The Worst X-Men Video Game Can Only Be Beaten With A Secret Code

By Zack Zagranis | Published

uncanny x-men

The X-Men have starred in some pretty great video games over the years. Games like X-Men: The Arcade Game and X-Men: Legends are legitimate classics. Unfortunately, there have also been a few stinkers, like LJN’s Uncanny X-Men (1989) for the Nintendo Entertainment System—a game that is literally unbeatable without a secret code.


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Old-school gamers know that when it comes to NES cartridges, there are three cursed letters that you never want to see on the label: LJN. The publisher was infamous for its hastily constructed, almost unplayable licensed games, and Uncanny X-Men is no exception.

From the moment you hit the power button and are greeted with a stage select screen that’s just white text on a grey background, you know you’re in for a bad time.

Variety Without The Variety

As the player, you are given the choice between controlling Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, or Iceman as they slowly descend into 8-bit hell. You might think that the ability to play as one of six X-Men from the comfort of your own couch may have made up for the subpar gameplay, but sadly, that’s not the case.

Despite the enticing variety, all the characters in Uncanny X-Men play virtually the same. Three of the X-Men (Wolverine, Colossus, and Nightcrawler) attack with an almost useless, stubby little punch, while the other three (Storm, Cyclops, and Iceman) get to shoot projectiles.

Iceman and Storm can fly, but doing so drains their health, making the feature much less useful than it could have been.

SkyNet Would’ve Been Useful

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The game is a top-down action platformer for one or two players. If you have a friend, you need to get back at making them play Uncanny X-Men with you is a great way of enacting your revenge.

No friends? No problem! The game itself will control a second character and help you on your adventure–by walking into bullets and other hazards constantly.

We fear the inevitable AI will take over just as much as anyone else, but if there’s one place where smarter AI would have actually been helpful, it’s this stupid game.

No Proper Ending…

The game gives you five stages to choose from: Practice, Futurecity Street Fight, Subterranean Confrontation, Search & Destroy the Robofactory, and Battle Through a Living Starship. The names might sound interesting, but trust me, each one is populated with flat, dull graphics and the same generic cannon fodder.

If, for some reason, you were actually bored enough in the early ’90s to finish all of the stages in Uncanny X-Men, you were immediately rewarded with a trip back to the stage select screen–and that’s it.

There’s no lat boss, no ending, nothing. You can’t even reenter the stages you’ve beaten. We can only assume most of the kids that got that far back in the day threw down their controllers in disgust when they found out the game they had just suffered through was essentially broken.

Believe it or not, there is a last stage with a boss and a proper ending, but it’s locked behind an almost impossible-to-find secret code.

…Unless You Have The Secret Code

You see, Uncanny X-Men has a secret internal counter that keeps track of certain enemies you kill. If you kill 30 of these special enemies in each stage—and good luck because only the game knows which enemies count—a wall of text will pop up at the end of the stage.

This text will be mostly white, with a few seemingly random words in red.

The game expects the player—with no instruction, mind you—to write down the red text from the end of each stage and put it together for a special message.

If a player happened to figure this out on their own in the dark days before Google they would be met with this message, “The last mission. Can be reached from the mission. Screen by pushing select and seek the advice of the label to make it to the final mission.”



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What the badly worded message is referring to is on the label of the actual cartridge—the same label with LJN emblazoned upon it like a flaming inverted cross—in the tiny text next to the copyright and trademark info are the words ” + B + UP together with START.”

The game expects you to figure all of this out with barely any prompting. Kids that were smart enough to decipher LJN’s nonexistent clues could push SELECT + B + UP + START, and they would be whisked away to a final stage where they must face off against Magneto for the fate of the world.

Play Something Else

uncanny x-men

In gaming’s early days, players were used to stumbling across secret combinations of button presses that would unlock extra features like Contra’s famous “30 lives code,” aka the Konami code.

These cheat codes would give players a chance to have some extra fun with their games, but none of them were essential to actually playing through the game in its entirety—until Uncanny X-Men came along, that is.

Without the unintuitive path players must walk to finish the game, Uncanny X-Men would still be a below-average game that fails to do its mutant superheroes justice.

But with the hoops LJN made players go through just to complete the crappy platformer, Uncanny X-Men is elevated to legendarily bad status, ranking it up there with some of the worst games the NES had to offer, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

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