Marble Madness (NES)

June 16, 2007 by · 2 Comments 

Marble Madness - Title ScreenMarble Madness - PracticeMarble Madness - Beginner

It seems there have been a plethora of marble-based maze games in the last several years.  I think the recent trend started with Super Monkey Ball and was soon followed by Mercury, Marble Blast, Kororinpa: Marble Mania, and others.  Well, they’re all rip-offs.  Every last one of ’em!  Marble Madness is The One True Thing and will always be the game that the others are compared to.  And for good reason, really:  it rocks.

In technical terms, Marble Madness is very well rounded.  It has sharp, colorful graphics, memorable music, and solid sound effects.  Isometric graphics are a soft-spot of mine, (so that’s an automatic bonus) and they’re put to good use here; the pseudo-3D feel is perfect for this kind of game.  It’s worth mentioning that the controls can be quite touchy in spots, but that’s pretty much what the physics of a rolling marble demand.  All in all, I only really have one gripe about the game’s featues — a few more levels would be great.  As it stands, it’s limited to six mazes: Practice, Beginner, Intermediate, Aerial, Silly, and Ultimate.

Because of the level selection, a good player can blaze through the game in a matter of five minutes or so.  But it really doesn’t matter.  You don’t play Marble Madness for its depth.  You play it to enjoy its challenge and sheer charm.  You can play it over and over (and believe me, I have) and enjoy it just as much the 30th time as the 1st.  Its gameplay is based on dexterity, timing, hand-eye coordination, and reflexes.  As a result, despite the fact you’ll play all the same six mazes each time, you’ll do a little better or a little worse on each play-through.  Marble Madness still manages to keep me on my toes when I play it, some 23 years after its original release.  That’s a sign of good game design.

I’m not sure how it worked, but as a kid of 6 or 7, I had an uncanny ability to buy good games just by looking at their boxes. I guess that’s how people bought games in the late ’80s, but still, you’d think I would have ended up with a few more stinkers than I did. Whatever it was — whether it was the name, the screenshots, or divine intervention — on one ordinary trip to Toys ‘R’ Us, I managed to pick out Marble Madness, and it was a gem.

Retro Star AwardFinal thoughts: Every NES owner ought to have this game in their collection.  It executes classic arcade gameplay perfectly — short but infinitely replayable.  Its well-executed combination of simple but fun gameplay with charming graphics and sound has allowed Marble Madness to stand the test of time.  Hail to the Evil Black Marble!

Marble Madness - IntermediateMarble Madness - AerialMarble Madness - Silly

YouTube Pick: (via Toad22484) (Spoiler Alert! Shows all levels…)

Game Data

About Tim
My name is Tim. I live in Chicago, IL. I'm a retro gamer.


2 Responses to “Marble Madness (NES)”
  1. Jason says:

    I too would select my games by the box art, and the few frames that were shown on the back. The only time I would disregard the box itself, would be if I read about a game in Nintendo Power. Damn! Those were the days. :)

  2. Tim says:

    Yes! I ended up with Rad Racer for the NES the same way as Marble Madness — I picked it out based on the cover art from Toys R Us. It turned out to be one of my favorite games of all time!

    Strangely, I still find myself looking at the back of the box when I browse games in stores, even though I always already know what I’m looking at. Old habit, I guess.

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