Long before the Trials series there was a little side-scrolling motocross racer that combined quick racing with an underlying element of strategy. Finding a sweet spot between landing a tough jump and making sure that your engine doesn’t overheat made this game one of the most loved NES titles of all time.
Excitebike was easy to pick up and play but difficult to master as you memorise the different aspect of any given track. The premise of the controls is quite simple. The A-button is used to accelerate your bike and the B-button is used to boost your speed. This needs to be managed well as you can only boost for a brief moment before your engine stalls. The directional pad is used to switch between the four lanes and maneuver yourself over speed bumps, puddles and other obstacles while dodging other racers on the track. Pushing the back button (Left on the D-Pad) when racing up an incline will result in you getting some serious air, but over a much shorter distance. When pushing forward you fill be flung forward quickly but with much less hang time. Combining this timing of jumps and your position in the air is a critical balancing act you’ll need to get acquainted with in order to progress with the best time possible.
The game is made up of three different modes. Selection A is what is today known as a time trial mode. Getting the best lap time possible will see you being crowned the victor. Selection B puts you up against other racers that generally take you out before you can cross the finish line. Lastly the Design mode lets you design your ideal track and race on it. Considering that Excitebike was released in 1985 this mode was an absolute stand out feature. Each track is compiled with predefined obstacles arranged in varying assortments and color schemes. The track layouts can be anything from simple bumps, to steep vertical obstacles that will break your momentum if approached incorrectly. The ramps, oil spills, and speed bumps help make the courses varied and add to the diversity and challenge of the levels.
Over 30 years after Excitebike first launched on the NES it still to this day holds up. The core gameplay of Excitebike is what pretty much obliges Nintendo to relaunch the game on its newer platforms. Unfortunately there isn’t a two-player mode but you can choose whether or not you want to race against CPU riders with Selection A & B. The game’s track editor, gives the game extra longevity as the primary gameplay can be completed in around 2 hours if you really stick to mastering each and every track. While there are numerous sequels to this game namely, Excitebike: World Rally, Excitebike 64 and even Excite Truck it remains a tough task to beat the first instalment of the series. As they say; You can’t beat a classic.