Ice Climber (NES)

Game Review

Ice Climber Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Ron DelVillano

Cold Mountain

What makes a video game a classic? Is it enjoyable gameplay that never feels old? Is it an engaging storyline that draws players into its universe? Or is it simply the inclusion of some characters and stages in the latest Super Smash Bros. title? Ice Climber is the latest “classic” NES game to hit the 3DS Virtual Console, but if it weren’t for Super Smash Bros. Melee, would anyone really care?

Like many early NES games that aimed to reflect the arcade experience at home, Ice Climber’s gameplay is mainly focused on achieving the highest score possible. Starting at the bottom of each stage, your goal is to work your way upwards towards the top of the mountain by jumping from platform to platform while avoiding obstacles such as condors, polar bears, and strange yeti-like creatures. Getting hit by any of these creatures — or simply falling down a pit as the level progresses vertically — will cause you to die. Waiting at the top of each mountain is a bonus stage that has you collecting vegetables while still trying to work your way up even higher.

Because your goal is rooted in scoring rather than progressing through a plot, it is naturally a very repetitive experience. Each level is different in its layout, but your mission of reaching the top is the same every single time. This formula of repetition works with many games, but playing Ice Climber beings to feel like a chore after a short while. The inclusion of local multiplayer via download play does add an element of variety in that you can choose to either work with or against your partner, but that’s entirely coincidental.

Though the levels seemingly go on forever, there are only 32 stages to play through before they start repeating themselves. In other words, even though the game goes beyond 32 levels, stage 33 is actually just a renamed version of stage 1, and so on. This means that not only is the gameplay repetitive, but the game is literally just repeating itself. Once you’ve gotten past stage 32, then you start playing through levels you’ve already completed.

The way that Ice Climber controls is, to say the very least, frustrating. While your controls are limited to travelling left and right, swinging your hammer to attack enemies, and jumping, getting anywhere quickly is an ordeal. Your ability to jump is the most important aspect of this game, but your movement is almost completely vertical. Trying to jump to the left or the right – which, may we remind you, is central to the gameplay — will more often than not end in missed ledges and plummets to your death. There’s also the frequent issue of falling right through a ledge rather than landing on it, but that’s a much bigger flaw that can’t simply be attributed to poor controls.

Not only is the gameplay lacking, but Ice Climber falls flat in the visual department as well. It may seem unfair to pick at such an old game that was clearly limited by technology when it was being made, but beyond the variety in structure, each stage looks exactly the same with their solid coloured platforms and stark black background. The character sprites, while adorable, are also lacking the detail that can be expected from other NES classics.


When dealing with games that have ongoing legacies through modern titles such as the Super Smash Bros. series, it can be difficult to determine how much of a role nostalgia plays. Though it is now considered a classic NES game, the reality is that Ice Climber is a very repetitive arcade game that is limited by a lack of variety and frustrating controls. If you are already a fan then you could definitely do worse than this version, especially with the included download play for multiplayer, but newcomers might be disappointed by how quickly the excitement dries up.

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User Comments (49)



Angelic_Lapras_King said:

Ahh well, at least they're continuing the get these Ambassador games out the way. Then maybe they can think about GBA, lol. (As well as to the Wii U VC for some reason...)



WesCash said:

I still like this game. All of the complaints in the review are completely accurate though. I can't really pinpoint why I enjoy playing Ice Climber, but I do.



DarkCoolEdge said:

I don't understand why so many people consider this game a classic. Even if the controls weren't so bad it would be just a fine game, it is lacking in many departments.

Still, a good remake with nice graphics, pixel-perfect controls and a little bit of variety would be a nice addition to either eshop and if reasonably priced I'd buy it.



allav866 said:

I'll tell you what's cold... This review. Ba-dum...TSHHH!
Seriously, though, this game is flawed, but I'm very fond of this game, especially for it's multiplayer. As this is the first 3DS VC game to include 2-Player mode via Download Play, it opens up a range of possibilities that should not be missed. I'd like to see other multiplayer NES games use this feature, such as Mario Bros., Contra, Balloon Fight, Blades of Steel, Clu Clu Land, and BattleToads.
Also, would it be too much to ask for Nintendo to start releasing GameBoy games that used a link cable, like PokéMon?



Lalivero said:

This game is definitely showing it's age but I agree with @DarkCoolEdge on the part about buying a remake if it were to ever turn up. I think it's one of those pretty flawed games that deserve a second chance, maybe we'll see a return like KI:U.

I mean why bring Nana and Popo back looking better than ever in a game like Smash Bros. if you're not going to do anything with them otherwise?



Bass_X0 said:

Never liked Ice Climbers. But yes, I would like to see them in a modern sequel.



zipmon said:

Great review mate! I love the idea of Ice Climber but the actual game doesn't live up to it. Time to unthaw them for a remake!



allav866 said:

@Chriiis Because otherwise they'd have to do something with Mr. Game&Watch and R.O.B. as well. I'll never understand why Popo and Nana were in Smash Bros. Melee, but my strongest guess is that they thought of the concept of two characters controlled simultaneously before choosing which characters represented that idea best, which really could've been anyone, including the Balloon Fighters, Bubbles (Clu Clu Land) and those cute dinosaurs from Bubble Bobble. As for G&W and Robot, G&W was Nintendo's first game made, and Robot, while featured in two of the worst NES games, is popular among NES enthusiasts, and has had cameos outside of Smash Bros., such as Mario Kart DS and Star Tropic.



idork99 said:

@allav866 Ice Climber is actually the second game on the 3DS Virtual Console to utilize Download play. The first being Super C. And as far as multiplayer for Game Boy games, I read somewhere that it would be somewhat of an impossible tasks to make multiplayer available due to structure of how they used to link the games but we'll see. It would be nice though.



Moonhillwat said:

Stopped reading after the first paragraph. Nintendolife reviews have been really disappointing as of late.



IsawYoshi said:

I never really understood the love for this game. After trying the ambassador version I were clueless. The jumping is impossible!



Lalivero said:

@allav866 That question had more to do with my hope of Ice Climbers getting a proper sequel/remake than anything. They've given them modern looks, so bring it on!

If it means Mr. Game&Watch and R.O.B. getting more releases, then so be it. They don't even have to be full retail games, the eshop would suffice, ala Shantae: Risky's Revenge on Dsiware and the upcoming 3dsware title.



shonenjump86 said:

Yup, I tried to get into this game but never could. I like using them in the Smash Bros games though.



Auracle said:

I wasn't too fond of this Ambassador Title. Like the review said, the jumping is a total pain.



FritzFrapp said:

I never rated Ice Climbers even when it first came out on the Famicom. It always seemed an incomplete idea, like Mario Bros.



Windy said:

I have this from Ambassador. Played it once BLEH! I wont buy any of the classics though unless they get the 3D treatment. Played them already and would like to see them get the 3D classics treatment on my 3D powered machine. I don't know its what I was expecting when I bought a system that's main selling point was 3D. For those who don't care for the 3D go get a DS. Would love to see Castlevania get the 3D treatment But it wont. they will bring it in it 2d form



TsunamiSensei said:

I've only played the 3DS ambassador version, and I liked it so much my username is based off the blue climber's name! It seems I'm in the minority of people who actually like this game,



Morpheel said:

I have this next to DK Jr. in my Ambassador folder in my 3DS.

I call it the "It was free" Area.



Linkuini said:

Let's face it, it's pretty easy to find smartphone games better than this one.



Nestalgic said:

If Nintendo wants us to buy their old crappy games, they need to 3Ditize them. I mean I love classics, but this is not a classic in anything but the age.



Chomposaur said:

this is what the wii Us Vc will be like ... Trickling all of the Nintendo classics once a month. It will take years to get new/good games



asusanto said:

ha ! I played this game a lot when I was a kid. I did download this VC game just to refresh old good memory. What a classic !



defrb said:

I love classics a lot, only theres no reason to re_release them, i can play them on like 5 systems allready.
For me iceclimber is 7/10, you should look at the time they made this game, the gameplay was quitte unique. Its an arcade game where people try to showoff hwos the king, without that thrill its quitte empty, i have to admit



JayArr said:

Very fair review, I have this ranked as a 2/10.

The physics in the game are beyond hideous. I could pound three bottles of vodka and still climb a mountain with more skill than these two.



LanePhilly said:

It's a fun game if you're in the bathroom and you're 3DS is with you.

Also still a better love story then twilight.



thrawn3d said:

I still love me some Ice Climber, probably is nostalgia more then anything though.



misswliu81 said:

this is one of those games that could do with a remake- better graphics, gameplay and controls. yes, it wasn't a great game back in the days, but i can only imagine how much better it can be as a revival/remake.



KnightRider666 said:

I agree this may not be the best classic Nes title out there, but something about it keeps me coming back to check it out once in a blue moon. Yes, the controls do take some getting used to, you should still check it out.



StarDust4Ever said:

Terrible review. Ice Climber isn't that great, but it had it's charm. You've got to be careful with two players though: extremely easy to knock your opponent off the bottom if you climb too fast. Over all, it's a decent game, prolly worthy of a six. I made it to round two a few times but never was able to grab that condor at the top.



RetrogamerFan said:

I think most of the criticisms in the review are fair. I like the concept of the game but I found it frustrating because of the dodgy collision detection and the jumping controls are so stiff and unwieldy.



Beau_Skunk said:

Let me just say I didn't grow up with this game, (I didn't even know it existed until SSBMelee came out) so "nostalgia" isn't influencing my opinion, but let me just say I actually thought this was a pretty good game. I'm amazed there's so many negative comments about it here.
I admit it takes a li'l getting used to, (especially the faster moving platforms in later levels) but it has some nice challenges, and it's not impossible to beat. (I've beaten all 32 levels.) And I like how it lets you chose which level to be on, so you can always start off where you last were. Not many NES games have that convenience. It's simplicity also makes it ideal for the 3DS, and makes it a good travel game.

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