Super Meat Boy is one of the year’s best games, an amazing celebration of old school platforming that we gave a 9. If you intend to finish it, you’re going to need to sharpen all the skills you’ve learned over the years playing Mario, Mega Man, Ghost ‘n’ Goblins, Castlevania, and all their old school brothers. SMB really has what made the platformers of yore great: incredibly tight controls mixed with ingenious and increasingly difficult level design.
And even though Meat Boy pays enough reverence to the past just by being classically great, the icing on top of the delicious, red velvet, SMB cake is all the respect the game pays to titles of the past more directly. Whether it’s a cleverly animated cutscene, level layout, or the onscreen HUD, SMB recognizes its legacy. But maybe you were too tied up in playing the very demanding title to notice everything. Well don’t worry, we were taking notes for you.
WARNING: This article contains some big spoilers, including the end of the game. You’ve been warned.
Some of the easiest references to spot in the game come at the start of each world. When you pick a set of level from the seven total worlds, you’re treated to a cute cartoon. All are pretty funny on their own, but each is playing off an intro to a classic game. Now most 8-bit fanboys probably caught a couple, but now you’ll understand all of them.
We’re no fans of hitting girls, but Dr. Fetus punching Bandage Girl in the face as Meat Boy watches is so shocking and unexpected we just had to laugh. As the screen panned up to reveal the title and tell us to insert a coin, it quickly dawned on us that it was referring to the intro to the original arcade version of Street Fighter II. That old intro is so strange now, as it features none of the marquee SF characters, instead just a couple nondescript dudes in combat.
As Meat Boy heads to his next set of levels, The Hospital, he’s in for the creepiest collection of levels in the game. It’s only fitting that when Meat Boy arrives at the gate, after following Dr. Fetus with Bandage Girl in tow, that the opening would reenact the start of the first Castlevania.
The longest intro of the group, World 3’s took a little while to figure out, as it references one of the oldest titles from HAL, the creators of Kirby. The game, Adventures of Lolo, was a cute NES puzzle game that has a simple plot of girlfriend abduction similar to SMB’s. All that was needed was to replace circles with meaty squares and you’ve got yourself an intro parody.
This one was pretty easy, as anyone who saw the intro to NES Ninja Gaiden back in the day could never forget it. It was dense with story compared to other action games of the day and felt incredibly cinematic at the time. And just like in the original, our hero falls to the villain, though SMB adds the bit about kicking him down to Hell.
World 5, taken on a shot for shot basis, probably has the weakest connection to what it’s parodying. Though the scroll up the building reminds us of the Mega Man 2 start, it isn’t that close in our opinion, at least compared to the other intros. Still, we love any excuse to play some the greatest music in gaming history.