Gauntlet (NES)

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North American licensed box art.

Gauntlet is a fantasy dungeon crawler and shooter developed by Atari and published by Tengen for the NES in 1987 with a PlayChoice-10 version released in 1988. Unlike the original arcade game which plays forever, the NES port has a rudimentary story and ending. This game is part of the Gauntlet universe.

My brother and I got this game used and played it through nearly to the end, however, we missed several of the secret rooms, so we could never get into the final stage. I thought it was pretty cool when I was younger, but I see a huge amount of flaws in it now.

I stumbled upon a useful bug in this game. If you get stunned, the countdown continues to count even if you press select to see your stats, and by the time you get back to the game, the countdown is over, but the enemies don't get a chance to hurt you.


I own this game, but I have not beaten it. I've played nearly every level in the game, but I've never found access to all the secret codes.


  • Overall: 4/10
  • Best Version: NES

— This section contains spoilers! —


  • The game competently takes most of what was good with the arcade version and brings it over to the NES, but creates an actual victory condition.
  • The game has fantastic music composed by Hal Canon.
  • Being able to choose a character from a group of different choices is always nice in any game.
  • The various permanent power up potions are a great idea.
  • Giving each world its own look and feel was a nice design choice.
  • Basing a player's level on the amount of treasure they've collected is an interesting touch that actually makes it worthwhile to grab the loot, unlike many games where score is unimportant.
  • Having health restoration being based on a successful exit of the treasure room is a good idea as well. Players need to balance their greed with their desire to survive, just like in the common trope.
  • Most of the maps have hidden tiles that can be uncovered when shot for a minor bonus or secret exit. This adds replay value to the game as pleasant surprises keep getting uncovered in subsequent play-throughs.
  • The game has wonderful cover art.


  • The game is much longer than it needs to be, and you'll be pretty bored of it by the end. Many of the levels feel the same, in fact, many of them are the same, just with a different tileset.
  • Death is an obnoxious enemy. While he is sometimes cleverly kept at bay by walls and doors that you must avoid opening, there are many instances where he's entirely unavoidable and exists simply to drain your life.
  • The invisible walls in world 4 are overused.
  • Reflective shot is actually a burden since you're only allowed one shot out at a time.
  • The locked chests are a good idea, but putting bad items in them like poison and death is a kick in the teeth.
  • The item alcove with no entrance in room 56 is a mean tease.
  • Other than treasure rooms and secret rooms, the game randomly assigns the music. The designers missed the opportunity to add more atmosphere to specific levels because of this.
  • The end boss is kind of lame.


  • The fact that you can only have one projectile out at a time is a nuisance early in the game, but it becomes very deadly later in the game when speedy grunts can take down hundreds of hit points in the time it takes for your projectile to leave the screen. It forces you to have to very slowly work your way through the screens and plan your shots carefully, which is very tedious.
  • The game shouldn't let you progress if you missed a secret room since the password is necessary in order to beat the game. You can spend hours getting all the way to the end, but if you missed the first secret room, you can't win.
  • Finding the entrances to each of the secret rooms is a very arduous chore. The maps from the manual give you a general idea which rooms will get you to them, but most of them require you to do a lot of research testing out where each exit goes, and finding hidden exits. If you fail to reach a secret room, you need to enter a password from a previous level (which means also keeping a password log for pretty much -every- room, and having to reenter them over and over again.
  • The secret rooms themselves are a pain as well. You have only a limited amount of time to find a hidden question mark block and escape through the exist. This often involves needing extra keys that aren't in the room. If you fail to exit with the question mark block, you need to reset. If you don't have enough keys, you need to reset much further back to when you have extras.
  • The teleporters rarely send you where you want to go, so you end up wasting a lot of time, and thereby your life, hoping they'll send you where you want to go. This is extremely frustrating, and they should have been changed.
  • The world 4 treasure rooms, with it's teleporters, stun tiles, and fake exits, makes it impossible to test each exit before the time runs out. You basically have about a 1-in-5 chance of healing. World 5 is pretty hard to pass as well, but as long as you have a speedy character, you can find it.


Box Art

I love this game's box art. Each of the four characters is prominently featured and competently painted, and there is a sense of dangerous adventure seen in their poses. The unlicensed box art is essentially the same, only with the left and bottom edges covered over in flat gold. The painting looks a bit unfinished, but it still looks great.






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