Battle City is a 1985 multi-directional shooter video game developed and published by Namco. The game is a sequel and/or successor to Namco’s Tank Battalion (1980) and a prequel/predecessor to Tank Force (1991). Battle City was originally released for the Family Computer. The Family Computer (Famicom) came out in 1983 and it was Japan’s first iteration of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). This system was redesigned for a 1985 American release to become the Nintendo Entertainment System.
After Battle City’s initial release, it received an arcade port for the coin-operated Nintendo VS. System. The Game Boy received a Nova Games game also known as Battle City, but it wasn’t exactly the same. Over the years, Battle City has been ported to a few different consoles, including downloadable files for the Wii and Wii U. Technically speaking, the Namco Battle City game was never released outside of Japan, but it became such a staple game that other companies continuously made clones of the game. Even today, if players Google “Battle City video game”, two mobile games pop up that are not actually Battle City. The Apple Store has a game called Battle City – Tank World for free that closely replicates the 1985 game. Similarly, the Google Play Store also has a game called Battle City Tank that does the same.
Modern gamers can find playable versions of Battle City on Google, though some may be clones of the original game instead of authentic. Microsoft has a free PC and mobile version of Battle City. Despite the cute and modern icon, the screenshots of the actual gameplay do look like the original game. Players can also find the NES version of Battle City on RetroGames.cz. RetroGames is a great resource for classic games that players can play right on their browser with no downloads. It also supports games like Gradius and Streets of Rage 3.
Due to the number of clones Battle City spawned, it’s difficult to get a solid grasp on the reception the original game received. According to Google, 90% of users who weighed in on the game said they liked it. Many of the clones are also highly rated. The Apple Store version has a 5 out of 5 rating and the Google Play Store has a 4.4 out of 5. Since the original game spawned so many clones, it’s safe to say it was popular with players.
Battle City Premise
Like many games of the time, Battle City focuses entirely on the gameplay. In the 1980s and 1990s, video games were more condensed than they are now. They didn’t have the technology or resources to create long, savable games, so most developers got straight to the point. This resulted in many games that didn’t have a story, basic plot, or even a main character. More often than not, players didn’t even control a protagonist, they just took control of a vehicle or machine instead. Battle City falls into this category because players take control of a single tank. Battle City isn’t the only game to feature this type of gameplay either. TNK III, an SNK arcade game that came out the same year, has a similar playstyle.
As a multi-directional shooter, most players would probably expect Battle City to be a side or vertical-scrolling game, but it isn’t. Instead of the player moving through scrolling backdrops, players are stationary in one location. Their objective is to defend their home base from enemy tanks. Enemy tanks enter from the top of the screen and attempt to destroy both the player and their base. If the player’s base is destroyed or they run out of lives, they lose.
Battle City features 35 levels and the player needs to eliminate 20 enemy tanks to move onto the next level. Players can destroy their own bases, so they need to be careful when eliminating enemy tanks so they don’t cause themselves a Game Over. Each level contains different terrains and barricades that players and enemy tanks have to destroy. Players can collect power-ups by destroying flashing red tanks. There are four different-sized enemy tanks with the largest one taking the most damage before going down. Naturally, as the player progresses through the levels, the game gets harder. Some tanks will even start playing mind games by sending in decoys to distract the player while another tank slips in to destroy the base.
The original Battle City features solo and multiplayer modes. Up to two people can play and defend a base together. Battle City was also one of the first games to ever feature a built-in level editor.
Battle City Main Characters
As mentioned above, Battle City doesn’t feature a detailed plot or a main character. The game does deserve some credit for having a more concise objective. Unlike side-scrolling or vertical-scrolling shooters like TNK III, Battle City does have a reason for its gameplay. Players need to defend their home base from destruction. They aren’t just roaming around, mindlessly killing anything in their path. Players need to protect their base. If they don’t, enemy tanks will destroy the base and they’ll fail their mission. This gives players a sense of urgency and purpose that similar games of the time don’t have.
That said, Battle City still doesn’t elaborate on why the player needs to protect the base or who’s piloting the tank. Since the player controls a tank and not a person, the player becomes the main protagonist, rather than a playable MC. Likewise, since the enemy tanks are also just tanks without a pilot attached to them, there are no nameable antagonists either.
Battle City Titles in the Series
Battle City is unique because the 1985 game has been replicated and cloned many times since its creation. Naming every Battle City game would be difficult because many of the results aren’t the original game or related to the series. Many clones only want to recreate what made the original so popular.
The Original Battle City Trilogy:
- Tank Battalion (1980)
- Battle City (1985)
- Tank Force (1991)
Battle City Cheats, Cheat Codes, & Level Selection
From the 1980s to the 1990s, video game developers often included built-in exploits or cheat codes to make the game easier. For some games, this was a necessary inclusion to make the games of the time beatable. Most games worked on a lives system, so once the player ran out of lives or failed their objective, they’d receive a Game Over. Players couldn’t save their progress, so they needed to complete the game in one sitting.
Fortunately, Battle City has several useful cheat codes. While these cheats have been documented and used by players, it’s important to keep in mind that Battle City came out almost 40 years ago. Depending on the game version, the console or system, and other factors, these cheats may not work as intended.
NES Battle City Cheats
- Start the game
- Wait for the “Stage 1” screen to show up
- Press A and B to select the desired stage
- The “Stage 1” screen is the only time players can do this level select option
- Open the game and go to the title screen
- Select “Construction”
- Press Start to enter the Construction mode
- Press Start again to go back to the title screen
- Repeat 6 times
- Once players are back on the title screen for the final time, press and hold DOWN on the first controller
- Press A on the second controller 8 times
- Press and hold RIGHT on the first controller
- Press B on the second controller 12 times
- Press Start on the first controller
- A secret message will reveal itself
Game Boy Battle City Cheats
Players need to activate the following cheat codes on the title screen for them to take effect:
- 9 Lives: Left, Left, B, A, Up, Down, A, Right
- Don’t need to let go of A or B while shooting: Up, B, Left, A, Right, B, Down, A
- Level 3 Tank: B, A, B, B, A, B, A, A
- Options Menu: Down, Left, Up, A, Right, Right, B, Up
- Random blocks from shovel power-up: Up, Up, Down, Up, Left, Right, Right, Left
- Unlock all Levels: Down, Up, Up, Down, Left, Right, A, B
- View Credits: A, Down, A, Up, A, Right, B, Left
- Start a new game
- On the “Level 1” screen, press UP
- Select the desired level
- Press START to jump to the selected level
NES VS. System Arcade Battle City Cheats
There aren’t many cheats for the arcade version of Battle City, but it does have a stage-select option.
- Insert a credit
- On the following screen, hold A and B on the second controller
- Press Select on the first controller
- Players will have 10 seconds to choose any stage they want to jump to
Battle City Cheats FAQ
If players Google “Battle City cheats”, the FAQ results are just a bunch of questions asking about cheat codes in general. None of them pertain to Battle City. Just searching “Battle City video game” offers a few more results, though.
Where can I play Battle City?
As mentioned above, there are plenty of ways for modern gamers to experience Battle City or one of its many clones. Players can find it on RetroGames.cz and the Microsoft Store. They can also find Battle City clones on mobile devices through the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.
Is Battle City on the Nintendo Switch?
Yes, players can play Battle City on the Nintendo Switch by purchasing Namco Museum Archives Volume 2. This classic bundle includes several Namco video games including Battle City, Galaga, Legacy of the Wizard, Rolling Thunder, and Dragon Buster II, just to name a few. The digital download retails for $19.99, but it goes on sale regularly. Players can get the Namco Museum Archives Volume 2 bundle for $4.99 until February 7, 2024.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©TanderXS / Namco.