Back in the day
We love nostalgia as much as the next aging nerd, and youd be hard-pressed to find a game more steeped in nostalgia than the recent indie game Retro City Rampage. Though we had mixed feelings about the game as a whole (see our Retro City Rampage review), we loved the constant stream of clever references to 1980s pop culture and gaming. Weve collected some of our favorites from throughout the game, and as an added bonus, well explain them for those in our audience who were born after 1986.
The hills have eyes
References: Super Mario Bros
Mario lives in a cartoon world where almost everything has a happy smile on its face, including the landscape. When the hills of Super Mario games are remade in the world of RCR, theyre cute at first, but ultimately they end up feeling creepy and weird. That was probably the intended result.
Warp pipes to nowhere
References: Super Mario Bros
Warp pipes and other secret exits in gaming have become fairly ubiquitous since Super Mario Bros started using them, so we arent surprised to see RCR use them for fast travel on the map. Of course, RCRs warp pipes are very specifically based on Mario, including the tiny rooms in-between filled with bonus coins.
The Joker gets away
References: The Dark Knight
If you play RCR for a couple hours, youll notice that the creators have almost as much love for Batman as they do for the NES. Allusions and parodies of The Caped Crusader are all over the place, starting with a daylight bank robbery that ends with escaping in a school bus. Seeing as this references one of the biggest films of the last decade, were betting most people caught this one.
Virtual Meat Boy hurts our eyes
References: Virtual Boy games
One thing we love about indie gaming is the sense of camaraderie among the developers. Youll often see cameos from other indie hits in games like RCR, though this Super Meat Boy appearance does double duty as a reference to the doomed Virtual Boy system. Using the very red Meat Boy for a fake game on the 3D, headache-inducing system emulates pretty well why the system was a huge failure.
Okie Doki Picnic
References: Doki Doki Panic
A famous bit of Mario trivia is that the game known in the US as Super Mario Bros 2 was a reskinned version of the Japan-only game Doki Doki Panic. RCR gives tribute to the source of one of Marios strangest adventures in the clever park service sign above. Though it doesnt really match the Japanese characters, the explosive background of the logo is clear on the sign.
The Legend of Zelda docks
References: The Legend of Zelda
Anyone thats ever explored Hyrule in the NES original will know the familiar feeling of spotting a tantalizing Heart Container trapped on a currently unreachable dock. RCR recreates that on its city map, but fortunately you dont stepladder to get this one.
Welcome to 20XX
References: Mega Man 2
When RCRs opening began to emulate the start to Mega Man 2, we started to roll our eyes at such an obvious reference. Fortunately for the games reputation, RCR earned back some of that cred almost immediately by outright admitting how overused the sequence was. We appreciated the honesty.
References: Duck Hunt
Almost immediately following the Mega Man 2 intro, we find a jumpy guard on a rooftop thats startled by a random duck. He shoots at the bird and misses, which brings on the laughter of one of the most annoying creatures in gaming history. All NES owners know the pain and humiliation of the laughing Duck Hunt dog, and RCR carefully recaptures that shameful incident.
References: Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II
Fabio is mostly forgotten these days, but at one time he was Sex Personified, or at least he was for people that bought cheap romance paperbacks. Normally, Fabio kept his shirtless visage on book covers, but he famously appeared on the box for NES adventure game Ironsword. RCR does its best to recreate that sex appeal, but the 8-bit graphics can only express of sliver of his machismo.