Battletoads was initially developed with the intention of benefiting from the widespread success of the TMNT games, and some have gone as far as calling it a “rip off”. Still, it does have its unique aspects, some of which have brought it awards as well as placed it in “of all time” rankings.
The storyline is rather cliché, and it repeats itself (or at least the basic plot). You have three walking, talking toad heroes, all named after skin conditions: Pimple, Rash and Zitz. In every game of the series, these “battletoads” must fight against the evil Dark Queen who is bent on conquest. In the first game, Pimple and Princess Angelica are captured, and the remaining two must save them before the Dark Queen uses the princess’ powers for her own purposes. Similarly, in the sequel, Zitz and the daughter of a video game company CEO are captured. Lastly, for a surprising change of pace, the Battletoads must work together with Jimmy Lee and Billy from Double Dragon, because their enemies have combined forces. Sure, they fly into space with a helicopter and continue fighting without any source of air, but that’s just nitpicking.
The gameplay has been deemed as one of the most difficult of that time (and even of all time); this is not because of choppy movement or unresponsive controls. The game is simply not very kind to players and doesn’t give them many chances to continue. While other games would normally let you restart the level as many times as you want, you only get three tries here. This can be especially frustrating, since it essentially means that you must complete the game in one go.
The first two games of the series, Battletoads and Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, do not give you the option of choosing your character. Instead, player one is one character, and player two is the other. Things change when the Dragon brothers come into play, as you can pick any of the five available characters. Of course, there are differences between them, but one thing they all have in common is the ability to use comical, reality bending moves. This is actually what was most appealing about the game; punching your enemies with oversized fists, kicking them with gigantic boots and head-butting them with magically appearing ram horns. Even the two brothers have had a slight makeover to match the comical environment.
Some of the difficulty of the Battletoads series stemmed from its simply difficult levels and, notably in the first game, glitches. Only later in the series could you deactivate friendly fire, so you would normally end up killing your partner because he or she was in the way. And speaking of getting in the way, the continues are shared between players, so a less skilled partner cannot be carried through the levels. Some of the stages have really narrow spaces or you have to react quickly, and this can make things all the more frustrating.
Overall, despite being considered a rip-off, the Battletoads series has a special place in the minds of gamers because of its unique aspects, notably its difficulty.