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Genre: Shooter

Publisher: FCI

Total time played: 30 minutes

Short review: An early side scrolling shooter with decent controls, primitive graphics, bleep bloopy sound and not very much replay-ability

Interesting links related to Magmax

Amazing Box Art

The box art for Magmax is amazing. It features a mech with a light saber fighting a multi-headed robot dragon. Most NES games with box art this awesome don’t live up to the hype. Magmax lives up to the hype, you play as a giant mech and do fight a multi-headed robot dragon, but, it is very anti-climactic.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics for Magmax leave much to be desired. If this was a launch title I would forgive it for being so plain, but, it came out 3 years into the NES life cycle so there is no excuse for such plain graphics.

The sound isn’t any better. It is a bunch of simple beeps and boops and a song that loops too quickly and doesn’t fit the style of the game at all. Keep this in mind, Magmax was released AFTER Mega Man 2 in North America. That means there is no excuse for graphics and sounds so plain.


Magmax came out at the tail end of games that didn’t really have levels or an end. It is kind of a mix of a high score and traditional game. There are 4 levels in the game that loop endlessly. When you beat a level you don’t get notified, the background just changes slightly. There are bosses at the end of the 2nd and the 4th levels. Both bosses are the same, the dragon from the box art. Unfortunately the boss just stands still and shoots slow projectiles that are easy to dodge. In fact, I never once died fighting the boss.


Once you beat all 4 levels you have “beaten the game” even though there is technically no ending, the game just loops back to the beginning and gets slightly harder. You get 3 lives. You can earn extra lives at 30,000 points and then every 50,000 points after that.

One thing that is slightly interesting is that you start above ground but can travel underground if you fly over a silver circle that randomly appears on screen. If you fly into the circle you are transported below ground. While underground you can fly into a silver circle and be transported back above ground.

I would have preferred that the hole actually looks like a hole but it doesn’t. And, when you are underground the hole to get back above ground is sometimes on the bottom of the screen which would make me think it would take you even deeper underground. It just doesn’t make much sense.

The above ground level seems to be slightly easier, but, there is no advantage to playing the game above or underground. In fact, you can beat the game without ever traveling underground. The mech dragon boss appears above ground or underground.

Mech Warrior

The game starts you off as a ship that wouldn’t look out of place in a side scrolling shooter like Life Force or Gradius. As you move through the level you will see a pair of legs, a torso with a head and a gun. You can pick these up in any order (You must have the torso or legs to pick up the gun) to change the appearance of your ship.

If you pick up all 3 pieces your mech warrior is much stronger, shooting out multiple bullets and a fireball (if underground) or laser saber (if above ground). But, the trade off is that your mech is larger making it an easier target for enemy fire.

For each add on it takes an extra hit for you to die. If your mech is fully built it will take 3 hits to kill you and usually if you are hit and lose your legs or torso you can find another again before dying.


One hit and you are dead


With the leg attachment you now get two hits


With the head and leg attachment you can take 3 hits before dying and shoots 3x as many bullets.


I didn’t care to do much research on the arcade game the NES game was ported from. But, I did a quick Google search and it appears that the graphics are much better than I would have expected. This is another reason I’m let down by the NES port, it’s like they didn’t even try to make it pretty.


Even with the grainy screenshot I found online the arcade version looks much better.

Final Thoughts

There isn’t much to Magmax. I was surprised at how let down I was by the game even though for once the awesome box art gave an accurate representation of what you actually do in the game.

The NES has 2 buttons, but both shoot your gun, the designers could have easily added a secondary gun, a bomb that cleared the screen of all enemies or some other feature. But, the designers chose to do the bare minimum to make a playable game. It is playable, but after 15 minutes you will seen everything the game has to offer.


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