It’s fair to say the Nintendo Entertainment System wasn’t a massive success in Europe. Thanks to the bustling 8-bit microcomputer scene the European gaming industry didn’t suffer from the infamous 1984 market crash, so when the NES finally arrived on European shores in 1987 – two years on from its US launch – it struggled to carve its own niche in an already overcrowded market.
It certainly wasn’t perceived as an oddity from the far east in the same way the NeoGeo and PC Engine were – indeed, you could stroll into Argos, Dixons or Woolworths and buy one – but it still failed to make the same impact here as it did in the US, outsold by the Master System and overshadowed by the then-upcoming Mega Drive and Amiga 500.
Many NES games never left the US, and this is what makes Chris Scullion’s unofficial NES Encyclopedia (or The NES Encyclopedia: Every Game Released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, to use its full title) so compelling. Its pages are full of obscurities, unlikely TV tie-ins, and of course, the occasional stone cold classic. It also helps that Scullion is something of a long-standing NES fan, falling hard for the 8-bit system from a very young age.
All 714 officially licensed NES games are covered here, presented in a uniform fashion and receiving a quarter of a page and a single screenshot at the very minimum. The NES’s celebrated classics (Super Mario Bros. 1-3, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, et al) all receive a page each – with Scullion going more in-depth into their development and legacy – while a handful of more noteworthy titles are granted half a page. There’s also a four-page history of the NES itself, along with a foreword from the legendary scribe Julian Rignall.
Scullion tends to stick to just the facts for most entries – brief outlines of a game’s plot or premise, along with details of any noteworthy features and/or novel gameplay mechanics. Differences between regions are often covered too – in some instances, UK and US versions differed. And yes, European exclusive games are covered. You can always count on Asterix and the Smurfs to show their faces whenever the words ‘European’ and ‘exclusive’ are muttered.