Terminator 2 is now 25 years old, and it’s shocking to think that one of the greatest action films of all time is now officially considered classic cinema. James Cameron’s crowning achievement in science fiction and action has left a legacy that few filmmakers can ever hope to achieve in their entire careers. Terminator 2 is an incredible film that we love here at Fandom, and many of us still watch it regularly to this day, even if we may have forgotten its video game tie-in that came out around the same time.
When T2 hit theaters back in 1991, the Nintendo Entertainment System was one of the most popular video game consoles on earth. Battletoads had just come out and kids across the globe were still playing Super Mario Bros. 3 like it was brand new. Someone on the Terminator 2 marketing team must have been paying attention to how big the medium of games had become because moviegoers who stayed to the end of the film’s credits were treated to a special message for gamers of all ages. It read “Play the hit Nintendo game from Acclaim/LJN Entertainment.”
Terminator 2: Judgement Day for the NES was advertised in movie theaters nearly seven months before it actually hit shelves in early 1992. Despite being told to play it, fans were stuck waiting all the way through Christmas for a copy, but wait they did. And even though LJN was one of the most notoriously awful makers of Nintendo game in the history of the console, it didn’t matter back then. Fans just wanted to play anything based on T2 even if it was from the same publisher that released the horrid adaptations of Friday the 13th and Back to the Future Part II & III.
In spite of its bad reputation, what LJN did with T2 was actually kind of impressive. The game is certainly riddled with problems, but thanks to the development team at Acclaim it actually works as a decent little title that complements the movie. Terminator 2: Judgement Day follows the movie version almost beat for beat from the time we see Arnie get his bike to the final showdown with the T-1000. Narratively speaking, this game is surprisingly great. Most of the issues players encounter deal with poor controls and hit detection, and the second stage is easily the most erratic and frustrating parts of the whole game.
Seriously, T2 on Nintendo is one of the most frustrating games ever released for the console. Right away you are thrown into a convoluted level where you battle everyone in the truck stop featured in the film’s opening. You eventually beat up the big guy in the bar by punching him out instead of throwing him face down on a hot grill, and then immediately you are driving down the L.A. River. The T-1000 bursts onto the lower corner of the screen, and without perfect precision and timing you’ll get hit and die every time. Only the most dedicated players can get past this relentlessly punishing stage.
The rest of the game is a fairly simple series of platforming levels that mirror the events of the movie. You get weapons while searching for Sarah Connor in the mental hospital and then continue onward to blow up the Cyberdyne building by collecting the yellow explosive barrels while trying not to kill anybody. The last section of the game takes place in the steel mill and your objective is to navigate hazards and defeat the T-1000. After the final battle, we see the last scene of the theatrical cut of T2 played out as 8-bit Arnold Schwarzenegger is lowered into the molten metal forever.
It’s funny how Terminator 2: Judgement Day for the NES has such a bad reputation considering the amount of effort made to have it resemble the movie. Licensed games for the Nintendo were usually pretty terrible, but despite the gameplay issues, somewhat dodgy graphics, and utterly abysmal soundtrack, T2 the game is at least playable and kind of rewarding in a way. This version is in no way comparable to the on-rails shooter released in arcades, but for a game where you run around playing as a T-800 skin job, you could do worse. At least it’s better than the sequels.