Ah, Battletoads; the series wasn’t as big as Super Mario and Mega Man in its day, but seemingly everybody of a certain age spent chunk of their childhood trying, and failing miserably, to get anywhere in Battletoads. The game has cult has grown over the years, and it might now be one of the five most reminisced over, meme-ified 8-bit video games ever made.
The Battletoads cult has grown to such a degree that Microsoft has been dropping hints left and right that a new Battletoads game may be in the works more than 20 years after the last game in the series was released. So, in honor of the ‘Toads new found relevance, here are 10 things you might not know about the game that basically defines “Nintendo hard”…
1) Nintendo itself secretly helped fund Battletoads. The Battletoads series was the work of Rare, the company that would eventually go on to create classics like Donkey Kong Country, GoldenEye 007 and Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Rare is based in England, and they did a good business developing games for British home computers in the early ’80s like the ZX Spectrum.
While working on their computer games, Rare became aware of a new console released by Nintendo in Japan, and they quickly set to work breaking the NES’ lock-out security so they could figure out how the system worked. Despite this being totally illegal, Rare didn’t hide their activities. In fact, Rare founders Tim and Chris Stamper proudly showed what they’d done to Nintendo themselves, and Nintendo was surprisingly impressed by their initiative. While most third party NES developers were limited in the number of games they could make, and received little to no support from Nintendo, Rare was given free reign to make as many games as they wanted (they made almost 50 over a four-year period) and were provided with essentially unlimited funding from Nintendo itself. So, this weird, kind of violent game about alien toads named after skin conditions was actually partially bankrolled by Nintendo.
The ‘Toads and Mario do have a common hatred of bricks.
2) The infamous “Turbo Tunnel” speeder bike stage is actually one of the easiest in the game. The third stage of Battletoads, in which you have to zip a speeder bike around a series of obstacles at blazing speeds, has become one of the most infamous levels in video game history. Many have called the Turbo Tunnel the hardest video game level of all-time. That’s just because the vast majority of those who play Battletoads never make it past the speeder bikes.
The Turbo Tunnel is actually one of the least challenging levels in Battletoads. In fact, there are three other racing-style levels in the game — Surf City, Volkmire’s Inferno and Clinger Winger — and they’re all significantly harder than the Turbo Tunnel. Surf City and Volkmire’s Inferno are randomized, so you can’t even memorize the patterns, and you’re running from a weird psychedelic black hole on an anti-gravity unicycle in Clinger Winger. And those are just the vehicle-based stages. Just check out the complete ridiculousness of Volkmire’s Inferno, while taking into account that the fireball and missile sections are totally random…
Like it or not, that speeder bike level you never beat was basically the game’s tutorial.
3) There’s a trick for gaining extra lives in the second stage. Another thing that makes Battletoads one of the toughest games of all-time is that it’s very stingy with lives. There’s really no place you can stockpile them, with one major, notable exception.