Top 100 NES/Famicom Games List: #9

NES & Famicom Games

Arguably the most beloved console of all time, the Nintendo Entertainment System, commonly abbreviated as NES, is now well over 25 years old. With over two thousand games produced worldwide for the legendary hardware, the NES, despite it’s age, has an eternal staying power. As retro gaming continues to grow in popularity, more and more gamers flock to Nintendo’s first home console to get their gaming fix.

Welcome to the final top 10 countdown for my personal picks of the greatest games to grace the NES and Famicom. I will be posting one update per day on my march towards the number one position. This has been a long time coming, and I want to thank you, my readers, for all of your support.

No then, as before, I am ranking every game on its overall difficulty using a simple scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is brain dead easy and 10 is….well,  Battletoads. A 5 on this scale means it’s average difficulty with perhaps some challenging elements, but nothing the average gamer should get stuck on for too long.

I’m also including many links to videos and other online information sources. Links are indicated by orange words. Please open these links in a new tab/window so you don’t have to navigate away from this article.

Previous entries:

part 1, #100-90
part 2, #89-80
part 3, #79-70
part 4, #69-60
part 5, #59-50
part 6, #49-40
part 7, #39-30
part 8, #29-20
part 9, #19-11
Final top 10: #10

So without further ado, here is entry #9!

#9Little Samson
1992
Taito
Platformer
Price range: $90-150
Difficulty: 7
Region: All

Ta-Keed, the Prince of Darkness, has managed to escape from his supernatural penitentiary where he has had centuries to plot exactly how he will take revenge on those that locked him away. Emperor Hans sends his troops to deal with this threat, but they are no match for the ultimate evil one. As an alternative, the emperor summons the bearers of four Magical Bells. These four adventurers must make their way to the castle and work as a team if they are to destroy Ta-Keed.

Why you should play it:

This game kicks ass and serves as a big “in your face” to anyone who said that complex platformers couldn’t be done on the NES. Taito, one of the few remaining third party developers to hang on when most others had jumped ship to the SNES, produced one of the most innovative platformers that, in time, would also become one of the rarest, as well as most well deservingly sought after NES titles.

Little Samson, despite its misleading, awful boxart, is without a doubt one of the best looking and technically advanced games to grace the NES. While the game does certainly look beautiful in screenshots, what still shots can’t convey is how brilliantly animated the sprites are, and how the excellent spritework on display here puts nearly every other 8-bit game to shame. In fact, the sprites very often resemble typical Sega Genesis sprites. It’s quite evident that quite a bit of talent and polish was put into this one little game.

There are four playable characters in Little Samson that once assembled, can be swapped out at will at any given time to afford the player unparalleled freedom throughout the stages. Each of the four characters have unique abilities which are essential throughout the game. The four characters are as follows:
Samson is a human and serves as the game’s lead hero. He has average speed and a decent lifebar. He can scale walls and hang across ceilings, and also grab onto walls and ceilings while jumping. He is the most well rounded of the group. His main attack are bells which he throws horizontally similar to Megaman’s Rockbuster.

Kikira is a dragon who has a higher, more floaty jump than Samson. She can hover for short bursts, similar to Princess Toadstool in Super Mario Bros USA. She breathes fire, and can even charge her attack for more damage, again similar to Megaman. Her fireballs travel in an upward arch. She does not slip on ice.

Gamm is a Golem and as such, he is extremely strong with the highest lifebar. However, he is very slow and cannot jump very high. Spikes do not hurt him, affording him to stand directly on them. He attacks with his fist horizontally, but he can thrust it directly upward to make up for his lack of mobility.

K.O. is a tiny mouse who can enter areas that others cannot. He is the fastest character and the highest jumper, but also has the smallest lifebar, capable of only taking 2 or 3 hits. He can cling to almost any surface except spikes. K.O drops powerful time-delay bombs, similar to Samus in Morth Ball mode in Metroid.

The freedom to choose between any of the four characters throughout the entire game gives Little Samson rather high replay value. Should you try and solo the game as much as possible as Samson, or up the challenge by mostly using K.O? As if that weren’t already enough, Little Samson is also quite lengthy for a linear patformer, and uses a simple four character password system if you ever want to jump to your favorite area of the game.

Had Little Samson been part of an established franchise, had any kind of marketing campaign behind it or just simply came out a little earlier than late 1992, it’s very possible that it would be remembered as the true classic that it is. If you’re looking for a challenging, rare, and expensively good NES game, you just found it.

Fun fact:

Little Samson, despite its brilliance, had very poor sales in the west. Despite its brilliance, it had everything going against it – not only was it developed exclusively on obsolete hardware, it was not attached to any established game franchise for mass-market name recognition. It had a virtually non-existent ad campaign and to top off its problems, the North American release of Little Samson had among the worst NES boxart since Megaman 1. In fact the boxart even resembles the typical North American Capcom art style heavily used at the time.

The initial poor sales and general market apathy halted further production of the game, squashed any hope for a future sequel and raised the red flag to other NES developers that the market had moved on from the NES. I find all of this to be truly a shame – there’s true franchise potential in Little Samson. One can only hope that the game someday sees a revival. This is one of gaming’s most critically underrated classics.

Feel free to leave your comments, memories, and whatever else in the comments Below. Stay tuned tomorrow for the next entry, or better yet, subscribe! Subscribers get notified via email the instant I publish a new post, so you’ll never be guessing as to when the next entry will be!

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9 Responses to “Top 100 NES/Famicom Games List: #9”

  1. Nice review. I remember playing through Little Samson in emulation sometime around 2001, before I knew anything about the hype surrounding it. From the title, I expected it to be another Wisdom Tree game, and kept waiting for things to turn Biblical! Needless to say, I was very impressed and enjoyed it thoroughly. I love games that use the “switch between characters with different abilities” approach, and this may be the best one on the NES.

  2. Bilgy Sue Says:

    “Megaman’s Rockbuster”??

    Make up your mind.

    • satoshimatrix Says:

      Oh come on – don’t be so nitpicky. You know what I mean. I very often intermix the terminology. It’s the all the same, really.

  3. It’s solid, but not quite top ten material to me. I agree with most of the points made in gaming sanctuary’s detailed review (linked); lack of depth and poor sense of progression holds it back. But it looks and sounds excellent for NES.

    • satoshimatrix Says:

      As I so often have pointed out, nobody will ever completely agree on any top 10 list, let alone a top 100 list. If you don’t feel it’s top ten material, then fine, everyone has their preferences. I however feel very strongly that Little Samson is one of the ten best games for the system for the reasons I outlined above.

      • There’s no need to point those things out though, is there? It should be clear that I’m not questioning any of that. I’m simply chiming in with my own opinion on the game, you know, for discussion’s sake. You can dispute what I said or ignore it 🙂

        To focus solely on your text, the claim about this game being one of the most innovative for its time or complex for being a NES platformer isn’t quite true. Castlevania 3, Wonder Boy 3 and Cocoron for example already did the ‘transform to progress/reach item/improve your chances’ thing. Several games are more complex in terms of mechanics to learn (SMB3), puzzles to solve (Moai Kun, Solomon’s Key) or patterns to memorize (Ninja Gaiden). Little Samson is more a case of combining and polishing existing ideas while keeping things simple enough for a wide audience.

      • satoshimatrix Says:

        Hm, you make a good point. I think Little Samson stands out because its quite a bit more polished the the majority of the samples you cite. It might be incorrect to claim that little Samson was innovative, but it certainly is ambitious and successful in what it aims to do.

  4. […] top 10: #10 Final top 10: #9 Final top 10: #8 Final top 10: #7 Final top 10: #6 Final top 10: #5 Final top 10: #4 Final top 10: […]

  5. Ethan Ross Says:

    I am a proud owner of this game 🙂

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