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SYFY WIRE video games

A decades-lost NES game has been rescued, rebuilt from 40 forgotten floppy disks

By Jacob Oller
Days of Thunder screengrab

In an entertainment climate where directors are being allowed to go back to their assembly cuts and tinker with already-released movies to make them as close to the original vision as possible, it might seem apropos to look to something that has a little bit more history to its "long lost" status than something like the Snyder Cut. Fans wanting Zack Snyder's Justice League have been waiting since 2017. That's nothing — programmer Chris Oberth's NES game Days of Thunder has been sitting hidden for over 30 years, waiting to surprise nostalgic gamers everywhere.

Yes, that's like "based on Tony Scott's 1990 film starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman" Days of Thunder. The film was a hit. The game, however, went unpublished — existing only as "mostly-labeled hard drive backups, spanning several years, across nearly 40 floppy disks," according to The Video Game History Foundation, a non-profit specializing in documenting and preserving games just like this. The foundation acquired these disks from a family friend of the late Oberth, who died in 2012. And what they found wasn't the Days of Thunder game that did get published by Oberth's employer, Mindscape, but a completely different take on the game — which they then reconstructed.

Take a look:

That's not the game that came out, but instead one originally labeled "NINTENDO HOT ROD TAXI FINAL" and spread across those dozens of floppies. The Video Game History Foundation was able to restore "4 hard drive partitions worth of data" to the point where they could give it to an NES emulator and something — if not a playable something — would come out. One graphics breakthrough later (which took some programming wizardry and some last-ditch detective work), and the above game came out. Now ... which one of these is supposed to be Tom Cruise?

Days of Thunder trophy screengrab

Days of Thunder may actually become playable for everyday gamers soon enough, as the source code will soon head to GitHub with the Oberth family's blessing and some nostalgia enthusiasts have already mapped it onto an NES cartridge.