Since their comic-book début 32 years ago, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have starred in dozens of video games.
Chances are, you’ve played at least one of these. From the teeth-gritting frustration of the classic NES adventure to the screen-tapping action of today’s mobile releases, the TMNT concept has always been ideal material for video games: martial arts; teamwork; ninja gangs; aliens; mutants; and (mostly) real-world settings give developers plenty to work with.
As well as their comic-book outings (which have been released under numerous publishers over the years, with IDW currently deep into a fantastic run), the awesome foursome have also kicked Foot Clan butt in movies, cartoons, toy lines, board games, and plenty more. However, actually being able to play as the characters is an irresistible draw for fans, which is why the games keep on coming.
With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows in cinemas now, and Mutants in Manhattan once more bringing the brothers to consoles, we thought this was a great time to cast our eyes back over the 10 best TMNT games ever made …
Given the ninja-tastic shenanigans at the heart of the franchise, it’s surprising there haven’t been more traditional 2D fighting games starring the Turtles. Most of the games have been side-scrolling brawlers or platformers, and the SNES’s Tournament Fighters is a great example of how good this concept can be. This came in the Street Fighter II era, when clones of that legendary game were all the rage, but it still stands up well.
This stars characters from across the Turtles’ numerous versions (there are some from the Archie Comics line and the Mirage run alike). Playing as any of the four heroes, Shredder, Wingnut, or more is a blast, even though some of the special moves feel a tad out of place – seeing Raphael hurl fireballs is just plain weird.
Still, the SNES version is definitely worth a go for the curious fan.
The Arcade Game
This arcade beat-em-up is an addictive, fast-paced little game well worth the TMNT name.
When the Shredder kidnaps April O’Neil, the heroes in a half shell set out to get her back, taking down endless members of the Foot Clan, robots, and iconic villains (Bebop and Rocksteady both feature) along the way.
The move-sets might be pretty limited, but the graphics are still gorgeous today, with every character and location looking exactly as it should. The soundtrack’s terrific too, with THAT theme tune helping to steep this even more in the world of the late-1980s cartoon.
2007’s CGI movie TMNT was a satisfying return to form after two fairly poor movie adaptations (Secret of the Ooze and the time-travelling antics of TMNT III are fun, but pretty cringe-worthy), and a tie-in game was inevitable. However, while the console versions were met with a lukewarm reception, the GBA release is a completely different beast – and all the better for it.
An old-fashioned side-scrolling beat-em-up in the grandest style, TMNT has some of the best, smoothest GBA visuals out there. With big, gorgeous sprites, plenty of stunning character-designs and locations, diverse weapons, and solid combat, this is a must for fans.
Turtles in Time
Turtles in Time is regarded by many fans as the best TMNT game ever made, and it’s easy to see why.
The arcade game itself allowed four players to step into the two-toed shoes of the Turtles themselves, creating a fantastic team-dynamic and really helping to capture the feel of the animated series. When it was converted to the SNES, though, this shrank to two-player only – though the game is still a joy to play, with a pal or all by yourself.
One of the most iconic features of the game are the beautiful Mode 7 effects: tossing Foot Soldiers towards the screen was mind-blowing at the time, and is still satisfying today. While the SNES port isn’t a perfect translation of the arcade, with certain sound effects missing and a new stage (featuring the almighty Technodrome) added, but it’s still a terrific use of the TMNT property.
The Hyperstone Heist
While SNES owners had been given a sweet TMNT adventure in Turtles in Time, Sega devotees had to wait for The Hyperstone Heist – butit was worthwhile.
This side-scrolling beat-em-up sees the Shredder trying to shrink NYC, with a little help from his Foot Clan. The visuals are detailed and colourful, with smooth animations and a decent range of moves, and new levels were made for The Hyperstone Heist, while there are others based on those from the Turtles in Time arcade game too.
This might not be as well-remembered as Turtles in Time, but it’s a decent game, and holds up considering it’s almost 25 years old.
Like Super Smash Bros., TMNT: Smash-Up sees players brawling in a 2.5D style. This fighting game stars the four Turtles, April, Casey Jones, Shredder, Karai, Spiinter, and more, in interactive environments.
While this might not be as exciting or polished as some of the earlier games, Smash-Up does at least do something a little different with the characters, and there’s plenty of different modes to enjoy. This was released for the Wii and the PS2, to tie-in with the 2007 animated movie.
Never heard of this? Don’t worry – you’re not alone.
This little-known game was released solely for the PC/DOS, and was based around the original Mirage comics, which makes it one of the most gritty TMNT games made yet. Considering its age, Manhattan Missions is still pretty impressive, with bold graphics and nice environments, and a distinctive structure: as with the original Prince of Persia game, players have only a limited amount of time to complete it.
Fans of the original movie will appreciate the darker tone of Manhattan Missions, as well as the appearance of Tatsu, the Shredder’s disgruntled right-hand man.
The Manhattan Project
Another solid TMNT game with ‘Manhattan’ in the title, this entry in the franchise was one of several NES outings for the brothers.
This is another beat-em-up, borrowing its basic feel from the Arcade Game, but with a few new elements, including improved special moves. This was well-received at the time, giving players pretty much everything they could want from a TMNT game, and features a rare video-game appearance for Tokka and Rahzar from The Secret of the Ooze (as well as Super Shredder).
Sadly, there’s no appearance by Vanilla Ice.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
This might seem like a strange addition for some, but this mobile game is a terrific tie-in to the 2014 movie.
While it’s best played on a tablet, TMNT is nevertheless a fun experience on a mobile, with stunning graphics and accessible gameplay. Each Turtle has their own roster of moves, with many to unlock, and every one is activated by swiping the screen in one of four directions. Players can also buy new weapons (ever wanted to see Donatello swing a street sign, or Raphael fight with spatulas? Now you can!), and unite all four brothers in an ultimate attack, triggered as a quick-time-event.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)
We know, we know: a lot of you dislike this game.
Known as one of the hardest NES titles ever, TMNT ’89 was ported to other machines (one of which featured a moment that was technically impossible to pass without a level-select cheat), and incorporated different playing styles. Switching between top-down exploration, side-scrolling platforming and combat, as well as swimming, TMNT ’89 is an important step in the evolution of the franchise’s games: the side-scrolling and platform-based elements have featured in the majority of adaptations since.
If you haven’t played this in a while, now might be a good time to go back and see whether it really is as hard as you remember – you never know, you may well like it!
What’s your favourite TMNT game of all time? Let us know!