The Retro Critic

Mad Max

One of the coolest things to come out of the San Diego Comic Con was arguably that new Mad Max: Fury Road trailer which quickly got me excited for a franchise I really didn’t think was “rebootable.”

Which is why I thought I’d look back at a little game called Mad Max on the NES.

Developed by Mindscape, the game already sets itself up for criticism by calling itself Mad Max when, really, it’s Mad Max 2. That said, many actually prefer the second movie so this was probably a nice surprise for most.

The game opens with the first of many barely decipherable pictures peppered throughout.


Mad Max Pic

What does a 50 foot tall Chuck Norris covered in tar have to do with Mad Max?!

Maybe he’s Mud Max?

A scrolling text sets up the story nicely, which is awesome seeing as the game is hardly story based and is more about driving into other cars and picking up gallons of fuel than it is about anything else. It’s like giving a Demolition Derby game five minutes of epic exposition with like a specific time, setting, characters with feelings and families, the works, then have it be exactly what you thought it would be all along.

For the most part, Mad Max is kind of a driving game, if you can call sliding around a top down (ish) dirt road driving.

Cars Mad Max

But that’s what Mad Max is (mostly) all about and part of why it’s so cool so I would have let it pass if it had been nothing more than a driving game but, luckily, there’s more to it than that.

Not much more, mind you.

The driving parts basically involve you shooting your way through stacked tyres, bumping into incoming armored vehicles, stopping by shops where the same intimidating, if unrendered, dude always asks:

Something You Want

No, I just love hanging around stinky petrol stations where packs of bikers are seconds away from using my scalp as a stapled-on beard-warmer!

Yes I want something!!!

On the plus side, the whole buying system is straight-forward enough that it doesn’t feel like too much of an inconvenience. The problem, however, lies in that it’s really not clear where you’re meant to go half the time in this game. You find yourself going to various places which all look exactly the same then entering non-driving mini levels which also all look exactly the same.

Those parts see Max walking around (silly walking around, might I add) some red backgrounds looking for whatever he can find: giant keys straight out of Gauntlet II, ammo, food, fuel. On the way, he meets some bad guys, of course, and he soon reduces them to mush:

Mad Max Enemy

Mad Max Mush

That’s for being inoffensive and unarmed in a Mad Max game!

What WERE you thinking?

Honestly, those mine parts and even the driving parts aren’t too bad. They’re repetitive, sure, both visually and gameplay-wise but they at least make sense in that game. Which is more than I can say about some of LJN’s attempts at a licensed movie game. Sadly, though, that’s pretty much the entire game right there. By the time you get to your fifth red-backgrounded room you’ll be wishing you had found a time machine powerful enough to take you to later this year when this game will exist:

Or, at the very least, it’ll make you want to play Outlander on the Sega Genesis.

The rest of the game is spent driving around the arena, where these big gaps appear out of nowhere and where you not only have to avoid them but try to knock all those annoying cars away from you and down the pits.

Gaps Mad Max

Again, a level like that is correct in a Mad Max game, plus it adds some variety to the gameplay but, eventually, they just switch the colour palettes and call the same stuff different levels so it hardly seems worth it.

Actually, forget that, this image totally makes it worth it:

Mad Max Bad Crazy

How long did it take them to put THAT together, do you think?

15-17 seconds?

The music and sound effects throughout the game aren’t too bad, those V8 engines and screeching tyres sounding decent enough in all their 8-bit glory so there’s always that.

The ending is preceded by the final battle which you know is the final battle because it announces itself, as if this was some PS1 game with a crazy long loading screen behind which countless hamsters are supposedly running around their wheels desperately trying to get the game to transition to its next chapter.

Mad Max Final Battle

Final battle’s not waiting: I’M waiting for this image to disappear so I can finally get this game over and done with. And what’s with all the red backgrounds? And why is Mud Max back again? And why is his car bleeding? And why does he cast no shadow?

So many questions left unanswered…

Anyway, that final battle’s pretty lame.

End Fight Mad Max

You shoot the guy, the guy dies, the end.

And, apparently, you both shoot short straight lines which, I’m guessing, are liquorice flavoured and delicious?

Oh well, at least the game is short enough that it doesn’t waste too much of your time, even if it feels much longer than it is. The ending is predictably anti-climactic, obviously, as we get yet another visual “treat”.

Ending Mad Max


To a much better game, I’m hoping!

Now, to be fair, there are worse games on the NES and this Mad Max effort at least attempts to include the general iconography of the films it’s based on. You’ve got the cars, the violence, the arenas, the guns, the fuel, the dirt… it’s all there! All it needed was a consistently evolving plot, characters, more variety and surprises level-wise and more boss battles to keep you on your toes. Oh, and better graphics, of course.

Heck, even that Three Stooges game gave us more fun stuff to do!

And that’s what should kill the game for most people: it’s really not that fun. It has a droning effect and ends up being surprisingly boring even if it did have some potential.

When the passwords themselves lack imagination, you know you’re in trouble…

Mad MMax


Big trouble.