The ‘80s were a wild time in video game history. It was a period where both good and bad ideas could either flourish or die in equal measure, which is, in part, what contributed towards the industry crash in 1983/’84. The release of those great titles that would become classics were marred by the launch of a plethora of low quality games, which led to a collapse and the bankruptcy of many game developers of the time. In the aftermath, only a few companies survived, which left the market ripe for the taking for those who still had that creative spark and the knowledge to put it to good use.
Granted, since the industry was still in “diapers,” even the simplest concepts and premises were considered innovative, which is why the first video games were very basic and rudimentary. Nintendo’s Excitebike, which is a game that consisted of racing on your dirtbike and getting from point A to point B, was among these titles that quickly became a hit among gamers of the time.
What’s it about?
Released originally in 1984 in arcades for the Nintendo Vs. platform, and in Japan for the Famicom console (the Japanese equivalent of the NES, which would launch in America the following year), Excitebike quickly gained popularity among those players who weren’t phased by the crash. The game launched at a time where the gameplay experience was still delivered to the player solely through its design, which meant that there was no story whatsoever; there were only the players and the game mechanics.
The objective of Excitebike was to take control of a racer riding a dirtbike and help him to jump over obstacles, disrupt other players, and race towards the goal to nab the first place. Its concept, while quite simple, landed well with the audience, which helped it to become one of the bestselling titles of the Famicom in its launch year.
Other than its concept, Excitebike was also very popular thanks to its stage design mode, which allowed players to create their own stages and race on them. Sadly, in all versions of the game, with the exception of the original Famicom version, there was no way to save these custom tracks. Because of this players would have to create and play on their custom maps in the same gaming sessions. Furthermore, the Arcade version didn’t even have an editor mode.
Despite these small limitations, Excitebike was still a hit, and is one of our personal favorite games when it comes to retro arcade titles. This is the reason why we wanted to briefly speak about the controls in this arcade game, and share a few pointers to get better at it. If you wanted ever wanted to get good at Excitebike, then consider the following:
Excitebike’s controls are very simple. You had a single joystick (or the D-pad for the home version) through which you controlled most of your character’s movements, and two buttons, used to control acceleration. The basic controls are as follows:
- Joystick: Moving the joystick up and down causes your character to change lanes. Meanwhile, moving it to the left while on the ground causes your character to pop a sick wheelie. Don’t hold this position for too long, though, or you might fall! While in the air, moving the joystick to the left or right controls the height and length of each jump. Moving it to the right will cause you to jump lower but farther, while moving it to the left will sacrifice jump distance for jump height.
- A Button: When pressed, causes the bike to accelerate moderately, increasing the heat gauge only by a little bit.
- B Button: This button sends to bike on a turbo boost that rapidly increases the heat gauge, but grants a burst of speed. Ideal for clearing some long jumps or for snagging the victory in the last leg of the race.
Additionally, mashing the A and B buttons when falling off the bike will cause the character to run and pick up his bike faster, allowing him to get back in the race without losing much time.
Tips and Tricks
Initially, you might think that the objective of Excitebike is to pass all your opponents and make it to the finish line on top. While this is definitely the point, you don’t need to pay attention to the other bikers as they’re only there to distract and potentially knock you down. Instead, in order to snag the first place, you must beat the time that is shown on the background of every race. At the very least, you’ll want to beat the other time shown on the lower left corner to reach fifth place, the minimum requirement to qualify for the next track.
Now, if you want to get first place, you’ll need speed; and not only to gain speed but also taking care not to lose it.
One of the most common ways to lose speed in Excitebike is by not landing your bike properly after every jump. Every stage in this game is littered with jumps throughout the entire track, which means that you’ll have to take care to land properly in every one. To do this, you must simply use the joystick while in the air to control your orientation, and try to land with both wheels parallel to the floor. This goes for whether you’re landing on firm ground, or on a slope; you must land on both wheels if you wish to maintain your speed.
Your engine makes a distinct whining noise whenever you’re forcing it too much. While the temperature gauge is a great indicator to avoid overheating, it’s sometimes tough to keep an eye on it, especially if you’re doing multiple long jumps back to back. Listen to the sound of your engine and avoid using the turbo if it starts to whine, or else you might overheat, which takes about 10 seconds to recover from.
While stylish, the wheelie move also has a use in helping you to vault over the smaller bumps that trip you over if you run into them. If you can’t avoid these small bumps in time, consider pulling back on the joystick to pop a wheelie and jumping over them. Make sure to let go of the wheelie shortly after, though, or you risk falling over and losing time, anyway. Speaking of which, if you ever fall from your bike, make sure to mash A and B to get up and back in the race faster.
Thanks for reading! Here at PrimeTime Amusements, we like to keep ahead of the curve in arcade game rental and sales and pride ourselves in providing the best service in the country. If you’re looking for a game in particular, or have a few questions about the industry, feel free to give us a call at 1.800.550.0090 or to swing by at 5300 Powerline Rd. Suite 210, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, 33309.