Five Fine NES Board Game Video Games

The following choices are in no particular order, and do not reflect a “best of” list, but merely a summarized list of examples per category on the Nintendo Entertainment System. In this case, Five Fine NES Board Game Video Games.

The Nintendo Entertainment System was a home video game console that provided the gaming world with a number of innovations: The directional pad, entirely new genres and gameplay concepts, the lock-out chip, etc., not to mention mastering concepts that previous units had merely introduced such as the two-dimensional platform, multiple buttons, and moving away from just playing repetitive stages for a high score.

Among the bold endeavors undertaken by audacious NES developers was attempting to answer the question: Can we make a high-quality board game video game? While the true answer may lie in the person-by-person taste of gamers everywhere, long before the Mario Party and similar franchises, designers were working on seemingly viable concepts to put board game-style play onto a video game-style format. Whether this would result in enhanced board games or watered-down video games may be a matter of point of view, but what resulted was, at the very least, an intriguing selection of tries at the theme. Here are five of the most provocative examples.


Although it was not the first, the NES version of Monopoly was among the earliest attempts to simply directly translate a popular board game onto a video game cartridge or disk. The result was a title that was viewed as favorable by many, and even become popular enough to, over a decade later, form one of the most hotly contested (and theoretically optimized) tool-assisted speed run subjects on Monopoly on the NES was a success, and the spiritual predecessor for many other board-to-video-game translations.


Perhaps the next step in the evolution of putting board game types of titles onto the NES was to feature content that a real-life board game could not produce, such as whimsically rendered boards that had to be traversed in stages via mystical teleportation. Anticipation, at its core, was Pictionary on a television screen, yet with some quirky enhancements, and would become what became widely considered to be one of the most solid gameplay experiences on the Nintendo Entertainment System.


Spot The Video game was a weird concept to begin with: Take a popular item in real-world culture, like the clear soft drink 7-Up; then, take its recognizable logo-inspired mascot, and have it star in a game; but, rather than perhaps take the obvious route of designing a two-dimensional platformer, instead create a board game inspired by the obscure Ataxx model and add some fun animations to it. The result was Spot, a distinct flavor of game that is not for everyone, yet with multiple humans involved has a surprising tactical depth.


Similar to another NES title, Battle Chess, Archon took the basic idea of chess and added some features. Chess alone is a popular, strategy-deep game already, but Archon took it a few steps further with characters that grew stronger as they captured other pieces, action-oriented battle segments rather than deliberate move-to-capture mechanics, differing attacks per unit type, and even having the color of the spaces affect the power of the piece occupying it. Amidst the battle, the game had become something entirely different from chess, yet retained a board game feel.

Bible Buffet

Then there is Bible Buffet, one of the games from notorious unlicensed company Wisdom Tree, formerly Color Dreams. This particular title was notable for being a hybrid of both the board game and overhead adventure game genres, providing a unique experience for up to four players. While its production values are questionable, the distinct gameplay is not as bad as sometimes cited, and stands today as one of the more intriguing video game boards games on the NES.

Perhaps there may come a day when it no longer makes sense to put “simple” board games into a video game form, or maybe board games instead will become more like virtual reality video games; in either case, these cases from the 8-bit era establish a niche point in gaming history.

When Eric is not debating the philosophy of gaming in order to determine the merits of putting an arguably archaic yet somehow also trendy form of entertainment onto the most cutting-edge platform possible, he is busy updating his Nintendo Legend website as a part of his crazy quest to play and write a review for every American-released NES game in history.

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