Retro Review: Little Nemo The Dream Master (NES)

Content Warning: Fantasy violence



Instead of stages or levels, this game refers to each of its worlds as dreams.

Instead of stages or levels, this game refers to each of its worlds as dreams.

You take control of Nemo, a little boy who has incredibly vivid dreams. Nemo’s dreams are so unbelievably real that in fact, they are. Each night while dreaming, Nemo is transported to a majestic and mysterious world known as Slumberland. When you begin, Morpheus, the King of Good Dreams has been kidnapped by the terrible Nightmare King. Nemo must embark on a quest, stretching over many dreams in order to rescue the king, and restore Slumberland to peace. To aid Nemo in his task, Princess Camille gives a him magical bag of endless candy.

Fun Fact: Little Nemo the Dream Master is based on the Japanese animated film, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, by Tokyo Movie Shinsha.


You meet a fun little character at the beginning of almost every dream.

You meet a fun little character at the beginning of almost every dream.

Little Nemo the Dream Master is a 2D side-scrolling platformer. You can run, jump, and throw pieces ofcandy, which acts as both a stunning weapon and as a sedative for certain creatures. You also carry a powerful magic wand upon your back the entire game, but its use is not unlocked until close to the end of the game. At the beginning of each dream, you encounter one of Slumberland’s many colorful personalities. These good citizens will drop a piece of information that is helpful to you in completing the current leg of your quest.

There are no bosses to fight in Slumberland, save for the game’s final level. In order to find your way out of your dream, and continue your adventure, you must make your way through the environment, and all of its obstacles and nasty enemies. However, once you make your way to the end, you will find that the big exit door has a certain number of locks, that varies by stage. As it happens, the necessary keys are scattered all over the dream world you are in. Some are simply sitting out in the open, while others are hidden, or even guarded by the Nightmare King’s evil henchmen. Sadly, when you begin each level, you are not told the number of keys you will require to unlock the exit. You have to collect keys along your way, and hope you have them all when you approach the goal. If not, you’ll have to explore the stage a bit more. Unfortunately, this won’t be possible in every case…

Is say Mario wore it better.

Is say Mario wore it better.

Fortunately, Little Nemo has an ace up his sleeve: candy. Slumberland is home to a select group of creatures that Nemo can tame by feeding them from his bottomless stash of candy. Once they’ve been placated, Nemo can either ride or assume the form of the creature he’s dealing with. These helpful beasties will allow Nemo to reach places he could not otherwise go. There are frogs that are expert swimmers, lizards that can climb walls, gorillas that can climb trees & punch enemies, and several more to find.

Finally, while Little Nemo the Dream Master is fun and entertaining, it has been compared to Mega Man and Ninja Gaiden in terms of overall difficulty. It is likely that this title will collect quite a bit of dust once you complete it, before you ever decide to play it again.


Steve’s Note: This game made such an impression on me as a child that I actually named my cat Nemo. On our way home with our new cat, my mother thought I was naming him after Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Additionally, this was 1992, well before Finding Nemo). I had to explain it to her.


When you feed certain monsters candy, they will become friendly.

When you feed certain monsters candy, they will become friendly.

Capcom seldom disappoints in the graphics department, and this title is no exception. The colors are bright and vibrant, and the environments themselves are have such a whimsical feel to them that you truly believe that you are playing through a dream. The game relies on solid shades of color, without a tremendous amount of blending or attempts at multi-color details on small objects, but that really isn’t important in a game like this one. It doesn’t diminish from your enjoyment, but in fact, enhances it. You can sit back and really appreciate the splashes of color. Each dream has its own unique color scheme, with some being a little more colorful than others. However, each stage is painted appropriately for the environment it is portraying.


This is my absolute least favorite level.

This is my absolute least favorite level.

This game contains memorable, and extremely catchy music. I still hum the theme from Mushroom Forest from time to time. All of the tracks have mood-altering tempo. The music captures you and puts your mind into the game and constantly fills you with a sense of adventure. Whether you’re listening to the steady beat of the Mushroom Forest, or the almost ballet-inspired tunes of the Flower Garden, this is 8-bit music at its finest. The Nightmare King’s fight theme is an instant 8-bit classic.

I don’t want to give too much away to those who have not played this masterpiece, but the “charging” sound, which you will know the first time you hear it, puts a smile on my face each time I hear it. The tamable creatures emit a vocal chewing sound when you throw them candy, and then a type of snoring noise when they’ve been sufficiently bribed. The “key-in-lock” sound, which you hear at the end of each level makes me think that the keys are made out of wax.


There is very little to say regarding the writing in this game. There is very little dialogue, and what dialogue exists is contextual and fairly well-written, but ultimately not that helpful. Still, talking with the denizens of Slumberland does makes the game world feel a little bit more alive.

Christian Concerns

Little Nemo the Dream Master is fun for the whole family, and is devoid of profanity, suggestive material, drug & alcohol references, blood and gore. It’s all a dream anyway, right?


Little Nemo the Dream Master should be in the library of any 8-bit fan. It’s good old-fashioned 2D platforming from the golden age of gaming. The colors, the music, and the story are swirled into a fantastic piece of gaming confection.

Just because you run across a new tamable animal doesn't necessarily mean you need it.

Just because you run across a new tamable animal doesn’t necessarily mean you need it.

Photo Credits: Moby Games

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Steve Schoen

Live to game; game to live. Nominal Christian from birth; practicing Christian since 2002. I love to talk all things gaming, from console classics to Dungeons & Dragons.

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