I would suggest you to check this interesting software called Pixel Vision 8 Game Creator
which I'm using it at the moment for my short game, the reason why I choose it was because it can simulate the actual 8bits game console which it can have NES, Game Boy, Master System, Game Gear and soon Pico-8 restrictions. as you can see, it's perfect for the challenge! imagine that you can create a NES game in the spirit of "Castlevania 2" or "Ducktales"!
Another good thing about this game engine is it use the lua language like with Pico-8 but with a few differences.
However, I must warn you that game engine is currently in alpha test but it will soon enter in the beta phase in few months. and for at the time of today (march 28th, 2017) it's a paid software which cost only 10$ but they will have the free version once they're in beta phase.
Well, i hope it will help you guy to find your ideal game engine