Best ROM Hacks
Image: Konami / Nintendo

It's amazing what the hacking and homebrew communities come up with these days. Utilising powerful development tools and decades of collective knowledge and experience, the individuals operating in this vibrant section of the retro gaming world continue to cook up stunning (and unofficial) titles which either improve on the original or introduce fresh elements which weren't present previously.

ROM hacks and mods can range from tweaks and improvements to examples which fuse together two totally different games, while homebrew coders often tackle projects which make the games that inspired them look tame in comparison. Take Mega Final Fight as an example; an entirely new port of the game for the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive, it takes the host hardware to entirely new levels, beyond what was achieved when the machine was at its peak.

Below, you will find a list of the best ROM hacks, mods and homebrews of recent times. We'll be keeping this list updated, so be sure to check back regularly! Oh, and if you think we've missed a game that deserves a mention, be sure to let us know by posting a comment.

(Note: The ROM hacks linked here are patches and not the complete game. You will need a copy of the original ROM and a patching tool to create the 'patched' ROM).

Celeste Mario's Zap & Dash!

One of the greatest things about ROM hacks is that, due to their totally unofficial nature, they can get away with doing some fun stuff – like mixing two different games to create something completely fresh.

That's certainly the case with Celeste Mario's Zap & Dash!, a Super Mario Bros. ROM hack which infuses the traditional Mario experience with a Celeste-style challenge. The levels in this "hastily done minihack" are the result of just two months of design work, which makes it even more impressive. Download it now and put your platforming skills to the test.

Ghostbusters Special Edition

Who ya gonna call? This amazing Ghostbusters Special Edition hack is created by BillyTime!Games. As well as adding in the fourth 'buster Winston – who was unforgivably absent in the Mega Drive / Genesis original – the hack also adds a new Dark Souls-like Nightmare difficulty mode, an SRAM save function, and more cheat modes and unlockables. It makes an already decent game even better, if you ask us.

Mega Final Fight

The Sega Mega Drive / Genesis never got a home port of Capcom's Final Fight – although one would come to its Mega-CD add-on. Mega Final Fight (previously known as Final Fight Ultimate) is the passion project of Brazilian developer Mauro Xavier, who is hoping to provide players with the definitive 16-bit console experience on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. A demo is available now.

Fist of the North Star / Hokuto No Ken NES Overhaul Project

Rani Baker has made it her personal mission to 'fix' the Famicom version of Hokuto No Ken, which is often overshadowed by the Master System take on the same manga licence (released on Sega's console in the West as Black Belt).

Among the changes introduced include a new title screen based on the Sega Master System version, a full English translation, custom death screens for the characters Shin and Jagi, and a complete redraw of all the stage graphics and most of the sprites. You can grab it here.

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance - Revenge of the Findesiecle Deluxe+

This monster hack from Sorrow allows you to play through the GBA game as characters from the Castlevania series – this includes two colour variants of Simon Belmont, versions of Simon from Haunted Castle and Castlevania NES and the common Axe Armor enemy. Also added are additional songs and sound effects from the respective games, for a more authentic experience while playing.

Here's the full list, as well as the codes which enable them:

  • SIMON.IV: SNES Style Simon Belmont from Super Castlevania IV. Theme Song, Menu, Level-Up, Sub-Weapons and items are also available for this character.
  • SIMON.II: SNES Style Simon Belmont with colors inspired by Castlevania 2. Theme Song, Menu, Level-Up, Sub-Weapons and items are also available for this character.
  • SIMON.HC: Arcade Style Simon Belmont from Haunted Castle. Theme Song, Menu, Level-Up, Sub-Weapons and items are also available for this character.
  • SIMON.JG: NES Style Simon Belmont Recolor by JonataGuitar. Theme Song, Menu, Level-Up, Sub-Weapons and items are also available for this character.
  • AXEARMOR: Axe Armor from various Castlevania games. Menu, Level-Up, Sub-Weapons and items are also available for this character.
  • J.MORRIS: John Morris from Castlevania - Bloodlines. Theme Song, Menu, Level-Up, Sub-Weapons and items are also available for John Morris.
  • ELECARDE: Eric Lecarde from Castlevania - Bloodlines. Theme Song, Menu, Level-Up, Sub-Weapons and items are also available for Eric Lecarde.
  • SIMON: Classic Simon Belmont. The same seen in the boss rush mode.
  • JULIUS: Julius Belmont from Castlevania - Aria Of Sorrow. Theme Song, Menu, Level-Up, Sub-Weapons, and items are also available for Julius.
  • MAXIM: Maxim Kischine from Castlevania - Harmony of Dissonance. Theme Song, Menu, Level-Up, Sub-Weapons and items are also available for Maxim.
  • SIMONX: Enhanced Classic Simon. This one has a higher jump and can gain abilities.
  • JUSTEX: Devil Juste. A special version of Juste with super speed. A remade sword substitutes his original whip.
  • MEGAMAN: Megaman from the Megaman games.
  • MARIO: Mario from the Super Mario games.

You can get the hack here.

SFOne '87

The original Street Fighter isn't all that amazing; its sequel was the one which really cemented the reputation of the series. Therefore, we have Street Fighter One, a fan-made update of the arcade original built on the freeware fighting game engine MUGEN. It aims to polish Capcom's series-starting brawler.

It takes away much of the frustration present in the original game, improving the inputs and replacing the arcade music with the PC Engine CD soundtrack. It also lets you pick from any Street Fighter 1 character, in addition to Cody from Final Fight, who has his own stage.

The mod is over a decade old and has recently been updated in the form of SFOne '87.

Zelda's Adventure

Zelda's Adventure was one of the three much-maligned Zelda games for the ill-fated Philips CD-i system and is widely considered by many fans to be a pretty dismal affair.

However, that hasn't stopped John Lay from giving the title a new lease of life as a fully-fledged (but obviously unofficial) Game Boy port. Lay has ported the CD-i title to Nintendo's monochrome portable using GB Studio "with a few modifications." The game adopts the visual style of Link’s Awakening and also "incorporates some features from Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons."

You can download Lay's Game Boy port and play it either via emulation or on original Game Boy hardware using a flash cart.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Re-Revenge

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Re-Revenge essentially takes the framework of Streets of Rage 2 for the Mega Drive/Genesis and completely replaces its character, enemies, and story with an overhaul featuring the Turtles and company.

You play as Raph, Leo, Donnie, Mikey, April O’Neil, Splinter, and Casey Jones, with the sprites for these characters taken from Shredder's Revenge and downscaled to fit the limitations of the Mega Drive/Genesis. There's even an optional Turbo Mode included, just in case you like your games a little more dynamic, and the option for 6-button gamepad support.

You can grab it from here.

Bugs Bunny Crazier Castle

Chances are, if you've heard of The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle, it's either from playing it on the Nintendo Entertainment System as a kid or watching the Angry Video Game Nerd's memorable review of it back in the day. A new ROM hack for the game exists called The Bugs Bunny Crazier Castle, and it's a vast improvement over the original.

The game introduces more graphical cutscenes, with the total now coming to five as opposed to the original two. You've also got enhanced graphics and more popular Looney Tunes characters, taking the number of potential enemies you'll face up to 28 from the original 4. New additions include Marvin the Martian, Elmer Fudd, Tweety Bird, and Sylvester Jr. to name just a few.

You can find all the instructions you need to try out the hack yourself on its page.

Street Fighter II': Special Champion Edition Remastered

Street Fighter II coming to the SNES first was the topic of many a playground argument back in the day, and while the Mega Drive did eventually get its own version, it was viewed by some as inferior to the SNES port (Sega's amazing six-button controller aside, of course).

However, Sega fans can finally feel proud of their sleek black box because bedroom coder Gabriel Pyron has spent four years painstakingly remastering Street Fighter II: Champion Edition to create a new version which benefits from a host of improvements and enhancements.

You can download the patch here.

Prince of Persia Remastered

Prince of Persia is a game that's all about timing. Move too slowly or misjudge a jump, and you'll end up wearing a brand-new suit made of spikes. This is arguably why the original Sega Genesis / Mega Drive port of the game, released in 1994, can be so frustrating. It suffers from some noticeable input delays that change how you need to approach its challenging blend of parkour and sword-fighting.

Almost twenty-eight years later, a Brazilian home-brew developer named Master Linkuei seems to have fixed almost all of these issues, releasing a remaster of Domark's Mega Drive port with "better control timings, removed input delay, and smoother animations".

According to Master Linkuei, the main goal with the project is to bring the Mega Drive version closer to the Apple II, MS-DOS, and Macintosh versions. You can be the judge of how successful he was by downloading the game and seeing it in action for yourself.

Catslevania: Portrait of Ruin - Maria+ mode

Before we begin, no, that isn't a spelling error; it really is called 'Catslevania'.

Maria was a playable character in Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and the Saturn version of Symphony of the Night, so it's nice to see her get some more love in this fan-made hack. It introduces an expanded "Maria +" mode.

"Catslevania" Portrait of Ruin, as the hack is officially titled, lets players take control of Maria from the get-go and replaces Richter Belmont with Maria's cat companion Byakko – hence the title! It all makes sense now.

Check it out here.