Super Meat Boy's retro reference guide

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.

The animated level introductions

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.

World 1

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.

World 2

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.

World 3

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.

World 4

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

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.




  • katie-montminy - August 10, 2013 12:40 p.m.

    I think that the Ch. 2 Warp Zone stage called "The Blood Shed" is a reference to the Splatterhouse games. The wallpaper sprite and the general aesthetic (as well as the analogy in the stage's name) really suggest that to me.
  • mcnerven - January 26, 2011 10:22 a.m.

    The chapter 6 levels hark back to the flying ship levels of Super Mario Bros 3. Super Meat Boy's abbreviation, SMB, is exactly the same as Super Mario Bros'. The music to chapter 3 begins exactly the same as a track from N+, probably coincidental considering the N+ ninja is an unlockable character.
  • Crabhand - November 7, 2010 4:14 a.m.

    I've been greatly enjoying the references in SMB. Even though I don't actually have any memories associated with many of these games (other than vague pre-N64 games I played and references on, well, this site), I still really appreciate how much this game pays homage to these relics of the past.
  • Soapy - November 4, 2010 3:22 a.m.

    Henry Gilbert, thank you so much for this article. For years and YEARS I've been trying to remember a favorite game from my childhood that my mom and I used to play together. The title, and even the game itself had become very hazy in my memory, all I could recall were warm memories and very vague images of a castle and a top-down perspective. With internet searches coming up with nothing, I recently began to question whether the game ever existed at all. However, after watching the intro The Adventures of Lolo, it all came flooding back to me. I know it sounds weird, but rediscovering this lost gem of my childhood means a lot to me. Thanks again.
  • ThatGuyFromTV - November 4, 2010 12:17 a.m.

    Also, sorry for the double post, but i had to say this... FUCK YOU SKYSCRAPER WARP ZONE!!! FUCK YES!!!
  • ThatGuyFromTV - November 4, 2010 12:14 a.m.

    I thought the Cotton Alley intro was a rip-off of the first Meat Boy's intro, I didn't even think of Ghosts and Goblins when I saw it. Now I feel stupid. Still, this article came out the exact same time as I hit 100% completion for the game. Only took me 7884 deaths. Best game ever.
  • elpurplemonkey - November 3, 2010 11:12 p.m.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this feature. Can't get enough of that Meat Boy.
  • V13Dragongal - November 3, 2010 9:22 p.m.

    @FoxdenRacing Your so right. I completly agree and thats one of the reasons I joined this site. You gotta love Gamesradar!
  • FoxdenRacing - November 3, 2010 9:18 p.m.

    @philipshaw: Same. Super Meat Boy is one of those things that could become a phenomenon, and nobody deserves to miss out on it because they have [platform] instead of [other platform]. I don't own a PS3, probably never will, but don't want to see PS3 gamers denied on this one. Or Wii gamers, or PC gamers.
  • philipshaw - November 3, 2010 7:31 p.m.

    I got most of the references when I watched the quick look on giant bomb but I don't have a 360 so can't play this game. I hope they bring it to PSN
  • FoxdenRacing - November 3, 2010 6:31 p.m.

    This. This is why I love this site. Nobody else I've read [Nintendo Power, Gamepro, Gamespy, IGN, EGM, PSM, Game Informer] takes the time to dive into gaming as a culture, to reminisce, to look for [let alone explain] references to the past, or otherwise celebrate gaming as a whole. That doesn't make any of those publications bad, mind...I subscribed to each for a reason...but nobody takes it to the level GR does, and it keeps me coming back on a daily basis. When blinded by money, the pursuit of money, latent insecurities, or platform/franchise/etc loyalty, we lose part of who we are as gamers. By acting like gaming didn't exist before Halo, Gears of War, or Modern Warfare 2 we lose a very rich history of what games were...of what they could be, if only developers, producers, and today's newest generation of gamers didn't take themselves so seriously. By insisting every lead character be an exaggerated manly man like Marcus some players, fearful that one less drop of testosterone would make them look weak or geeky...we lose a rich history of unique, memorable characters (like Earthworm Jim, the Battletoads, Sir Dan from MediEvil, Mega Man) that are remembered or even beloved even generations of consoles later, and risk tomorrow's history being largely overlooked for its same-y blandness, while the richness of the past lays completely forgotten. So I beg this of everyone here, of gamers as a whole...go outside your comfort zone. Give yesteryear's games an honest chance. Give today's games oozing with personality a chance. Play something like Super Meat Boy, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Earthworm Jim, Twisted Metal 2, or even Red Alert 2. See what first-person shooters were in the past...Quake 3, Unreal Tournament, Tribes, and the like. See what shooters [side-scrolling, ala Gradius] were, and the unyielding challenge they provided. See what gaming was like when fun was priority #1, challenge was #2, and grit was a change of pace rather than a requirement. And please, give them an honest'll be surprised what you're missing by keeping yourselves locked in a world of stubble, raging biceps, and officially-licensed guns/team logos/whatever.
  • Kingery2011 - November 3, 2010 6:20 p.m.

    I found another reference! At the end of the gameboy warp zones Bandage Girl turns into a bug thing which is what happens at the end of levels on Super Mario Land for GameBoy. Thats one of the few that i did catch!
  • Eaxis - November 3, 2010 12:06 p.m.

    That's a lot of references I didn't get. Cool article too read since I love Super Meat Boy. I have completed every level(all of them) with A+, and only have a few bandages left until 100%.
  • asljirk - November 3, 2010 11:11 a.m.

    awesome. I cant wait to pick this up after what you said on TR and hearing all this. Is it sad if the Music from the ninja gaiden intro sent shivers down my spine?
  • razorwiretensho - November 3, 2010 7:38 a.m.

    I think the first of the meatboy pic's is a play on Sinistar. Don't quite remember the box art though...
  • garnsr - November 3, 2010 5:03 a.m.

    I don't think I ever saw a skull in the flags in Super Mario. Even now it looks like it might be a mushroom, and it looks sort of peace signy too.
  • 8bitBaby - November 3, 2010 4:32 a.m.

    NOYCE! man, i SOOOOOOO wanna' play this game now. so many wonderful references. X3 um... i want to say that the 3rd unsolved pic on page 2 is a loose reference to the pre-title, title screen for earthbound. loosely. (er... maybe not.) FAWESOME article.
  • thefreakysurgeon - November 3, 2010 1:22 a.m.

    i want this game, now.
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - November 3, 2010 12:01 a.m.

    *closes eyes and scrolls to bottom of page* Right, now I wanna comment and just say that 3 pages of references makes me love Super MeatBoy even more.
  • nomnom52 - November 2, 2010 11:16 p.m.

    Finally! Sonmeone tells me how to access the internets!

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