Thursday, May 26, 2011

1985 Famicom High Scores

I picked up a rather interesting book at Mandarake the other day. Everybody, meet the Hishousakusen Mecha Guide.

This was an interesting guide book, one of many released for the Famicom in the 1980s. This was the third in this series and was published in 1985, 2 years after the Famicom's release and at the height of the Famicom boom.

It has strategy guides for 13 Famicom games - see if you can guess which ones by looking at the artwork on the cover.

Back in the day these guidebooks probably weren't worth the cover price (580 yen). Unless you had all 13 games you would be getting a lot of useless information. Plus for the most part the mini strategy guides just contain info that can be found in the manuals the games came with.

As a repository of Famicom history though this thing is fantastic. Most of its value lies not in the guides to the games, but in the added bonus features that crop up here and there. Today I thought I would do a post about one of these: High scores.

On page 158 this book has a list of high scores which readers of the series have achieved on some of the more popular Famicom games of the time:
I find this sort of thing very interesting, so I've translated the list below. The only difference between this and the Japanese original is that I've omitted the names of the hi-scorers to respect their privacy and I've also omitted the Hyper Series scores at the bottom which would have been a pain in the ass to fit into the table. Here they are:


Hi Score


Clu Clu Land



Star Force



Spartan X



Nuts and Milk



Balloon Fight






City Connection



Mario Brothers



Donkey Kong Jr.






Pu Yan



Yie Ar Kung Fu









Wrecking Crew






Route 16 Turbo



Ninja Kun






Ever gotten scores better than these? These look pretty good to me. The scores for Star Force, Xevious, Yie Ar Kung Fu and Wrecking Crew obviously represent the highest scores possible. The only one I've come close to besting is Galaxian, all the others are way out of my league. But then I suck at video games.

Anyway, I really like this because it reminds me of an earlier age of video games. You ever notice how the high score feature was slowly eliminated from most video games in a process that began during the Famicom's generation? It seemed that by the time the Nintendo 64 rolled by score keeping had been eliminated from all but a handful of games.

In the old days though, pretty much all games revolved around racking up high scores. The purpose was just to get as many points as you could. This was a really brilliant feature of them. The high score provided the perfect measure of one's skill when compared with other players. It gave you something to focus on while playing the game and provided an added level of intensity as it made everything in the game important. Miss shooting down a single space ship and that represented points lost.

Even in games where the main purpose wasn't getting a high score per se the presence of the score feature provided another element of interest. Like in Super Mario Brothers the purpose wasn't really to get points, it was to get to the end of level 8-4. But once you had finished every stage, instead of tossing the game aside you could start again from the beginning with a new mission: using score rather than levels completed as the measure of success. To a certain extent the fact that you could rack up huge points by just endlessly bouncing turtles off of walls limited the enjoyment of this but you get the point.

High scores: I salute you!

Related Posts:
- Famicom History
- Famicom Releases by the Numbers
- Amada Family Computer Mini Cards: The Coolest Famicom Thing You Never Knew Existed


  1. I remember Ninendo Power use to do the same thing back in the day. You would have to take a photo of the actual screen with the system (to show you weren't hacking) and mail it in to be published.

  2. That sounds familiar. I'm not sure if this book required similar proof or just took their reader's word for it!

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  4. I remember the same thing, Mark! Man, I used to love Nintendo Power magazine :) Anyway, Sean, this is a great find. I love little pieces of history like this!

  5. Thanks, Bryan! I think these things are neat too.

  6. Well, another brilliant find!. I always drowl checking all these books and magazines from Japan. I wish to know some japanese to find some scans of them, to look them up.
    Action Games (the latinoamerican #1 magazine) had the same format: you had to take a photograph of your score to submit it. High-scores bring me back in time. Good times bro, good times.

  7. Thanks, these old magazines and books are quite interesting. A lot of the Famicom ones are, unfortunately, also expensive now!

    Interesting that Action Games also did the same thing. I miss the old days of high scores counting for something!

  8. Good old high scores... I always used to want to beat the scores in magazines but I've never really been that good at videogames, I just like playing them! I always remember a supposed score of 65-odd million for Power Strike in C&VG which I was jealous of but I later found out it's impossible to get anywhere near that! :P

  9. Hey there, I have a question for you seeing as you are the expert on Famicom :) Would you think $199.99 Australian is a good price for a boxed Famicom with one game? I desperately want to add a Famicom to my collection, but have no idea what price I should be looking at?

  10. Simon - Yeah, I've never been good enough to get high scores either. I like those rumors of mythical high scores that used to float around too, good memories!

  11. Hi amiga4eva -

    A lot depends. 200 bucks Australian ($214US according to an online currency converter I just checked) sounds expensive to me. If it was a mint, complete console in a mint box with all the inserts and a really good game and shipping was included then that would be a reasonable deal.

    Otherwise that is probably too much. I just saw a few decent boxed ones on Ebay in the 70 to 90 dollar range, which seems a reasonable deal.

    Good luck with your quest to get a Famicom!