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RETROspective: Bomberman's Explosive History

On 05/07/2022 at 09:26 AM by The Last Ninja

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Remember Bomberman? Back in the ‘90s, Bomberman was on top of the world. He was easily one of the most recognizable gaming mascots around, but today, he is nowhere to be seen. The big question is, Why? Before we get there, let’s go way back to 1983 and look at Bomberman’s beginning. From there we’ll go through his history, touching on the important games, and find out along the way what happened. You might not realize that Bomberman has over 70 games to his name! 20 of those games were only released in Japan, but there were plenty that were released in other parts of the world, even in South Korea, China, and Taiwan. Suffice to say, I’ll be condensing his history quite a bit, so let’s get into it. 

The Fuse is Lit (1983-1993) 

 pic 1

Bomberman was created by Hudson. In 1983, the first Bomberman game was released in Japan for the MSX computer. It was called Bakudan Otoko. It was released the following year on British computers, hilariously retitled Eric and the Floaters. While Bomberman doesn’t have a creator, it was Shinichi Nakamoto who redesigned the enemies from Lode Runner into the character who would become Bomberman. The concept for the first game was very simple: you drop a bomb, then move away and wait for it to explode in a cross pattern. The goal was to destroy all the enemies in the maze. 

 pic 2

                                  Bomberman '93

Bomberman was ported to the Famicom in 1985 and to the NES in 1987. This was the game that blew up, selling over 1 million units. Hudson realized that it had a winner on its hands, and so they started making more Bomberman games. In 1990 and ’91, Bomberman was ported to the TurboGrafx-16, which was the first game to feature multiplayer (up to 5 players). Bomberman II (NES, 1993) allowed up to three players by using the NES Four Score (it’s strange that they didn’t allow four players). It appeared that Bomberman was here to stay, so Hudson began cranking out more games for every console imaginable. 

Explosive Success (1993-2002)

 pic 3

                                         Saturn Bomberman

This period could be called “The Golden Years.” Hudson went ballistic in pushing out Bomberman games. During this period, they averaged six Bomberman games a year! 1997-98 alone had 12 games between them! Every console known to man would get its share of Bomberman games, including Game Boy, the Sega Saturn, and even the Atari Jaguar (although that particular game was cancelled). While many of these games were iterations on the simple Bomberman formula, Hudson also branched out and made more unique entries in the series. There was also an anime that was released in 2002. 

In 1987, NEC created the multitap for the TG-16, which allowed up to five players to play a single game at the same time. This was how Bomberman on the TG-16 was able to have up to five players competing at the same time. Bomberman ’93 (1993, TG-16) also had five player support. In order to replicate this experience on the SNES, Hudson created the Super Multitap and released Super Bomberman. Up to four players could compete in multiplayer using this new peripheral. Other SNES games would use the multitap as well, such as Secret of Mana and NBA Jam. 

pic 4

                                    Bomberman 64

While five players at once was impressive, Hudson was not satisfied. Saturn Bomberman (Saturn, 1997) allowed up to ten players to compete on a single screen! This meant that the characters were quite small, but if you had nine friends, this was something you had to try. Hudson was proving that they were the masters of multiplayer, and Bomberman was their man to lead the charge in this fight. 

The Nintendo 64 got three Bomberman games. Bomberman 64 (1997) was the first 3D Bomberman game, offering a great story mode in which Bomberman went up against evil bombers and large bosses. For the first time, his bombs blew up in a circular pattern instead of a cross. Bomberman 64: The Second Attack (2000) was a direct sequel, and returned to using cross explosions. This time a second player could control Pommy, Bomberman’s cute little friend. The story mode here was even better than the previous game’s. Both of these games also had four-player multiplayer, which offered several different maps and plenty of power-ups. Bomberman Hero (1998) deviated from the series even more—it was a 3D platformer, which was all the rage at the time. 

 pic 5

            Feels good to take a break from blowin' stuff up

Like Mario and Kirby, Bomberman was a versatile character. He could be used in all kinds of games, and Hudson knew this. Bomberman Kart (2002, PS2) was a shameless Mario Kart clone in which Bomberman and friends get in go-karts and race around silly tracks. Interestingly, this game was only released in Japan and Europe. A previous racing game (Bomberman Fantasy Race) was released for the PlayStation, but it featured Bomberman and friends riding on creatures, not in karts. 

Hudson took Bomberman into a new arena in 2001: the online arena. Bomberman Online for Dreamcast was a multiplayer-only game in which you competed online in five different modes. The game has Bomberman entering an olympics-style competition called the Bomblympics (doesn’t sound safe). The game was received well, although the Dreamcast was soon discontinued and the online servers were shut down in 2003. 

 pic 6

                        Bomberman fits surprisingly well into an anime

In 2002, Bomberman got his own anime called Bomberman Jetters. It ran for 52 episodes from October 2002 through September 2003. The show sees Shirobon (White Bomber) trying to find his older brother Mighty, who mysteriously vanished while attempting to stop the Hige-Hige bandits. The show was mostly well received, although its silly and cutesy nature is perhaps the reason why it never left Japan. However, the story does have some dark and somber moments, and there is a fan dub online (probably YouTube). The fact that Bomberman got his own anime shows how popular the character was, especially in Japan. 

The Fuse Goes Out (2006-Present)

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                                            This is Bomberman???

In the mid-2000s, Hudson became concerned that the Bomberman brand was getting stale with fans. And so, they put out Bomberman: Act Zero (2006, Xbox 360), a gritty game in which Bomberman was redesigned to look like a creepy metal robot. You can also choose your gender just in case you want a sexy femal Bomberman (Bombergirl?). This was to appeal to Westerners, but it backfired. Gamers didn’t like anything about the game, including the new “first-person Bomberman mode,” which was plagued by a bad camera. Perhaps the worst part was Bomberman’s redesign. This would be like Nintendo redesigning Mario to look like a realistically proportioned fat plumber with dirty overalls fighting through a gritty dystopian Mushroom Kingdom (gross). Within a year of Act Zero’s release, Hudson would actually admit that the game was a mistake. 

Bomberman Live (2007, XBLA) was a return to form. Players could once again compete online, and everyone seemed happy that cutesy Bomberman was back. Bomberman Live: BattleFest (2010, XBLA) expanded on the previous game even more, but this game is notable for one big reason: it was the last Bomberman game to be published by Hudson. 

 pic 8

                                               Bomberman Live

In 2012, Konami bought Hudson and cancelled all upcoming projects, including a Bomberman game that was being developed for the Nintendo 3DS. From 2012 to 2017, the Bomberman franchise seemed to be dead and gone. We can all give Konami a hard time about this, but perhaps they did not know what to do with the franchise. However, cancelling the projects in the pipeline was a bad move. 

Finally, in 2017, Super Bomberman R was released as a launch game for Nintendo’s new console, the Switch. It was fine. It was true to the Bomberman formula and featured a team of Bombers who had different colors and personalities. Konami added a bunch of costumes to the game for free, which was pretty cool. They also added online play in 2020, which should have been a feature of the game from the beginning. 

 pic 9

So now we come back to the big question: Why is Bomberman basically MIA? Well, the Hudson acquisition is a big part of it. Hudson was losing money quickly, so that’s probably why Konami bought it. But Konami has been very bad with its own properties in recent years, so it’s no surprise that they didn’t know how to handle Hudson’s biggest franchise. It’s very sad, although I’m hopeful we’ll see Bomberman again. However, the glory days will probably never return, where Bomberman had games on every console and was making waves into new ventures with creative gameplay gimmicks. 

What about you? Do you have fond memories of playing Bomberman games back in the day? Be sure to share in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading!



Cary Woodham

05/08/2022 at 08:35 AM

You know, you'd think I would like Bomberman games since they're all about running around in mazes chasing after things, and I like those kinds of games.  But I've never been able to get into Bomberman much for some reason.

I did buy Super Bomberman back in the day, but mainly because I wanted the included SNES Multitap so I could play three player Secret of Mana.

I would like to play some of the side games, like the kart racers, mini-game collections, and puzzle gamess featuring Bomberman, but I never got around to it.  Can't play 'em all! 

I do think it's interesting that Nintendo shoehorned Wario into a Bomberman game once.  Also, Hudson MIGHT have copied the idea of Bomberman from a Namco game called Warp & Warp.

I hate it that Konami kind of squelched Hudson Soft.  Good thing most of the employees left to work at Nintendo!

The Last Ninja

05/08/2022 at 10:16 PM

Surely you've played some Bomberman with friends! Bomberman multiplayer is some of the most fun I've had and I think it's a big part of his legacy. Blowing up other players is really fun and satisfying. 

Cary Woodham

05/10/2022 at 08:11 AM

Yeah I've played Bomberman multiplayer but it just didn't click for me for some reason.


05/11/2022 at 03:51 PM

I've always been curious about Bomberman but never really played it. I'd like to try the Xbox 360 games, even the weird robot one, if for nothing else, achievements. I wonder if Bomberman Live is backwards compatible for Xbox Series S|X?

The Last Ninja

05/12/2022 at 09:51 AM

Since you have a Switch, I would recommend getting Super Bomberman R. It has an online mode so you can play with other players. I also really like the two games on the 64 (Bomberman 64 and its sequel). 


05/16/2022 at 09:18 AM

I'll check it out on Switch. 

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