Fondly remembered as a launch title on the original NES, Excitebike was in many of kids’ video game libraries and represented something that wasn’t the norm for its time: a smooth side-scrolling racing game.
The game was designed by the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Super Mario Bros., so it should come as no surprise that the game has lived as a cult classic since it’s American release in 1985.
The game features a few modes including a solo race, a race against another computer and a track design mode. The track design mode made Excitebike a killer app for 80’s kids, as you could create any dirt bike track your heart desired.
And who can forget the classic animation of crashing, falling off of your bike and having to trot back, pick it up, and get back to racing!
I also believe that the other killer aspect of this game was the basic nature of the NES controller. We often forget that gaming consoles had joysticks and other crazy button layouts, while the NES controller had a simple d-pad and two main buttons – this made Excitebike accessible for anyone to play. It was crazy simple, yes, but the game was nuanced enough that you couldn’t just jam on a single button to accelerate and win.
You had to make sure your engine didn’t overheat, alternating when you hit the gas or not. Going to fast would also lead to bad spills off of jumps, so timing and strategy were integral to such a basic game. (Yet another reason it became a timeless classic.)