The Most Bizarre Shooter on the NES, Zombie Nation

Zombie Nation is one of the more bizarre shooters that I’ve played. The violence is over the top; you play as a disembodied head, and your hitbox is confusing. I like parts of the game, but wouldn’t say I liked it much.

It is just a strange game. The story is insane; the graphics create problems for the gameplay, and you die quickly. This is beyond one-hit deaths, as you do have a life meter. You can take multiple hits, but it feels inconsistent.

I do like some parts of the game. Sometimes, the graphics are great, and the game has a lot going on. It fits with some of the other horror-themed games on the NES.

TLDR: A Good Game with Many Minor Flaws.


If you couldn’t guess, this is a port of a different shooter. There are minor graphical and gameplay changes, mainly with the character’s sprite. Here is a list of the changes from the original to the North American release:

  • The main character sprite in the Japanese version is a Tengu head, and the North American version has a disembodied human head.
  • The Statue of Liberty is green and has a crown of snakes in the Japanese version, and it is red with a normal crown in the North American version.
  • Rapid Fire is standard in the North American version and needs to be acquired in the Japanese version.

Given how strange the game is, I’m a little surprised that more wasn’t changed. This is one of the times I think the Nintendo of America censors didn’t bother. You see this increasingly as the 90s rolled on, but it is always interesting to see something like this.


The story for this game is insane. It also fits into some other ridiculous stories about some world-ending catastrophe. When I was reading it, I was reminded of the story for the Mutant League games.

According to the game, the world ends in 1999 when a meteorite crashes into Nevada. It contains an entity called Darc Seed. This entity somehow turns the population into zombies and takes control of a magical sword.

Because it took control of the sword, A disembodied samurai head returns to life and travels to the US to defeat Darc Seed. It also has to fight an animated Statue of Liberty. How is the Statue of Liberty brought to life? By video game logic, of course! It was a magnetic beam thing.

The samurai head, named Namakubi, defeats Darc Seed, and then you get a slide show. There is no explanation of what happened, and you assume everything has returned to normal. At this point, I considered buying some drugs so this game could make sense.

While the story is overly complicated and insane, it somehow feels believable compared to other video game stories. This game has a lot of strangeness, and the story tries to explain all of it.


Zombie Nation is a side-scrolling shooter, also called a shoot’em up or a shmup. One of those names is stupid, so I’ll keep calling it a shooter. The game has five stages and two difficulty settings.

From the start, you can select between four stages. They’re labeled 1 through 4, but you can start anywhere. This is similar to the Mega Man games. You’ll have to beat each level before fighting the final boss.

Once you’ve beaten those four levels, you can move on to the final boss. Darc Seed, the final boss, is a green alien. The other bosses are more interesting.

You have a health bar represented by eight heads, icons of your character’s sprite. I’m not sure how this works. I would’ve thought that this means you can get hit eight times. However, it would seem like I would occasionally lose health when I got hit, and other times I wouldn’t.

The only consistent thing was getting hit by some of the barrier weapons. Those would always hurt me and would do a ton of damage. Sometimes, these are easy to avoid, and you’ll get hit other times. It is a matter of learning the game.

You only have one life per continue. However, you’re given six continues. I’m unsure if this is different on Hard mode. This is a little disappointing. I would’ve liked to have three lives, but I guess that wasn’t possible for some reason.

Overall, the gameplay is okay. It is a game of memorization and reflexes. I want to like it, but some things keep me from saying I like it.  


Parts of the game look exceptional for the time. In 1990, the graphics were very good, but at times, those graphics tend to get cluttered. It can make it hard to tell where you can and cannot go.

A lot is going on in this game. You have fire animations, everything explodes, and many enemies on the screen. I didn’t notice any slowdown in the game, which is remarkable, given how much is happening on the screen.

The problem is this makes the screen too busy at times. You can get trapped in several places while waiting for things to stop shooting at you. It makes the game harder than it needs to be.

You need to blast your way through things. Sometimes, it is a building; other times, it can be a cave wall. It isn’t always clear because of all the other stuff that is going on.

Overall, the game can be very impressive from a graphics standpoint. For an NES game, a lot is happening in some levels. The game gets so busy that you’ll miss something and get trapped. It looks great at times and is overcrowded every once in a while.

6.5/10. Every good thing I have to say about this game comes with a caveat. It has good graphics but can be overly crowded, which hampers gameplay. The gameplay is good, but there are many cheap deaths. Zombie Nation is a bad game, but several minor flaws add up the more you look at the game.


  • Good Gameplay
  • Crazy Story
  • Impressive Graphics


  • Inconsistent Damage
  • High Difficulty
  • Level Memorization


This is a weird game for me. Zombie Nation is a bizarre shooter that leans into a horror setting. It isn’t a bad game, but it can sometimes be frustrating because of having one life per continue and how busy the screen can get.

Zombie Nation has good graphics, but they can sometimes mislead the player. You’re encouraged to move around the screen to avoid enemies and stay ahead of traps. The screen can get extremely busy and confusing at times. It is a fun and challenging game.

I may have ranked this one a little too low, but I think the game has several problems that can’t be ignored. It is a fun game with a scary atmosphere. It straddles the line of being a horror game, but back in the 90s, it would have been fun to rent for Halloween.

Published by Paul Werkema

Hi! I'm here to share my hobbies with all of you. I love video games and books, so I write about the books that cover video games or are novels about video games.

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