Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge might be the best 2D beat-’em-up video game ever made. Depending on your preferences, it could drop down to #2 or #3 on your personal all-time list, but that still makes it an incredible, must-play game, and its production values and group-gaming fun factor are unmatched in the genre.
Since getting my copy, I’ve completed the game’s campaign four times and hosted gameplay sessions with a number of friends, and I’m still not tired of the fun on offer. Shredder’s Revenge is everything I have wanted in a Ninja Turtles arcade sequel: immediately accessible, gorgeously animated, hilarious, and packed with enough mechanical systems to make it satisfying to return to.
Beyond Guardian Heroes, beyond 2007’s TMNT
Shredder’s Revenge rewinds to a 32-bit era of high-res, meticulously animated pixel art—perhaps one generation past the beloved likes of Guardian Heroes—and imagines a world in which Konami kept making TMNT arcade games. This week’s new game, out on Windows, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch, imagines what directions the series might have gone in an alternate universe dominated by arcade games.
As it turns out, the main developers of this new game tried such a concept 15 years ago. The simply named TMNT for the Game Boy Advance looked and felt a lot like games from the series’ arcade heyday, boosted by a satisfying combo-counter system and some experience-point chasing. Sadly, that solid 2007 game was lost in a portable-gaming world that had moved on to the Nintendo DS.
Somehow, the game’s devs stuck together and formed a new studio, Tribute Games (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World). Now, they’ve partnered with Dotemu (Streets of Rage 4) to take arcade-style turtling to the next level—and a big reason for the new game’s success is that it rewinds to the series’ past.
Enough humor and style to reward repeat playthroughs
This is the first Ninja Turtles game to return to the series’ breakout era of the late ’80s and early ’90s, and it does so with the bright aesthetics, era-appropriate music, and goofy comedy missing from other Turtles games that have come since. Each hero and enemy is loaded with comical and exaggerated animations, along with visual gags that don’t get old over repeated playthroughs.
Newscaster April O’Neil joins the fight by beating up foes with microphones and cameras. Michelangelo madly dashes in a way that pays amusing homage to Wile E. Coyote. And your march toward the end of each level constantly interrupts members of the Foot Clan while they’re doing ridiculous things, from working fast-food counters at a mall to rifling through parked cars to steal their engines.
Tribute Games relishes the opportunity to animate other familiar characters from the ’90s animated series, and boss encounters in particular come with detailed, exaggerated takes on classic character designs that have aged incredibly well. From obvious mainstays Bebop and Rocksteady to deep cuts like Tempestra, each boss encounter benefits from charismatic dialogue and diverse battling patterns. The boss fights are so fun that I hope the game is eventually updated with a “boss rush” that lets players fast forward to them.