Allow me to clarify what I mean when I say exclusives. I'm talking about games that were released on the Famicom, shown above, which you can think of as the original Nintendo Entertainment System released in Japan, but were not released for the NES in other regions. Some of these games may have been ported to other systems, but were not available for NES consoles outside of Japan. I did not take the language barrier into account when choosing which games to include on this list, but I will mention when games are text heavy and more difficult to play due to the amount of reading comprehension necessary. This list does not include Disk System exclusives.
1. 悪魔城すぺしゃる ぼくドラキュラくん (Akumajou Special Boku Dracula-kun)
This game was released on the Game Boy as Kid Dracula and is essentially a wacky and cartoonish Castlevania game. Don't let the comedic presentation fool you though, this game was always one of my absolute favorite Game Boy games as the game is very good. It's not as hard as the Castlevania games, but can be difficult at times and features some fun gameplay elements. You have a projectile weapon instead of the traditional whip and get new power ups in each area, such as turning into a bat for a time and walking on walls, which you have to utilize to proceed through the game.
2. コスミッケ イプシロン （Cosmic Epsilon)
Cosmic Epsilon is a game very similar to Space Harrier, but with some minor varying gameplay elements. Space Harrier is one of my favorite games, so I enjoy playing games that borrow from its formula. Cosmic Epsilon was one of the few Famicom games that utilized an accessory called the Famicom 3D system, which was never released outside of Japan. Essentially, the 3D system was a large pair of shutter glasses (like the SegaScope 3D glasses, but quite a bit larger) which alternated in conjuction with the images in certain games. Cosmic Epsilon could be switched into 3D mode for use with the glasses, but functions fine without the accessory. Another game which used the accessory but is so much a blatant rip off of Space Harrier with poorer quality gameplay that I have no desire to play it was アタッケアニマル学園 (Attack Animal Gakuen). Although I have no interest in the game, it may interest some fans of Space Harrier or anyone interested in the Famicom 3D system.
3. ケライシスフォース (Crisis Force)
Crisis Force is a vertical shmup that looks very fun. Lots of variety in power ups, bosses, stage environments, enemies, etc. The gameplay looks fast and addictive which is what would keep me coming back for a long time. Out of all the shmups I've seen on the Famicom and NES, this is one of the most appealing.
4. デジタルデビル物語 女神転生 (Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei)
This is the first RPG on the list and as such the first game that would be difficult to play for gamers who cannot read Japanese, especially considering how important the story can be in RPGs. An English translation to this game is however being worked on and info can be found here: http://agtp.romhack.net/project.php?id=megaten1. For those of you who don't know about this game, you may have heard of the Persona games or other various Atlus RPGs. If you were to trace back the origins of those RPGs, you would likely come across this Famicom game. This game is actually based on a Japanese novel, or rather trilogy. The first book was known as Megami Tensei or Resurrection of the Goddess. The premise of the book is that a student creates a computer program which can summon demons and some issues arise when he accidentally summons the demon Loki. An English translation of the book can be found here: http://ddstranslation.blogspot.com/2006/08/introduction_16.html for anyone interested.
5. ドラえもん （Doraemon)
Doraemon has been an extremely popular manga in Japan for years and you can easily find tons of Doraemon merchandise, cartoon shows, games, etc. At first, the game alternates between maze like top down areas and side-scrolling areas and offers a constant barrage of enemies. Then the game starts alternating between being a vertical shmup and a horizontal shmup. Then you find yourself swimming through a maze underwater caverns, collecting various items, and trying to discover the correct path. The game has a surprising amount of variety and looks both difficult and fun.
5. ドラゴンスクロール 甦りし魔竜 (Dragon Scroll: Yomigaerishi Maryuu)
Dragon Scroll: Resurrection of the Demon Dragon is an overhead adventure game with gameplay similar to the original Legend of Zelda. If you're like me and find the gameplay in the top-down Zelda's to be some of the best out there, then you may find this game very attractive. This game is playable in Japanese but I imagine it may be difficult to determine what to do next. A translation has been made and is available for anyone interested in playing a translated version.
6. ファミコンジャンプ 寛雄列伝 (Famicom Jump: Hero Retsuden)
Famicom Jump: History of Heroes was a game that combined popular characters from popular manga released in the weekly Shonen Jump magazine. Those of us in the states will most likely recognize Goku from Dragonball or possibly Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star. Famicom Jump is an action RPG, and although it's not impossible to play without being able to read the Japanese, it's one of those games where figuring out what to do next could turn into a headache. Of course if you grew up on 8-bit adventure games, you may be like me and genuinely enjoy adventuring around discovering the game without a clear path.
7. ファミコンウォーズ (Famicom Wars)
Famicom Wars is where the Advance Wars series began if you're familiar with those games. Famicom Wars is a grid-based tactical strategy game where your units move along the grid and face off with enemy units. Although there's a bit of text in this game, I imagine it would become fairly easy to play once you get the hang of what each option does as overall there aren't all that many options. There are some translations being worked on but I really don't think a translation is necessary as you can easily look up what each option does through various guides on internet as Famicom Wars is pretty popular and well-known.
8. ファイナルファンタジーII (Final Fantasy II)
Being an RPG, there's quite a lot of Japanese text in this game. For those of you unfamiliar with the confusion associated with the names of earlier Final Fantasy games, let me offer a brief explanation. Originally the game Final Fantasy was released for the Famicom and the NES and was known in all regions as the first Final Fantasy game. Then Final Fantasy II was released for the Famicom but not released outside of Japan. Then Final Fantasy III was released for the famicom but not released outside of Japan. Then the Super Famicom was launched and Final Fantasy IV was released in Japan but was also released in other regions. Since regions outside of Japan had not received the previous FF games, Final Fantasy IV was called Final Fantasy II when it was brought to the other regions. This game has been translated and ported to the PSP in as Final Fantasy II Anniversary edition and even given a stunning graphical overhaul as well as some new features. That edition even allows you to play the game in Japanese if you desire. This is a very unique FF game as the characters weapons level up in a fashion dissimilar to any other FF game.
9. ファイナルファンタジーIII (Final Fantasy III)
The next Final Fantasy game which wasn't originally released outside of Japan was the first FF to feature the job system, a system I wish more of the FF games took inspiration and cues from. This game can be found translated for the Nintendo DS as Final Fantasy III (not to be confused with FFIII on the SNES), but is redone in three dimensions and features big polygons and really doesn't look anything like the original to me. I much prefer the original two dimensional style for this particular game. The DS version also changed the starting job class which seems strange to me. Due to the popularity of the Final Fantasy franchise, there are multiple translations for the original game available throughout the internet.
10. がんばれゴイモン！ からくり道中 (Ganbare Goemon! Karakuri Douchu)
Preserve Goemon! Tricky Journey is a game I'm interested in as I really like all the Goemon games I've played. I'll admit this game doesn't look as good as the later entries in the series but it still looks like a fun action game and a solid addition to any Famicom collection. Aside from exploring and fighting enemies with both a short range and long range weapon, you collect power ups and visit shops.
11. がんばれゴイモン２ (Ganbare Goemon 2)
This looks fairly similar to the first Goemon game but offers some improvements such as boss battles, first person labyrinths, and a two player mode. Like the first game, you must collect items, traverse maze-like landscapes and use various upgrades to survive. Translations for both games do exist, and may be helpful as occasionally information is relayed by characters you can talk to while traveling which is vital to proceeding to the next stage.
12.月風魔伝 (Getsu Fuuma Den)
Put simply, this game looks absolutely amazing. If I could choose any game on this list right now to be the only Famicom game I could ever play I would choose this game in a heartbeat. This game is like a hybrid of The Legend of Zelda II and Ninja Gaiden that takes place in an underworld full of demons and even includes some first person perspective dungeons. There is a translation of this game but I consider it playable without one.
13 .銀河の三人 (Ginga no Sannin)
Ginga no Sannin or Galaxy's Trio is a sci-fi RPG which was released by Enix and ported to the Famicom from the PC where it was known as 地球戦士ライーザ (Earth Fighter Rayieza). This game actually looks like it could get pretty boring but as a classic RPG fan I would be very willing to give it a go. At the moment there don't appear to be any complete translations out there, but supposedly there's something in the works.
14. HIGEMARU 魔界島 (Higemaru Makai Jima)
Mikai Jima, commonly referred to as Makai Island or Hell Island is a port of an arcade game where you traverse the seas, occasionally visiting bodies of land or other sea vessels where the game shifts to an overhead action game where you defeat enemies using a variety of objects such as rocks and barrels. This is another one of those games that's all about exploration.
15. ホーリーダーイヴァー (Holy Diver)
Ever hear of that guy Ronnie James Dio who had that hit song Holy Diver after leaving Black Sabbath? My guess is many of you have. Well apparently he inspired a Famicom game which was never released in the U.S. (or so quite a few people think he was the inspiration). I can't confirm whether or not that's true, but there are a lot of what appear to be allusions to Dio in the game such as the main character's name sounding suspiciously like Ronnie. I can tell you the game looks like a very fun Castlevania-esque game and would probably be a great game to play while blasting some Rainbow in the Dark.
16. ジョイメカファイト (Joy Mecha Fight)
Joy Mecha Fight is a fighting game which looks stunning on the Famicom. It also looks like it would be a thrill to play, but I'll just link to a brief video for this game as you really have to see it with your own eyes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2OezCqQE2c&feature=related
17. キャッ党忍伝てやんでえ (Kyatto Ninden Teyandee)
Kyatto Ninden Teyandee was a cartoon which was brought over to the states as Samurai Pizza Cats and I must admit I rather liked the show when it first aired. It was really upbeat, silly, and overall very fun. The game is a platformer with tons of secrets and hidden bonuses where you can switch between several cats with unique abilities on the fly to explore different areas and find new paths.
18. メタルマックス (Metal Max)
This game actually has a remake on the Super Famicom which has been translated into English and is often considered superior to the original Famicom version seen above. That being said, I like the look of the original game and would like to give it a try. Metal Max is an RPG where you roam around the world in a tank. Turn based battles take place both on foot and in the tank. You're tank must be managed just as your characters must be and you can roam around taking on bounty heads to earn cash.
19. マザー (Mother)
Mother is also known as Earthbound Zero as it's the predecessor to Earthbound on the SNES. Nintendo actually translated this game but the translated game was never released. The Nintendo translation was eventually discovered and can be found around the internet. I've never played any of the Mother or Earthbound games, but they look like very original RPGs because they revolve around making the ordinary both interesting and engaging and that fascinates me greatly.
20. パロディウスだ！(Parodius Da!)
Parodius Da! is a quirky horizontal shmup which looks like it's a delight to play. The Famicom port features slightly different levels than the arcade, Super Famicom, and MSX versions. Apparently the Parodius series began on the MSX as a parody of the Gradius series, and although I can't confirm this, this does seem like something Konami would do. Especially considering that their Kid Dracula game at the top of this list appeared to be a fun parody of their Castlevania games.
21. ポートピア連続殺人事件 (Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken)
The Portopia Serial Murder Case is an extremely text heavy graphical point and click adventure game, but there is a translation patch floating around the net. In this game you must talk to various characters, collect clues, and solve puzzles on your path to unraveling the mystery behind the murders. Depending on your actions, the game offered varying routes for the narrative. Supposedly Hideo Kojima, the man behind the Metal Gear franchise, was inspired by the storytelling found in this game and began to really think about how video games could be used as a story telling medium.
22. スプラッターハウス わんぱくグラフィティ
(Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti)
(Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti)
This is essentially a cutesy parody of the more gore filled Splatterhouse games, but looks just as fun as the more adult games and features tons of horror elements and nods to classic horror. It even features a moon- walking vampire! I'm a huge fan of the early Splatterhouse games so I'm particularly interested in this game.
23. スウィートホーム (Sweet Home)
Sweet Home is often touted the as the origins and inspiration for the first Resident Evil game and there are many parallels between the two, despite Sweet Home being an RPG. Sweet Home is a horror themed RPG which takes place inside of a haunted mansion similar to the first Resident Evil and was based on the Japanese horror film by the same name. I'm a fan of most of the films directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (who's style is often compared to Stanley Kubrick) so a game based on one of them fascinates me greatly. This game combines the two genres that I tend to spend the most time with, horror and RPGS, into one entity. There is a translation available for anyone looking to play the game in English.
24. テトラスター (Tetra Star: The Fighter)
I'm interested in this one for the same reasons I'm interested in Cosmic Epsilon sans the 3D system compatibility. Tetra Star is another game that's very similar to Space Harrier, with some different gameplay elements, making it a game I really want to try. The weather effects implemented in the game and how they can potentially affect your concentration are what first caught my attention.
(Kanshakutama Nage Kantarou no Toukaidou Gojuusan Tsugi)
I see this game commonly just called Toukaidou Gojuusan Tsugi most likely due to its rather long-winded full title and the fact that this section of the title is much larger and much bolder than the rest. You play as Kantarou who must use his trusty fireworks to travel the 東海道五十三次 or the fifty three stations of the Toukaidou. Think of the Toukaidou as a sort of highway which ran from Edo (now known as Tokyo) to Kyoto during the Edo period in Japan's history. The game consists of 21 stages, and looks like an enjoyable action platformer littered with enemies and fun power ups.
26. コナミワイワイワールド (Konami Wai Wai World)
Commonly referred to as just Wai Wai World, this game has you traversing several stages each representative of different Konami games with several different Konami characters which are unlocked as the game progresses. Western gamers will most readily recognize the characters King Kong and Mikey from the Goonies since they are from Konami games which were licensed from Western films. Other characters include Getsu Fuuma and Goemon from previous games on this list and Simon Belmont III, easily recognizable by fans of the NES, among others. The game even switches to from a platformer to a shmup for the stage which uses the ship from Gradius as a character.
27. 妖怪道中記 (Youkai Douchuki)
A youkai is a demon, spirit, ghost, etc., a douchuki is a travel journal, and Youkai Douchuki is a port of an arcade platformer that looks like a real blast to play. The arcade cabinet was released in English and was known as Shadow Land. There was also a port for the PCEngine with enhanced graphics but the ports look different enough that I would give both of them a chance.