#592 – Spelunker


                                                                                                                Have at thee, bat!



                                                    Spelunker vs. a rope. It’s a much harder battle than one would think.



PUBLISHER: Broderbund


GENRE: Arcade

RELEASE DATE: September 1987


I’ll be in my cold, cold grave before I give Spelunker another chance. And that’s a downright dirty shame because the game should be aces. Exploring caves and collecting loot with a mining hat-wearing Lode Runner creature? Sign me up. Unfortunately, Spelunker doesn’t want you to plummet its depths unless you have the patience of the Mount Athos monks. Remember in the Donkey Kong series when Jumpman/Mario/Donkey Kong Jr. couldn’t fall more than two inches without dying? Spelunker the character has the same falling disease. In Donkey Kong, though, there were only a couple areas where Mario had to be careful with his jumps. In Spelunker, the entire cave is like one giant jumping landmine. You descend into levels via elevator and scattered across the cave are pulleys, ropes, and stairs to bring you to high places. Jump too high off of any of these platforms, and Spelunker keels over dead. Other ways to kill Spelunker: falling into a hole, standing too close to a bomb, hitting the top of certain ceilings, being touched by a ghost. Some of these methods are understandable (methinks just about anyone would die if they stood too close to a bomb), but the rest? Spelunker should be a hearty cave explorer, not a 120-year-old with brittle bones. Also, three lives and you’re dead, no continues, no concessions. No thanks. A distinct gaming premise ruined by poor mechanics.




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  • The Steven E.

    Such a fun game. For manly men only. There’s also a Spelunker HD on PSN!

  • Yeah Im in the love this game category as well. Had hours of fun with it when I was a kid.

  • I remember renting this game and being so excited to play it. Sigh.

  • Such a divisive game! I love the reactions.

  • To be fair, the game comes across much better in its original form on an Atari 8-bit computer. I’d say this is a classic example of developers thinking a computer game port would be an easy conversion on the NES. Happened a few times in the early days of the console.

  • Anonymous

    I remember this game vaguely. It was likely one of the first or second titles I rented for the good ol NES. To me, at the time, this game was filled with wonderful exploration. I haven’t played it in over 20 years, I am guessing, maybe more. So my memories may be tinted rose coloured, but at least the game taught me the word spelunker.


  • If you played this when you were a kid, then I tip my hat to you.

  • Anonymous

    How did they sell 1 million of these in Japan?? How did they sell a million total? This game is the prime ingredient in weak sauce. There were a lot of games that Nintendo used as filler to bolster their title base and this is a prime example.

  • Greg

    This game was definitely “Nintendo Hard”. But I loved it as a kid–I found all 8 places you could jump for a bonus item to appear, beat it multiple rounds (the second time through, the keys become invisible. The third, you have to jump in the spot the keys are located. The fourth through infinity, you have to fire a flare to acquire the key.)

    I still whistle the theme occasionally when I’m working.

    • You enjoyed some seriously tough games as a young’un, Greg. I salute you!

    • Greg

      Well, back then you got a game for your birthday, or a great report card, and that was it–you were stuck with it for a while before you could get another one! Sadly, I no longer have the attention span.

    • Greg

      Well, back then you got a game for your birthday, Christmas, or an outstanding report card, and that was if. If it was balls-achingly hard or just plain sucked, you played it anyway until you got a new one. What else were you going to do, go outside?!

      Unfortunately, I also chose Athena as one of my hard-earned report card rewards (I really loved Greek mythology.) I actually got as far as the labyrinth level.

  • Anonymous

    I finished this game back in the day on the NES. Fortunately there is an arcade version of Spelunker which has much better play mechanics and is much more fun. 🙂

  • Gotta love how the box hypes the sales in Japan when it was the Famicom’s first true Kusoge (literally, “shitty game”, and a title given to the worst of the worst games over there) title.