The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) have a long and storied history in videogames. Not including the litany of handheld devices and plug-and-play releases, there have been over 30 games released on PC and console alone. Then we also have mobile devices to take into account. TMNT games have proved popular across many different styles, so ahead of the forthcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, we’ve compiled a complete history to find out exactly why.
TMNT games made their debut way back in 1989. For those old enough to remember, it was a complicated time. Arcade games rivalled home consoles and PCs with varied installments and more power, yet TMNT games did their best to hold their own. Still, 33 years later we’re set to receive Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection, which includes a number of these early titles. Read on to find out which TMNT games are worth revisiting, and which are better left in the sewer.
TMNT Games: A Complete History
As stated above, we’re going right back to 1989 for the beginning of this history. The first TMNT games caused considerable confusion with their sequential naming on different formats. Ultimately however, it was an era in which TMNT fever was at an all-time high, and Konami in particular was ready to capitalise on that.
TMNT Games: The ’80s
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)
The classic arcade game. Four-player co-op as one player takes on each of the Ninja Turtles, battling through lengthy levels as they try to take out arch nemesis Shredder. The arcade game was a worldwide hit, becoming the highest-grossing dedicated arcade game of 1990 in the United States, and Konami’s highest-grossing arcade game. This success paved the way for much more to come.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)
The original TMNT game released on consoles gets a bad rap. In Europe, the game was released after the above arcade title, and gamers were less than pleased it wasn’t as action-orientated an affair. Instead, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Amiga and other home computer systems was a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer. It wasn’t bad, but definitely wasn’t the co-op arcade brawler many had been hoping for.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (1990)
The NES port of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game finally arrived a year later (nearly two years later in Europe) and was very well received. Despite a significant downgrade in graphics and only offering two-player, the NES port was a fairly accurate recreation. Widely regarded as the best Ninja Turtles game on the NES, the game even added two new levels.
TMNT Games: Handheld (1989-1990)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Splinter Speaks were released 1989-1990, depending on where you are in the world. These were single game handheld devices. Neither of which really provided any kind of worthwhile gaming experience. Some of our older readers may look back on them fondly, but rose-tinted glasses can be a dangerous thing.
TMNT Games: The ’90s
Pushing into the 1990s brought us more powerful console hardware. However, much like the transition period the industry is facing at the time of writing, console manufacturers were reluctant to let go of the audiences established in the decade prior. As such, we saw numerous titles made for 16-bit hardware receive a significant downgrade for their 8-bit cousins. That being said, some of the Game Boy games are well worth revisiting…
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Footclan (1990)
The player battles through five stages, coming up against Krang and Shredder’s minions along the way. The game was well received due to it’s permadeath mechanic: if a Turtle runs out of health, he is captured and another Turtle to pick up where he left off. If all four Turtles are captured, the game is over. It was an interesting debut for the Ninja Turtles on Game Boy, and lead to much better things in it’s sequel.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers (1991)
Significantly easier than it’s Game Boy predecessor, this second instalment took everything that worked and layered on top a whole bunch of new mechanics. Each turtle had different strengths and weaknesses. Scrolling levels were accompanied by a more open design wherein you could walk in any direction. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers is a much loved, but oft forgotten Game Boy game.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (1991)
And now we come to the most beloved TMNT game in the franchises storied history. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time debuted in arcades in 1991. It upped the ante on every aspect of the original arcade game. A year later, the game received a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) port. This too was widely respected, despite being limited to two-player. So much was this game beloved, that a remake was subsequently released in 2009 (more on that later).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (1991)
Another oft forgotten TMNT game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project arrived in the dying throes of the NES. The game largely follows the rules of the NES port of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Games, with a couple of minor additions. A new throw attack and a special move unique to each turtle, plus a more varied level design. Sadly, it misses much of the charm of it’s predecessor.
TMNT Games: Handheld (1991-1992)
During this period no less than four more single-game handheld electronic devices were released. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Shredder’s Last Stand, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Basketball, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles: Four for Four. Yes, those last two feature the European branding, as at the time the word ‘ninja’ was still prevented from being used alongside the brand in several countries.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (1992)
After years of waiting, SEGA fans finally got in on the action! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist features a lot of the same character animations as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. Some levels were even reused with a few minor cosmetic changes. However, there is a completely new plot, some new levels, and one new boss. The game was well received by Mega-Drive/Genesis fans, yet still considered inferior to it’s SNES counterpart.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (1993)
The third and final TMNT game to grace the Game Boy. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue had a different premise to its predecessors, but maintained much of made them enjoyable. The player begins the game by taking control of Michaelangelo, who must rescue the other turtles. There was more depth in the design, emulating a light metroidvania. Once rescued, the player could take control of the other turtles, each with a different ability.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (1993)
The last of the 16-bit era TMNT games, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters was a strange beast. The SNES title featured 10 playable characters, while the SEGA Mega-Drive/Genesis version only offered eight. One of which wasn’t even a Ninja Turtles character. As a one-on-one beat-’em-up, the game borrowed heavily from Street Fighter II. It was surprisingly well received considering the amount of Street Fighter II clones around the time. A year later, a NES version arrived. It was not as well appreciated as the 16-bit editions.
TMNT Games: Handheld (1995-1997)
The latter part of the decade was incredibly light on TMNT games. The initial buzz began to fade as children grew into teenagers, and so just two games were released. Both single game handheld devices. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Dimension X Assault and Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation. The latter of which was based on the ill-fated first attempt to reboot the franchise.
TMNT Games: The 2000’s
The first few years of the new decade offered no new TMNT games. But by 2003, we had new console hardware. And by 2005, mobile phones had begun maturing. The franchise aimed to capitalise on these new technological innovations, however there was undoubtedly many misfires.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)
Launching on new hardware means resetting the naming convention, right? Not confusing in the slightest. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the Game Boy Advance was based on the second reboot. This single player only game is unique in that each turtle has his own set of levels to complete. In addition to the traditional side-scrolling levels, there are races, a shell-glider level and a bike race between Raphael and Casey Jones. It was interesting, but certainly not a high point compared to previous games.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)
This Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not to be confused with the above Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC game was an attempt to bring the scrolling beat-’em-up formula into a new era. It received a decidedly mixed response. However, it laid the groundwork for better sequels to come.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus (2004)
The first sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus, added in four-player co-op gameplay. Aside from that, there was very little that changed. However, the Game Boy Advance edition more closely resembled that of the home consoles, albeit remaining a 2D beat-’em-up experience. An altered version of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game was included as an unlockable bonus. The two Game Boy Advance titles were eventually repackaged in a double pack cartridge.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare (2005)
Finally, things hard turned a corner. All the promise presented by the previous two titles was brought into the light. This was a fun, four-player, 3D scrolling beat-’em-up. The biggest criticism levelled at the game was it’s brevity, consisting of just four levels. A slightly altered unlockable version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time was offered on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare disc, and the franchise also made its debut on Nintendo DS at this time.
TMNT: Mutant Melee (2005)
A second TMNT game offered in 2005, also on GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC. TMNT: Mutant Melee is a party game spin-off. Oddly, the PlayStation 2 version skipped North America, yet was the only version released in Europe. It was essentially an attempt at innovating with the Super Smash Bros. /Power Stone formula, but lacked any real depth.
TMNT Games: Mobile & Plug-and-Play (2005-2006)
The next two years were swarmed with TMNT games across mobile phones and plug-and-play devices. None of which are particularly memorable. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Fast Forward: Ninja Training NYC marked the series mobile debut, and was followed by TMNT: The Power of 4. TMNT: Battle for the City, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants and Monsters Mayhem and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Way of the Warrior all launched as individual plug-and-play devices. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants and Monsters Mayhem is noteworthy as a light-gun game.
2007 saw yet another reboot, this time as an animated movie. Alongside that came the TMNT games, made for all current formats. Xbox 360, Wii, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC, PSP, Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS all saw a release based on the film. This was the first time the license changed hands, as now it was Ubisoft at the helm, not Konami. As such, the home console and PC versions were very different to what we’d seen before. Single-player story lead experiences, they featured much in the way of platforming sections, not too dissimilar to the Prince of Persia games of the time.
TMNT Games: Mobile (2009)
2009 brought two more TMNT games to mobile. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ninja Tribunal and TMNT: The Shredder Reborn faired better than their predecessors, yet still failed to offer anything memorable. Despite the name, both of these titles were based on the ongoing cartoon series, opposed to the standalone 2007 movie.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up (2009)
Ubisoft continue to ignore the TMNT games heritage, instead choosing to carve their own path. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up for Wii and PlayStation 2 was a blatant Super Smash Bros. Melee clone, and was even worked on by developers who had contributed to Nintendo’s star performer. However, it failed to recreate the magic. Both critical and commercial reception was poor.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled (2009)
Thankfully, the decade was rounded out by a return to form. A remake of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, this new version featured entirely overhauled visuals, reworked cinematics and entirely re-recorded voice acting. The game was a resounding commercial success, despite a mediocre critical reception. The original Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions were June 2011, due to an expired license.
TMNT Games: The 2010’s
During this decade we had a few notable titles. However, most of the turtles’ appearances in videogames came by way of guesting. Smite, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, Injustice 2, Nickelodeon Kart Racers and Nickelodeon Super Brawl Universe all saw one or more of the gang featured. It was, in fact, the Nintendo 3DS that hosted the most original outings from the half-shelled heroes.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2013)
Based on the film of the same name, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows launched for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. And this time, it was Activision at the helm. It was an interesting but ultimately disappointing take on the more traditional TMNT game formula. A four-player online mode and offline two-player co-op were included, but this wasn’t enough to save the game from a poor critical reception.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2013)
Hot on the heels of Activision’s first title came a second TMNT game. This one however, was based on yet another reboot of the animated series. The Xbox 360 and Wii versions received a very poor response, and the Wii U version was cancelled altogether. The Nintendo 3DS version however, was met much more warmly, which could be why the console would go on to have several new TMNT games.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Training Lair (2014)
Now this is an odd one. An Xbox 360 Kinect exclusive title, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Training Lair players must complete various challenges based around each of the turtles weapons. It was… not great. It was based on the 2014 movie however, which was pretty good. But that’s another story.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Another game based on the 2014 movie, this time for Nintendo 3DS. Developed by Magic Pockets and published by Activision, the game is third-person action game that will let players switch between the four turtles at any time. Each turtle possesses his own set of stats and skills, with Raphael, as a given example, centering on strength and Michelangelo focusing more on speed.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the Ooze (2014)
A third 2014 release, again for the Nintendo 3DS, but also Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the Ooze is again based on the Nickelodeon animated series. The game was 2.5D platformer in which the Nintendo 3DS version stood up well against it’s home console brethren. So much so, that a double pack of TMNT games was subsequently released for Nintendo 3DS.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan (2016)
And now we come to the title that is considered to have broken PlatinumGames’ golden run. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan was not well received. Launching on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox 360, and Xbox One, the game took the typical TMNT game scrolling beat-’em-up formula and tried to add a splash of PlatinumGames’ pinash. It failed. Subsequently, it was the very last TMNT game published by Activision.
TMNT Games: Mobile (2016-2020)
Rounding out the decade came a handful of mobile TMNT games. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Legends, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ninja Run and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Madness graced Android and iOS devices, with wildly varying degrees of success.
TMNT Games: The Future
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge (2022)
Recently confirmed for release on 16th June, 2022, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a throwback to those halcyon days. Developed by the same studio that brought us Streets of Rage 4, hopes are high that Dot Emu can live up to expectation. Bringing in a six-player co-operative mode could certainly help push the envelope for the genre.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection (2022)
The last title currently on the agenda is in fact not a new game, but a compilation of many of the titles listed above! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection includes 13 classic TMNT games from a number of different formats, including some of the oft overlooked Game Boy titles! The package will launch on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S later this year.