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Lean, Green and on your Screen: The Best and Worst of the Turtles in Video Games

by: JMcEvoy2006 ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 10/11/2012 • Leave a comment

For the last 20 years, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had a long, storied history on home video game consoles. Here, for your consideration are the best and worst of the heroes in the half shell in gaming.

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    25 Years of Turtles

    In recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' first comic book appearance and the latest game release: Smash Up, we take a look back at the best and worse Turtles games on home video game consoles through the years.

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    What Were They Thinking?

    TMNT Cover Art  

    Turtles can't all be winners and with that in mind, we come to the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES. This game was not at all what young gamers were expecting, especially those who were fans of the show. The game played more like a Role Playing Game than an action-packed platformer.

    Also absent from this game are many characters from the show, movies, comics, etc. Apart from the four turtles, Splinter and April O'Neil, the only characters in the game that people will recognize are Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady. Almost every other Turtle game since have included a vast array of the dozens of characters introduced to fans over the years.

    The mechanics of the game are also sorely lacking, this only adds to the difficulty and sheer frustration of the game. Finally, the underwater level full of electrical sea weed is among my least favorite levels of the entire 8-Bit era.

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    Turtles Cash In

    Nice Try, Konami  

    In the early 1990s, Konami tried their best to cash on the fighting game craze of the time. Take the popular Turtles and put them in a Street Fighter-like environment, runaway hit right? Well, not quite. While Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters wasn't a complete failure. The game lacked any real depth. The moves were very basic. Despite the simplicity of it all, the game was also quite difficult.

    While characters and other aspects varied from console to console, the game always feels a bit forced. One minor positive note is in regards to the fact that there were never many fighting games on the NES. Also, the Genesis of SNES versions boasted fairly impressive graphics. Though it was an attempt to use the Turtles in a new way, the success of Turtle platformers as well as the shallow gameplay made Tournament fighters a game to miss.

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    TMNT: The Next Generation

    TMNT: Much Worse than the Movie  

    While even the best of Turtles games were never complex or overly strategic in nature, the more recent titles like TMNT have take cartoonish graphics and over-simplified gameplay to a new and uninteresting level. Like the various Turtle button mashers that appeared on the Nintendo Gamecube, TMNT seemingly has a learning curve of about three minutes.

    Based on the mildly successful 2007 CGI film, the game was released on all the major consoles. The graphics on the 360 were lackluster though the voice acting on all versions was decent. Its Wii version was particularly disappointing as the uninspired game was even worse as it failed to take full advantage of the innovative controls. Also, the graphics were not much better than the Gamecube version.

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    The Lone Genesis Platformer

    Turtles in Time's Cousin  

    The Turtles made an often forgotten appearance on the Genesis in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist. The graphics and gameplay were similar to its SNES counterpart, though not nearly as polished. The game is additionally far more difficult, which helps makes up for its overall short storyline.

    Though not the only appearance of the Turtles on the Genesis, its the only meaningful one and also a title that should be available on the Virtual Console. The game also boasts decent replay value despite being only the second best Turtles game of the 16-bit era, though the best was incredibly hard to top.

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    Arcade-Style Turtles

    Who's This Guy?  

    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game on the NES was a phenomenally successful port from the arcade. While the game could never hope to boast the arcade graphics, the gameplay was addicting was on the best platformers of the 8-bit era. The game included a variety of levels and enemies from the comics and long-running TV show.

    While the combat was extremely simple, even by NES standards, the game was still incredibly enjoyable all these years later. It was successful enough to warrant a reissue on Xbox Live - though the game ended up being far closer to the original arcade game. Regardless, it speaks to the staying power of one of the best NES games ever.

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    Turtles in Time - Not the Awful Film

    TMNT IV Featured a Vast Array of Enemies  

    For the second time, the Turtles made a great transition from arcade to home console in TMNT IV: Turtles in Time. This is one of the best 2D platformers in the 16 bit generation and represented the pinnacle of TMNT on home consoles. Great graphics and solid controls in particular stand out in this title.

    The game also boasted a wide array of characters from the comics, shows and films. Its basically the only game that comes to mind that mixed characters from different mediums, which made the game thoroughly enjoyable. The fighting was clearly superior to its NES predecessors and included extremely interesting levels, in particular the first of the two future levels when the Turtles ride hover boards. This game is being reimaged for Xbox Live as well, though I don't think it will ever quite capture the magic that the SNES version did. The highlight of the game remains flinging foot soldiers toward the screen, just classic.