Rating Nintendo Power Covers

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In case you missed it, check out this morning’s article on Cap’n O.G. Readmore located here. -Ed.

My parents encouraged reading at a very early age. We were one of those families that made weekly library trips, each kid exiting with the maximum number of permitted books. Luckily my mom also was very open to subscribing us to magazines, so prior to my high school years when I was faking sophistication by reading Esquire and GQ, I had subscriptions to Nintendo Power, Highlights, Boy’s Life, and Sports Illustrated for Kids.

If you’re a mid-30s adult who was into Nintendo as a child, there’s a very good chance you subscribed to Nintendo Power to get the free copy of Dragon Warrior. What a deal! Battletoads walk throughs AND all-you-can-slay Slimes in the wastelands surrounding the kingdom of Alefgard. I wasn’t naive enough to think that my parents would be okay with me calling a hotline to get Nintendo gameplay tips and the Internet was but a glimmer in a future Redditor’s eye, so Nintendo Power was my Scripture.

In future months we’ll dig deep into the content, but for today let’s rate some covers. I will be using a very scientific scale, evaluating the level of Power We are Playing With (TM). All of this is completely subject to my whims and how I happen to be feeling at this very moment.

Batman Joker Cover, January/February 1990


Oh man, we are coming out of the gate strong! What’s not to love about this cover, apart from it advertising a lousy movie tie-in platformer? Batman was huge in 1989/1990, and Jack Nicholson defined the role of Joker for people my age. The reader also got a feature on maybe the biggest entry in a video game series of all time, PLUS one on Super Mario 3! Kidding! Although Double Dragon II wasn’t bad. I don’t remember the Tetris tip book, but I assume it was one shape per page, and on page 16 it said, “put them together.”

Was the Featured Game Actually Good? No

Level of Power We Are Playing With: Substantial

Castlevania II cover, September/October 1988

Castlevania 2

Happy birthday, little John! Our little boy’s 8 years old! For your birthday, we got you a NINTENDO POWER WITH SIMON BELMONT HOLDING DRACULA’S DECAPITATED HEAD HOLY SHIT. This cover is insanely badass. This was a magazine primarily for children! My parents didn’t even let me watch rated R movies until high school. Nintendo knocked this cover out of the park. Also Super Mario 2 is my favorite Mario installment (and I beat it before I beat 1), fuck the haters.

Was the featured game actually good? Yes? I watched my cousin play it but he never let me play. He seemed to enjoy it.

Level of Power We are Playing With: 2 A/C units running in July.

Super Mario Brothers 3 cover, March/April 1990

SMB 3 Cover

First off, the claymation style Nintendo Power covers are uniformly adorable. This was established with the very first issue, advertising Mario Brothers 2. The art improved from there. I’m a huge Claymation stan, which is one reason why I made everybody who was willing watch Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas this past December. Shame on you if you haven’t seen it. It’s the best. Super Mario Brothers 3 was huge. It was the climax of The Wizard, for goodness’ sake! Slapping a depiction of that done up in cartoony clay is a no brainer. Also A Boy and His Blob was pretty sweet.

Was the featured game actually good? Duh

Level of Power We are Playing With: 1 angry clay sun

Ninja Gaiden cover, March/April 1989

ninja gaiden

Hey, they can’t all be winners. This looks like a Halloween costume circular. I’m assuming the sexy nurse was just out of frame. Also maybe sticking a white ninja on the cover of a magazine advertising a product made in a country where ninjas actually existed wasn’t the best call? At least TMNT was pretty cool in theory, before you had to try to get through the swimming level. This is one of the only covers that is a complete miss on every level. Nothing redeeming about it.

Was the featured game actually good? Why won’t my stupid cousin let me have a turn?! I have to be here because Aunt Teri is babysitting us, and it isn’t fair!

Level of Power We are Playing With: Four year old Rite Aid brand AA found in the junk drawer.

Battletoads Cover, June 1991


At first glance you may not be overly impressed with this Battletoads cover. The artwork doesn’t stand up to the claymation Mario cover I tackled above, and in some ways the toads featured here do not even adequately convey how good the animation in the game looked for being an 8-bit property. In my mind, however, this represents the ne plus ultra of Nintendo Power covers, because of what it brought out in me. In 5th grade for one of our art projects we were required to create a picture by tearing up pieces of construction paper (apparently this is called a construction paper mosaic). I chose as my subject matter this Nintendo Power cover, which I faithfully reproduced, sans logo. To this day it is my greatest artistic achievement, and had it not disappeared after we hung them up in the St Joseph Elementary School hallway, I’d probably still have it to pull out as a sad rebuttal to people telling me I haven’t lived up to my potential. Alas, it’s lost to history, but at least I have the original cover to remind me. Otherwise not much going on here. Battletoads didn’t get a lot of help from Nintendo Golf or The Hunt for Red October for Gameboy. You know, that game based on a movie based on a Tom Clancy novel that was all the rage with Gameboy’s core market of 9-15 year olds. Oh how we’d engage in spirited debate on the playground about whether Alec Baldwin was our generation’s Marlon Brando in between games of touch football!

Was the Featured Game Actually Good? Yeah, until you got to the speeder bike level and the game essentially ended for you.

Level of Power We are Playing With: Incredible Hulk facing off against Thor in Ragnarok.

What were some of your favorite covers? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.


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