The NES, according to NintendoAge, has 678 licensed US games and 91 unlicensed games. NintendoAge is a collector-oriented site, and it considers a unique cartridge as a game. Of course, many of those cartridges have major and minor label variations. Major variations include cartridges with old and new Nintendo Seals of Quality. Minor variations include things like Rev-A or Rev-B on the box.
However, not all cartridges contain unique games. Nintendo re-released Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! as Punch-Out!! when their license to use Mike Tyson's name and likeness expired. They removed the opening screen where there is an image of Mike Tyson with the caption "Mike Tyson is awaiting your challenge!", adjusted the title screen and replaced Mike Tyson in the game with Mr. Dream. The game plays exactly the same.
If you owned Mike Tyson's Punch-Out and saw Punch-Out on a World of Nintendo M82 Display Demo machine, you might say "Hey, where is Mike Tyson?" You would understand that both cartridges had the same game. Similarly, if you were one of the lucky people who purchased Stadium Events, you would see little difference between it and World Class Track Meet. The only difference between the three releases of Pac-Man, in software, is the copyright text on the title screen. However, the Namco licensed release of Ms. Pac-Man is very different from the Tengen version. The former is little more than an improvement on Namco's Pac-Man. The latter has new mazes, more two player modes, a speed boost, more difficulty selections and a starting level selection. The Namco version keeps all the action on one screen, but the Tengen version scrolls the screen. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the title for two very different games, both based on the movie, released by Ubi Soft and Taito.
No multi-cart game is a unique game unless it contains something substantially more than the standalone cartridges, and this requires more than a game selection menu. Maxi-15 is a good example of a multi-cart game that does have something unique. While it contains fourteen games released by AVE or Color Dreams, Stakk'm was not released as a standalone cartridge. The only way to play that game in the United States was to buy Maxi-15. It was released in Taiwan as Poke Ball. Additionally, while Sunday Funday: The Ride had been previously released as Menace Beach, Sunday Funday is a multi-cart that adds two additional programs.
One should still count games that use the same engine as unique even if little beyond the levels have been changed. Thus the Adventures of Lolo 2 offers almost nothing beyond the Adventures of Lolo, but the levels are different. Additionally, Crystal Mines and Exodus use the same engine but have different levels, as do Dudes with Attitude and Trolls on Treasure Island.
Some games had a very limited release. Stadium Events was released very briefly and then recalled when Nintendo licensed the Power Pad from Bandai. Flinstones: The Rescue of Dino and Hoppy may have been available only at Blockbuster Video as a rental, but this is debatable. 1,500 copies of Cheetamen II was discovered in a warehouse in 1996 and sold unofficially. The game is as buggy as a prototype and cannot be finished but exists in numbers far exceeding any prototype. There may only be 6,000 copies of Action 52, another very buggy collection of games from the same company. So it appears that Active Enterprises was prepared to ship Cheetamen II to unwitting buyers as a last cash grab but business failure thwarted its plans. Even though the NES was discontinued the year prior, it would be nine years before somebody else released a cartridge for it. One can only row so far against the accepted wisdom. However, unlike Nintendo World Championships 1990, all these games were made available to the public for purchase at some point in time. NWC 1990 was only given to finalists of that particular contest and winners of a Nintendo Power Contest. So NWC 1990 is not here or at NintendoAge.
So, according to NintendoAge, there were 678 licensed US NES games. We have to subtract the following 8 to get to the true number of unique games :
- Pac-Man (Namco re-release)
- Punch-Out!! (re-release of MK's Punch-Out!!)
- World Class Track Meet (re-release of Stadium Events)
- Donkey Kong Classics
- Sesame Street ABC & 123
- Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt
- Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet
- Super Spike V'Ball / Nintendo World Cup
Again, NintendoAge says there were 91 unlicensed games released in the US during the NES's lifespan. However, due to the above we have to subtract these 7:
- 6 in 1 by Myriad (Caltron 6-in-1 with a new label sloppily slapped over the old label)
- Bubble Bath Babes (The adult version of Mermaids of Atlantis)
- Gauntlet (licensed version exists)
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (licensed version exists)
- Impossible Mission II (AVE is same board in a different shell)
- Pac-Man (licensed versions exist)
- R.B.I. Baseball (licensed version exists)
Therefore 678 + 91 - 8 - 7 = 754. While there are relatively few duplicates across the Nintendo library, there are many across the Atari 2600 library. The number of unique games released during the Atari 2600's long 15-year official lifespan only numbered 436 as I had explained in this post : http://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.com/2014/12/atari-2600-just-how-many-games.html. Yet when you see the release lists for various companies it appears to be a lot more.