Covering video games is a dream come true. It’s a lot of work though. Not just with TheGamer, but all of my other passion projects as well. Creating retrospectives on my YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer, for example. There are just so many old games out there to cover right alongside all of the new stuff as well. It’s hard enough to discuss retro games let alone staying in touch with all the hits this industry keeps throwing at us. Among all this clutter, and good clutter at that, there’s something even more fascinating that intrigues my archival interests. That is bootleg games. No not pirated roms either. I’m talking about straight up blatant copyright infringing rip-offs, which primarily seem to come from China, Taiwan, or other Asian territories.
This is a topic I’ve wanted to cover on here for a while now ever since I did my last piece on hacks. Technically you could call bootleg games a close cousin of rom hacks, as these games are more, or less some sort of hack, or conversion of an already existing game. You know like replacing sprites in a Sonic game with Mario. Yes that exists and it’s called Somari. Look it up. I’m not going to cover that any further right now, because this list is all about beloved Nintendo franchises that have been Frankensteined into some truly terrible monsters. They may be downright disgusting, but they’re fascinating nonetheless. Oh and if you want to see these games in motion then check out this video I whipped up.
25 A Shimmering Gem
There are actually a lot of names this one goes by. The version I played was listed as Pocket Monster Ruby, but I’ve researched and found other versions like Pocket Monster Carbuncle. Maybe it’s the second version of the game like Pokémon Sapphire. Anyway, it’s not related to the original Pokémon Ruby at all. It’s actually a tactical RPG, which is impressive to me.
A tactical mark of brilliance!
As it stands now there is only one official strategy RPG with the Pokémon name, Pokémon Conquest, which is fantastic. Sure this is shameless and buggy, but I do applaud the developers, however shady they are, for making another game in this genre. Now if only we could get a real one from Nintendo and or Game Freak again.
24 Awakening To Mediocrity
Feng Yin Dao is basically a NES port of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, which is impressive since it’s converting a Game Boy game to a console one. The colors are a bit faded than that of, say, the original The Legend of Zelda. That is to say, it looks closer to a Game Boy game than a NES one, but it’s still unique. It’s not good and not exactly like Link’s Awakening. Everything is sort of bizarre and otherworldly and the mechanics don’t function properly. For example, if you walk north, south, east, or west the screen is supposed to shift with you, right? Well, it does here too except that you can get stuck on objects on the other side this freezing the transition. That’s one of many problems I have with this game.
23 Wobble This Way
This is another game that has gone by other names like Super Mario World 64, but again the version I played was just Super Mario World. Despite the name, the strangest thing about this isn’t even the fact that a Mario game has been ported to the Sega Genesis. It’s actually not Super Mario World at all.
Why is Mario so fat?
The game is based on The Lost Levels SNES remake with gameplay from Rescue Rangers on the NES. That is to say all of the worlds and sprites look like they came from Mario, but his main attacks involve picking up objects, again, just like in Rescue Rangers. The models are off too like Mario has a weird gut and wobbles when he walks.
22 Beware Of The Ballz
There have seemingly been hundreds of Dragon Ball games, but most of them fall in the fighting game category. Where are all the beat ‘em ups? Even though this game, Dragon Ball Z 5, is a bad knockoff, or that is to say it’s not official, I like the effort. As far as I’ve researched this is an original game and not really based on anything. Well, there’s actually a lot of NES Dragon Ball games that never came over here so sprites, at least, could be based on them. Anyway, while the combat isn’t good as hit detection is weak and everything looks blurry, it’s unique I guess. Hopefully, we can get a real brawler in the style of Dragon Ball FighterZ sometime soon.
21 The Phantom Pixel
Yes, that is an adorable pixilated Solid Snake above. It’s called He Jin Zhuang Bei II and like Dragon Ball Z 5 this game is also original in terms of content. It also takes a series not known for brawlers and turns it into one. Technically you can pummel enemies in every single Metal Gear game, but I wouldn’t really categorize it as a brawler. Snake’s model, and for that matter his enemies, all look strange.
Snake, look out for those nipples!
It’s like their bodies are taking over everything and there’s little room for the head. Not to mention Snake kind of has a weird baby face. The punching is satisfying though if I have to praise something for this game and it’s pretty colorful too.
20 X Gon' Give It To Ya
Here we have Luoke Ren DX6. I think it’s technically based on Mega Man Xtreme, which is a Game Boy Color port of the Mega Man X trilogy on SNES. No wait, it’s more like a remake of those games. Regardless of the official title, this too is original, but does borrow a lot from the Mega Man universe. As you can imagine you begin with eight stages to choose from. You fight your way through, defeat bosses and absorb their powers, and so forth. It plays pretty similiarly to the originals with the controls being just a little off along with Mega Man X’s sprite. It’s a tad too big for the screen and makes getting around feel like a chore, but it’s definitely not the worst game on this list.
19 Let’s Get Panda
So I found a NES demake of Donkey Kong Country and it’s just as bad as it sounds, but also technically miraculous. Then I found this gem. The Panda Prince is like a cherry on top of another cherry on top of the ice cream. It’s the exact same port, mostly, except it replaces Donkey Kong with a panda. Way to go bootleggers.
Welcome to Pandas vs beavers week.
While the stages look similar, they’re rearranged in a way that feels new plus the enemy sprites and designs are all messed up. If you’ve been craving a new Donkey Kong Country then take a swing at this. Ha, just kidding. That would be a weird endorsement for us to give. No, The Panda Prince is a horrible mess that’s hilarious on paper, but a horror to play.
18 A New Challenger Emerges
World Heroes 2 is a more obscure fighting game in this day and age. It’s one of many fighting series from SNK. This, I guess, is a demake of the SNES version of World Heroes 2. I hesitate to say that because this bootleg takes stages and characters from all over. It’s like the 2D version of Super Smash Bros. There’s Ryu from Street Fighter, Leonardo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Goku from Dragon Ball, and the list goes on. Plus there’s Mario and Sonic. And as you can guess the sprites are horribly off color not to mention glitchy as heck. It’s hard to even know what you’re doing due to the pixels flashing in and out. Prepare yourself for a seizure if you try it out.
17 Abra Kadabra
Kou Dai Yao Guai Bai Jin Ban is yet another Pokémon rip-off. It is not, however, a turn-based RPG, or a tactical game like Pocket Monster Ruby. It instead is an action platformer. You can choose to be Abra, Flareon, Psyduck, or Pichu and they all virtually play the same. They can run, jump, and shoot some sort of elemental projectile. You fight a wide catalog of Pokémon too and the models are genuinely impressive.
Psyduck is the secret best Pokémon.
Well, some of them at least. Abra is normally drawn, or represented to be sitting so having his sprite walk around with legs look weird. Psyduck is probably the best looking of the bunch. They even nailed its little wobble and tail wag. Yeah, it’s a cheap imitation, but I dig it.
16 Quit Karting Around
Kart Fighter is another attempt at creating a 2D Nintendo based fighting crossover game. It’s even more ugly and buggier than World Heroes 2’s sprites though. It looks like fan art drawn by a five-year-old, but brought to life in some sort of weird séance with the devil. This is the stuff of nightmares. Why Kart Fighter though? Why not call it something more similar to Nintendo’s actual fighting game series, Super Smash Bros. like Smash Fighter, or even Super Kart Bros.? Well no one said these bootleggers were smart in terms of naming conventions, or programming. I wish I could see the boardroom meetings on these things, or more like back alley deals. It’s funny in concept, but really awful to play.
15 Sailor Man X
Here’s another weird Mega Man clone. For those unaware Mega Man is called Rockman in Japan so this name is a play on that: Rocman X. You know, except they spelled it differently and added an X at the end. Plus they gave good ol’ “Rocman” a cape and like a weird Sailor Moon crest on his helmet. Oh yeah and sometimes the game is refereed to as Thunder Blast Man.
Why does Rocman look so peeved?
Based on research I believe it’s also pretty original save for a few models and the name. The sprite is so bad, his animations are insanely poor, and his actual controls are garbage. And instead of using a mega buster he uses that aforementioned head ornament. Wow, he really is a lot like Sailor Moon.
14 The Minish RPG
Zelda: Shen Qi De Mao Zi is based on The Minish Cap on the GBA, but demade for the NES. The beginning of this game, despite some color and sprite choices, is pretty impressive. I was like wow this really is The Minish Cap. That is until I got to the action after the long-winded opening narrative. Technically you still fight with a sword, but it’s a turn-based RPG with random encounters. I should clarify that these random encounters that are cranked up to the max. The battle layout is actually reminiscent of Super Mario RPG, except without the counter combat. Breath of the Wild really shook things up for the series so anything is possible now. I guess this is the next best thing to a real Zelda RPG for now.
13 Just A Worm
EarthWorm Jim 3 is yet another NES demake and it’s based on the original Earthworm Jim. Yes, the two spellings are different, which I realize is crazy. There’s actually nothing strange about it either other than it’s an unofficial NES port. With some of these others games there are usually a lot of changes, but from what I could playing EarthWorm Jim 3, it’s just an exact port with an alternate name.
They really ran out of ideas in the 90s.
If you ever wanted to play an Earthworm Jim demake on a NES, well, here’s your answer. The one question I have is why. Why demake this game? Sure it was popular in the 90s, but it’s not really a nostalgic classic people still talk about. Oh well like I said before these decisions are mind baffling.
12 The More You Know
In a way, Contra Fighter is the most boring addition to this list. At its core, Contra Fighter is just a straight up rom hack of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero for the NES. It just replaces the G.I. Joe characters with Street Fighter ones. Like EarthWorm Jim 3, it really is just an exact replica of the original, but with Ryu, Chun Li, Guile, Zangief, and Vega taking over for Duke, Blizzard, Snake Eyes, Grid Iron and Rock & Roll. Also, Vega is M. Bison, which was his original name in Japan until translators essentially messed up the naming convention in the west. If you haven’t played the original it’s actually really good and so is this hack. You know, for a licensed based game on the NES that is.
11 Streets Of Demake
Capcom, where is Final Fight? The world deserves another entry, or remake in this classic beat ‘me up franchise. It doesn’t have to be Final Fight. Capcom used to be so good at making brawlers. It would be easy to rank them all there’s so many. That’s for another time. Instead, let’s look at yet another NES demake with Final Fight 3.
Every town deserves a Haggar as mayor.
It seems to be a cross between a lot of the character choices and maps based on Final Fight 3, but with some of the mechanics and framework of Mighty Final Fight, which was the super cute, deformed spinoff for the series. Despite the pixels flickering in and out just as bad as World Heroes, everything else about the game feels relatively good.
10 Disco Mario
Mario 3: Around the World is our first and only Russian bootleg on this list. It’s another Mario port for the Sega Genesis and like Super Mario World this is not actually the third Mario game. Well it is and it isn’t actually. The title screen shows Peach’s Castle from Super Mario 64, most of the levels and enemy sprites look like they are from the SNES remake Super Mario Bros. 3, and some models look like they are from the SNES remake of The Lost Levels. It’s such a weird melting from Mario’s universe and that isn’t even the strangest part. Mario himself is hunched over, looks hand drawn, and has his hands in the clapping position at all times. Oh yeah and disco music plays throughout each stage. This is just the beginning!
9 Long In The Tooth
Get ready for this long one. Here we have Chong Wu Xiao Jing Ling: Jie Jin Ta Zhi Wang. I think this is based off of the Pokémon Trading Card Game for the GBC from what I can tell from the world map and sprite work. As Ash, or Red if you want to be a purist, you travel around the world map, marching from city to city, fighting off strangers you randomly talk to. There’s no fanfare behind battle transitions either.
What the heck is a Pikecho?
They just sort of happen. It’s presented like a typical Pokémon fight, only the menu system is a bit strange. It’s not an exact replica and boy does it not communicate with you well, but it is at least the closest approximation of what Pokémon is compared to the other games we’ve looked at so far.
8 Zombies Ate My Elves?
I thought this one deserved a cross-reference with the pictures above. Elf Wor is a more Chinese version of that SNES cult classic, Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Instead of vanquishing hordes of zombies, you’re tackling skeletons and other strange monsters. Instead of a squirt gun you’re armed with magical Tao talismans to rid the world of spirits. Yes, you still are rescuing people. Of all the things to transform Zombie Ate My Neighbors into this would be far from my list of guesses. The bootleggers should be applauded for trying to appeal to their native audience more I suppose. That’s why I think The Panda Prince took out Donkey Kong too. What’s with the name Elf Wor though? It’s not even spelled correctly and there aren't any elves.
7 Hulk Smash!
This is the version of Rescue Rangers I believe that Sega Genesis port of Super Mario World is based on. It’s called Squirrel King, which is funny considering Chip and Dale are chipmunks and not squirrels. The level layouts are approximately the same, but the enemies are all different along with the designs for Chip and Dale. Yeah they’re different, but they still look like chipmunks to me.
Seriously though what's with the Hulk hand?
Also if you would adjust your eyes to the bottom of the screen you’ll see what looks like a Hulk fist. That is your fireball count. Yes, you can throw fireballs. Not sure why it’s represented by the Hulk’s green fist, but whatever. I forgot to mention that Mario had the same spell too in Super Mario World.
6 It’s-a Me, Ripoffio!
Kiddy Sun in Fantasia appears to be some sort of rom hack of Adventure Island. It’s a more obscure NES series starring a fairly chubby dude in a grass skirt. He’s been replaced by a sprite with a big nosed, mustache, and he wears suspenders. Remind you of anyone? It’s a him, Mario! We get two copyright violations for the price of one with this entry. He looks like Mario and Luigi’s long lost older brother. Let’s call him Ripoffio. He makes Wario and Waluigi look like legitimate characters. Jokes aside the first Adventure Island isn’t that good to begin with so of course the knock off version is going to be worse. Adventure Island II and Adventure Island III are well worth seeking out though. Make sure you get legitimate copies though.
5 Digimon And Pokémon Side By Side
Digimon vs. Pokémon: a fan war that has been waging since the 90s. Which one is better? The easy answer for me is Pokémon. Mingzhu Koudai Guaishou 2 is not a fighting game, but it is an RPG where Pokémon and Digimon do coexist together. What’s the story? Ha! Heck if I know. I can’t read a lick of Chinese, or whatever these characters are comprised of. You can choose one of six characters all with their own corresponding Pokémon.
Someday they can coexist in peace.
Ash has a Charmander, Misty has a Squirtle, Brock has a Geodude, Gary has an Eevee, and Tracey has a Venonat. Oh and the Pokémon talk to you. Otherwise, it’s pretty normal. You go off on an adventure and fight Pokémon in the traditional Pokémon, but sometimes you battle Digimon too.
4 From Diddy To Donkey
And now for the greatest title of all time: Donkey Kong 5 The Journey of Over Time and Space. The core design is original, but mechanically it also seems to be based off of Super Mario Bros. DX. Like The Panda Prince I actually found a few games that are exactly the same albeit with alternate sprites. Besides this Donkey Kong one there’s a Harry Potter game called Ha Li Xiao Zi Di Er Bu Mi Shi De Mi and one for Digimon as well entitled Digitmon Sapphire. All those spellings and titles are correct as crazy as they may seem. As for the game itself you start off as Diddy Kong and transform into Donkey Kong when you eat meat. Is this a commentary on evolution?
3 A Not So Sunny Disposition
Golden Sun is one of Nintendo’s only RPG series that doesn’t contain Mario in any fashion and now the series is pretty much dead. It’s unfortunate because it’s truly an underrated trilogy. Not perfect by any means, but still underrated. Anyway Pian Wai Zhang Huang Jin Tai Yang: Feng Yin De Yuan Gu Lian Jin Shu, phew what a mouthful, is an action RPG loosely based on Golden Sun.
I'd rather have a golden shower.
The main hero sort of looks like Isaac from the first game. It’d actually be a pretty decent platform action game if the hit detection were better. Why is my sword phasing through enemies all the time? Because of this error the game is pretty brutal not unlike the official franchise. And on a random note there’s a Dragon Quest VIII version of this too.
2 Pikachu's Day Out
Here we have Pocket Monsters 2, which by itself is a pretty tame name. It’s another Pokémon platformer except it only stars Pikachu. Its model quality is on par with Kart Fighter aka not good. Some of his fellow Pokémon look decent though like Weedle and Pidgetott. Then there’s what appears to be an Oddish, but off colored to yellow. Plus a lot of other enemies that are either original, or ripped off from other games I’m not aware of. Now Pikachu can jump on top of most enemies to defeat them, or throw Pokéballs, which are a limited source of ammunition. It’s not fun, but at the very least I can say it’s never not amusing to see what happens next. You know like in a car crash sort of way.
1 Derpychu: Destroyer Of Worlds
Last, but not least, we have an even derpier version of Pikachu via Pocket Monster. It appears to be based on Athena, which is probably the most obscure NES game on this list. It really only takes level designs if anything otherwise Pocket Monster is its own game. Let’s begin with the title screen where we can see an adorable Pikachu with a giant hat.
Pikachu and the Tree of Defilement out this Halloween.
That’s the most pleasant experience you’ll have with this game. From there the game opens up with a disturbing looking Pikachu without a nose staring at us head on next to a rather menacing looking tree. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game doesn't come alive and kill me like in The Ring. Since I played it I guess I have seven days left to live. Been nice writing for you!