The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had success with pretty much everything they’ve tried. The Turtles have left big two-toed footprints in the world of comics, TV, toys and movies, but ultimately the medium they’re most at home in may just be video games. There have been a lot of TMNT games, almost 50 by my count, and a shocking number of them have been good to great (although there’s been a few turtle turds as well).
Here’s a definitive, unassailable ranking of the 10 best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games of all time…
10) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Manhattan Missions (PC, 1991)
Admittedly I’ve only tinkered around with this one in an emulator, but Manhattan Missions is certainly the most unique Turtles game. Developed exclusively for DOS, this little-known game was based on the original Mirage comics and was surprisingly dark and violent. Worth checking out for the novelty at least.
9) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pinball (1991)
They had this baby at my local 7-11 for a while, and I recall it being a pretty solid game of pinball. I also enjoy the weird busted pornstar April O’Neil featured in the game’s art.
8) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back From the Sewers (Game Boy, 1992)
While Konami was kicking ass with Turtles games in arcades and on consoles, they were also churning out some pretty solid handheld games as well. Back From the Sewers is a god-awful title, but a fairly competent take on Konami’s arcade-style Turtles games given the Game Boy’s harsh limitations.
7) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (Game Boy, 1993)
With Radical Rescue Konami tried something a little different with their portable TMNT games, doing away with arcade action in favor of more platforming and a simple Metroid-style world. The game feels a bit like the original NES TMNT game, except, you know, actually good.
6) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (Genesis, SNES & NES, 1993)
In 1993 Konami took a stab at stealing a piece of Capcom’s sweet, sweet Street Fighter Pie with TMNT: Tournament Fighters and, well, they weren’t exactly successful, but the game is nothing to be ashamed of. The game was at least as playable as, say, Mortal Kombat (yeah, I said it, bring it on) and had a really eclectic character selection that drew on the comics (both the Mirage and Archie version), cartoons and live-action movies.
5) TMNT (Game Boy Advance, 2007)
Ubisoft’s console game based on the 2007 CGI TMNT movie was mostly a disappointment, but the Game Boy Advance version of the game was shockingly cowabunga-worthy. A good old-fashioned beat ’em up featuring a nice art-style and silky smooth animation, this is easily the best Turtles game since their early-90s heyday.
4) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES, 1992)
The Manhattan Project came out particularly late in the NES’ lifespan and really pushed the hardware to its limits. Of all the Konami TMNT arcade games, this one may feel the most solid. It’s also easily the most difficult — so difficult that it almost mars the experience a little bit. I spent a lot of hours plugging away at this one, but a bit too much of that time was spent frustrated for me to rank this one higher.
3) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Genesis, 1992)
Ah, man, I agonized over whether I should piss everyone off with this one. I was a Genesis kid, and The Hyperstone Heist will always have a dearer place in my heart than Turtles in Time. That said, Turtles in Time came first, and Hyperstone lifted much of its level design from it. Also, while I think The Hyperstone Heist is perhaps better than the SNES version of Turtles in Time, there’s no arguing with the arcade version of TiT (heh).
2) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Arcade & SNES, 1991)
Speaking of Turtles in Time, hey, guess what game’s number two on the list! The arcade version of Turtles in Time in particular is just such a wonderfully polished, personality-packed little piece of video game art. The fact that Konami put so much effort into this game when they could have sold it on name alone (God knows that’s what most licensed Turtles stuff did) is a real testament to what a top-notch company Konami used to be.
1) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game (Arcade & NES, 1989)
I know some will insist Turtles in Time deserves the top spot, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game is where it all started. It absolutely nailed the simplistic, yet oddly engrossing beat ’em up mechanics that would serve Konami well for years, and it’s line-up of enemies and locations are as iconic as you can get. It’s hard to sum up why the game works so well, it just f*cking does, and it remains my favorite TMNT thing hands down. Better than the comics, cartoons or movies — The Arcade Game is where it’s at.
Of course no series of licensed video games is going to be without its share of bummers. Here are a few Turtles games to avoid at all costs…
5) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up (2009)
A TMNT take on Super Smash Bros.? Developed by one of the companies that actually worked on Super Smash Bros. Brawl? Yes please. Unfortunately the final result was crushingly bland and not worth tearing yourself away from actual Smash Bros. for even five minutes.
4) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Melee (2005)
Man, TMNT: Tournament Fighters is looking better and better. With this game Konami took the mechanics and engine from their 3D mid-2000s Turtles beat ’em ups (which were no great shakes to begin with) and used them to make a slapped together fighting game, without adding any of the required depth. This game was downright shady.
3) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2013)
Yeeeeah, I know — I posted a lot of trailers for this one. I played into the hype. It looked good! But apparently TMNT: Out of the Shadows wasn’t good. It really, really wasn’t. Thankfully it seems like nobody actually bought it.
2) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)
Okay, it’s time to take the rose-colored glasses off and admit that the original NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was just plain no good. I mean, we all hated playing the game, right? That f*cking dam stage? Jesus. But most of us have also convinced ourselves that we were the problem. That the game was good, and we were just playing it wrong or something. Well folks, I’m here to get that monkey off your back — it wasn’t your fault. The game just sucked.
1) Turtles LCD Games
There were tons of Tiger Electronics-style Turtles LCD games back in the day. Tons, and they were all garbage. Like, bad by even cheapo LCD game standards. The one above is the one I remember most clearly and I’m sure you had a few of your own laying around the floor of you bedroom. Ugh.
So there you have it party dudes, the best and the kind of gnarly games from the Turtles’ very wide catalog. Any good or terrible games you think I missed? Have any favorite TMNT gaming memories you want to share? Attack those comments like you were the evil Shredder.