Franchise Feature: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Digital History of TMNT, From NES to Now

Welcome back to our look at the graphic design and evolution of games. Today we’ll discuss a retrospective of the various video games spawned under the TMNT franchise.

A franchise that started in 1984 as a black and white comic book that later spanned the entire world of entertainment, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues in various iterations today [ 1 ]. This ’80s franchise was one of the first to capture the imaginations of young minds across the world. Most people who grew up in the late ’80s and early ’90s are at least aware of the Turtles, if not embroiled in their adventures and world lore. The video games spawned by this franchise hold a special place in the hearts of hardcore TMNT fans, whether they are frustratingly difficult or supremely enjoyable to play.

The games we’re going to cover span across several years and platforms. Each successive game takes cues from the previous, as you might expect with titles based upon a popular franchise. As the Turtles already had an established art style before these games were made, translating them into 8- and 16-bit sprites that resembled this look would have been one of the main challenges. These games also take cues from several that came before them, as the adventure, beat-em-up, and fighting game genres already experienced several of their iconic iterations. The original NES game takes a few cues from Legend of Zelda with its over-world maps. TMNT II, Turtles in Time, and Hyper Stone Heist all have a resemblance to each other and owe a bit of their formulaic success to games like Double Dragon, Final Fight, and River City Ransom. Likewise, TMNT: Tournament Fighters takes most, if not all, of its direction from Street Fighter II, almost appearing as a TMNT themed reskin—though that is a bit reductive considering how different the two games play. Graphically, these games deliver what one might expect from any game in their respective genres, but with the obvious flare of TMNT.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989, NES)

Brought to you by Konami and Ultra Games, this is the very first outing into the video game world for our heroes in a half-shell. The plot of TMNT (1989) is relatively simple—take the Life Transformer Gun from Shredder, an item which could possibly restore their master, Splinter, to his human form (which, depending on what continuity you follow, might not make sense). This game is part world exploration and part side scrolling beat-em-up. The player will wander the over-world map looking for key mission locations to unlock new areas [ 2 ].

Editor’s Note: This article is slightly misnamed, and references many versions.

As one might expect, each of the four turtle brothers are playable, and in fact can be switched to on the fly during missions or the over-world map. Their presentation is graphically simple, as is common for the NES, but none the less effective, as the turtles only really need their signature bandana colors and weapons to differentiate from one another. Each turtle also has a striking difference in attack range — Donatello having the longest reach, and Raphael, the shortest. With no difference in striking power, this makes Donatello the best choice for combat, however it should be noted that each turtle only has one life to live — if a turtle is knocked out, they become unavailable for the remainder of the world map stage. This is but one part of the now legendary difficulty of this classic title.

The original NES outing for the Turtle Brothers in Glorious 8-bit.

The interface also follows a simple style that is easy to understand. On the over-world map, turtle health is displayed on the bottom of the screen, and any special weapons are indicated on the left. The over-world turtle sprites are small, but still showcase the signature bandana colors, so you always know which turtle you have selected. On the pause screen we see the current map on the left, and the available turtles on the right, with the bottom left being reserved for information from either Splinter or April, who are indicated with their own facial sprites. Finally, when in a side scrolling section, we see points and high score on the bottom left, health and boss health in the bottom center, and main and special weapons on the bottom right. Overall, it’s easy enough for any young child to understand, making it a good design for its target audience and staying true to good visual design standards.

The game environments are also relatively simple, owed to the early tech, but they are executed quite well. The over-world maps are presented in isometric top-down format and illustrate their locations through simple but informative color palettes—the first city looks like a city, it has simple gray paved roads, red and blue buildings, some of which can be entered, and several open manholes that lead into the sewers. The brief dam section looks like a dam, with high and low waters on either side. The side scrolling maps follow similar trends. The sewers, well, look like sewers, with bricks forming the various platforms, pipes and cracks in the walls displayed in the background, and sometimes running water below that must be avoided. Interior buildings range from red wood to gray or purple brick backgrounds, some with teal platforms to represent steel, or rough red brick in the industrial buildings. By and large, it seems like the designers wanted to use as much color as they could to differentiate locations, as well as keep the visuals from getting too repetitive, which, in my opinion, they did achieve.

The enemies featured in the game come mostly from the comic books and animated TV series. Foot Clan ninjas are common, as are Stockman’s Mouser robots, along with several generic foes like the “Boomerang Bouncer,” which is just a guy who throws boomerangs, sewer bugs that act as generic flying foes, Fire Freaks, which look like the Human Torch except evil, guys with chainsaws, bombs with wings, balloons with the Foot Clan icon that drop bombs, eyeballs with legs and more. It’s hard to tell what exactly the enemy designers were going for here apart from variety, as most of the foes featured in the game just don’t exist in other continuities. Boss battles, however, feature almost exclusively familiar franchise foes, such as Rocksteady and Bebop, a mecha-turtle, a giant Mauser robot, the Technodrome moving fortress, and Shredder himself. Each boss fight is mechanically simple—avoid attacks and damage the boss until their health bar is depleted. Even so, each fight offers a different challenge in terms of space, attack variety, and timing. I touched upon this game’s difficulty earlier, and that doesn’t come as much from boss fights or enemies as it does from lack of health items and the very few “extra lives” you have in the game. Taking any amount of damage has a deep effect on the rest of the map stage, and losing one of the turtles, especially Donatello, makes the game that much harder.

Being the first of many, the visual styling of TMNT for the NES set a high bar for future titles, despite the limits of the technology. its action, though frustrating at times, is visually exciting, and captures the look of the comics and TV series quite well. Most franchise fans who played this game will remember how incredibly difficult it was to complete and would likely not look to play it again today, despite that speed runners are able to beat the game in less than 30 minutes. I’m decidedly among that number. I don’t hate the game; I just don’t have a great desire to see it to through to the end.

TMNT II: The Arcade Game (1989, Arcade, and SNES in 1990)

Not long after the first game, Konami and Ultra Games came out with a sequel. This time, they eschewed the exploration and went for a straight side scrolling beat-em-up. The plot is simplistic: save April and later Splinter from the Foot Clan and Shredder. Featuring music and a stylized version of the intro straight from the TV show, this was the first game to have strong tie-ins with the TV series.

Being an arcade title, TMNT II is not only higher resolution, but also allows for 4 players, meaning that all 4 of the iconic turtle brothers can be on screen at once [ 3 ]. Duplicates aren’t allowed, meaning that getting your favorite turtle in a full group is not always possible. A game like this is best played with close friends, so that one might achieve the ultimate #squadgoals of having all four of the turtle brothers battling foes. Each of the four sports their iconic colored bandannas and weaponry, with different attack animations befitting the sai, sword, staff, and nunchaku. The game also features some limited voice acting for the turtles, April, Splinter, Shredder, and other named foes, though this mostly consists of one-liners.

The interface follows the simple arcade style. All four of the turtle brothers’ status bars are at the top of the screen, with color coding in each player slot—1 is blue for Leonardo, 2 is orange for Michelangelo, 3 is purple for Donatello, and 4 is red for Raphael. Each status shows extra lives, health, and score, which is tallied by enemies defeated.  Perhaps best of all is that each of these status bars takes up minimal space and have clear backgrounds in their squares so that the game isn’t too obscured. A nice design overall.

As is typical with side scrolling beat-em-ups, players will progress left to right through the various game stages, all of which are nicely detailed in their 16-bit glory. From the burning apartment building dotted with elevators and stairs to the brightly colored streets of Manhattan, complete with small stores, fire hydrants, manholes and graffiti, down into the sewers rife with wastewater (yuck), rats, pipes large and small, a jam-packed parking lot, the Manhattan Bridge, and finally to the Foot Clan secret hideout and the Technodrome. Each stage is a visual feast, showcasing several staples of beat-em-ups like interactive backgrounds and stage objects that can help or hinder in combat.

Enemies consist largely of Foot Clan ninjas of different color palettes each armed with different weaponry, some futuristic like sonic cannons or laser guns, or something as simple as a large hammer, a spear, or sword. Apart from the Foot, there are the robotic foes of Stockman’s Mausers and Roadkill Rodneys, as well as some stage specific enemies like the helicopter ninjas on the Manhattan Bridge. Most enemies are dispatched quickly—this is a beat-em-up after all—but it should be noted that enemy numbers increase if more players are present, keeping the challenge consistent no matter how many turtles are kicking shell. Boss battles showcase the iconic enemies from the classic TV series: Bebop and Rocksteady, both alone and then together; Baxter Stockman in a flying armored shell; Granitor the Stone Warrior; General Traag; Krang, and finally Shredder. Each boss has a variety of attack animations that can be observed and learned through trial and error, allowing subsequent attempts to become easier, albeit still difficult. Several of them feature one-hit KO moves that must be avoided at all costs. This sort of mechanic can feel cheap at times, and while TMNT II is overall quite fun, one should remember that this is an arcade game – it’s designed to eat up quarters.

This second outing into the realm of video games is fantastic for fans of the TV show or even the comics, as the visual style is representative of both of those mediums. The game play is fast paced and fun, especially when you can get three friends together and enjoy the complete turtle lineup. In terms of arcade beat-em-ups, this game showcased how a transition from one medium to another should ideally function: keeping the heart of the character designs, and central themes of the TV show and comics, while also offering a fresh adventure for long time fans.

TMNT: Fall of the Foot Clan (Game Boy, 1990)

Shifting gears and technologies, we come to handheld gaming with Fall of the Foot Clan for the Nintendo Game Boy. Once again presented by Konami and Ultra Games, this miniature and minimalist game features the familiar plot tropes—save April, beat Shredder. It is an attempt at being a side scrolling beat-em-up, though it’s not nearly as chaotic as its console or arcade counterparts.

As is the common feature in these franchise games, the player can choose between any of the four turtle brothers. We run into an issue here, as the classic Gameboy only had green and black for coloring, meaning the iconic bandanna colors of the four can’t be displayed. Instead, the player relies on their weaponry to differentiate between the four brothers. This is the only noticeable difference, as all four play the exact same, from combat animations to generic movement. Even their weapon’s reach is the same, making them feel less unique than they are typically portrayed. This doesn’t make the game less enjoyable, but it does mean fans with a favorite turtle won’t like the characterization as much.

Mobile Turtle Power by way of Nintendo Game Boy.

As one might expect, Game Boy interfaces are quite compact. On the bottom left of the screen we can see the life bar, represented by squares, the score on the bottom right, and in between these a boss health indicator when a boss fight occurs. That’s all there is, and honestly you don’t need too much more, especially on a Game Boy title.

The game is relatively short on locations, only featuring five total stages [ 4 ]. The City Streets/Sewers showcase, as best as they can, a backdrop of Manhattan that appears in simple building-shaped black silhouettes, with the foreground being a high wall and simple street. The sewer portions contain brick platforms, pipes, and water, as one might expect. The Factory is, well, a factory, with steel riveted back walls, moving pistons, and rolling boulders for some reason. The Convoy stage features trucks of several varieties with Tetris-block like cargo and conveys the sense of movement by having the background wall cycle quickly from right to left. The Mountain Caverns first feature a river, with floating logs to stand on that move quickly, but then transitions to underwater, and then to the caverns themselves. Finally, the last stage is the Technodrome, showcasing as best as the Game Boy can the interior of that futuristic mobile fortress. Compared to its predecessors, Fall of the Foot Clan only has slightly less stage variety, which is impressive enough for a Game Boy title, despite its technology, meaning a limited color pallet and difference in scenery.

Enemies follow what is now the established formula, being mostly Foot Clan ninjas—and in a game titled Fall of the Foot Clan there have to be Foot ninjas—as well as Mausers and Roadkill Rodneys, along with some stage-specific foes like the large piranhas in the Mountain Caverns water section. These enemies are simplified versions of their console brethren, quickly leaping on screen and being dispatched just as quickly with single-blow knockouts. The challenge level isn’t too high here, again owing to the limitations of the tech. Boss fights, which feature the iconic villains of Rocksteady, Bebop, mutated Baxter Stockman, Shredder, and Krang, are all relatively simple affairs. The player must avoid attacks, usually by jumping over them or ducking under them, and then deal damage to the boss with their signature weapon. Each boss does have their own mechanics, but they are simple enough that not too much strategy is required—just keep hitting until they are defeated. Compared to the previous two titles, Fall of the Foot Clan is much more forgiving when it comes to combat, and is understandably less visually exciting, as you can only have so much going on at once on the Game Boy.

While this title can’t really compare visually or in gameplay to the console or arcade TMNT games, it’s nonetheless enjoyable enough in its own right. The plot is overly simplistic, even by early Turtles storyline standards, but that can also be attributed somewhat to the limitations of the hardware, as creating a complicated plot requires a bit more sophistication in its visual presentation. Personally, I never owned a Game Boy, so I missed out on a lot of handheld titles. Visiting this one in our modern gaming age is a different experience to be sure. Scaling down in tech in such a major way led me to appreciate how far gaming has come just a little bit more.

TMNT: Turtles in Time (Arcade 1991, SNES 1992)

This is the title that most franchise fans remember the fondest, myself included. This time just under Konami, TMNT: Turtles in Time is another side scrolling beat-em-up that first hit the arcade and later the SNES. This time the plot takes a slight twist, as Krang decides to steal the Statue of Liberty, causing the turtles to pursue. After a few stages and a brief battle with Shredder, the turtles are banished to a time warp and must fight their way back through history and the future [ 5 ].

Returning to glorious 16-bit, Turtles in Time showcases a similar format to the first TMNT arcade title. Up to four players can join in (two in the SNES version) on the beat-em-up action, meaning once more that all four brothers can be battling together. The animations and graphic presentation of the turtle brothers are slightly improved here, as the limits of the technology were pushed further to their boundaries. The turtle brothers have slight variance in their weapons attack range and special moves, so they feel a bit more unique in this title. One of the more entertaining combat moves the turtles can pull off is the screen-throw, literally throwing a Foot Ninja at the screen where they impact in cartoon-like fashion.

The interface here is like the first arcade game. The turtles’ status bars are displayed on the top of the screen in sequential order, once more following the color scheme of Blue, Orange, Purple and Red for players 1, 2, 3, and 4. Each status shows health, extra lives, and score. It’s simple and smooth, informative, and doesn’t get in the way, everything an interface should be.

A slightly longer title than its predecessor, Turtles in Time has 10 total stages, all of decent length. The detail is high, as one would expect of an arcade title of this quality. The Manhattan locations are all vibrant, showing off bright city lights at night, cramped back alleys during the day, and the ever-present sewers. Being that this game features time travel, we also get a brief tour in Foot Clan infested prehistory, with both jungle and desert terrain, a romp on a massive pirate ship somewhere in the ocean, a battle on an Old West coal-fueled train as it speeds down the track, a hover board surf through the highways of future Manhattan, a battle on a star base even farther in the future, and finally back to the present in the Technodrome. Each stage has a unique look and conveys the sense of displacement that any unwilling time traveler might have and keeps the same expected game play elements of interactable objects and different hazards that add to each stage’s flavor.

Enemies again feature largely Foot Clan ninjas of various types, regardless of time period, though their weapon variety means a decent challenge regardless of which type steps into the fray. Mausers and Roadkill Rodneys are also present, as are Pizza Monsters in the sewer level, a foe that came along later in the franchise. Also returning are the Rock Soldiers created by Krang, in greater number than the last arcade title, though they don’t feature as bosses. Speaking of, the bosses here are more varied, and while we have the established staples of Stockman, Bebop and Rocksteady, Krang, and Shredder, we also get a few new ones as per their appearances in the TV show and movies. The sewer features the Rat King, the Foot Clan base has the mini-bosses of Tokka and Rahzar, Slash in prehistory, and Leatherhead in the old west. Each boss’ visualization represents their TV show or movie counterparts expertly, and they all have their own types of attacks and movements that give each their own style of challenge. I should mention a key difference between arcade and console here—on the console, there is a health bar for each boss that appears when they spawn on screen. In the arcade version, you never see boss health meters; you simply have to keep on fighting until you win with little visual indication of when that will be until that very moment. Some of the bosses have “phases,” or points in which they change their attacks, based on remaining health, so you do have some indication of where they are, but it’s not clear. While this doesn’t explicitly add a layer of difficulty to the arcade version, it does add more stress to the player, which is very intentional, since the whole idea of the arcade machine is to suck down quarters.

When fans of the franchise think TMNT video games, this one is one of the first to come to mind, and that is because it captures the magic of the franchise so well. It creates a new and interesting storyline that is easy to follow and, at the time, wasn’t an overplayed trope. The battles against strange foes from the past and the future are iconic representations of what the Turtles always do: overcome the odds despite being out of their depth. Both visually and in game play, it has everything a Turtles fan could ask for.

There is a remake of this game by Ubisoft entitled Turtles in Time Re-Shelled for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It’s a bit different than the classic, and features more modern graphics, but personally I’d stick to the classic title. That may sound like my nostalgia talking, and that’s valid, however the original game and plot were made as a reflection of the TV show and comics of the time and taking that older plot line out of its time and applying it to the new-styled Turtles feels a bit odd to me.

TMNT: Hyper Stone Heist (Sega Mega Drive, Sega Genesis, 1992)

This is the competition title to Turtles in Time for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, back when console wars were a thing. TMNT: The Hyper Stone Heist comes once again from Konami—which, instead of porting Turtles in Time to the Genesis, decided to make a derivative game. Whether this was a demand of Sega or Konami being whimsical, I can’t say for sure. Regardless, as this game is a derivative of Turtles in Time, it uses a very similar plot—Krang and Shredder steal the Statue of Liberty, this time using the Hyper Stone to teleport it, and Manhattan, to an alternate dimension [ 6 ].

The turtle brothers remain almost unchanged from Turtles in Time, with a notable exception being their skin-hues. Leonardo is the standard green, Michelangelo is slightly brighter, Donatello is a more olive-drab shade, and Raphael is slightly darker. Apart from this, the turtles move and attack in almost the same ways, except that the fun and amusing screen-throw is not present.

Derivative but still entertaining, Hyper Stone Heist offered hours of playtime.

As I mentioned, this game uses many of the same elements as Turtles in Time, so the interface here is the same—displayed in the top of the screen are the players 1 and 2 (as this is not an arcade title), color coded to match the selected turtle, with extra lives, health, and score. There is also a display for boss health when a boss fight occurs. The only difference here is that the status bars are in a letter boxed area, instead of being see-through and part of the stage screen. Simple and familiar, while having its own small twist.

There are fewer stages in Hyper Stone Heist, having only five, though this title changes the backdrop more frequently and each stage is a bit longer. The areas being NYC, Mysterious Ghost Ship, Shredder’s Hideout, The Gauntlet, and The Final Shell Shock. NYC as you might guess is a cityscape, though it begins in the sewers and then heads above ground, and features backgrounds directly lifted from Turtles in Time. The Ghost Ship is the first of the original levels in Hyper Stone Heist and comes in several parts, first being a surfing mini game to reach it, then the ship itself, and finally a cove where it docks. Shredder’s Hideout is the second original location, which is styled as a traditional Japanese fortress high above a city. After this is the Gauntlet, which is a short cave area that looks like the cave in pre-history from Turtles in Time, but this stage is a boss rush where you must defeat all the previous stage bosses plus one. The last stage, The Final Shell Shock, looks like the interior of the Technodrome, showing a lot of high-tech traps and backgrounds. So, while it lifts a lot from Turtles in Time, the designers still wanted to add enough difference stage wise to make it its own title.

Combat is relatively the same to Turtles in Time with a few changes, most notably being that dashing has its own button in Hyper Stone Heist, making dash attacks a lot easier to execute. Featured enemies are, however, basically the same—Foot Clan ninjas, Mausers, Roadkill Rodneys, and Pizza Monsters. Since there are fewer total stages, there are also fewer bosses—Leatherhead, Rocksteady (Alone?! Yep), Tatsu, who is a boss unique to this game and comes directly from the first movie, Baxter Stockman not in his mutant form but back in his flying armored shell from the first arcade game, Krang, and Super Shredder. The Gauntlet level, as mentioned, is a boss rush through the first three bosses plus Stockman as the final boss. Otherwise, these bosses behave much the same as their previous game incarnations.

There are fans who argue that Hyper Stone Heist is the better game compared to Turtles in Time, and vice versa, but really both games are fine, even though Hyper Stone Heist lifts a lot from previous titles [ 7 ]. It’s a bit disappointing that there wasn’t a more unique plot line for this title, but the change in level design and boss fights helps it stand on its own. If nothing else, this game showcases how existing material can be modified to create a derivative but still unique gaming experience, not unlike making a game sequel. It also shows that fans will argue over just about anything, and just how far one can push the boundaries of acceptable franchise material without making it seem like a cash grab. I only have my recent playing and research of this game to go by, so it feels a bit strange for me to weigh in on the matter. If you’re looking for something slightly different than Turtles in Time, then Hyper Stone Heist is the game for you.

TMNT: Tournament Fighters (SNES, 1993)

The last game we’ll be looking at is a natural progression for the franchise from side scrolling beat-em-ups into tournament style fighter, TMNT: Tournament Fighters. The game has several modes, including Tournament, Vs Battle, and Story. The Story mode follows typical turtles plot—April and Splinter are captured, though this time not by Shredder or Krang, but by someone named Karai, who handed April over to Shredder, and is keeping Splinter somewhere else. It’s up to the turtles to rescue them both [ 8 ].

Again, in story mode we can choose from any of the four brothers, though this time around they bring a bit more variety in terms of the move sets. TMNT: Tournament Fighters follows essentially the same game format as the first Street Fighter II, where each combatant has their own special moves and a few basic moves, though no two look exactly alike, and even those “basics” act differently depending on which character is selected. There are even character barks for the special moves when they are executed, ala Street Fighter’s “Hadouken” and the like. This sort of visual variety is refreshing for the franchise, and while the beat-em-ups did showcase some differences in the turtles, Tournament Fighters displays it much more prominently.

The closest thing to finding out which Turtle Brother really would win in a fight.

The game interface looks like a turtle-styled copy of Street Fighter, though this is a format that basically every fighting game follows. The top left and right of the screen display health bars for each combatant with icons showing their face, a power bar for special moves, as well as a score above the player if they are in Story or Tournament mode. Rounds won is displayed right below this bar, indicated by a blue star. In the top center of the screen is time remaining, and each round’s timer is 60 seconds. Winning is straightforward—KO your enemy or have more health remaining when time runs out.

Stages continue to follow the Street Fighter-esque trend, with each character having their own unique stage, with 11 stages total that serve mostly as stylish backgrounds for the fight at hand. The stages range from a rock concert stage to a city rooftop, to a ship being capsized by a giant kraken, a restaurant, a Buddhist temple, a junkyard and more. Each stage has its own animated background characters, some of them famous like the mutated Baxter Stockman (not a playable character), Bebop and Rocksteady (also not playable, a big oversight in my opinion), the diner waitresses, the rock band and so on. These little visual touches make each stage feel unique, even though there is no interaction at all with these stage props.

Calling the combatants in a fighting game “enemies” is a bit off, as you can actually play as all of these characters in tournament or vs. mode. The story mode is more like a tournament mode with some extra dialogue put into it. You’ll battle against War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who is actually a mutant or alien that first appeared in the Archie comics series; Armaggon, a mutant shark from the future who is also from the comics; Chrome Dome, a samurai looking android from the TV series; Shredder (after defeating him, April is rescued); Wingnut, an alien humanoid bat who appears in both the comics and the TV series; Aska, a ninja girl who makes her first and last appearance in this game only; the Rat King, who has also appeared in Turtles in Time, originally from the comics and also appearing in the TV series; The Fake Brother—who is a copy of whichever turtle you selected for story mode; and finally, Karai, the female leader of the Elite Foot Ninja of Japan, who made a previous appearance in the original comics that predate Archie. I mention the comics a lot here because some of these characters will be entirely unfamiliar to fans who only watched the TV series or movies. All that aside, each character’s visualization is superb, combining both the visual styles of TMNT and Street Fighter-style fighting games into a unique display. The characters stay true to their source material despite the outward influence of other mediums, which is important when borrowing elements from those mediums. The exception to this is special moves, but this can be forgiven, as they are fun to see and use.

As this is the first franchise attempt at a fighting game, it was important that TMNT: Tournament Fighters be executed well, and it was. While it may lift a lot from Street Fighter II, that is not necessarily a bad thing, as SFII was the premier fighting game of the era, and you could do a lot worse than copying that style of play. The plot, unfortunately, follows the same tired tropes of older Turtles stories, and could have been improved by simply not having April or Splinter captured, but instead having the Turtles invited to the tournament as a trap by Shredder and Karai to defeat them once and for all. It’s worth noting that the Genesis and Mega Drive versions of this title featured April as a fighter, a very positive—if unprecedented—change for this era of storytelling. For myself, when I got a hold of this game in the late ’90s, it was a welcome change to the old formulas of TMNT games, though its difficulty turned a younger me off at times [ 9 ]. My revisit to it as a more seasoned gamer made that skill gap much smaller, and I was able to better enjoy the interesting and sometimes broken character special moves.

TMNT is a vast franchise that has thrived in many mediums, and video games are no exception. While different iterations of TV series or comic books also bring different iterations of games, these old school titles are easily enshrined among the classics. They allowed franchise fans to fully immerse themselves into the world of the Turtles, taking control of their favorite brother and proceeding to kick shell and take names. The mostly uniform art style of the Turtles allows the player to imagine that they are being injected directly into the television or comic book series, which creates an extra layer of satisfaction to fans of the franchise. You can still see people playing these titles today, both casually and in speed run formats. If you are a newer school fan of TMNT, I’d highly recommend checking out these classic game titles.


  1. TMNT-NES.gif “The original NES outing for the Turtle Brothers in Glorious 8-bit.” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Konami. 1989. NES.
  2. TMNT-Gameboy.png “Mobile Turtle Power by way of the NES Game Boy.” TMNT: Fall of the Foot Clan. Konami. 1990. Game Boy.
  3.  TMNT-Genesis.png. “Derivative but still entertaining, Hyper Stone Heist offered hours of playtime.”  TMNT: Hyper Stone Heist. Konami. 1992. Sega Genesis.
  4. TMNT-SNES-Tourney2.png. “The closest thing to finding out which Turtle Brother really would win in a fight.” TMNT: Tournament Fighters. SNES. 1993.

A man of many talents, Clayton has worn several hats. His work focuses on visual mediums like film and gaming. A practiced martial artist and a graduate of Johnson and Wales University with a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design & New Media, he brings both tactile experience and academic credentials as measures of his considerable expertise. Clayton is both Manager of Steam-Funk’s core writing staff and part of the firm’s senior creative team, helping craft both The Living Multiverse and firm policy.


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