Colorful side-scrolling beat’em-ups? Loud chippy martial arts moves and fighting action? Saving your human friend April from the bad guys? Must be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle video game!
With every newly anticipated release of a beloved franchise into the gaming world, it’s time to remember and re-evaluate some of the classic games we know and love. TMNT has a rich history of being at the forefront of the side-scrolling fighting genre of games since the 80s. Now that Shredder’s Revenge has come out, that nostalgia is in high gear. So let’s see which TMNT video games are some of the best of all time.
If we are being honest here, there are only a hand full of successful jumps into different genres of games for TMNT. So we’re going to look at the best of the best of the TMNT franchise, focusing on genre, but of course, going to give some honorable mentions to each as well.
Best Fighting Game: TMNT Tournament Fighters (SNES, 1993)
You’d think the turtles would be in so many fighting games it would be hard to count. Alas, their fray into melee fighters has been less than desired, but even almost 30 years later, they still haven’t exactly topped this one. TMNT Tournament Fighters actually received 3 different versions. The most beloved of them is the SNES version which many tout as “everything you love about street fighter without the name”.
TMNT: Smash-Up in 2009, developed by the same team who made Smash-Brother: Brawl comes close to challenging Tournament Fighters for the crown. However, with 10 playable classic characters and well-aged colorful graphics, it’s hard to beat the game’s nostalgic punch.
Best Adventure Game: TMNT The Hyperstone Heist (Sega Genesis, 1992)
While still technically a side-scroller beat ’em-up, TMNT The Hyperstone Heist has a much denser story and exploratory gameplay attached to it. Konami’s huge success so far with titles like TMNT II: The Arcade and Turtles in Time made them want to produce another game as soon as possible but with more elements. While some criticize the similar gameplay, the longer levels and more difficult enemies in Hyperstone Heist is an improvement based on skill and time consumption above all else.
If you love the better-paced nature of Hypserstone Heist, TMNT III: The Manhattan Project might be for you as well. While also heavily influenced by Turtles in Time, the graphics are not as well-aged. Plus some might find the level of difficulty more tedious than challenging.
Best Hack and Slash: TMNT Mutants in Manhattan (PS3 & 4, Xbox 360 & One, PC, 2016)
Some might argue that there hasn’t been a great TMNT game since 2003, maybe even the 90s for some diehards. However, TMNT Mutants in Manhattan is sort of a unique experience you wouldn’t want to miss if you ever wanted to just run around in full 3D cutting down enemies. Sporting a unique art style and very close comic-book accurate story and design, Mutants in Manhattan is for those who like a little mess with their Ninja Turtles. Depending on your multiplayer cooperation, some of the gameplay can get in the way, but one could argue that adds to the 4 brothers jumping and swinging around as they team up to take out their enemies.
TMNT 2: Battle Nexus from 2004 comes the closest to this style of game but with some more platforming. Although the pace and graphics have not aged as well and if speed is what you need, Mutants in Manhattan really serve up a better slice.
Best Side-Scroller Beat ’em-up: TMNT Turtles in Time (Arcade and SNES, 1992)
It’s pretty much the consensus, without a doubt that the best TMNT game of all time, regardless of genre, is Turtles in Time. However, because of its relatively short length being an arcade game first, later ported to the SNES, a safe bet would to combine it with its predecessor TMNT II: The Arcade. As a direct sequel to Arcade, Turtles in Time simply adds and improves on everything. Better graphics, sleeker gameplay, more enemies, and of course the introduction to 4-player mode. Now you and your friends could all be a turtle together, playing the fearsome-foursome all at once. It’s no wonder the recently released Shredder’s Revenge seems to have taken heavy inspiration from them.
In 2003, TMNT for Gameboy Advance was praised for the influence taken from Turtles in time and bringing that early 90s nostalgia to the new millennium 10 years later. So if you want a more up-to-date homage as well, check it out.
Now the best part of all this TMNT nostalgia coming through with a new game coming out, is all these old games are about to be easier to access as well. TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection, is set to release later this year, and every game on this list (EXCEPT for Mutants in Manhattan and Battle Nexus) is included.