A downloadable game

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Oratorio is a rhythm action rail-shooter for the NES.

Update: Zapper support on original NES hardware, while using a CRT TV, has now been added to the game.

**Winner of the NESMaker Byte-Off III competition “Wombat Award,” which is awarded to the most surprising, unique, or unexpected game created.**

***Preorders for the NES physical release of Oratorio are LIVE NOW while supplies last. Click here.***


Oratorio is a rhythm action rail-shooter developed for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. 

Primarily inspired by games like Rez, Child of Eden, and Thumper, Oratorio is a unique on-rails rhythmic shooter where players create the music of the game through interaction with the game's systems, like shooting enemies, projectiles, and powerups. Everything players do contributes to the soundscape in this innovative retro music shooting game.

The game takes place in a dystopian cyberpunk future where an environmentalist hacker group launches a desperate mission to hack the servers of one of the world's largest corporations in order to steal the DNA sequences for extinct plants and animals that the corporation has copyrighted for use in virtual reality safaris. As the enigmatic hacker named Oratorio, players are the last hope for revival in a world that has gone to a digital ruin.

Players control a cursor and assume a first-person perspective on an ever-expanding digital track in cyberspace.

* * *


Despite our best intentions, the world did not survive us.

The coasts flooded. Mass migration displaced hundreds of millions. Food supply chains broke. People fought wars over fuel and water. Social unrest led to the collapse of most organized governments.

In the wake of this ruin, the Mega Corps and their Metaverse emerged as a beacon. Life became a luxury reserved for the wealthy. And the blueprints of life, the DNA data for all flora and fauna, became a commodity owned by the most powerful Mega Corp, Nu-Li.

As each species went extinct, Nu-Li coded and copyrighted its DNA. Its fiercely guarded data banks became a new, proprietary Digital Ark.

While most used the Metaverse to escape the desolation of everyday life, the eco-hacker group SOL (Save Organic Life) used it to fight back.

As time runs out for the world, SOL launches a desperate mission to hack Nu-Li and steal back all the copy-protected DNA data. With it, they can bring back what’s been lost.

In the hacker world, you are known only as Oratorio. 

You are the world’s only chance for revival.

Note: This game acts as a side story to my cyberpunk narrative universe The Last One Horn. Check out the other games in that universe here.

* * *


  • Easy pick up and play rail shooter!
  • Innovative dynamic between gameplay and music.
    • Interactive score -- your actions create the music!
  • Fast and rewarding gameplay loop!
  • Five campaign areas to play that visually and aurally evolve to a crescendo!
  • Automatic save system for game progress and benchmarks!
  • Cyberpunk narrative and aesthetic!
  • NES Zapper support -- for 2-player gameplay!
    • One player uses a controller, the other the famous Zapper!
  • So many Modes! 
    • Normal Mode! No Fail Mode! Endless Mode! Music Test!
  • A variety of enemy types and bosses!

* * *


D-Pad -- Move in Eight Directions

B Button -- Shoot

A Button -- Overdrive Ability

Start -- Pause

Select -- (while Pause is active) Quit Out

* * *


You are downloading a NES ROM. You will need an emulator to play this game. I recommend MESEN or FCEUX, but any up-to-date NES emulator should run the game. Be sure to customize your inputs on whatever controller you will be using.

This game is also FULLY COMPATIBLE with the Everdrive or the PowerPak for play on original NES or equivalent hardware. Finally, if you have a flasher and a Mapper 30 compatible board/cart, you can also flash the game yourself for play on an NES.

* * *


Design and Story by John Vanderhoef

Sound/Music Design by Jordan Davis / Raft Labs

Art by John Vanderhoef, Kacper Wozniak, Anokolisa, RaccoonTruck, and Quintino Pixels.

Programming by John Vanderhoef and NESMaker Community.

* * *

Artist's Statement

Oratorio critically engages with three simultaneous problematics facing the world, including the looming environmental catastrophe due to global warming, the mass extinction of species, and the increasing concentration of industries and a growing global oligarchy of companies that command access to our most private information and have increasing leverage over populations around the world. On the level of narrative, Oratorio seeks to shine a light on these existential issues and clearly communicate a bio-politics that is squarely on the side of justice, liberty and, ultimately, life.

Yet the game is also a love-letter to famous rhythm action rail-shooters like Rez and Child of Eden by designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi. The central design ethos behind the game is simply, "What if Rez but on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System?" The game adapts Mizuguchi's synesthesia design principles and emphasis on embodied, rhythmic play. Yet as a game made for the "obsolete" NES, the game also seeks to enact its narrative politics through its production context, choosing to instead embrace so-called outdated, outmoded and obsolete hardware. In doing so, it insists on the value of such hardware and resists the ideology of the technological sublime and the practice of manufactured obsolescence which drive the engine of the video game industry generally and the larger information technology sector more broadly.

More from this developer: https://johnvanderhoef.itch.io


Buy Now$9.99 USD or more

In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $9.99 USD. You will get access to the following files:

Oratorio_with_Zapper_Support.zip 611 kB

Download demo

Oratorio_Demo_V1.0.nes 512 kB

Development log


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I loved the demo! Any ideas of adding Light Gun support?


Thanks! Never say never. But if light gun support was ever added, it would be a special edition of the game, since it wasn't designed for that originally.

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I thought that might be the case. You have my preorder anyway :)


Zapper support, for a second player, has now been added to the final game. :)

Purchased! Now for some 2-player with the kiddos :)

(1 edit)

Awesome. Player 1 still uses a controller, but plugging in Zapper to controller port 2 should just automatically work when playing the game (no need to select any options), assuming you're using a CRT TV. Have fun! :)

(1 edit) (+1)

Thanks for the new demo uploaded. A video in honor your effort dear John.

If you're interested in doing a longplay of the entire game, I can give you a download link for the game.

I would appreciate it. Thanks.

Send an email to orebodyinc at gmail dot com


Thanks for the preview demo !


So cool Rez-like :)

Rez is the GOAT.


Totally *_*


This looks really cool.

Thanks. Hope you enjoy it.