(August 1989-1993)

the best looking 8-bit game system ever, just not 16-bit

again they are NOT for sale!
NEC is not only a huge electronic company but with the help of game designer Hudson Soft they also created their own video game system back in the day. The NEC PC Engine was a huge hit over in Japan (it even beat out the mega popular Japanese NES in sales for a few years) and it finally came to North America in August of 1989 as the Turbo Grafx-16 (it looks totally different than the white square looking PC Engine). Could this machine crush the then popular NES and successfully compete with the other newly released Sega Genesis? They tried their best but the turbo has some serious obstacles in its way.

Even though it was called the Turbo Grafx-16, in reality it was only an 8-bit CPU system with two processors (one of them was a 16-bit graphics processor though but the main CPU wasn't), not a true 16-bit machine after all even though NEC clearly advertised the system as a true 16-bit powerhouse. When the word got out, this little bit of information helped to shorten the life of this underrated little system. I also saw another big problem, if NEC was this big Japanese company with all this money, why did NEC advertise the system so poorly? I only remember seeing the Turbo only in either Game only stores or Radio Shack, not the place that comes to mind when you think about video games, eh? Also Keith Courage kinda sucks!
That brings me to the always important yet under looked video game cover box art. It's usually the first thing people see before they pick a game up after all. I may not be the greatest Artist in the world but I do have a Design and Visual Degree and from the many Turbo Grafx-16 cover boxes, they were easily the worst collection of video game artwork I ever seen. You want some examples, just take a look at these games and their cover art: Dungeon Explorer, Veigus Tactical Gladiator, Military Madness, Monster Lair, R Type, Moto Roader, and many others. "How are you suppose to sell something with crappy art here, guys!?" There are a few exceptions however with games like Soldier Blade, Splatter House, and the Legendary Axe but most of the other art is just plain bad.

Sure, the Turbo may only be a mere 8-bit machine but this little black machine can blow the old 8-bit NES and Sega Master System out of the water. What made NEC's game system here so appealing for gamers of the late 80's was the large range of colours compared to the bland palettes of the NES and it even had more colours per screen then the Genesis. I also liked the cool size of the games because they are about the size of a thin credit card and unlike those lame Sega Master System card games, some of these are actually good. Even though the game are small in design, they still range from anywhere from 2meg to huge 20meg games.

Another thing that made the Turbo Grafx-16 (the turbo for short) so unique that it had tons of great shooter games like Magical Chase, Blazing Lazers, Air Zonk, and Aero Blasters, some of these games you won't find anywhere else. Even though Sega was a serious rival to the Turbo, Sega themselves released a lot of top games for the turbo like Dragon Curse, Space Harrier, and Fantasy Zone (Sega was not doing so well in Japan at the time, so they made several games for NEC). The Turbo is also famous for helping to start the multi-player craze a little thanks to interesting games like Bomberman, Moto Roader, Battle Royal and more. I absolute hated buying a lame Turbo Tap just so you could two player games which is odd since playing with a second person is standard on most consoles (there is only one controller port on the turbo itself by the way). It sucks but at if you can get a good party going than it could be worth the extra costs.

Don't forget the Turbografx-16 CD! The first ever CD-ROM video console system ever and the first game for that system was Fighting Street, also better know as the original Street Fighter! The CD add on system was not a huge hit for NEC, but the thing was $650 Canadian when it was first introduced over here so its no wonder. After NEC and Hudson Soft joined forces to form TTI, they would release in October 1992 the Turbo Duo, a stand alone system which played all turbo chips, turbo CD, and the new Super CD's in one. The Turbo Duo only last a year before NEC pulled the plug on that system and that would be TTI's first and last gaming system. Those weren't the only ventures from NEC because there was even a portable Turbo Grafx unit that came out in the fall of 1990. It was called the Turbo Express and it is a very rare unit especially with the TV tuner.

Bottomline: I still like the turbo system enough to give it a passing grade since it did last for about four years and there are some decent games for it. I don't like how hard it is to find the games now today especially compared to the Genesis and SNES though. You also have a much smaller library of games to choose from compared to the other 16-bit machines out there so be sure you know what you're getting into before you invest in this old system here. You might be surprised just how good the system really is.

TurboGrafx-16 Rating: 77/100
It had fair selection of good titles but go for the Turbo Duo system instead if you can.

Rare Scale: 3/10
NEC will not be remembered for their game system.

Turbo Grafx in Europe!


* the games are just the size of a business card, very portable for the Turbo Express.
* 256 colors on screen at once from 512 colours! That's even stronger than the Sega Genesis colour palettes.

* to save your games you NEED a turbo booster plus, and to play multi-player games you NEED a turbo tap. Hope ya got the cash?
* saving your game to a turbo booster plus, Turbo CD, Turbo Duo is very limited because the units need to be recharged every two weeks or you may lose your data. How lame is that?

My high score for Air Zonk was 30, 332, 430 (Top score)
See it at and search for AIR ZONK

Air Zonk is a futurist shooter staring a robot named Zonk.
Zonk starred in no other games outside the turbo.

Some common TG-16 games: Some of the rarer TG-16 games: eBay
Alien Crush
Bonk's Adventure
China Warrior
Dragon Spirit
Dungeon Explorer
Keith Courage (the original pack in game)
Pac Land
Power Golf
Takin' It to the Hoop
TV Sports Basketball
TV Sports Football
Bomberman 93
Bonk III Bonk's Big Adventure (final Turbo card game)
Darkwing Duck
Dead Moon
Legend of Hero Tonma
Magical Chase (this one is very evasive)
Neutopia II
New Adventure Island
Order of the Griffon
Soldier Blade
World Sports Competition

If you are collecting Turbo games and you're looking for rare titles then be sure to look for most of the games released in 1992 to 1993. Most of these games were released under the TTI company name by the way.

StarSoldier's Turbo Grafx-16 Top Ten
(Bombs, wars, stars, and cave men!)


Most Disappointing Turbo Grafx-16 game: Darkwing Duck
Runner up: Impossamole

The Worst Turbo Grafx-16 game:
Runner up: Falcon

Most Underrated Turbo Grafx-16 game: Veigus Tactical Gladiator
Runner up: Bomberman

Turbo Grafx-16 CD games: Complete list
Buster Bros.
Cosmic Fantasy II (Rare)
Fighting Street (Rare)
Final Zone II
It Came from The Desert
Jack Nicklaus Turbo Golf CD
JB Harold's Murder Club
Magical Dinosaur Tour
Monster Lair
Last Alert
Lords of the Rising Sun
Sherlock Holmes
Splash Lake
The Addams Family
Valis II
Valis III (Rare)
Vasteel (Rare)
Y's Book I & II
Y's III (Rare)

Go to Turbo REVIEWS > >

Go to Turbo Duo Info