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Back To The Future- NES

Back To The Future- NES

BTF1Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System

Developer: Beam Software

Publisher: LJN

Release Date (NA): September, 1989

Genre: Action/Adventure

Nerd Rating: 2/10

Well, it’s Retroary, the month in which Nerd Bacon bathes in retro grease. And what would be the foulest grease to bathe in? Well folks, AbyssalOblivion has for you today one of the worst games of all time. A game that would even give the greatness of bacon a truly bad name. None other, than Back To The Future, for the NES.

I would consider myself a fan of the Back To The Future movies series. I would have to say that not only do they capture the essence and greatness of the 80’s, but they really are some of the few movies that really handle time travelling correctly. From the charm and wit of the characters, to the creativity of the overall story, audiences couldn’t help but be allured by the movie. And because of the movie’s success, it was only a matter of time before the shitmasters at LJN busted out a licensed video game based on the popular movie. Unfortunately, like other LJN games from the time period, Back to the Future is just as poorly made except is likely their worst one yet. Littered with broken gameplay and little actual resemblance to the movie, this 8-bit disaster would go on to destroy more NES controllers than a few thousand years of Punch Out!.

What makes this game so bad? Well, this guy, who just got done playing it, will be sure to let you in on a secret. So come closer, but not too close, as I tell you why this 1989 release was a Biff Tannen in disguise, trying to ruin the reputation of this fabled franchise.

The first screen of the game, and I HAVE SEVERAL QUESTIONS!

The first screen of the game, and I HAVE SEVERAL QUESTIONS!

So, for one, let’s talk about the gameplay. First thing you’ll notice, it is absolutely unforgiving. You will more than likely spend an extensive amount of time on the first screen failing, cursing, and wondering why in Doc Brown’s name that you have to play this atrocity. Well, if you decide to push on instead of tossing the cartridge in a garbage disposal, you’ll be greeted with horrendously bad gameplay, and just about the worst NES music you’ll ever hear. I really hope you enjoy skating and getting clocks though, because it feels like that’s what you’ll be doing until you die.

Back to the Future starts this way from the first scene, and because of the poor design of the game itself, you’ll be ripping your hair out and repeating these sections over and over again. Simply bumping into something you probably shouldn’t have, or letting the gut wrenching music lull you into crashing Marty, this section alone can break spirits, and it’s a screen that has to be repeated around four times to complete the game, and it gets more difficult every single time!

While that skating section of grabbing clocks and avoiding obstacles appears to be most of the gameplay, there are mini-game segments that are just as shitty as the skating, albeit a bit easier. There’s one screen where I guess you’re at the diner and you’re tossing milkshakes at what looks like someone who I think is supposed to be Biff. There’s also another section where you have to catch Lorraine’s hearts in… a book? That section confused me as to how it relates at all to the film, and it is a segment you do have to repeat once more to complete the game.

Other than those two sluggish segments, the last two segments have a bit more to do with the movie, but… not really. In one, you’re playing the worst, and probably only, 8-bit adaptations to “Johnny B. Goode” you’ve ever heard. And in the last part of the game, after passing MORE stupid skating screens collecting more of those stupid clocks, you’re driving the Delorean, trying to hit 88 MPH without hitting the lightning bolts that are coming down from the sky. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the goal in the film was for the lightning bolt to strike the car! Jeez, LJN, did you even watch the movie? You had four years to see it before you released this piece of cow manure! (Slight movie reference.)

The very confusing mini game where you catch hearts from your mom. Apparently incest is wincest according to LJN?

The very confusing mini game where you catch hearts from your mom. Apparently incest is wincest according to LJN?

Visually, all I can really say is that the game is ugly, even by 1989 standards. Other games of the time period looked much better. Every screen looks bland and dated. As for the sound, I’m still absolutely perplexed at the main song of the game. It’s what plays throughout most of the game, and it’s nightmare inducing. It’s probably the worst music I’ve ever heard in a video game, and it leaves me wondering how they got the rights to “Johnny B. Goode,” yet couldn’t get the rights to Huey Lewis’s “The Power of Love,” or even the Back to the Future theme song. The absolute lack of effort it took to make the game is evident, and the entire purpose of this game as far as the future goes will be as a sort of time capsule to remind the people of the future how shitty movie licensed video games can really be. That being said, this licensed game bears no resemblance to the plot of the film, and if I just played this game and never saw the film, it might convince me to never bother watching the movie in the first place.

He didn't know what hit him. And frankly, neither do I.

He didn’t know what hit him. And frankly, neither do I.

Overall, there really isn’t much to redeem this game. The gameplay is a poorly designed, boring, disaster, and everything else falls into the same category. The look of the game is ugly, the feel is so wonky, and the music is probably the worst I’ve ever heard in a game before. For being a mess that has little to nothing to do with the movie it represents, I give Back to the Future a nerd rating of 2 out of 10 for being at least playable but not doing anything else correctly.

Written by JMSutherland

J.M. is a traditionalistic writer with a love of video games and storytelling. Born and bred in the heart of Southern Arizona, J.M. grew up on stories around campfires and old cowboy tales. He was also brought up on PlayStation and Nintendo and has high regard for video games as not only gameplay driven experiences, but as the most effective storytelling medium to boot. A study in all things gaming, J.M. considers himself a “video game historian,” knowing everything there is to know about the industry and the history of said industry as well.

When he’s not writing reviews and gaming, J.M. enjoys comics, classic movies, pro wrestling, and generally being a cynical, critical mind. He is also a published poet and lover of fiction writing, so you may find him crafting novels, short stories, and poetry as well.

If any readers have any questions for J.M. please direct them at:


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  1. The music is annoyingly tolerable

  2. It upset me how bad this game was compared to the movie. Back to the Future had so much plot potential, then they dumped out this turd-of-a-game. It upsets me deep down for a game to ride on an awesome franchise name. I completely agree on the NB ranking here. Nice review!


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