8-Bit Replay – Predator (1987) for NES

Even though 1987’s action hit Predator may have technically been rated R, plenty of younger teens and even pre-teens saw and loved the movie, if not in theaters then on VHS or its ubiquitous presence on cable TV for years afterward. Many of those same kids were psyched to play the official video game adaptation for NES. Really, who wouldn’t want to relive the excitement of Predator, playing as Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting a deadly alien in the jungle? What a shame, then, that the game sucked so badly.

Video games based on movies are often terrible, of course. Far too many of them are rushed through development and into stores quickly to tie in with publicity for the film they’re based on. That’s obviously the case with Predator. More than that, however, this game is especially awful, even compared to numerous other lousy movie tie-in games from the 8-bit era.

Predator NES (1987) - Gameplay
Year of Release: 1987
Publisher: Activision
Gaming Platform: NES

At first glance, you’d be forgiven for believing that the NES Predator was actually called Schwarzenegger Predator. The actor’s name and likeness are plastered all over the box art as well as the main title screen. Don’t go assuming that means the actual game character will resemble him at all, though. In the majority of levels, hero Dutch is represented with a ridiculously bland and undetailed character sprite wearing a pink (yes, pink!) outfit for some reason.

The game is a very simplistic side-scrolling shoot-’em-up. As the little pink Dutch, you jog through levels that look vaguely like a jungle or caves, fighting off enemies including nondescript guerrilla combatants, snakes, and scorpions. Mixed with these are some really weird stuff, such as living balls, flying seahorses, and things that sort of look like ghost piranha. None of the latter have any precedent in the Predator movie, but I suppose we’re meant to shrug them off as “alien” and move on. The game has to fill its stages somehow.

Most of your fighting consists of punching. That’s your primary weapon. Although a gun and some hand grenades are occasionally available, they’re not terribly effective (the gun’s bullets move absurdly slowly) and there’s no way to switch weapons or revert back to punching. Whatever you have in hand is your only method of attack until you pick up something else, die, or finish the level. That’s especially problematic when you get saddled with the awkward grenades, which are useless against any fast-moving target. As soon as you move to the next level, your weapon disappears and you’re right back to punching again until/unless you find something else.

You also have a self-destruct option. For the most part, this is a pretty stupid thing to do, as it will immediately end your game and make you start over. However, you may find yourself trapped in some areas that seem impossible to leave, where a self-destruct may be the only way to get out.

Predator NES (1987) - Awful graphics

Everything about this Predator game stinks. The graphics are bad, the music is atrocious, and the gameplay is both tedious and infuriating. The physics are a mess and you have next to no fine control over your character. On countless occasions, I found myself either walking into or pushed through what looked like a solid wall but would turn out to be an empty hole that made me fall to my death.

Perhaps the most hilarious and dumbest parts of the game are the handful of levels labeled “Big Mode,” which give you a much larger and slightly more detailed character sprite that at least somewhat vaguely resembles Schwarzenegger and wears bright green instead of pink. The Big Mode levels move on-rails and force you to shoot bubbles and fruit for points. The controls here are somehow even worse than the regular levels. When you jump, the character slowly leaps the equivalent of 20 feet or so and remains in the air for 5-10 seconds. The sprite is so big, and your rifle so inaccruate, that there’s almost no way to avoid being hit and damaged by the bubbles and fruit.

Predator NES (1987) - Big Mode

If you can somehow suffer through all the torturous levels, the final boss is a giant, disembodied flying Predator head way out of scale with Dutch.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t get that far on my own. I gave up about two-thirds of the way through the game and just watched the rest in a walkthrough video on YouTube. Nostalgia leaves me fond of a great many crappy NES games, but this one exceeded my tolerances.

Predator NES (1987) - Box


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