Review: TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is a must-play arcade throwback

Everyone's favorite heroes in a half shell are back—and they're here to reclaim their '90s arcade-brawling glory.

Enlarge / Everyone’s favorite heroes in a half shell are back—and they’re here to reclaim their ’90s arcade-brawling glory. (credit: Dotemu / Tribute Games)

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. 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

The game opens with a classically styled animated intro set to the TV series’ original theme song (re-recorded, sadly, but it has Mike Patton from Faith No More on vocals, which is cool.) (credit: Dotemu / Tribute Games)

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.

I’d love a version of the game’s title screen that doesn’t have text on it. This design looks rad, and I prefer the pixelated version over the hand-drawn one on the game’s physical box. (credit: Dotemu / Tribute 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.