Release Date: October 1985
We move on to a perennial favorite in the early NES catalog, Excitebike. Excitebike was certainly a go to game for me when I was a child. I liked making tracks, although I realize now how dumb some of them were.
There are three modes of play to enjoy, a solo race, a competitive race, and track design mode. It’s good to get your feet wet in the solo race to learn the ins and outs of the game. There are five tracks to choose from and you move on to the next track when you beat the one you chose. If you can beat all five, you keep racing on track five until you fail. You win a track by placing in the top three, according to the time it took to finish.
The A Button gives you a steady speed. The B button gives you turbo. You have to be careful, as using the turbo will increase your heat and once you max the gauge, you overheat and have to sit out for a few seconds while your bike cools down. There are jumps and obstacles placed on the track. You have to balance landing the jumps and keeping your speed up to beat the clock. You also want to avoid mud and grass, as they will slow you down. If you fall off your bike, you can mash the A and B buttons to get back on.
The competitive race pits you against an endless supply of other riders. The added difficulty here comes from getting wrecked by your opponents. If they hit you with their back wheel, you’ll crash and have to run back to your bike. On the flipside, you can wreck them, too, which is what I do for fun. You have to keep this in mind, because the AI wants to avoid bad obstacles and mud, just like you, so if they are a hair in front of you and you both try to get in a lane, you’re going to have a bad time.
The design mode is a fun diversion. This is the first time an NES game allowed you to create a level that you could play. You have 19 different obstacles to place along the track. I have a fondness for obstacle H, the super jump. Once you complete your track, you can race it solo or competitively. See if you can come up with a true masterpiece.
Graphics are average. I don’t much care for the solid blobs of colors in the races. They aren’t pleasing to the eye. The racers, on the otherhand, look pretty neat to me.
I like the music, that has stayed in my head for 35 years, but not the sounds. The sounds are too harsh for me to be able to listen to for long periods of time.
The gameplay is solid. There’s not much to the controls and it doesn’t seem unfair if you crash.
The first three races lull you in with a false sense of security, then race four really hits you. You have to work hard and learn the ins and outs of jumping and keeping your speed to win that one.
Fun Factor: 2.5
Excitebike isn’t the best game on the system, but I would put it as one of the best launch titles. At least, until I play all the launch titles!
Overall Grade: 2.6
Excitebike gets a B-, which is certainly within reason. There are a lot of games that will grace this system and Excitebike helps set a bar.