The brawler genre of the early 90s arcade games is pretty strange in retrospect. For years hundreds of games were produced where the heroes wandered the streets beating up seemingly infinite thug antagonists. But no title in the genre was stranger than Battletoads.
Just think of them as Ninja Turtles knock-offs, only they eat insects instead of pizza. And they’re from space. And their leader is a bird instead of a rat.
The gameplay is very similar to Double Dragon, Tradewest’s signature, arcade-style beat-em-up from the 80s. But when the 90s came around, it became clear that ass-kicking, reptilian protagonists were the way of the future. Like Double Dragon, Battletoads was notorious for its extreme difficulty. In the first level, you pound lots of pigs into submission with punching and kicking combos, which are all executed with the same attack button.
In the next level, you rappel down a long tunnel filled with crows that attack you from different directions, often making retaliation impossible. Both of these levels are difficult, but you can forget about finishing the next which forces you to jump over a sea of balls while riding in one of those speeders from the Endor scene in Return of the Jedi.
The game also features the option to have two players cooperate to beat the game, which would make the idea of victory at least semi-plausible. But trying to get through each level without punching the other player is not only frustrating, but inconceivable.
In the present day, Battletoads retains its nostalgic status in the form of a popular prank phone call perpetuated by 4Chan and other trollboards.