Overall rating: 2/5
When the Nintendo Entertainment System released, it came out with a modest selection of launch titles, with some of them being especially forgettable (say, Gyromite) and some of them becoming instant classics (for example, Super Mario Brothers). These cartridges were what the entire home video game industry was riding on, considering the current climate of a potential total crash of the market at the time.
Excitebike was one of these games, with the now-familiar pixelated cover art and basic gameplay. On the spectrum of launch quality, it fell somewhere in the middle: It is now a quasi-classic, but has serious flaws to inhibit any real fondness.
Subpar at best, every element of the game was crude, basic, and uninspired, from the pixelated racers to the astoundingly bare menu screens. There were five tracks, but each one was just a recoloring and not truly different, other than the obstacles provided. The only redeeming factor to be found was the enormous elements on some track levels and the fun, cartoony appearance of the racers on their bikes
In a word: Terrible. The engine noise did not sound like an engine noise (see: RC Pro Am, Super Sprint, Rad Racer, et al); rather, it was as though the developers found a boop noise and decided to loop it. The music was devastatingly catch in the worst way: Yes, it was memorable, but for all the wrong reasons, and not because it was great. The soundtrack is one of the more obvious indications that this was a rushed game that had very little time to refine its components.
At the time, there were very few Nintendo games, and the Atari 2600 could only provide scant references for comparison. However, all things considered, Excitebike did manage a level of successful innovation, due to its unique racing mechanics and the track editor. However, the game had a save function that did not work, due to a planned accessory never being released that would have enable the feature. This severely limited the replay value, not to mention confusing gamers and slightly embarrassing the company.
In the end, Excitebike will always be considered one of the brave, bold gaming titles that excitedly bound forward onto the wild new frontier of home console gaming on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It will forever hold some status as a classic, sort of, despite its obvious weaknesses and flaws. When all aspects of this adventure are considered, it can only garner two stars out of five, and is lucky to get that.