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Bad Dudes




Genre: Action

Publisher: Data East

Total time played: 2 hours

Short review: An early beat em up that plays similar to Double Dragon but doesn’t have quite as much charm.

Interesting links related to Bad Dudes


I have a vague memory of playing this as a kid. I’m pretty sure that there was an extra lives code that we used to beat the game. The only things I remembered were that the Level 1 boss is Karnov from the NES game Karnov and that at some point in the early 90’s I rented Two Crude Dudes on Sega Genesis which felt like a sequel to Bad Dudes.

What’s the Story?

In the late 1980’s everything was bad. First there was Michael Jackson’s hit song Bad and then there was Bad Dudes on the NES and then there was Lucas from The Wizard, he had the Power Glove…which was also Bad.

In this game two bad dudes are hired to rescue the president. That’s right, the secret service couldn’t handle it so they hired two guys in black tank tops to do the job.

image.png?w=1024I’ve always wondered why the president was kidnapped by ninjas. We never find out.


This is one of those unique NES games where B jumps and A attacks. No matter how many games I play like this it never feels natural.

Jump: B

High Jump: B + Up

Jump Down to a Lower Platform: B + Down

Jump Kick: B + A

Spinning Jump Kick: B + A + Right or Left

Punch: A

Foot Sweep: A + Down

Fire Punch: Hold A until character begins flashing and then release A

Pick Up Item: Down + A while standing next to item

Power Ups

What would an NES game be without enemies who drop powerups? Luckily for us only the red enemies drop power ups so we know if we see a red ninja we definitely want to take him out and see what goodies he leaves.

Clock: if a ninja drops a clock you can pick it up to add some time to the stage. At the end of the stage you get points for how much time is left on the clock. But, points don’t matter and I never once ran out of time so this power up was useless. I still always pick it up though.

Soda: If you’ve ever played a beat em up game before you probably already know that a soda replenishes health. The powerups stay on screen until you pick them up or walk out of frame. This was handy if I found a soda can while I had full health. I could fight some guys until I needed it and then pick it up.

Nunchaku: the weapon of choice for Michaelangelo Turtle (I assume that is his last name). This weapon seems to be much more powerful than the regular punch and has a longer range. It does have one downside though. The gray ninjas throw what I assume are ninja stars at you, you can punch or knife them out of the air but your dude isn’t bad enough to swat them away with the nunchaku so you almost always take a hit.

Knife: Pretty much the exact same benefits as the nunchaku but can hit the gray ninja’s ninja stars out of the air so this is a much more useful weapon.

Stage 1 – The Streets

image-2.png?w=944To no ones surprise the president wasn’t on the streets

In this stage your bad dude takes it to the streets where he must fight a bunch of street ninjas before finally reaching the stage 1 boss, Karnov. Being the first stage a spent the first few times I played Bad Dudes to try out all the moves mentioned in the section above and mastered them as best I could. Then, on subsequent playthroughs I discovered that if you just do the spinning jump kick across the stage you can skip most of the enemies and reach the boss in well under a minute.

In a game like Double Dragon you can’t move forward until all enemies are defeated. On top of that you earn experience points that help you learn new moves. In Bad Dudes none of that happens, you can rush through the stages and not kill all the ninjas because there is no advantage for doing so. This is the type of game where you would expect to earn an extra life when you hit a certain number of points. But, you’d be wrong. The only way to earn an extra life is to complete a stage.

To beat Karnov I found hitting him with the fire punch and then immediately jumping up or down to the higher/lower level and waiting on him to jump next to me and then hitting him with the fire punch again worked wonders. Most times I could beat him without taking a hit.

image-3.png?w=932Karnov, the stage one boss in a perfectly timed screenshot where it looks like his chest is censored

Stage 2 – Top of the Truck

image-4.png?w=948How are there so many guys on this moving truck?

The bad dudes now find themselves on top of a really long semi moving down the highway. This is an autoscroller level meaning you can’t move forward until the screen scrolls by itself. The screen scrolls very very slowly so be prepared to punch and kick a lot of ninjas. You can’t skip fights in this stage like you could in stage 1.

Be careful, you can fall between the trailers and land on the road below. This doesn’t kill you but does take a big chunk of health and because the truck is moving it is hard to jump back up top. Eventually the truck stops and you must defeat the stage 2 boss.

After I beat the game I found out the best strategy is to stand on the hood of the truck and hit the guy with the fire punch as he tries to jump up and hit you. But, I took the less glamorous approach of just mashing buttons.

image-5.png?w=948I didn’t know his name but called him long claws short boy

Stage 3 – The Sewer

image-7.png?w=1016What was it with ninjas hanging out in sewers in the 1980s?

No ninja turtles here, just regular old ninjas. This stage I handled much like stage 1. Just jump kick as fast as you can to the right until you reach the boss. There are some spots where you have to jump over holes which makes this slightly harder than stage 1. If you fall in the hole you don’t lose a life you just lose some health from the stinky sewer water touching your tank top.

The boss in stage 3 is a regular looking ninja. But, as you approach that regular ninja turns into 5 ninjas. Lucky for us the NES isn’t super powerful so even though there are 5 ninjas on screen only 2 of them can attack you at once. Once you defeat 4 of the ninjas you get to fight the main ninja. After hitting him a couple of times he turns back into 5 ninjas. Rinse and repeat a few times to take him out.

image-8.png?w=954It is impossible to get a shot of all 5 ninjas on screen due to the NES screen flicker. I won’t explain how it works here but is a neat trick to get more items on screen at once than the NES hardware can handle

Stage 4 – The Jungle

image-10.png?w=942The jungle plays just like the streets and the sewer with a different background.

In the jungle you fight some more ninjas. This is the first stage to feature vertical scrolling.It is pretty clunky but makes the stage feel bigger than it is. After you reach a certain spot in the stage and clear out all the ninjas the screen freezes and then begin to very clunkily pan down. Once the screen stops moving you can drop to a lower level and continue forward. This doesn’t add much to the game but I guess the developers wanted to try it out anyway.

The stage 4 boss is impossible if you don’t know what you are doing and super easy if you do. My first couple of attempts ended on this stage. The boss is really strong so you want to not let him hit you (seems so obvious). When the boss is close, hit him with a fire punch, he will jump back and wave his arms and then walk towards you again. Hit him with another fire punch where he will jump back and do a back flip kick. Be sure you aren’t too close when he does his punch or back flip kick and you’ll be fine. This fight is all about timing and going slow and steady.

image-12.png?w=980A robot!

Stage 5 – The Train

image-13.png?w=948Just like the top of the truck level, but, now we autoscroll left

This is the stage that gave me the most trouble. It is another auto scrolling stage but this time it scrolls much faster. It isn’t super fast but much faster than the snails pace of stage 2. The gaps between the train cars are larger making it easier to fall below and take out a lot of your health. There are also a lot of ninjas here. The regular blue guys aren’t bad but the gray guys that throw projectiles, the fire ninjas (yes, fire ninjas), short guys, jumping sword guys, girl ninjas and even a green Karnov (stage 1 boss) make this stage much harder than anything that came before.

On top of the storm of ninjas the final boss is tough. He swings a rope with a spear on the end of it above his head. (This could be (but I doubt it) where the idea for Scorpion’s weapon in Mortal Kombat came from.)

I never found a good strategy on this guy. Much like the stage 2 boss I just mashed buttons and tried to dodge his attacks. The key for me was to not die in earlier stages. Since you earn an extra life at the end of each stage it would be possible to have 5 or 6 lives on this stage giving me a little buffer.

image-15.png?w=946While each stage ends with a digitized voice saying “I’m Bad” I would have preferred this boss saying “Get Over Here”

Stage 6 – The Cave

image-17.png?w=942These bad dudes have literally looked everywhere for the president.

The cave plays just like the streets or the jungle or the sewer. There is one added stage obstacle, the falling stalactite. Much like the earlier side scroller stages I’d just run and jump as fast as I could through the barrage of enemies, over spike pits, holes and dogs (yes, we are fighting dogs now, or maybe foxes?)

There really isn’t much to note about this stage that is different than what we’ve seen before. The final boss is fast and has a long stick that does a lot of damage. The one saving grace is there is a red ninja who drops a can of soda that sticks around once the boss shows up. I used this to my advantage and picked it up at the last moment when my health was low. Even so, this guy was hard to beat without losing a life.

image-19.png?w=1000Prepare to lose a life on this guy

Stage 7 – The Warehouse

image-20.png?w=942lots of ninjas on screen at once here

After searching high and low we ended up in a warehouse full on ninjas where every enemy you have encountered in the game has come to heal after you beat them earlier. The stage itself is just as straight forward and easy to skip as most of the others but once you get to the end you are faced with the famous old school video game boss rush mode where you must fight every end stage boss in a row. It seemed like they were all a little easier than when you first fought them but I can’t be sure since this time they don’t have a life bar.

You also don’t fight the bosses in the same order but Karnov is still first making him the only boss you fight 3 times. They must have really liked this character as he ended up getting his own spin off game after Bad Dudes. It has been a while since I’ve played Karnov but I’m pretty sure there is no mention of the time he was involved in capturing the US President.

After defeating all the bosses again you meet the final boss of the game and fight him on a helicopter. Things don’t get much more epic than this on the NES. The boss looks like the lead singer of an 80’s hair band and honestly I can’t tell you much else about him. I had 1 life left so was pretty nervous once I got here and just mashed buttons and somehow took him out. I don’t remember what kind of moves he performed as I think I got lucky and caught him in a pattern where he couldn’t hit me.

image-22.png?w=978A fight to the death on the side of a helicopter.

Final Thoughts

Bad Dudes is a bit clunky to play but is pretty fun. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of it and there does seem to be some skill involved. It took me 7 tries to beat the game which is much shorter than the past few games I’ve played. The game is not easy but not frustratingly hard. I would say the difficulty balance is nearly perfect. This isn’t a great game but it is a good game and one I’d recommend playing. From beginning to end you can beat it in 20-30 minutes. I’ve now saved the president and seen one of the greatest end screens on the NES where the President thanks me for saving his life by going to get a burger with me. Classic.


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bad dudes doesnt have the curb appeal to keep you around but if you stick with it, it turns into a fun game. clunky for sure but seems desths are player error not cheap programing.

Edited by docile tapeworm
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