Arnold Invades The NES!

The Governator had five mind-blowing games for the ol' Grey Box...
November 26, 2012

When I was growing up, one of the biggest stars out there was Arnold Schwarzenegger. His stock may have a fallen a bit in recent years, but there's little doubt that he's still one of the biggest badasses to walk this Earth, Jingle All The Way notwithstanding. Around the time of Terminator 2, it's safe to say that Arnold was my hero. Well, one of them, besides Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (who, contrary to popular belief, are *not* real individuals! Who knew?).

During the same time, Nintendo had also more or less taken over the world, or at least the U.S. By the early-1990's, the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis had come around, but I still had love for the ol' 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System along with the shiny new 16-bitters. With Arnold taking over the box office time and time again, it was a given that some games with his mug on the cover would show up on the video game consoles of the day. When it comes to the NES, there were five earth-shaking games featuring ol' Arnie. In order of release: Predator, Total Recall, Terminator 2, The Terminator and Last Action Hero (NOTE: since Conan doesn't appear to be specifically based on the Arnold movies, I'm not including it).

Arnold Sez:

"Jah, I haef mah own veedeo gaemes!"

I have two distinct memories involving these Arnold Schwarzenegger games on the NES: 1) My cousins had Predator, and 2) I remember my neighbor getting Terminator 2 at the time of it's release (he gave me the box, which later made up my almost-complete copy of the game). In both cases, obviously I was there to see the actual games in action, but the memories of hanging with my older cousins as they played the NES are far stronger.

Now, we all know that movie-based games usually don't fare too well. In fact, most of the time they're a recipe for bitter tears and sorrow. But, did Arnold break that mold? If anyone could, it would have been him. Unfortunately for me, my favorite Arnold movie, Commando, was never translated into an NES game, despite the fact the flick is tailor-made for a video game (yes, I know there was *a* Commando for the NES, but it's not based on the movie Commando and is thus inferior, no matter how good the game actually is).

Never happened.

Oh well. Anyway, let's go through Arnold's big five NES games in order of release. Will there be hidden gems? Will there be games that cause suicidal tendencies? Let's find out! It'll be fun!

(By the way, I'm not really going to get into the storylines for these games. They're kinda sorta based on their respective movies, but they can deviate so much that there's just not much point. No one should expect a faithful movie-to-game adaption on the NES, anyway.)



Released in 1988 by Activision.

Okay, first off, I was under the impression this was released in 1988, but extensive research (aka a quick look at Mobygames) is also bringing up 1989, and the copyright screen isn't any help. Either way, this is Arnold's maiden voyage on the NES. Predator is a film many (most?) people would consider among Arnold's best, myself included. So, even if the game royally sucks, it has that going for it; A bad NES game is better than no NES game at all, right?

The jungle scenery, high difficulty and evocative music immediately recall Contra, except the music isn't as good and the difficulty isn't high because it's challenging, but rather because it's cheap. The fact you're in the jungle fighting aliens is about as close as this gets to Contra.

There are cheap hits aplenty, and the controls are a little too loose. You can duck, but you can't punch while ducking, and you are never automatically equipped with a gun. The enemies are straight-up weird, including what look to be floating jellyfish, ghosts, and fireball-spitting plants (is this Mario?). The music, though, is classic NES. There aren't a ton of tunes, but what's there sounds really good for a late-1980's game. Really sets the mood.

Having your sprite wear pink was probably not a wise decision.

There are always a few 'regular', standard platform-based rounds, and at the end of the last one you'll face a Predator. Defeat him, and you'll go into "Big Mode" (yes, the game actually calls it that). In Big Mode, Arnold looks better, but he's destined to fight an endless barrage of bubbles. I know what you're thinking: "The hell?" Yeah, it's weird. After defeating endless bubbles, you get the chance to pump a few rounds into a Big Mode Predator, after which you move on to the next stage.

Believe it or not, the game isn't too bad. It almost manages to work inspite of itself. Don't get me wrong, it's no masterpiece, it doesn't rank higher than "okay", but there are much worse things ahead. I probably shouldn't tell you this so early in the article, but this is probably the best NES game with Arnold attached to it.

Arnold Sez:

"Jah, eets grate gaeme! You veel eenjoy eet!"


Total Recall

Released in 1990 by Acclaim.

Two words:

Yes, Total Recall, universally considered one of the worst games ever. It's reputation is well deserved, because this thing is B-A-D. Such an unholy mess of a platformer. The first sign of trouble? Your sprite:

Arnold or an escaped gorilla?

This game just flat out sucks. You're constantly barraged by cheap hits, and Arnold refuses to control well enough in order to avoid them. The stage designs are repetitive, the enemies cheap, and the music overtop of it all is enough to make you put a fist through your TV screen. Most of the graphics pretty much suck out loud.'s not a total waste. There are a couple moments where the designers sobered up long enough to use what appears to be imagination: At the end of the first stage, you're trapped in a room with your deranged wife. You've got to defeat her and grab her gun before some random henchman with a machine gun enters the room. If he does enter the room, you won't be able to take him out, whether you've grabbed the gun or not. How do you know when he's almost there? Mirrors (or are they monitors?) in the room show his progress outside the door.

The other kinda neat moment is at the start of the second stage, when you fight behind an X-Ray screen. It's a neat visual, but it would be better if you didn't have enemy soldiers and flying robots wasting your ass every five seconds.

The graphics by and large are pretty awful, especially for a 1990 game. But the cutscenes, while not exactly good, can be entertaining, and they do a passable job of moving the story along. They may be the best part of this game, not that that's saying much.

So much has been written about this travesty, and it's poor in so many ways, that frankly I just don't have that much to say about it. If you don't have this one, it's worth the $1 or $2 you can probably pick it up for, even if you're buying it for all the wrong reasons (in other words, this is like the Plan 9 of NES games; It may not be the worst, but you still gotta see it to believe it).

Also, there's a cutscene where Arnold wraps a towel around his head. That's gotta be worth something, right?

Arnold Sez:

"Ack! Ther ees onlee von vay to taek caer ov thees gaeme!"

We get it, Acclaim. He's The Terminator. Very clever.


Terminator 2

Released in 1991 by LJN.

The name LJN is enough to conjure up bitter tears at the mere mention of it. Simply put, LJN was not known for making good NES games. If you see "LJN" on a cart, it's a pretty safe bet that the game sucks. Besides A Nightmare On Elm Street, I'm not sure if they released any genuinely good games. I do think The Karate Kid isn't too bad, though, and believe it or not, neither is Terminator 2.

LJN plus a movie license should and usually did equal a travesty of Titanic-proportions, but surprisingly, Terminator 2 is fairly decent. The graphics are well-detailed, the animation is fantastic, and the music, while not especially memorable, gets the job done. Despite a receding hairline, even your Arnold sprite looks pretty respectable:

It's kind of a platformer/beat-'em-up hybrid, and it plays pretty well, but it's very difficult. The little thugs you have to fight take quite a few punches. When there's only one, it's no problem to just stand there and fire away. But, if there's two or three, you can either a) stand there and punch repeatedly while taking cheap hits, or b) continuously punch-and-run. Either way, it's not my preferred method of playing, but this is still lightyears better than any number of other LJN games.

In 1991, I was all about Terminator 2. I had the majority of Batman, Ghostbusters, and Ninja Turtles figures, but I'm not exaggerating when I say I had every T2 toy, even that Future Wars or whatever it was spin-off at the end of the line. Even so, I don't recall being all that jealous when my neighbor got this game. Frankly, I don't think I was all that impressed with it. I did have T2 for MS-DOS, which I loved, so it's safe to say my tastes were decidedly "whack". Being older and wiser now, I see the truth.

That driving level seen above is what stops the game dead in it's tracks. It is H-A-R-D. Not only do you have to dodge obstacles and shoot open doorways, you've also got T-1000 on your ass. The level is beatable, it ain't Battletoads, but it does grind things to a halt.

Whoa! Nudity! I don't wanna see no naked Arnold in my NES game!

When all is said and done, I'd put this one nearly on par with Predator. Predator still gets the nod, but T2 is definitely a pleasant surprise.

Arnold Sez:

"Jah, see? I yam knot such ah baed guy!"


The Terminator

Released in 1992 by Mindscape.

This came out after Terminator 2 for the NES. T2 had a TON of merchandise, and it set off a whole new wave of popularity for the franchise. LJN already had the rights to T2, so Mindscape went with the next best thing: an NES adaption of the first Terminator movie.

This may be the most interesting cart in this article, as it's the only one where you don't play as Arnold. Of course, his mug is on the cover, and he's in the game, so it still counts. Obviously, since Arnold was a BAD GUY in the first film, a game with the premise of killing multiple Sarah Connor's probably wouldn't have flown. So, instead you play as the hero of the first film: Kyle Reese. Except he looks less like Michael Biehn and more like Richard Dean Anderson:

His mind is the ultimate weapon!

Truthfully, I was ready to crap all over this one. You character kinda sucks. 1) He runs like Steve Urkel. 2) In order to high-jump, your character actually crouches and then jumps, which takes some getting used to and leads to more than a few bottomless pit deaths. 3) When shooting, rather than just blasting, Kyle will crouch and pull out his gun, leaving you open to attack momentarily. 4) For a badass future superhero, it sure looks like he's wearing jogging attire; NOT something that inspires confidence! Furthermore, You start out in the future and work your way back, something never really seen in the movie, which means this is even less faithful than most other movie adaptions. Also, the music sucks. It's not Total Recall bad, but it sure ain't good, either.

Like every other game so far, this is a platformer, and it can be incredibly cheap.You WILL take undeserved hits, and you WILL fall off ledges even when you've made perfectly valid jumps. That said, there are a few bright spots to the cart: Once you get used to the controls, you can actually manage pretty well. The crouch-and-shoot scheme helpfully lets you shoot not only straight ahead, but also at upward and downward angles.

The graphics actually aren't too bad. They don't look especially realistic (because the NES was so well known for realism), but there's a lot of detail. Decrepit buildings and the like, and as seen above, a ground littered with human skulls! Pretty disturbing stuff for an NES game!

Just like T2, this game starts out tough, and then stops dead in it's tracks when it comes time for a driving level. Except this one is even more of a pain in the ass. You can go through your lives much quicker in this game than in T2, and even if you manage to conserve them, you'll waste them quick at this point. The Terminator already isn't a winner, and this just kills the game. Screw this.

Arnold Sez:

"Jahhh!!! Dees gaeme ees driveeng me craezee!!!"


Last Action Hero

Released in 1993 by Sony Imagesoft

By 1993, the NES was all but dead. The last official game would be released in 1994. Needless to say, this was Arnold's last game on the venerable console. How did it fare? Not very well. Remember when I said a bad NES game is better than no NES game? I was wrong.

You know what, I'm just gonna say it: this game is crap. Pure, unadulterated crap. It is far and away the worst game on this list. Anyone who thinks Total Recall is one of the worst games ever hasn't played this. This game is practically broken.

This one is more of a beat-'em-up than the other games, not that it matters. Everything about this stupid game is a waste. The graphics? They have the "Microsoft Paint" syndrome, something that seems to have afflicted many 3rd party games in the waning years of the NES. The sounds? Horrible, wrecthed noises. The controls? Arnold can barely do anything and he can't do anything well. This thing is basically unplayable.

Not only does he look like a reject from Elevator Action...

...But he also punches like Popeye.

"Blow me down!"

By 1993, I still loved Arnold, and even *I* couldn't have been bothered to go see this idiotic movie. It seems the programmers cared even less, because this game is a mess. No matter what, you're going to get your ass kicked, but the levels are so uninteresting that it doesn't even matter.

Very literally, the only thing I like about this game is the city lights seen in the first level of the game. Of course, even that's done wrong: there's no skyline, no buildings, just the lights. Still, it's the highpoint of this garbage.

Yep, in the second level you get to fight knights and archers. No other game in this list compares as far as cheap hits and wasted lives go. You'll go through a lot of health very quickly, and you'll have zero fun doing it. The hell with this game.

Arnold Sez:


Yeah, no kidding. Someone verrry bad won when this game was released.

I hate Last Action Hero.


And so, there you have it. All five of Arnold Schwarzenegger's NES games. Two of them are okay at best, one of them is bad, one of them is worse than that, and one of them is vomit-inducing. Still, that's three more than Sly Stallone had, as far as the NES goes. Are they worth having? I'd say so. Even the really bad ones are still kinda entertaining. Not any fun, or playable, but entertaining. These games may have come and went, but movie-to-game adaptions live on. It's one of the few things you can count on in life: Death, taxes, and games based on movies.

Now, if you excuse me, I'm gonna play some Contra and try to forget about Last Action Hero.
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