Worth Your Time? Ep2: TMNT The Arcade Game

User Rating: 10 | Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ARC

The recently released TMNT Cowabunga Collection has brought upon the modern generation all of the classic ninja turtles games! I will note that before taking a look at the OG, the one that started it all, I grew up playing mostly the NES version of this game. No, I do not mean the game released in 1987 that was more of a horror side scrolling game, I am referring to TMNT II The Arcade Game on the NES. TMNT II was the NES true arcade port with added levels and bosses, and was about the best the NES could do to emulate an arcade game. It was one of my favorite games growing up even though I never beat it and yes the game is hard as hell. Back years ago, about 10-12, I did a very sloppy quick video of my top 20 games of all time back on gamespot and TMNT II landed in the top 5 if I remember correctly. Now enough with the NES lets get into the true arcade version of TMNT!


TMNT the arcade game is the epitome of classic 2D, side scrolling Beat Em Up action. The late 1980's and 1990's brought us many great Beat Em Ups such as The Simpsons Arcade, Streets of Rage, Final Fight, and many more. When I think of arcades this is one of the first genres I think of.

TMNT is based on the successful cartoon of the late 80's and the game does a really fantastic job of staying true to its source media. One of the big draws of this game and gameplay is that the arcade cabinet was 4 players! It was almost rare to see cabinets with two player back in this time, but this game can be contributed to starting a multiplayer craze with a lot of games to follow being 4 player. The player controls one of the four turtles: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, and Raphael. Each turtle has a basic attack, a jump, a jump/dive kick, and a stronger attack. The stronger/heavy attack is performed by pressing the jump and attack buttons together, and the dive kick can be adjusted based on timing of button presses. This is a simple two-button control scheme and it works perfectly fine. The majority of the time will be button mashing and dive kicking. If you get within a certain range of an enemy you can also throw them, which does a lot of damage and will quickly kill enemies. Each turtle has their signature weapon and play slightly different, but the differences are pretty miniscule and their is no advantage to selecting a specific turtle. I found myself doing the best with Raphael because he attacks slightly faster than the other turtles, but I have heard a lot of people prefer Donatello because of his added range with his Bo Staff.

There are plenty of enemies and bosses to fight in this game, and the design stays very true to the cartoon. Most of the time the player will be fighting generic Foot Clan soldiers (robots in this game because they didn't want to portray violence to kids) and Mousers (little robotic mouse looking terrors) while dodging stage hazards such as rockets, traps, and giant wrecking balls of steel. I actually really enjoy the fact that every different color of Foot soldier has a different weapon and adds to the ascetic of the game. The best part of the game are the bosses including such classics as Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang and Shredder. The game also includes other bosses from the show such as General Traag and Baxter Stockman. Most of the boss fights actually take the same techniques to beat them, but it does take a lot of practice and skill to get better at the game. If anything the bosses are a little too difficult, and sometimes basic enemies can swarm you leaving you in really bad spots, but hey this is meant to be a quarter gobbling arcade game. To this point the lowest amount of credits I have beaten the game with is 16.

The stage design in the game is also another highlight. It was very hard for me to pick a favorite stage, but I think stage 2 which starts out on the street and ends up in the sewer is my favorite level. This stage also features some of my favorite music in the game. There are no bad stages or levels per se, but one stage where the player is on a hoverboard fighting soldiers and helicopters is mine and most everyone's least favorite. To me the level is just annoying and the helicopters are hard to hit without losing a ton of life. The stages will bring you through April's apartment, the streets of New York, Highways, Sewers, and of course the Technodrome. All of the stages offer the same fun frantic butt-kicking gameplay and all contribute to the overall atmosphere and likeability of the game. Overall it takes about 30-40 mins to beat the entire game which is standard for an arcade Beat Em Up.


There isn't much to the story in TMNT. April and Master Splinter both get kidnapped and the turtles need to save them and defeat Shredder. The big grab here is how accurate the game both in narrative and in design reflects the cartoon series. The game includes every character and element you would want to see from the cartoon series mashed into a 40 minute experience. In general Beat Em Ups are not story driven games, but rather gameplay and mechanic focused. The bosses in TMNT are all excellent and designed direct from their cartoon counterparts. Overall the atmosphere and flair of the cartoons are captured perfectly in arcade form.


TMNT truly is a timeless game and experience. It is a game where you can always pick it up and have an hour of fun with and it really holds the test of time. For some people it will hit heavily on nostalgia, while for others it might be an outlet just to beat some things up. Recently I have played through both the PS5 and Switch versions found on the Cowabunga Collection with every character, and I can still see myself playing it here and there to try to improve at the game and beat it with less credits used. It is also great for a casual experience because you can use infinite credits without having to dip into your piggy bank. I am very glad that emulation has saved a lot of arcade only experiences and have brought them to our living rooms. Also, if you can get some friends together it is hard to find another multiplayer game quite like TMNT.


For a game that hit arcades in the late 1980's, this game simply looks fantastic. I thought that the NES version looked great, but it is really nothing in comparison to the arcade version. The games visuals are so crisp and clean with tons of detail and charm. Some of the highlights include the special added effects in some levels such as the fire in the first stage, and the contrasting textures in the sewer level. There are no technical issues as well, other than non performing online in the Cowabunga Collection, but that is for a separate review.


Nothing can beat a good video game soundtrack, and TMNT has an excellent musical score. It is something that I will pull up a playlist on youtube and listen to when in the mood. For me personally I am even more into the NES soundtrack but that is something I grew up with more and really love those Konami NES sounds. The sound is perfect for the entire game whether that be the sound effects, or the music, or the combat sounds. Shredders ray gun attack audio is terrifying, and the sounds of being electrocuted in various stages really stands out and is an awesome sound effect.

VERDICT: (145/150 or 97/100) (10.0 Essential)

I recommend that anyone play TMNT the arcade game, and it is well worth your time. As mentioned this game is timeless and really does hold up. It is simply one of the most fun and greatest games ever made as well as a Holy Grail game of the Beat Em Up genre.