The vast majority of celebrity endorsements in video games have happened within the sports genre. There have been many games that have been sponsored by popular athletes of the day. This trend continues into modern times, with the Madden series of games, the first of which was released in 1988. Even after all of this time, we still Madden titles to this day (despite John Madden being 80 years old).
In 1987, Nintendo released a boxing game on the Japanese Famicom system called Punch Out!!. When preparing the game for an American release, they approached Mike Tyson for an endorsement. Tyson was a rising star in the boxing world, and would continue to win titles as the game was being sold. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! was released the following year, to massive critical and commercial success.
Even without Mike Tyson’s involvement in the games, Punch-Out!! is a beloved Nintendo franchise. The gameplay is fast, and the controls are tight; the enemy boxers are memorable, and full of character. The difficulty was high, but the struggle rewarded the player with a deep sense of satisfaction (much like Dark Souls). We are here today to look at Nintendo’s biggest boxing game. From its origins in the arcade, to the true hardest difficulty mode of the game. Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Nintendo’s Punch-Out!
15. It Started As An Arcade Game
While Punch-Out!! first found mainstream success on the NES, the series’ origins actually predate the system by several years. Several members of the Punch-Out cast who appeared in the first game (like Glass Joe, Bald Bull, and Mr. Sandman) actually predate other major Nintendo characters, like Link from Legend of Zelda, and Samus from Metroid.
Before Nintendo moved into the home console market, they developed several arcade games. They hit it big with the Donkey Kong arcade machine, and were left with an abundance of video monitors to use for later games. In order to make the most of the excessive monitors, Shigeru Miyamoto came up with the idea for a boxing game that used two screens.
The original Punch-Out!! was released in the arcades in 1984. The game followed a green haired boxer (as Little Mac had yet to be created), who must defeat six other opponents in order to win the belt. The two monitors were placed vertically, with the top screen showing the scores, and the bottom screen following the action. The arcade game would see a sequel in 1984, called Super Punch-Out!!.
14. The Final Boss Of Punch Out (Wii) Is Donkey Kong (As A Reference To An Urban Legend)
In 2009, Nintendo decided to revive the Punch-Out franchise on the Wii. Punch-Out!! (Wii) was the first new game in the series for fifteen years, as it followed Super Punch-Out!! on the SNES, which was released in 1994.
Punch-Out!! (Wii) was a critically acclaimed game. It brought the brutally difficult boxing action back for a new generation of gamers. While the game only included two new fighters, it included fresh variations on old foes. While Glass Joe was still a pushover in his first fight, you had to face him again in a title defence match, where he gets to wear a training helmet to protect his jaw.
If you make it to the end of the Last Stand mode in Punch-Out!! (Wii), then you will get to challenge Donkey Kong in the boxing ring. His appearance in the game is actually a reference to one of gaming’s oldest urban legends. In the original Punch-Out!! arcade game, Donkey Kong can be seen in the audience. It was believed that he was a secret opponent in the game, and if you fulfilled some bizarre conditions, then he would leap into the ring and start fighting.
13. The Twenty Year Old Secret To Beating Bald Bull
Back in the old days of gaming, the only true cause of video game difficulty was money. The term “Nintendo Hard” refers to the extreme difficulty of many popular NES games. The reason they were made so hard was to increase the amount of video game rentals. If a game was hard, then it would take several rentals to beat it. In the 32-bit era, a lot of games started including secrets that no sane player would ever find, all in order to sell strategy guides (we’re looking at you Final Fantasy).
With the rise of the Internet, you can now find detailed guides and cheats for almost every video game ever made. If a game is popular, or has a cult following, then it will likely have had all of its secrets revealed by the fans.
It is rare then, that an older game should have any new secrets to reveal. This is exactly what happened in 2009, when Satoru Iwata revealed a secret from the original Punch-Out!! that had not been revealed in 22 years!
The secret involves a method of defeating Bald Bull that had never been discovered by fans. When he charges at the player, you can stop him by doing a body blow when an audience member takes a picture. The camera flash is what distracts him, and you can save yourself from having to endure his most powerful attack.
12. Punch Out On Game & Watch
The most famous entry in the Punch-Out!! series is the one on the NES. As we previously mentioned, it was predated by two other Punch-Out!! games in the arcades. There was another Punch-Out!! game that was sandwiched between the two arcade games – Punch-Out!! on the Game & Watch.
Almost ten years before the release of the Game Boy, Nintendo released a line of handheld systems known as Game & Watch. Each Game & Watch console had a set number of games built into the system. They were all basic games that played out on an LCD screen (similar to the kind used in calculators). While the system seems primitive now, it inspired the release of the Game Boy, and the clamshell design of the Nintendo DS. The legacy of the series continues on to this day, with Nintendo releasing numerous Game & Watch compilation titles over the years. Mr. Game & Watch is a recurring character in the Smash Bros. series, and his moveset represents aspects of several Game & Watch games. If you own a 3DS, you can play one of the Game & Watch games within the music player app.
Punch-Out!! on Game & Watch is a very primitive game, and lacks the character and challenge of the other titles in the series. It does have the unique feature of coming with two separate gamepads, that are connected to the system. This allows for two-player boxing matches in the game.
11. The Bizarre Release of Super Punch Out In Japan
The original Punch-Out!! titles were released in Japan first, before being ported to other regions. Despite this, the series has a much bigger following in America. When Little Mac was announced for Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U, the consensus among Japanese fans was that his inclusion was intended for American fans.
Super Punch-Out!! was the sequel to the original NES game, and was released on the Super Nintendo. It was released in 1994 in America, and 1995 in Europe. The game did not see a Japanese release until 1998, when the Super Nintendo was at the end of its lifespan. The most bizarre thing about the Japanese Super Punch-Out!! was that it never saw an official cartridge release, and could only be found on an unusual device, called the Nintendo Power flash RAM cartridge.
In Japan, there existed a blank SNES cartridge that you could purchase, called the Nintendo Power (no relation to the magazine). By taking the cartridge into certain stores, you could buy games from a kiosk that would be downloaded onto the Nintendo Power cartridge. This was actually a lot cheaper than buying the original game, and you could fit several titles onto one cartridge. At the time of release, this was the only way to buy Super Punch-Out!! in Japan.
10. Mike Tyson In Space
The popularity of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! led to Nintendo wanting to develop a sequel. Work began on a new title in the Punch-Out!! series, only instead of playing as Little Mac, you got to play as Mike Tyson himself. This new game was to be called Mike Tyson’s Intergalactic Power Punch, and would follow Tyson as he battled alien fighters, in order to become the greatest boxer in the universe.
All of the plans for this game came crashing down, when Mike Tyson was convicted of sexual assault charges in 1992. His name was dropped from the game, and Nintendo backed off from the project. The original developer, Beam Software, made some changes to the game, and released it as Power Punch II.
Power Punch II was released in 1992 (despite there never being any original Power Punch games). It follows Olympic boxer Mark Tyler, as he battles aliens for the chance to become the number one boxer in the universe. Without the endorsement of either Nintendo or Tyson, the game floundered, and never saw the success of its spiritual predecessor.
9. Little Mac Has Appeared In Multiple Smash Bros. Games
In 2014, Nintendo released a trailer onto YouTube that revealed the latest fighter being added into the upcoming Super Smash Bros. game. This new character was Little Mac from the Punch-Out!! series. Fans had been speculating that he was one of the new arrivals into the game, as a boxing ring had been revealed as one of the new stages.
Little Mac in Smash Bros. is the one of the best ground fighters in the game. He is fast and strong, with a range of devastating attacks. The one big problem is that Smash Bros. is not just about fighting on the floor – aerial attacks and movements are a huge part of the game, and are necessary to save yourself from being thrown off the edge of the screen. This one huge weakness makes Little Mac one of the worst characters to use competitively, as he is highly susceptible to edge-guarding.
While Little Mac was first made playable in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U, he actually appeared in Brawl on the Nintendo Wii. He was an Assist Trophy, meaning he could be summoned into battle through the use of an item. If Little Mac is summoned, he launches at the foe with a range of devastating body blows and uppercuts.
8. The Arm Wrestling Spin-Off
Nintendo released several arcade games, before entering the home console market. The original Punch-Out!! was one of these, as was its sequel. Eventually, Nintendo abandoned the arcade market, as they pursued other video game endeavours. The final first party Nintendo arcade game was Arm Wrestling, a spin-off of the Punch-Out!! series, that only saw a release in America.
Arm Wrestling attempted to use the joystick as a means of emulating a real life arm wrestling match. The game was all about moving the stick in different directions, and tapping the button in order to gain an advantage over your opponent.
The thing that connects this game to the Punch-Out!! series is an opponent called Mask X. If you defeat Mask X in an arm wrestling match, then you can remove his mask. He is revealed to be Bald Bull from Punch-Out!!, and the game even refers to him as such.
7. The Little Mac Design Almost Returned In Super Punch Out!!
While the character of Little Mac is associated with being the main character of the Punch Out!! series, he only retained his classic appearance in the original NES game, and later, the Wii game (as well as Smash Bros.). The original Punch Out!! game in the arcade had an unnamed boxer for its main character, as did its sequel. Punch Out!! on the Game & Watch had no named characters, and the protagonist of Arm Wrestling went unnamed.
In Super Punch-Out!!, the main character is called Little Mac, but his design is different. He has a different hair colour & style, and no longer wears a black vest during a match.
This was not always meant to be the case. There exists footage of the beta version of the Super Punch-Out!!, which shows the main character having a greater resemblance to the look of the classic Little Mac design. He has short black hair, like the Little Mac from the NES Punch Out!!
6. Princess Peach Almost Appeared In Punch Out Wii
The Smash Bros. series is credited with being the first big Nintendo crossover game. The actual first game to do it was the original Punch-Out!! in the arcades, as well as the NES game.
In the audience of the arcade Punch-Out!! games, you can see Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior, and Princess Peach. In the NES Punch-Out!! game, the referee is Mario (even though the developers never asked for permission to use him). Punch-Out!! (Wii) included Donkey Kong as an opponent, as a reference to an old urban legend about being able to face him in the arcade game.
When creating Punch-Out!! (Wii), the developers intended to include Princess Peach as an opponent in the game. She was planned at one point to appear as an enemy boxer, but the developers changed their minds, due to the idea that you would essentially be beating up a woman. This was probably for the best, as Princess Peach is no Ronda Rousey. She isn’t exactly known for her hand-to-hand combat skills. Samus on the other hand would have kicked Little Mac’s ass.
5. King Hippo Was A Villain In Captain N
In the late eighties/early nineties, Nintendo allowed many of their characters to be used in Saturday morning cartoons. Both Mario and Link had their own animated shows around this time, of varying quality. Nintendo took several of their minor characters, and crossed them over in a show called Captain N: The Game Master.
The story of Captain N follows a kid called Kevin, who is dragged into the video game world, and must battle evil through the use of his Nintendo peripherals. He was joined by Simon Belmont (of Castlevania), Pit (of Kid Icarus) and Megaman. They battled against several familiar foes, including Mother Brain (from Metroid), and the Eggplant Wizard (from Kid Icarus).
One of the enemies in Captain N was King Hippo from the Punch-Out!! series. He serves Mother Brain, and has bright blue skin for some reason. While King Hippo isn’t given much character development in the Punch-Out!! games, he is depicted as an idiotic glutton in the Captain N series.
4. A Spin-Off Involving Doc Louis Was Released (In A Limited Fashion)
Microsoft’s biggest contribution to the home console market was helping to bring true online gaming to the masses. The original Xbox (and Xbox Live) were a huge influence in bringing online multiplayer into the mainstream. It didn’t take Sony long to catch up with them, and the PlayStation Network soon became a worthy rival for Xbox Live.
Nintendo were not so quick to embrace online multiplayer. The GameCube only had two compatible online games (Phantasy Star Online Episode 1&2, and Phantasy Star Online 3). The original Nintendo DS could not connect to most modern routers upon release. The Nintendo Wii possessed Wi-Fi capability… which made hacking the console all the more easy.
One of the most difficult to acquire Nintendo games (outside of hacking) is a Punch-Out!! spin-off, called Doc Louis’s Punch-Out!!, which was a WiiWare title. The game consisted of three fights against Doc Louis. The only way to acquire this game was through earning a platinum reward on Club Nintendo. You accomplished this by buying lots of Nintendo games, and registering the codes that came in the box. It was made available a second time in 2015, and could be bought with coins (aka, reward points).
3. The True Name Of Soda Popinski
At one point in time, Nintendo were one of the strictest companies when it came to censorship in games. They expected all titles released on their consoles to adhere to a strict set of content guidelines. This was one of the reasons that several third party developers began making games for the original PlayStation, instead of the Nintendo 64. Companies like Squaresoft and Capcom wanted to make games like Final Fantasy VII, and Resident Evil on consoles were they would not be censored. This prompted Nintendo to begin loosening their standards, and allowing adult rated games to be released on their systems.
One of the most commonly censored things in early Nintendo games was substance abuse. Any reference to alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs was right out. Some developers had fun with this, like the makers of Final Fantasy Legends II, who changed an opium smuggling ring into a banana smuggling operation. Chrono Trigger was forced to change alcohol into both soup, and soda.
In the original Punch-Out!! arcade game, a Russian boxer was introduced, named Soda Popinski. He has appeared in most games throughout the series, and is seen drinking bottled soda in-between bouts. In the original Japanese version of the game, he was called Vodka Drunkenski, and was shown drinking vodka in-between bouts. This was, naturally, changed in the American release of the game.
2. The Real Reason Mike Tyson Left…
The first version of Punch-Out!! on the NES to be released in the West was Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. The was the version of the game that included the brutally difficult (even by this game’s standards) final championship bout against Tyson. Later on, a new version of the game called Punch-Out!! was released. This version had no connection to Tyson, and the end boss was changed to a boxer named Mr. Dream.
For the longest time, there was a misconception as to why the game dropped the Tyson endorsement. Many believed that it was due to his sexual assault charges, but this is not the case. Nintendo were planning on renewing their licence of Mike Tyson’s name, when a major upset happened in the boxing world. Mike Tyson lost for the first time ever, in a match against Buster Douglas, in what is widely considered to be the biggest upset victory in sporting history. This loss convinced Nintendo that Tyson’s career was over, and they decided not to renew the licence for using his endorsement.
1. It Is Possible To Finish The Game Whilst Blindfolded
Competitive video gamers love to show off their skills. This has been made easier with the aid of YouTube: players can now show off how awesome they are to the whole world, sometimes live.
One of the most peculiar trends in gaming skill runs involves using unusual control methods. People have completed Dark Souls while using a guitar controller from Guitar Hero. Thousands of people played one maddening game of Pokémon on Twitch, an event which made mainstream news. There is a man on the Internet who is obsessed with trying to complete Super Mario 64 without pressing the jump button.
The most popular bizarre skill run involves playing a game whilst blindfolded. Punch-Out!! is a popular choice for this, as it is a game about memorising patterns, and recognising audio cues. It also extremely difficult (even when using your eyes), so finishing it is considered all the more satisfying. Gamers on Youtube have proven that you can beat Punch-Out!! with your eyes closed.