Big Apple, 3:00 A.M.
If you’re a certain type of person, odds are good that right now a series of lights and sounds are playing in your head reminding you of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time for the SNES. To everyone else, it can be hard to explain, but that game is perfect. Perfect! Whether you played the aforementioned SNES cartridge or its original arcade cabinet, there’s no denying that none of the other two dozen or so TMNT games that have been released since have been Turtles in Time. Let’s be honest here, most of these games range from good to great, but when you play them, if you’re anything like me you’re thinking “Okay, this is cool, but why aren’t I just playing Turtles in Time?” A fair question! I don’t have a good answer for it, either.
If you’re curious, however, about which games come closest to being Turtles in Time, hang tight dude, because you’re not going to believe what I have for you. It’s your lucky day. Here’s every Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle game ranked by whether or not it’s actually Turtles in Time!
(Oh, and I didn’t feel the need to include every offshoot pinball or Tiger electronics TMNT game they made. Everything I forgot to include on this list was done on purpose. 100 percent.)
#25. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Training Lair (Kinect)
I’m sure it will surprise nobody to read this stupid Kinect game is nothing at all like Turtles in Time and unfortunately much more like some awkward Nick Arcade thing. Nick Arcade was a game show, by the way. Not some guy.
#24. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splintered Fate (Apple Arcade)
This game is an absolute gem, and could really be a little breakout hit if it ever comes off of Apple Arcade and hits Steam or consoles or something. I played the hell out of this when came out earlier this year, but not because it’s anything like Turtles in Time. In fact, they’re straight-up doing Hades here. But honestly, Ninja-Turtles-as-Hades is a blast. Download this on an iPad and sync a controller up and watch the hours disappear. Then impress your friends by knowing about this weird Ninja Turtle game no one has heard of but is totally real, I swear to god.
#23. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Xbox 360, PS3, Windows)
While surprisingly deep and not a total failure, Out of the Shadows feels like the Turtles doing Arkham style combat more than the straightforward brawling their games became beloved for. Still, like Splintered Fate, it can be kind of fun when the dudes take on a different style of game once in a while. Hell, there’s dozens of them, they don’t all have to be Turtles in Time. I guess.
#22. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
This game does a whole bunch of shit, and almost none of it is like Turtles in Time. If you want to be optimistic, you could say this game is ambitious and tries a lot of stuff. If you want to be realistic, then you know that it fails at most of it. The underwater segment rightfully has a reputation for being overly difficult, but even if you beat that there’s a bunch of van shit where you drive the van around and deal with increasingly confusing and unfair enemies and levels. In short, it’s all kinda bogus, whereas Turtles in Time is majorly righteous.
#21. TMNT: Mutant Melee (Gamecube, PS2, Xbox, Windows)
This fighting game deserves credit for not just going through the motions and banging out yet another brawler, but that credit isn’t anything that can be applied to this list, pal. Mutant Melee brings to mind Power Stone, TMNT Tournament Fighters, hell, even that Tom & Jerry game I discovered on the N64 earlier this year, but doesn’t remind me at all of Turtles in Time. And around here, that’s a big ‘fuck you.’
#20. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Windows)
This is another one of those more modern ones that is kind of fine, but feels like a bunch of other games more than it does Turtles in Time. While the sense of humor and hack-and-slash gameplay harken back to classic Turtles games, the fact that there’s just way too much shit everywhere at all times will remind you that this game definitely came out in 2016. Also, despite so much going on, all the levels are kind of same-y, something you’d have to be a real shithead to say about Turtles in Time.
#19. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Arcade Attack (DS)
Most of the TMNT games that came after Ubisoft took over from Konami are lifeless, and this DS installment is no different. You DO travel through time a little bit, however, doing some fighting in the year 2110 at one point. Overall, this one reminded me of Turtles in Time, but in a “Man, I wish I was playing Turtles in Time right now,” kind of way. That’s a long way off from the game actually being Turtles in Time, I’m afraid.
#18. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up (Wii, PS2)
This fighting game on the Wii had you use the system’s signature motion controls to try and defeat your opponent. I’m sorry, but flailing around and pretending I’m a Ninja Turtle in the living room while my mother asks me if everything is okay down there is behavior reserved for a) before I’ve gotten to rent Turtles in Time and b) after I’ve gotten my copy of Turtles in Time confiscated and I’m all worked up about it. That stuff isn’t for when you are actually playing.
#17. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue (Game Boy)
This fantastic game is a little slept on, maybe because it’s largely assumed to be a generic third entry in a brawler series. It’s actually kind of a Metroidvania, though! I find it to be a really refreshing change of pace from all of the other first wave Turtles games. I also like the way there’s a story here that has you start as Michelangelo and find your brothers. It just feels more specific than the generic stories most of these games have. You know what, though? None of these things I’m talking about happen in Turtles in Time. Sorry, Radical Rescue, but that’s going to cost you.
#16. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the Ooze (Xbox 360, PS3, 3DS)
Did you know about the Danger of the Ooze? I didn’t! As a kid, I remember the second movie was called The Secret of the Ooze, but you know what? I watched that movie two dozen times, and I don’t know what secret about the ooze they supposedly figure out. What, that a company called TGRI made the ooze? I don’t know. Is that a huge deal? I figured someone made it. So, it was a company called TGRI. Ooh, call the President! Also, I thought the ooze made the turtles smart, right? Why did it make Tokka and Rahzar think Shredder was their mom? And then it makes Super Shredder so dumb he knocks a damn patio down onto himself? I think the secret of the ooze is that Shredder watered that last batch down. That’s what I think. Anyway, this one is actually another Ninja Turtles Metroidvania! It could be better, but it’s definitely a fun twist on the classic Turtles game. Not very much like Turtles in Time though, when you think about it.
#15. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare (Gamecube, DS, Xbox, PS2)
The fact that this series got up to number three makes it a little bit like Turtles in Time! Other than that though, it’s another one of the newer fangled ones. The four player co-op is solid, the fighting and levels are all okay but lack variety, and the graphics remind me more of that Simpsons game from this era than the classic Turtles games. Did there need to be three games in this series? Probably not. But, I’m running through two dozen Ninja Turtles games over in a day and a half, so I don’t think I should really be listened to when it comes to the necessity or overall quality of any of these, you got it? Just how much they are or are not Turtles in Time. That’s what they pay me for.
#14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus (Gamecube, Game Boy Advance, Xbox, PS2, Windows)
This particular run of games is based on a different era of TMNT and made by Ubisoft, not Konami. As such, they’re fine but all a little boring, resting on the wrong side of the line that divides brawlers between ‘fun combat’ and ‘instantly redundant button mashing.’ This one lets you unlock the original arcade game on the console versions though, so an Easter Egg that houses Turtles in Time’s prequel counts for something here. Enjoy it, Battle Nexus.
#13.Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan (Game Boy)
Considering it’s the fellas’ 1990 Game Boy debut, Fall of the Foot Clan is a bit of a surprise. The music and graphics are all pretty good for the system, and best of all, it’s straight forward enough that a Turtles in Time fan on a car ride could’ve had a pretty good time with this game. What’s kind of weird about it, however, is the way you stop to play a minigame every couple of minutes. I get that there’s not a ton of levels and they were padding out the length, but I don’t think stopping to play Splinter in three-card monte adds anything to this TMNT experience.
#12. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2013) (360, Wii, 3DS)
This is actually a nice step back towards Turtlesintimeness for the franchise after several years spent chasing down other inspirations. It’s all in the new-fangled Nickelodeon style, so be ready for that, but as far as straightforward beating up the Foot clan with great co-op goes, this particular version of a game called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ain’t bad at all. No time travel, though. It’s all just sewers and subway stations and whatnot. Boo.
#11. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection
This is a great collection, and is like 15 percent Turtles in Time. Not bad!
#10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled (Xbox 360, PS3)
This game literally is Turtles in Time on some technical level, but this remastered version came back different and wrong. Did you see that movie Annihilation? This game is Oscar Isaac, all dead-eyed and not the man Natalie Portman married. Man, they should’ve made an Annihilation brawler game. That would have been tight. Anyway, this remaster felt off and they left some of the best parts out of it.
#9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)(GameCube, Game Boy Advance, PS2, Xbox, Windows)
You know, if you’re just emulating whatever old games you play, you’d think trying the PS2 or GameCube versions of this game would be the way to go, but you’d actually be wrong. There’s nothing wrong with those versions, but check out the GBA for some true classic SNES-looking turtle action. It actually does some things that I thought Shredder’s Revenge came up with, like giving each Turtle their own progression. I had no idea! There’s so many of these games, though. You can totally miss a few. There’s 25 damn Turtles games on this list and inevitably someone is going to leave a comment pointing out some that I missed, like some mobile game no one on earth gave a shit about. Come on, there’s no way you like TMNT: Portal Power. You just want to give me the business.
#8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (SNES, NES, Genesis)
This is from the same era, so the graphics certainly remind me of Turtles in Time. It’s a completely different genre, but I don’t think I’m going to dock this fighting games as much as you might think I should. It’s like Turtles in Time in a way, except of getting along everybody’s fighting. I’ll take it!
#7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers (Game Boy)
A little more polished than the previous Game Boy entry, this one checks a lot more Turtles in Time boxes. The levels are much more detailed, the opening movie absolutely rips, and when a turtle goes into a sewer, they ask who has turned out the lights. There’s a lot to love in this Game Boy cart if you have an unhealthy obsession with a single entry in the franchise that came out several months before this one. I know I do!
#6. TMNT (2007) (360, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS, Gamecube, Windows)
The console versions of this game feel more like every 3D platform/action game that came out around this time than a classic Turtles game. It’s fun enough if you’re into that sort of thing. Oh, and the training level has you on some feudal Japanese style stuff. You’re a Turtle in Time for a second! It ain’t much, but it’s something. Also, ALSO, the big thing here is the GBA version was an entirely different game, an incredible classic Turtles experience, and even features some of the same programmers and artists that went on to make Shredder’s Revenge, a game that you’ll be reading about several ad impressions from now!
#5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES)
Honestly kind of an overlooked Ninja Turtles game. It doesn’t look as pretty as Turtles in Time, and you stay in the present the entire time like a bunch of assholes, but this is the best Turtles game on the NES and possibly a classic-style Turtles game you haven’t checked out before. There’s no time travel, but the level variety is nice and the Technodrome stuff is really cool. Just remember that it’s an NES game though, and sometimes it’s gonna chug and slow down like a lawn mower going over a patch of high grass.
#4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
Much like Sonic Mania and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, Shredder’s Revenge takes a classic style of game everyone loved and made it play like you remembered it playing. Shredder’s Revenge gives nods to many other Turtles games of the past, but has Turtles in Time in its mutated DNA. I personally love the depth added here, but if you really want the tried and true Turtles in Time style, you could argue that the added combos, secrets, DLC, and so forth add a layer of bloat to a perfectly simple formula. I’d get what you meant, but man, at the end of the day this game is Turtles in Time and then some. To me, it’s the best Turtles game ever made. Although to be fair, it isn’t at the top of the list, because it isn’t Turtles in Time. That’s what we’re doing here.
#3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989) (Arcade)
This arcade classic (also ported to the NES as TMNT II) is the predecessor to Turtles in Time, and therefore a monumental addition to this list. If Turtles in Time never happened, it’s likely I’d be spending my afternoon comparing the subsequent Turtles games to this stone cold classic, but as it stands, they perfected this near-perfect game a few years later, by adding dinosaurs and lasers and shit. Still though, one of the all-time greats right here. Just maybe not enough lasers and dinosaurs.
#2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist (Genesis)
This game is SO MUCH like Turtles in Time! For years I thought this was some full blown other Turtles game I’d missed out on. Then years later I discovered it’s cobbled together from about 75% Turtles in Time parts. Whole levels and shit! If it wasn’t for Turtles in Time, this would be the Turtles game most like Turtles in Time. Whoa. Shellshocked!
#1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Arcade) (TMNT IV on SNES)
Well, here it is. The whole deal. I don’t really know what to say here. Hey, did you scroll all the way to the bottom to see if this was number one? That’s sort of strange. I don’t know what you expected. Anyways, this game is pretty good!