Following the success of Mario no Super Picross on the Super Famicom, Nintendo decided to reuse the basic engine from that game to develop a series of Picross titles for distribution over their Nintendo Power cart-writing service in Japan - the "NP" in the title refers to Nintendo Power. There were a total of eight volumes in the series released on a bi-monthly basis from April 1999 to June 2000. Each volume includes a substantial number of puzzles of varying sizes and difficulty. A large number of these puzzles would later be rereleased as downloadable content for Picross DS. The puzzle solving gameplay of the titles is nearly identical to that of their direct predecessor Mario no Super Picross just with minor changes in the presentation. Notably, Mario and Wario are no longer featured as guides through the game modes. Also, the stone chiseling archeologist motif that was present in the previous titles has been dropped in favor of a simple pen-on-paper style.
The basic puzzle solving mechanics and gameplay have carried over from Nintendo’s other Picross title. The puzzles involve a square grid of cells where the player must determine which cells should be colored in (or in the case of this game chiseled away) and which should be left blank. Numbers along the top and left side of the grid indicate the number and size of unbroken lines of filled in cells there are in the given row or column that are separated by at least one blank cell. For instance, if a row has the numbers “2 5 4”, that means that there are from left to right, a group of two colored in cells, a group of five colored in cells, and a group of four colored in cells, with all other cells being left blank and at least one blank cell between each group. Players are given the ability to mark cells with an “X” that should be left blank.
There are four basic variations on the gameplay, two of which were inherited directly from Mario no Super Picross. In one mode, the player is challenged to complete the puzzles within a certain time limit with mistakes resulting in a time-loss penalty. In another mode, players are timed to see how long it takes them to complete a puzzle. There is no penalty for mistakes, but the player is told when mistakes are made which can present a unique challenge. The first of the two new modes offered is a free mode which allows players to complete a puzzle at their own pace. There is also a new multiplayer mode where two players work on the same puzzle simultaneously with the number of correct spaces filled in by each player tracked as a means of scoring.
Each volume of Picross NP has a Character Mode that contains 12 puzzles based on images of characters from a particular Nintendo game or franchise. The following is a list of the game or franchise featured in each volume and the characters used in each puzzle.
Volume 1: Pokémon
Meowth, Mr. Mime, Psyduck, Clefairy Doll, Togepi, Electrode, Gloom, Pikachu, Zapdos, Rapidash, Poliwag, Snorlax
Volume 2: Yoshi's Story
Piranha Pest, Cheep Cheep, Poochie, Egg, Jellyfish, Miss Warp, Yoshi, Shy Guy, Sea Anemone, Blaarg, Boo, Baby Bowser
Volume 3: Kirby
Rocky, Mike, Gordo, Waddle Doo, Sir Kibble, Poppy Bros. Jr., Kirby, Chilly, Butterfingers, Mr. Frosty, King Dedede, Meta-Knight
Volume 4: Star Fox 64
Slippy Toad, Pigma Dengar, Fox McCloud, Andrew Oikonny, Wolf O'Donnell, Falco Lombardi, Leon Powalski, Peppy Hare, Landmaster, Arwing, Great Fox, Andross
Volume 5: Ocarina of Time
Navi, Fairy Ocarina, Keaton Mask, Fairy Slingshot, Gaebora Kaepora, Princess Zelda, Link, Princess Ruto, Epona, Darunia, Deku Scrub, Ganondorf
Volume 6: Super Mario 64
Goomba, Grinder, Toad, Lakitu, Princess Peach, Bully, Koopa Troopa, Mario, Mother & Baby Penguin, Whomp, Wiggler, Bowser
Volume 7: Wario Land 2
Stove, Pirate Goom, D-Batto, Punch, Tsuriuo, Inamazu, Chef, Hikitsune, Captain Syrup, Wario, Chuuta, Biggu Kamukamu,
Volume 8: Donkey Kong Country
DK Barrel, Squawks the Parrot, Banana, Winky the Frog, Funky Kong, Cranky Kong, Diddy Kong, Candy Kong, Expresso the Ostrich, Engarde the Swordfish, Donkey Kong, Rambi the Rhino