games / Columns

The Man Movie Encyclopedia: The Burliest Nintendo Covers

April 18, 2017 | Posted by Caliber Winfield

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Greetings, all.

Sorry for the lack of an article last week, I was getting a few things in order, and just didn’t have the time. However, I try to bring good news when I have to deliver bad, so the good news is that you’ll officially be getting a double-dose of Caliber, as my new wrestling series, The Caliber Winfield Super Terrific Wrestling Hour will debut sometime this week. You guys may remember the pilot episode I did a few weeks back. If not, go read it here, and love it.

For now though, let’s get into the Hall of Burly….

Back in the day, standing in the video store on a Friday night, looking for a game that your parents were gonna let you rent for the weekend, a cover was all you had. There was no internet. There was no At The Movies for Nintendo & Sega. Nintendo Power simply told you about the games, they never told you if they were good or bad. Hell, all they ever did was point out the bright-side of games, or merely make something pointless seem integral and exciting. They did this with such incredible classics as Back to the Future, Rambo, and Fester’s Quest.

So there you were. Looking for something to hang your entire weekend on. It was make or break, basically. If you ended up with something like Zelda, then hell yeah, life was good. However, there was an even better chance you’d end up with something like Zelda II, which basically meant that this incoming weekend wasn’t even worth living.
Now, despite being told not to judge something by it’s cover, it’s all we had. Sure, there were times when a cover would lie about the awesomeness packed inside [once again, Rambo] but a good chunk of the time, a bad-ass cover delivered a bad-ass game. Arguably, the 8-bit era contained the most bad-ass covers of all time. Iconic pieces of art that blow away any of the bullshit you see today. So with that, and created via my humble opinion, I present to you the 4 most bad-ass covers of the 8-bit era.


The first time I saw the cover to this game I got a black eye. That’s how much awesome is going on with it. First off, you’ve got one of the Dragon Brothers, either Bimmy or Jimmy, kicking at a ninja. He’s not even close to making contact. He’s merely saying “Flexibility, ninja! Suck it!”. As the ninja, you’d have no choice but to be intimidated. As the kick it self would not only have you reconsidering your life of crime, but then when the foot is in your face you see he’s kicking ass while wearing some sweetly polished designer boots. Then, what’s that? Oh, oh YES, he’s wearing a bad-ass leather vest WITHOUT a shirt on underneath! If you didn’t know the Dragon Brothers weren’t to be fucked with before, you know now.
Else where, you’ve got the other brother putting a ninja in a sweet choke hold, while rockin’ a sweet, Zack Morris inspired hairdo. Meanwhile, you’ve got ninjas just jumping around, being super pissed, which makes sense, because the ninja have an emotional range that is comprised of three steps:

1. Angry
2. More Angry
3. There isn’t a word for this level of anger, a ninja reached it once when he was climbing a ladder, and did the ‘test jiggle’ thing you do when you’re on it to make sure it’s sturdy, but then it still fell.

Then, if all of that weren’t enough, you’ve got what appears to be Slash from Guns N Roses in the lower right hand corner doing a sweet kick that even rivals the Dragon Brothers.
One thing for sure about the game, the challenge is as difficult as the movie is bad. How the hell do you screw up a film about guys beating up thugs in order to get a girlfriend back? Introducing Robert Patrick as a villainous Vanilla Ice is one way.


Arguably the burliest game of all time. I mean, just the title alone. It’s a single word game title, and it means “against”. In this day and age every video game has like 30 words to the title, and every other word is usually “peace”, “respect”, “love” or “sissy-parade”. But not Contra. It lets you know exactly what you’re getting, and doesn’t mince words & images. You’ve got ripped, burly dudes just clamping down on the trigger, pissed at anything that moves. Or doesn’t. You can see these alien arms coming into frame, and they probably said “We come in—BOOMBOOMBOOM”, as our heroes didn’t want to see what they came for. It’s either peace or war. 50/50. A coin flip. So, it’s best to just shoot anything you don’t know or understand instead of wasting time trying to get to know it. Doesn’t matter what you came for, you’re leaving with an assload of shoe & lead. And this all takes place right underneath the word “Contra”.
Another beautiful thing is that this cover is comprised of all things familiar. Right off the bat we’ve got Arnold’s character, Dutch, from Predator. Behind him to the right is none other than Rambo, and behind them, trying to ruin their shit, is a Xenomorph from the Alien franchise. A fantastic game that started a tradition of fantastic sequels as well as covers to go along with them.


If your dad took you to the video store and you saw this cover, when you returned home your mom would probably have a heart attack, as you’d walk through the door feet taller, 30lbs heavier, with a mustache, because when you saw this cover you instantly went through puberty. Twice.
One thing I must say is that I’ve been a fan of ninjas for as long as I can remember, and my biggest pet peeve concerning them is when a ninja doesn’t wear his mask correctly. So it was always so refreshing to see Blade kicking that fucking guy who was walking around in a ninja uniform, yet completely negating the damn thing, by pulling down the face cover like he wanted to take a cigarette break from being a ninja.
This was a cover MADE for young kids. You’ve got two bad-asses in what I soon learned was the attire a person wears when he’s known as a “bad dude”. First, there must always be plural “dudes”. No one is gonna play “Bad Dude”. No, it must be “Bad Dudes”. Second, you must have matching hair cuts, tank-tops, and fingerless workout gloves. However, at one point you’re gonna be getting a lot of chicks because, well, let’s face it, ovaries explode at the sight of a bad dude, and they’re gonna need a way to identify you. So, you’ve two options. You can either go the name-tag route, however, the “Hi! My Name Is STRIKER” sticker will probably fall off as you’re fighting ninjas on top of a semi. So what do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO? That’s right. Different color sweats. What I love is that Blade could have just gone with black, but he said fuck it outright and bought the orange-sherbert colored ones.
Everything about this game you learn just from looking at the cover. Of course, I was always intimidated by the ninjas, because look at how close that guy with the shuriken [ninja star] is. Those things are made for throwing, but that guy is so pissed he’s clearly getting super close so he can fucking stab someone with it!
I also imagine the guy in the helicopter is reporting back to the boss:

Ninja Boss: What do you see?!
Helicopter Pilot: We’ve got two Bad Dudes.
Ninja Boss: How do you know that they’re Bad Dudes for SURE?
Helicopter Pilot: All the signs are there, sir!
Ninja Boss: The matching hair cuts, gloves and all?
Helicopter Pilot: Yes sir. Also, coup de grace…
Ninja Boss: Don’t tell me…
Helicopter Pilot: I’m afraid so, sir. Their wife beaters are tucked into their sweats.
Ninja Boss: Holy shit….they are Bad Dudes.
Helicopter Pilot: Oh! The one with the orange-sherbert sweats just kicked Swanson.
Ninja Boss: GOOD! That asshole always wears his ninja mask like a jack-off.


As a kid growing up in the 80s, who was obsessed with ninjas, how could there be any other choice? This is THE quintessential NES cover. It’s drenched in bright colors, with an over-the-top drawing of the protagonist emerged in a circle of fire, pretty much promising to punch you in the chest so hard that your nipples are going to touch. It’s gorgeous.
I tell you, if I were a bad guy and saw this coming at me I’d be freaked the hell out for a couple reasons.
One, he’s leading with the small weapon. He’s so assured in his abilities, that he doesn’t need the giant sword to get the job done. I’m surprised he’s not going the extra mile to intimidate and lead with a shoe, or a q-tip or something.
Two, the city behind him is engulfed in flames, and he’s pretty much letting it be known that he’s the cause of it. Not only that, but no police officers made an attempt to shave him, so he didn’t even have a reason to burn the motherfucker down, he just did it [IE John Rambo].
On top of that, the cover straight up tells you the truth when it says you’re in for the fight of your life, because Ninja Gaiden is arguably the hardest NES game of all time. It’s tougher than that goddamned dam level from the original NES TMNT game. That goddamn level…
Although being tougher than all get-out, Ninja Gaiden is an absolute classic that spawned two bad-ass sequels that were both equally as difficult, with covers equally as incredible.

Any questions, comments, drunk-ramblings, feel free to send them my way, I always dig hearing from you, the beautiful people.
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