Mach Rider

Year: 1985
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Racing – Chase

There are things that a racing game can do to make itself stand out in an otherwise vanilla genre. Some incorporate powerups, items or weapons. Some allow you to improve on your vehicle. Some employ novel control schemes. Some just show the game from a different perspective. Mach Rider takes a novel approach to the problem of keeping you interested in what otherwise amounts to bland gameplay: it arbitrarily kicks your ass.

I blame Mel Gibson.

With the disclaimer out of the way, let me tell you about one of the two thoroughly mediocre follow-perspective racing games that were among the release titles on the NES. In Mach Rider, it’s the year 2112. The earth has been invaded by evil forces, and you have to… do… something. Very little additional information is given, as is typical for games in the 80’s – you either had to read a novella to understand the storyline, or the whole thing could be summarized as “A WIZARD DID IT!”

I’m not a huge fan of racing games – I find it only fair to say that up front. That’s not to say I never enjoy racing games – as a child I loved RC Pro-Am and Micro Machines, and I guarantee that I’ll cite more than a few other examples of gems within the genre as I review the Nintendo Entertainment System’s catalog. I do not as a rule, however, enjoy racing games on the same level that I enjoy, say, shoot ’em ups or platformers.

Everything pictured here is trying to kill me.
Everything pictured here is trying to kill me.

At times, in fact, I felt like the vehicles chasing me were the Gibson character – the way that they unerringly struck me dead from the rear regardless of the evasive maneuvers employed in attempting to dodge them. Accelerating is sufficient to avoid them, to a point, but after shifting up a few gears and accelerating, the game reaches breakneck speeds. This is fine on the first level, where all you have to deal with curves in the road and a few of the aforementioned buggies, but on subsequent levels, there’s debris strewn around seemingly everywhere for the sole purpose of ensuring that you WILL ram into something you didn’t see until a split-second before it killed you.Anyway, you’re some guy on a motorcycle driving from sector to sector shooting things and avoiding evil dune buggies that are shockingly good at ramming you from behind. The game itself owes its themes to the likes of Mad Max and other similar media works. All the essential elements are there – miles and miles kilometers and kilometers of barren wasteland, guys in football gear riding motorcycles, oil drums (a shout-out to the oil crisis that spawned the genre) and bigger vehicles used as improvised weapons against smaller vehicles in classic Gibson style.

John’s Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0. This game relies too much on ambush difficulty and lacks variety, which is kinda’ what one should expect from a Nintendo release title.

You can't tell, but this is past the point of no return.
You can’t tell, but this is past the point of no return.

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