Tonight on Dino Drac: Eight great enemy bosses from various NES games.
(Note that they aren’t all final bosses, because sometimes the coolest bad guys aren’t the last ones.)
Super Macho Man
(Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!)
As World Circuit champ and top boxer not named Mike Tyson, there was plenty to love about Super Macho Man. For me, it started with his name, which I of course took to mean that he had something to do with Randy Savage. (He didn’t.)
I loved his ludicrous height. I loved his Spin Punch, and the dumb face he made when you smacked him afterward. I even loved his weirdly suggestive bouncing pecs.
Above all else, I loved his hair. I loved how it was grey on the pre-fight screen and then jet black in the ring. As a kid, I theorized that Super Macho Man was secretly ancient and vainly dyed his hair to hide it. (I’m sure the truth was more incidental, but it’s still a good theory.)
Though Willy was the top villain in the Double Dragon arcade game, the Nintendo version knocked him down a peg. Therein appearing as the boss before the final boss, Willy nonetheless remained totally badass.
IMO, the draw of Nintendo’s version was that Willy didn’t quite look human. He seemed like the midpoint between a Klingon and one of the mutants from The Hills Have Eyes. Pretty cool, right? Now add a purple machine gun. Willy was aces.
Great Puma was my white (white and orange) whale. Mentioned but not shown in the Pro Wrestling instruction manual, I was obsessed with fighting that dude. To this day, it’s still never happened.
You needed to beat the computer around fifteen times for a shot at Great Puma, an unplayable character and competing world champ. Even when I went ultra cheap and just spammed the hell out of King Slender’s backbreaker, I was nowhere near good enough to pull that off.
I’d eventually see shots of him in Nintendo strategy guides, and could then only imagine the profound pride that assuredly came with wrestling a… humanoid version of one of those flying fish from Super Mario Brothers? Wait, how is that a puma?
(Batman: The Video Game)
Batman: The Video Game came out in 1989, so naturally it was based on the ‘89 movie.
It sort of was, anyway. The game was atmospherically on-point, but its makers took a number of liberties as a matter of spicing things up.
Chief among them were the bizarre modifications to the Joker. Appearing as the game’s final boss, Joker was roughly twice the size of Batman and capable of summoning lightning storms. He was like the Super Shredder version of the Joker.
Has anyone done a comic adaptation of the story from this game? It’d be worth it for the ending alone, where Batman doesn’t kill Joker by mere happenstance, but by deliberately throwing him off of a building. This game was severe!
Whenever I slept over my best friend’s house, there was a strong chance that we’d end up playing Castlevania well into the night. (I didn’t own the game, so when the opportunity presented itself, I maximized my minutes.)
It was like an early flirtation with horror. The sights and sounds hiding in that cartridge were spooky enough to make every piss run feel like a ghost chase. It was… oddly great.
Queen Medusa was one of the easier bosses, but her psychotic face and instant charge always kept her scary, no matter how many times I beat the snakes off of her. The fact that her little room resembled a Negaverse church only sweetened the pot. (Or soured, depending on your POV.)
I don’t know if “Mechanical Alien” is the proper name for the Stage 3 boss in Contra, but it seems to fit.
Remember the Yogurt statue from Spaceballs? Well, if Yogurt parodied Aliens instead of Star Wars, that’s what it might’ve looked like. He’s a castle-sized Xenomorph with cybernetic enhancements, and I wish he would stop throwing shit at me so I could take a minute to appreciate that.
Mohawk the Spider-Gremlin
(Gremlins 2: The New Batch)
In the Gremlins 2 Nintendo game, Mohawk gets to play boss on three separate occasions. First you fight his regular Gremlin self, then you fight his regular Gremlin self plus a gun, and then finally you fight this. Mohawk the SPIDER-Gremlin. Incredible!
Even in a movie with a hundred mark-out moments, Mohawk’s arachnid attack easily ranked in the top five. Nintendo’s rendition is arguably even more disturbing, if only because Spider-Gremlins seem scarier over black than they do in office hallways.
In Kung Fu, you had to fight through five floors of doom to save your girlfriend from the mysterious Mr. X. Each floor had its own boss, ranging from a guy with a stick to a guy with a boomerang to a guy with a big fat leg. Every guy had something.
I’ve always been especially fascinated with the Black Magician, boss of the fourth floor. Sickly and impish, the Black Magician looked like the easiest kill in the game until he started teleporting and throwing fireballs. Hell, he even grew new heads after you punched the old ones off.
He wasn’t hard to beat if you knew the trick, but if you didn’t, it was just an endless loop of him taking no damage and you taking too much.
Bonus points: He laughed when he killed you, and it sounded almost exactly like Ganon’s laugh from Zelda II.
Thanks for reading. Who/what are some of your favorite NES bosses? Compare notes in the comments!