Feature Article
Sports Video Games Hall of Fame Inductee: Mike Tyson's Punch Out
If you think about boxing and the 1980s, you think of names like Julio Caesar Chavez, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, and of course Mike Tyson. While Tyson later became synonymous with promising to eat children and trying to get through his impregnable defenses, he nevertheless lent his likeness to quite possibly the best boxing game ever made: Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!.

Released in 1987 for the NES, Punch Out!! was in essence a sequel to the arcade games of the same name (Minus Mike Tyson of course). A lot of the colorful characters in the game were carried over or changed a little bit for the console version.

The gameplay was simple; the B button threw lefts, the A button threw rights and you could go to the head by pressing up on the d-pad. Left or right on the d-pad was your dodge buttons and pressing up was to try and block the punch.

If you timed your punches right you were able obtain a power punch (A star). You could pocket up to three stars and use them by pressing Start to seriously drain your opponent's energy bar. You had to be careful though as these punches took a long time to throw and left you vulnerable.

This style made the game accessible to all but still made it a challenge to even the most talented gamer. It might have only been an arcade boxing game but there was still some strategy involved. You had to watch your opponent, decipher his tendencies and weakness and then attack. You also couldn't be too reckless either or your heart meter would drain and you'd be vulnerable to punches without being able to counter.

You also weren't Tyson. The game followed the story of Little Mac, a 17-year-old up-and-comer from the Bronx fighting his way to a title fight against Mike Tyson. As you advanced through the ranks you'd work with your trainer Doc as you ran through the streets of New York in an epic training sequence. There were a total of four circuits that each had three boxers in them. Occasionally you'd face an opponent more than once and they would always be harder the second time through.

Obviously, while the first few circuits were easy the game got progressively harder. It was easy to trounce Glass Joe or Von Kaiser the first time through but good luck going against Tyson or the fighters right before him. Still, each boxer had a weakness that you could exploit to your advantage. A lot of the time the boxer's image would flash and you'd know he was about to punch. In some fights you could only knock guys down using the power punches.

All of this made Punch Out!! a rhythm/timing game and a bit of a button masher, but it was always fun. You could pop King Hippo in the mug and his pants would fall down opening himself up for body blows. It was always soothing to beat on the ninny that was Don Flamenco. Mr. Sandman was a beast and a pain in the backside to beat but you really got that feeling of satisfaction bringing him down.

Of course, all of this led up to the Dream Fight with Mike Tyson himself. I remember the days when this game was out and if someone told you they actually beat Tyson they had to be full of…stuff. I recall watching my older cousin beat him and I immediately thought my cousin was the coolest kid ever -- it was that big of a deal. What made him so difficult were his lightning fast punches and the best you could muster against him was quick counters. Worst of all was he could knock you out with one uppercut.

This made the fight nearly impossible and in all my years of playing the game I've been able to do it just a handful of times. It may be maddening to think about in this day and age, but it recalls the days when you really felt a sense of accomplishment after beating a game that was seemingly preventing you from doing so. These days we beat something and throw it on the pile and move on to the next title.

I still play this game on my PC and Nintendo has re-released the title on the Wii (though it's the Tyson-less version of the game where he was replaced by Mr. Dream), and the gameplay still holds up despite being over 20-years-old. It's still a challenge fighting guys like Bald Bull and Super Macho Man, and it's still fun to beat the snot out of Glass Joe.

So despite its simple premise and easy controls, Punch Out!! has given us something that few boxing titles have since then; a great balance of fun, difficulty and strategy. It was cartoony, silly, tongue-and-cheek, somewhat prejudicial towards races and cultures, but it was a blast to play. Despite all of the advances we've seen in graphics, gameplay, controls, mechanics, and presentation, Mike Tyson's Punch Out!! remains one of the best boxing games of all time. So let's keep it clean and come out boxing!!

Member Comments
# 1 trobinson97 @ 06/13/08 03:14 AM
TO this day I still can't beat Mike Tyson.

Edit. Wait a minute, now that I look at the line up, I could get as far as King Hippo lol.

Great game, great write up.
# 2 statman78 @ 06/13/08 02:25 PM
How can I forget 007 373 5963

I still have the code to Mike Tyson memorized, and yes I beat him a few times.
# 3 buttons0662 @ 06/13/08 04:06 PM
LoL @ StatMan78 ... U R not alone the Mike Tyson code rhymes in my opinion ... Will neva forget it. That was the perfect Tyson ... if U can make it out of the first round he is very Beatable.

# 4 BigL @ 06/13/08 05:37 PM
Its defenitely true that if you were able to beat Tyson back in the day you got a lot of respect. Its a game that still challenges you even today if you play it and fight Tyson. That says a lot.
# 5 WatchdogXC @ 06/13/08 10:00 PM

It is ingrained in my mind. It got to the point I beat Tyson so much that I had more trouble with Mr. Sandman. I loved that game!
# 6 Village Idiot @ 06/15/08 10:05 PM
Get this. I didn't memorize the code, but when I popped in the game to play for the first time in maybe 10 years, I could imput the code! No idea what the numbers were, but my fingers knew! How crazy is that?
# 7 Mos1ted @ 06/16/08 02:53 PM
This game is truly deservant of a HOF spot. I still play it till this day thanks to the NES emulator on my PDA.

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