Just last year, Nintendo released their NES Classic to widespread success. This miniature version of the original Nintendo Entertainment System came with several popular games that had defined the success of their first video game console. Unfortunately, they had a huge problem with distribution and few stores received many copies of the unit as a result. Regardless, this device remained a hot commodity in the market for pretty much the entirety of 2016.
Unfortunately, it would appear that excellent sales figures aren’t the only factor to consider, because Nintendo has since decided to discontinue the NES Classic. While some fans are convinced that this move is directly tied to poor distribution, others are under the impression that the company cancelled production because they didn’t want it to compete with their newest console, the Switch. There are also rumors that this decision may have been tied to the fact that a lot of people were modding the device in order to play additional emulated software.
Whatever the case may be, recent reports suggest that Nintendo might actually follow up the NES Classic with the SNES Classic. This device would probably be very similar in design and concept, but it would obviously include a bunch of classic titles from the Super Nintendo console. As usual, fans immediately began to speculate about the titles that would be included with the SNES Classic, coming up with their own retro gaming wishlists. Some of these lists included perhaps the most popular TMNT game ever made – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time.
As a fan of both Nintendo and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, any mention of Turtles in Time on the SNES Classic struck me as odd. The NES Classic included mostly popular titles that were developed and produced by Nintendo themselves. They owned all of the rights to these games, so it was easy to put them on the console. Although they did add a few titles that were developed elsewhere, few of them represented any kind of incredible stretch for the company.
Most notably, none of the TMNT games were included on the NES Classic. Considering how popular the first TMNT game was in the UK, you’d think they might have considered that title. Alternatively, the second game was literally a port of the incredibly popular TMNT Arcade game, which also would have been an excellent choice for the console. Could there be a reason why they didn’t add either of these titles to the NES Classic? Well, there could be many reasons, if we’re being honest.
The problem with a game based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is that their likeness plays into copyright laws. Obtaining the rights for those games might not just be a matter of paying the owner of said property, there may be several other factors to consider. Just take a look at what has happened with each remake of the TMNT Arcade Games; distributed digitally, they were both fairly popular upon release, but both titles mysteriously disappeared from the digital marketplace after only a year or two.
Why would they take a popular game off the market? Why did they do the exact same thing with the most recent TMNT game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan? Most video games – even those tied to a popular franchise – don’t have this problem. However, when it comes to our heroes in a half shell, it would appear that there are some serious issues with copyright law. My best guess is that there is either a limit to the amount of time that these companies can use the likeness of the turtles, or someone who should be getting paid for their likeness is not getting a check.
Whatever the reasons are, it should be perfectly clear by now that TMNT games have a problematic history which implies that it may be difficult to sell them after a certain amount of time. With that in mind, it seems to me that it would be pretty foolish to expect Nintendo to obtain the rights to Turtles in Time for the SNES Classic. I’d love to see that happen, but history and keen observation tells me the chances are slim-to-nearly-impossible.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think it’s time we all stop expecting something that will probably never happen. Sadly, unless you find an old copy of Turtles in Time in the wild and dust off your old SNES console, chances are that you won’t be playing it anytime soon. I suppose there’s always a chance that I could be wrong – and I’m definitely rooting for that chance – but this just doesn’t appear to be a distinct possibility.
Sorry to burst your bubble, fellow shellheads! Here’s hoping that someone finds a way to bring back these classic TMNT games in the near future.