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What was the TurboGraphx-16 PC Engine?


Amongst the slew of mini consoles currently available there is one that really stands out for its anonymity and understatement. That is the TurboGraphx-16 PC Engine mini console. But what exactly is it?

Turbographx-16 mini box
Turbografx16 Mini

What would you feel if I argued that in the eighties and nineties, one of the most successful consoles was not by Nintendo, Sega or even Atari, but by the Nippon Electronics Company? That console was the TurboGraphx-16 PC Engine.

PC Engine in Japan

The NEC corporation is a Japanese multinational electronics and information technology company. They are so huge you see them sponsoring football teams and sporting events. In the Japanese economic boom of the eighties, NEC decided to foray into consoles.

Turbographx-16 mini console

In a joint venture with Hudson Software they began work on a console that would offer a home arcade experience lacking in its competitors. Named the PC Engine, the console offered a whopping 482 onscreen colours. In October 1987 the console was released and became the biggest selling game system in the region.

Click here to read our top games for the Turbographx-16

Games included celebrity tie ins such as Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu, classic franchises like Pac-Land, space shooters like R Type and even a version of Outrun.

Bonk’s Adventure on Turbographx-16

North America

The next step was to capitalise on the success as imported machines in North America garnered strong reviews. The console was redesigned to better fit with the look and feel of North American and European systems. It’s small, lightweight feel and white colour scheme was replaced with a heavier, Master System look. It was launched in North America in 1989. Exactly the same year as the Sega Genesis.

The TurboGraphx-16 struggled. It’s competitor was 16 bit whereas the TurboGraphx was 8 bit with some 16 bit video elements. Poor marketing, especially when compared to the genius of Sega’s youthful Genesis campaign, also did not help. The 1990 European release date was promptly cancelled.

The battle may have been won…

Back in Japan, the battle may have been lost but the war was far from over. NEC developed the first CD-Rom accessory that plugged in to the PC Engine, aptly naming it ‘The Duo.’ The idea was to add more power, allowing the console to return to North America to compete once more! However, history often repeats itself and back on US soil, Sega had the Sega CD prepped and ready for market.


Thus, the Turbographx-16 PC Engine vanished until the recent resurgence in retro gaming when it started to make a slow and steady comeback. I played one for the first time not long ago and I was really surprised at the graphics. The colour pallette does look fantastic and although I only played R Type, the gameplay was no better or worse than other consoles around at the time.

Turbographx-16 joypad turbopad
TurboGrafx Turbopad

I also really like the sleek design, minimalist design of the Japanese PC Engine, which was the one I played. If you are not as much into the look of the console and basically just want to try one out, have a look at our affiliate product page here for the mini console as originals now fetch quite a high price.

Special thanks to the following for this article. I could not have done it without them…..

The Nostalgia Nerd’s Retro Tech by Ilex pressPlease go out and buy this, it is an absolute bible.


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