What was going on with all of these huge NES releases for 1989? You’d think the console was in its prime or something!

Granted, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wasn’t on par, quality-wise, with the likes of Ninja Gaiden or Mega Man 2… but it did have the advantage of being the first-ever video game release to tie in with the single hottest kids’ media property of the late 1980s.

Of course, lots of kids picked it up assuming it would be an adaptation of the incredible arcade game that dominated pizza shops and mini-golf centers, although it is definitely not that game, which has not done any favors for its reputation. But, looking back at the chronology of the year’s releases (the raison d’être of this very channel!), it turns out this game predates the arcade machine by nearly half a year.

Rather than porting that future coin-op work to NES, this first TMNT release instead connects to an interesting thread of video gaming’s past and feels like the end of an era—namely, the end of the era of freewheeling innovation and a willingness to try weird new things with licensed games. Potentially disastrous things, but never boring… which kind of sums up TMNT for NES neatly, I think.

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