Ice Climber

ice climber box art nes review
6.5 Overall Score
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 6/10
Controls: 4/10

Fun concept

Irritating movement and controls

Game Info

Game Name:  Ice Climber

Developer(s):  Nintendo Research & Development 1

Publisher(s):  Nintendo

Platform(s): NES

Genre(s):  Retro/Platformer

Release Date(s):  January 30, 1985 (Japan)/October 18, 1985 (US)

ESRB Rating:  Not Rated

ice climber gameplay screenshot retro gaming nes

Climbing with friends…is horrific

Popo and Nana have a goal…they much reach the top of the mountain and the condor flying there.  As they battle the elements, they face Nitpickers, Topi, and White Bears that threaten to stop them on their mission.  Popo and Nana must climb the mountain or all hope is lost!

Ice Climber is a platformer arcade game created released for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  The game was in Japan on January 30, 1985 and was one of the NES launch titles in the United States on October 18, 1985.

While Super Mario Brothers and games like that got all the attention when the NES was launched, I was always more interested in the fringe titles.  Games like Mach Rider, Balloon Fight, Clu Clu Land and Ice Climber were always less likely to be owned by people I knew…so I wanted to play them more.  Ice Climber was one of the better second tier NES games, but it was also one of the more frustrating.

ice climber gameplay two player retro gaming screenshots gameplay

The maddening jumping of Ice Climber

The gameplay is rather simple.  You can jump and you can swing your mallet.  The mallet is used to bust the blocks above you so you can jump up and make your way to the top of the mountain…and the next mountain…and the next mountain.  There isn’t much to the game in that sense, but where Ice Climber gets tricky is the controls.

The problem I always had with Ice Climber is that Popo and Nana jump so strange.  Super Mario Bros. kind of established the standard “jump” of characters and most characters seem to have the same style of jump a trajectory.  Popo and Nana jump almost completely vertical and it becomes very easy to miss the edge of a platform when you are trying to jump up to the next floor…it can become frustrating and leads to death when you fall.

ice climber screenshot bonus stage eggplants gameplay screenshots

Nintendo’s continued obsession with eggplants

This frustration is compounded by the irritating characters that block your way.  The swing of the mallet is also odd and it is easy to miss the enemies…also leading to death.  If you are trying to speed through the mountain, you end up dying but the game is also rather dull if you take your time.

The game does have a nice two player mode.  It is a bit reminiscent of Mario Bros. and has the characters sometimes bouncing off each other.  It does enhance the gameplay, but it will also have you yelling at your ice climbing partner (which is part of the fun).

Ice Climber has been released for multiple platformers since its NES release.  It is frequently a cheap download on the Nintendo Virtual store and for the cheap price, it is rather fun.  The characters have also appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate.  I could actually see with the rise of the independent gamers a return to Ice Climber with new levels, abilities, and enemies…and I would welcome the challenge!

Related Links:

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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