It’s hard to believe the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around for over 20 years, battling Shredder and his Foot Clan while scarfing down pizza. This Friday, a new film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, will provide the foursome with a more contemporary look, as they face the deadliest iteration of Shredder to date.
If you’re a TMNT fan – or just want something fun to do – there are plenty of licensed games to pass the time with. However, how can you tell the good ones from the sewer trash? We’re here to recap the greatest Ninja Turtles games available. Keep in mind you may have to pick up some retro systems to play these gems.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)
While not as impressive as the aforementioned arcade counterpart, with two-player co-op (instead of four) and slightly watered-down visuals, TMNT II: The Arcade Game is a worthwhile port for NES fans. Most of the arcade action remains intact, and Ultra Games (a label Konami used to publish additional NES titles per year) even went as far as to add two bonus stages for players to enjoy. One has you fighting your way through a dojo, only to contend with a robot samurai; and the other turns New York into a Winter Wonderland, where a tough polar bear named Tora holds court. This one’s worth tracking down if you’re up for nostalgia. Just keep your cool when it comes time to pick up the pizza to replenish your health. We got into plenty of fights with friends over who nabbed this precious item.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES)
In this completely original beat-em-up, Leonardo and company try to undo a heinous plot by the Shredder, who takes the island of Manhattan and sends it flying into the sky. This two-player game has a lot in common with the Arcade Game NES port, although it includes a new hoist maneuver where you throw enemies over your shoulder by holding down and hitting the attack button; this works best with Donatello and his long reach, especially against such familiar bosses as Leatherhead and, obviously, Shredder. In addition, the game features plenty of variety with its stage design. You actually start on the beach, where the Turtles were vacationing (out in the open, at that), and work your way through New York before flying to the airborne Manhattan in your Turtle Blimp.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan (Game Boy)
Most of Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adventures on Game Boy were lacking, with a limited number of stages and simple graphics. The company got it right the first time around, though, with Fall of the Foot Clan, a simple yet enjoyable side-scrolling affair where you choose one of the four available Turtles and hack and slash your way through Foot Clan soldiers, Mousers and other enemies. You’ll also have to deal with various bosses, including Baxter Stockman (in fly mode) and Krang in his giant robo-suit. Definitely one of the best ways to enjoy some TMNT on the go.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time (SNES)
Clearly one of the best arcade-to-home ports to arrive on the SNES, Turtles In Time found a welcome home for beat-em-up fans. Even with only two-player support (compared to the arcade’s four), this port still delivered on several counts. First, the variety of bosses you faced off against were terrific, including the returning Bebop and Rocksteady, who hold court on a pirate ship while dressed in humorous get-ups. Second, the Mode 7 effects were superb, especially when you hurled enemies at the screen; you’ll need to use this tactic to defeat Shredder in the Technodrome stage. Finally, all of the other arcade content is intact, like battling Pizza Monsters and contending with the powerful Super Shredder. It’s a terrific game.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pinball (Arcade)
Data East’s early 90s pinball table run is considered one of the best for the company; it also produced other classics, like Lethal Weapon 3 and Star Wars. Its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles table is true to the theme of the heroes, featuring a variety of characters and scenarios where you tussle with the Foot Clan and the evil Shredder by shooting your way through a series of rounds. Featuring an LED screen with plenty of Turtle action (yes, including pizza) and lots of voice samples (even with the occasional overuse of the word “dude”), this pinball game is worth tracking down.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Sega Genesis)
Although Konami couldn’t bring all of Turtles In Time to the Sega Genesis, it produced the next best thing with Hyperstone Heist, a new adventure where the group battles Shredder as he attempts to shrink the city of New York. A variety of stages from Turtles in Time made the cut, along with a new stage featuring a villain from the original film trilogy, Tatsu. It’s worth checking out – and the music is surprisingly good for a Genesis game.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (SNES)
At a time when Street Fighter II clones were all the rage, Konami produced a worthwhile competitor with the SNES version of TMNT: Tournament Fighters. The game features a multitude of playable characters, including the flying Wingnut from the Archie Comics and the Shredder robot Chrome Dome (not to be confused with the multi-bladed character from the new movie – this one was more comical). Of course, all four Turtles are here as well, with variable play styles. Throw in some great visuals and music and you had a true contender for Capcom’s fighting crown. As for the other versions, the NES version was the only real two-player fighting game released for the system, although it only came with seven playable characters.
Still, it was better than the Genesis version, with its questionable controls and animations. Even the likes of a playable April O’Neil (taking break from news to kick some butt), original bug alien-esque character Sisyphus and Ray Fillet (who also made his debut in the Archie Comics) couldn’t perk it up – which is a shame, because some of its level designs, like one with a gigantic spider perched in the middle, were really inspired. If you must play any version, make it the SNES one.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up (PlayStation 2, Wii)
Even though it couldn’t reach the heights of the superior Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Smash Up delivered an above-average alternative to the four-player fighting series. The game features a wide assortment of playable stages (including some from the animated CG film, which it tied in with) and characters, including April O’Neil, who apparently can hold her own with the Turtle clan, as well as fan favorite Casey Jones, and over on the Wii, a few of Ubisoft’s loyal Rabbid characters, including one based on Splinter. Now we’ve seen everything. Plus, this four-player brawler gave PlayStation 2 owners a Smash Bros. clone to call their own, and it’s not too shabby.
TMNT (Xbox 360, Wii)
This 3D action game from Ubisoft followed a similar design to the CG-animated film of the same name, taking Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael through the city streets to battle thugs, Foot Clan member, and other enemies from the past. The game worked well due to its Prince of Persia-style techniques, as well as its simple yet addictive fighting. It fetches a decent price at GameStop these days, so make sure you grab your copy before it’s too late.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game (Arcade, Xbox Live)
Even though the quartet first appeared on the NES with a self-titled debut (electric seaweed, the horror), the arcade game is without question one of the most memorable TMNT games, battling the likes of Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady and other villains. The four-player co-op support made this an instant favorite with gamers of all ages, and Konami sweetened the deal with a home release on Xbox Live Arcade in 2007. Unfortunately, it’s no longer available, but several lucky gamers “shelled” out cash for it before it went away.