Nostalgia Alert: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Games for the NES

Andrew Hawkins

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is officially a box office success. Rising high above the competition in its first weekend, the release of the new Ninja Turtles movie shows that fans are all about seeing the heroes in a half-shell continue their adventures alongside April O’Neil, Casey Jones and Master Splinter. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael are as great as they ever were, and we can’t wait to see who they go up against next.

When Turtle Mania was a global sensation back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, one of the biggest markets for Turtles merchandise was home entertainment. Toys, playsets and videotapes were flying off the shelves at rapid speeds and kids around the world couldn’t get enough. That’s when Nintendo got the bright idea to bring the turtles to home consoles and, thanks to the development team at Konami, the TMNT games were born. Here are the original titles that started it all on the NES and have since become the stuff of legend and the apple in every retro gamer’s eye.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The first and arguably the worst, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was released in 1989 by Konami via their Ultra Games publishing label. This first attempt at a Turtles game featured gameplay mechanics similar to classic top-down, side-scroller hybrids like Star Wars and Blaster Master.

Fans were apprehensive at first due to the game’s box art featuring the gang as they appear in the original Mirage comics, rather than the popular cartoon. Regardless of the fact that the Ninja Turtles in this game were designed after a version that few fans had access to at the time, many kids of the day were also agitated over the fact that the game didn’t feature the cartoon’s signature theme on the soundtrack. Characters were limited to Bebop, Rocksteady, Shredder, and the Foot Clan,  and the game was barely playable for inexperienced gamers. At least if you had a copy of Nintendo Power, you could hope to get some pointers to be able to see the Technodrome before your health ran out.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game

The arcade version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out around the same time as the first home console version and it immediately became a global success. Kids were crazy about the game, and I personally remember spending hours of my time at the arcade and roller rink shoveling quarters into these machines. Getting through the first few stages of the TMNT arcade game was a challenge for every kid with a limited amount of quarters, but man was it fun times.

The Nintendo port of the TMNT arcade game was fairly true to the design of the original, but due to the limitations of the technology at the time, factors like resolution, cut scenes and hit detection were far different from the standalone machines. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game was still a huge hit for the NES and fans loved fighting the likes of Baxter Stockman, General Traag and Krang in epic boss battles. Some fans still regard this game as the best home TMNT game of them all.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project

By the time Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project came out, there had been multiple other games released for multiple systems. Turtles In Time was a huge success on the Super Nintendo and the Game Boy versions that included Fall of the Foot Clan and Back from the Sewers were being obsessed over even more than the original NES releases. The Manhattan Project may not have been the most sought after Ninja Turtles game at the time, but everything the first two titles got wrong it made up for in spades.

The Manhattan Project took the Double Dragon style of beat-em-up side-scrolling gameplay from the arcade game and fixed almost every control and design issue from the NES port. Attacks are amped up, the control is crisp and accurate, and the gallery of enemies is better than any version prior. You fight Slash, Leatherhead, Super Shredder and even the ill-conceived Tokka and Rahzar from Secret of the Ooze. This is the absolute watershed moment for NES TMNT games.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters

The last of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games for the original Nintendo Entertainment System was a cash grab. Banking off the massive popularity of fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Capcom’s Street Fighter II, TMNT Tournament Fighters threw out all of the charm and adventure fans had come to expect from turtles games. It’s a generic and simple fighting game that has few merits aside from the fact that a handful of favorite characters, including Casey Jones and Karai, are present. Otherwise, it’s a wash.

Since the era of 16-bit gaming, there have been more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games than anyone could ever count. The age of the Nintendo Entertainment System may be over, but collectors and fans of the console can still acquire some of the TMNT cartridges that are being circulated to this day. Out of the Shadows shows us that the old school fans want to see the turtles in action, and what better way to enjoy a dose of Turtle Power than to order some pizza and play Nintendo.

Andrew Hawkins
Andrew Hawkins is a fan contributor at Fandom. He has been on the fan media scene since 2011. Arriving at Fandom by way of CHUD, and Trouble.City; Andrew loves Sci-Fi Horror movies and supervillains. His dislikes include weak plotlines and sky lasers.
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