Science Officially Determines Who The Best Ninja Turtle Is
Ever since the words "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" were first put in that order by two possibly-stoned comic book artists in the '80s, the world has wondered: Who is the best Turtle? Brave Leonardo? Clever Donatello? Affable Michelangelo? The other asshole? We (Maxwell Yezpitelok and M. Asher Cantrell) decided to find out by using every scientific method at our disposal. Meaning "playing a shitload of video games."
We've taken every single game based on the original 1987-1996 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show (that is, the one most people give a shit about) and used them to perform a series of rigorous tests aimed at determining the objectively superior Turtle. It was an illuminating, often frustrating, somewhat traumatizing experience, but here are the results.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES, 1989)
The first TMNT game quickly establishes that not all TMNTs are created equal. Whereas Raphael's tiny little dinner forks can barely reach beyond his nose ...
To those of you saying "Raphael has no nose": He did before doing this.
... Donatello's long, mighty pole can hit people in other states.
If Donatello stretched his arm a little more, he'd bump himself on the back of the head.
Unfortunately, such endowment may come in handy during special occasions, but it simply isn't practical in everyday life. When we threw each of the four Turtles into a hellish sewer infested with killer robots (aka the game's first fucking level), Donatello didn't do so well:
What Cracked writers look like trying to have sex.
He clearly has the "teenage," "mutant," and "turtle" parts down. But by this game's standards, I could grab a fallen tree branch after a thunderstorm and just kind swing it around in the air while making "whoosh" noises with my mouth and be qualified to call myself a ninja.
Leonardo: Cleared the sewer in 00:42 seconds
Donatello: Died pathetically at 01:27
The Handheld Game (Handheld, 1989)
Before Game Boy, portable games were hunks of plastic that used plain black LCD figures moving over a simple background. If you were born before 1990, you probably had at least one. If you're lucky, it was not Konami's Ninja Turtles handheld game.
Bullies invented entire new genres of taunts for these.
We couldn't even get past the first stage (of two), because screw this game. Enemies pop up right on top of you, giving you zero time to react, and it's hard to tell whether you've actually killed something or it just wandered off to do something less shitty.
"Let's go do literally anything else."
The four Turtles are identical. However, since all four have red bandanas on the front of the game, we've concluded that this is a reality in which Raphael cloned himself and murdered his brothers.
The Arcade Game (NES, 1989)
As our most perceptive readers may have already guessed, The Arcade Game originally came out for arcades. We played the Nintendo version for this experiment, though, because NES cartridges are cheaper on eBay than 300-pound arcade cabinets. Going from the graphics, this game is about the Turtles fighting some Ku Klux Klan members who set the Pizza Hut corporate offices on fire.
They were protesting the disproportionate size of Pizza Hut's black olives.
Or at least, that's as far as we got, because NES games are hard as hell, y'all.
None of the Turtles managed to beat the first boss, a rhinoceros who found Amelia Earhart's hat ...
"Feel free to continue giggling like a Japanese schoolgirl while we get pounded over here, April."
... but Leonardo came the closest, so we're giving him this one.
World Tour (PC, 1990)
This game's title makes it sound more exciting than it actually is. It's a coloring book for DOS. You can't free draw, presumably to keep kids from drawing honking green dicks on each and every Turtle in the game (and probably April, too). Instead, you just use a paint fill tool on a ton of awkward Ninja Turtle vacation photos.
Giovanni and Piero always get emotional at McDonald's.
Some of those photos are, frankly, quite shocking. Observe this documentary evidence of Leonardo mating with what could be the boys' grandmother as Donatello looks away in horror:
And now take a look at this photo, which seems to show Leonardo enacting a 9/11-style terrorist attack on the Statue of Liberty with the Turtle Blimp:
Kudos to Donatello for being the only Turtle to express any sort of moral regret while his brother jackhammered that defenseless turtle who clearly has never had a single ninja lesson.
Splinter Speaks (Handheld, 1990)
This one was made by Konami, which once made handheld and console games, and now just makes gamers sad.
Let these be their legacy.
This thing is so incredibly loud that even today, people who played it as children still dive behind couches in response to sudden noises. There's even tin-can quality voice clips that play as you mash the buttons:
If you listen, you can hear the despondent tone in the Turtles' voice.
You can actually choose a Turtle this time, so we played with each one until they died (which didn't take long). We think? It's kind of hard to tell.
Remember that episode where the Turtles were replaced by grotesque marionettes?
Raphael: Survived for 00:38 seconds
Fall Of The Foot Clan (Game Boy, 1990)
Some enemies drop pizza when you kill them in this game (and if you're lucky, in real life). Or maybe they turn into pizza? It's hard to tell with these graphics. But hey, free pizza.
Since they're mutants, it's only half cannibalism.
Unlike in real life, however, this pizza actually improves your health and makes you live longer, so that's how we'll determine the results of this test: whoever eats the most pizza wins.
In keeping with his cartoon characterization, Michelangelo ate way more pizza than the other Turtles, with eight slices. Leonardo and Donatello got five each, and Raphael came dead last with two -- the twerp actually let some flying pizza float by, which is specifically forbidden in the Bible.
God's punishment is swift and severe.
Turtle Challenge (Video Challenger, 1990)
Turtle Challenge was released solely for the Video Challenger "game" "system" -- we put those in quotes because, as it turns out, it's neither of those. It's a VCR with a cheap light gun attached. It is the most 1990 thing ever.
We'll let this very British man explain:
The video itself is nothing but clips of the show with random flickering shapes that you have to shoot with the light gun. At the end, you compare your points to a scorecard to determine how much money you wasted.
This is what happens when the Turtles order their pizza with "special" shrooms.
In the scene wherein Donatello makes a pizza for the group, if you look closely, you'll notice that Leonardo grabs two slices while Raphael and Michelangelo each grab one. As established, it is an indisputable fact that more pizza = better Turtle.
Leo was found hanged with nunchaku around his neck the next day.
Manhattan Missions (PC, 1991)
This PC exclusive actually has pretty decent graphics for the era, and a slightly more serious tone than the console Turtles games. It even predicts 9/11, though some of the details are a little off:
Leonardo: "Hey, I was gonna do that!"
But that serious tone is where the good ends, because this was made by someone who used their butt to control their PC. Which is our way of saying that the controls are a little obtuse.
This game was so made for butts that there's an anus right there.
Needless to say, none of the Turtles lasted long. That's especially true of Raphael, who bizarrely holds his sai backwards and pokes people with the handle. Did the only guy in the office who knew how knives worked take a week off or something?
At least that's in-character for this green imbecile.
Michelangelo: Survived for 01:33
Back From The Sewers (Game Boy, 1991)
For some reason, the Turtles have a rather effeminate strut in this game, but there's no law that says you can't be fabulous and kick ass. They make it work. Except Raphael, the shithead, who appears to stab himself in the thigh every time he performs his unenthusiastic sai attacks.
Don't EVER get in Raphael's way when he's out shoe shopping.
The most impressive feature in this game is that you can now tell which enemies will drop pizza upon death, because they actually carry pizza boxes above them. Which means either they're extremely mentally stunted, thinking that pizza is a good weapon choice ... or you're randomly murdering innocent pizza delivery guys.
That, or Raphael just killed a random deliveryman.
Donatello: 5 slices of pizza eaten
The pizza gods work in mysterious ways.
Shredder's Last Stand (Handheld, 1991)
The third and final Konami handheld game is kind of shocking, in that it's actually fun. It's not punishingly hard or painfully loud. It's another plain beat 'em up.
Game of the Year (if there's a category for best LCD game featuring turtles who are also ninjas).
It is worth noting that, despite the title, Shredder does not appear in this game. We assume this oversight will be corrected in a DLC release coming any day now. And sure, all the Turtles use the same crappy katana, but since the game isn't a hot branding iron to your brain, we'll forgive it.
Drunkenly Swing A Sword At Anything That Moves: The Handheld Game
Raphael: Survived for 01:24
The Manhattan Project (NES, 1991)
The Manhattan Project (or as they should have called it, Shredder Takes Manhattan) is about Shredder kidnapping April O'Neil, plus the whole city she happened to be standing in.
Did we mention NES games are hard as hell? NES games are hard as hell. We ran across one freaking pizza in three levels (Michelangelo got it, predictably). The game helpfully tells you your score after you've been murdered by the quintillion enemies onscreen at all times, so we'll judge the Turtles based on that. If there's one thing old-school video games refused to give up, it's a point system.
Leonardo: 95,200 points
Master Splinter makes no attempt to hide his disappointment in Craphael.
Basketball (Handheld, 1991)
OK, technically there was one other Konami handheld, but this one was a basketball game. Fact: Michael Jordan hated this so much that he animated Space Jam with his bare hands out of sheer spite.
There was no need to put "1991" on it, Konami. We can tell.
Whether the people who made the game knew what basketball even was is debatable, though. The villains only play defense, so you can take as many shots as you like. The scoring also seems arbitrary, as you can occasionally get as many as eight points for a single throw. Also, the players teleport from spot to spot, which some might consider a limitation of the system not being able to show movement, but which we prefer to think of as the rules of a futuristic version called "awesomeball."
"Of course we know what busketbell is!"
Since you can't choose a Turtle for this one, we debated on how to determine which Turtle is the best at basketball, until we stumbled across this tweet:
Raphael, you sly son of a bitch.
Turtles In Time (SNES, 1991)
Once again, we went with the Nintendo version of this arcade game, because we already had it. Everyone with a righteous soul has it. This game is a masterpiece. It's about Shredder stealing the Statue of Liberty and sending the Turtles into various time periods ... for ... some reason?
Let's just say that Krang has been very "lonely" since he inexplicably became a giant.
Or it would be about that, had we managed to get to the part where the time-traveling occurs. We've been playing this game for a quarter of a century, and we still have no idea how to do the "throwing enemies at the camera" move that is required to advance past Level 4. Honestly, we just mash all the buttons, and if it works, it works.
Oh shit, sorry about your monitor.
So whichever Turtle happens to do this the most wins.
Everyone made seven throws, except Michelangelo, who made nine. He actually managed to defeat Shredder and somehow die at the same time. This is some Drunken Master shit right here.
Above: a simultaneous finish.
Winner: Technically Shredder, but we'll give this one to Michelangelo
Shredder Gets Shelled! (Watch, 1991)
When LCD games were found to not be shitty enough, the electronics world began making them tinier and selling them as watches. And listen, we didn't expect this at all, but this is quite possibly one of the greatest video games made in any format, ever.
Look at those graphics!
Just fucking with you. We weren't able to get our hands on this one in time for the article, so we installed a Ninja Turtles watch face on a smartwatch. You can see the actual (terrible) game in action here.
We decided to give the win to Leonardo, since this monstrosity is shaped like him.
Also because it's unwise to piss off someone wearing a bomb vest.
The Hyperstone Heist (Genesis, 1992)
This time, Shredder steals Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, then makes them tiny and puts them in his living room. Does he know you can buy already-small replicas on every street in NYC?
This isn't the only thing Shredder has made tiny, judging by the amounts of steroids he's been doing.
It's clear by now what Shredder's true motivation is: He just loves New York too damn much, and wants to protect it from those reckless turtles (especially Leonardo with his Bin Laden aspirations). To show our solidarity with Shredder's noble mission, we played terribly and died often.
The bastard Raphael made it further than the other turtles, all the way to the Level 4 miniboss, Leatherhead, who for some reason has turned pink.
All those detergents they dump in the sewers have done a number on New York's wildlife.
Winner: the bastard Raphael
Radical Rescue (Game Boy, 1993)
This time, the Turtles themselves get captured by a mystery villain ...
We still remember getting the AHHGH!!!! action figure for Christmas instead of Napoleon Bonafrog like we asked for.
... except Michelangelo, who was out getting pizza at the time. Seriously. Once again, Mikey's pizza addiction gives him an edge over his brothers.
"Fuck 'em, more pizza for me."
You unlock each Turtle after rescuing them -- which we only know from looking at YouTube, because we didn't make it that far, so we only got to play as Michelangelo. Look man, we're scientists, not professional gamers.
Michelangelo: Survived for 18:43
Wow! Landslide victory!
Tournament Fighters (NES/SNES/Genesis, 1993)
This is basically Street Fighter II with way more green characters. At least the NES and SNES versions let you spectate fights between computer-controlled players, which is sorta like watching all-new episodes of the cartoon ... where the Turtles hate the crap out of each other.
Actually, we're surprised this didn't happen every time Raphael told a joke.
We organized computer vs. computer tournaments in both versions. Here's the exciting AI action:
This is what Skynet looks at all day.
If you don't feel like watching 13 minutes of pixelated turtle-tussling, we'll spoil it for you: Donatello won both tournaments, mercilessly beating up his brothers to unconsciousness even though they're presumably just supposed to be training. That's one cold motherfucker. Something tells us he's gonna win this article. Even if he doesn't, he's definitely won our hearts.
You cross Donatello, you get crossed.
Dimension X Assault (Handheld, 1995)
Eventually, Konami lost the license to make handheld games based on the Turtles, so Tiger Electronics, famous for making every other LCD game, picked it up. This was their sad effort.
The most offensively yellow thing since Big Bird got mustard all over his dick.
The deafeningly loud music is back, as are the random voice clips -- only now the clips freeze the game every time they play (which is constantly). So while our times on this game are quite a bit longer than on the other LCD games, it's mostly because there was a two-second voice clip playing every, well, two seconds.
"How many sound clips do you want?"
"Just fuck me up."
Also, the enemies attack you from strange, non-Euclidean angles where it's not clear how to hit them back, as if the game was designed by H.P. Lovecraft's nightmares. On top of that, Dimension X Assault uses four AA batteries, while the Konami games used only two. Straight bullshit.
Pictured: an alternate gameplay method.
Raphael: Survived for 02:40
No. Wait, no. That ... that can't be right. Obviously, our whole approach was wrong. We shouldn't have stopped with the games based on the original cartoon. We should have played every TMNT game ever. All 89 of them (we counted). OK, give us a few minutes.
Five months later ...
Final Final Results
ALL HAIL RAPHAEL, THE GREATEST NINJA TURTLE! We knew it all along.
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