action-adventure game called Cadash.

This medieval fantasy game had a theme that would make Tolkien proud. Your goal is to take back the kingdom from Balrog and rescue Princess Salassa from the depths of Castle Cadash. The storyline is excellent, and the game gave players an early taste of platform RPGs which are still popular on today’s consoles.

This version of Cadash largely stayed true to the Arcade version while removing time limits along with two playable characters. This classic received a port to the Mega Drive a year after its release on the TurboGrafx-16. It eventually found its way to modern platforms through Taito collections for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC.

10. Turrican

Metroid was one of the more popular releases on the original Nintendo, and a game you missed out on if you owned a console from Sega. Turrican was one of the few TurboGrafx-16 titles that managed to play like Metroid and it’s a game you’ll want to check out if you appreciate the same type of gameplay.

The realm of Alterra consists of several different habitats, and you have to make your way through them as Turrican, a bio-engineered warrior. The action is intense as you fight and work your way towards MORGUL. This run-and-gun game certainly provides plenty of challenges for gamers old and new.

Originally, Turrican launched on the C64 before going to other platforms including the Atari ST, Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and the TurboGrafx-16 in 1991. While the game did get a Game Boy port, it didn’t make a proper appearance until Super Turrican for the NES a year later.

The best Turbografx-16 games reviewed.

Up Next…

Last update on 2022-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best TurboGrafx-16 Exclusive Games that SNES and Genesis Owners missed! FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can You Play Turbografx-16 Games Without the Original Console?

Yes. You can use emulators to play all of the original games along with Japanese imports that never made it to the United States.

Will the Turbografx-16 Mini Play All the Console’s Games?

No, but the North American or international version of the mini console will play 57 different games.

How Many Turbografx-16 Were Produced?

More than 650 games were produced for the console from its release to the cancellation in 1994.

About the Author

More from History-Computer

  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TurboGrafx-16#Variations
  • Paste Magazine Available here: https://www.pastemagazine.com/games/the-16-best-turbografx-16-games/#1-devil-s-crush