The Average Pilgrimage - 1984: Excitebike


Written by: Joe Wilcock

A fan favourite amongst arcade goers, Excitebike was an extremely successful title for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1984. It pioneered the 2D motorbike racing and stunt genre that we still today. From hundreds, if not thousands, of flash games to the incredible Trials series, Excitebike laid the foundations for future endeavours in this field. 

The game's brilliance lies in its simplicity and intuitiveness. I fully expected it to be riddled with flaws as most first attempts are. However, to my surprise, it controls extremely tightly as well as looking marvellous for the time not only in its graphics but in its animations too. Zipping through the various tracks, leaping over ramps and racing competing bikers was satisfying and EXCITEing. My only complaint is that the sound that your champion's bike emits can get very annoying if played for an extended period of time. The game's title doesn't exactly roll off the tongue either. Aside from that, I don't know what more I could have asked for from a game of this ilk.

Excite bike is split into 2 game types, Type A and Type B. In the first mode, you will race in isolation, trying to beat an allotted time to advance to the next track, of which there are 5. Each track gradually increases in difficulty and complexity all the while mixing up to the aesthetics of each one. The first track will have you racing in a humble arena and by the time you complete the circuit, you will be competing in grand arenas. This isn't sarcasm either, using different colours and adding verticality to some tracks do a good job of making them feel distinct and unique. The primitive graphics do an amazing job of conveying large scale tracks with detailed backgrounds. Pure art through limitation.

Type B pegs your biker against several other opponents in a chaotic fight for the finish. The "race" is a facade though as you don't win through finishing first but through beating a set time. This is excusable though as the mode is fun nevertheless. You can get knocked off your bike and, in turn, knock other people off their bikes in an all-out biking battle. All the hitboxes are fair and the mode never suffers any performance issues. This mode was my personal favourite of the 2 as I much preferred the carnage featured within.

Other notable qualities include the aforementioned slick animations and relatively realistic graphics. The music is unreal as well, I was so excited to finish a race just to hear the victory fanfare! That is to say, the presentation is impressive and must have been a real treat for gamers at the time. 

Excitebike is victim to subjectivity regarding my opinion, although this is the best bike game I could ever have hoped to play on the NES, it just isn't my genre of choice. Its concept is perfectly realised but limited in its nature and that's what holds this title back for me. It's like playing a 10/10 dating simulator, although perfect in its genre, it will never be my cup of tea.

Written by: Joe Wilcock