The complete history of Bomberman

bomberman-character-art-from-bomberman-online-on-sega-dreamcast-2001In just a few days, the Nintendo Switch will finally be released.

It’s an exciting time for many gamers, because the launch of new hardware is always a thrill.

But it’s also an exciting and nerve-wracking time for a group of gamers who have had a rough time of it in recent years: Bomberman fans.

On the same day the Switch launches, Super Bomberman R will be sitting on the shelves alongside it. It will be the first new physical, boxed Bomberman game to appear in stores in more than eight years.

For people my age (30 and up if you must know, you cheeky prick), Bomberman is one of the classic video games series.

These days when you think of big, popular multiplayer games you think of Call Of Duty, Destiny, Overwatch and FIFA.

In the early ‘90s, it was Bomberman.

Because it’s been nearly a decade since the last retail Bomberman release – and because even then it wasn’t really as popular as it had been – there’s a generation of gamers who aren’t too familiar with the series as a whole.

That’s where yer man Scullion comes in.

bomberman94-character-artUnlike your other website pricks who just pull info off Wikipedia, I lived it. I started playing Bomberman in 1991, when it was known in Europe as Dynablaster. Over the years I’ve bought countless Bomberman games: loved loads, been disappointed by others, but always remained a fan.

If you don’t know much about Bomberman, or want a refresher before Super Bomberman R launches, this article is for you.

Below is the complete history of Bomberman games – roughly 80 or so titles in total. It goes without saying that it’s a large article: you might want to tackle it over a couple of sittings.

Regardless, it still sticks to my Tired Old Hack ‘one-page’ commitment: every article, no matter how big, is presented on a single page with no slideshows, no ads, no bullshit.

I hope you enjoy it, I hope you find it entertaining, I hope it fills a gap in your gaming knowledge and I hope it at least piques your interest in Super Bomberman R, which I’ll be reviewing in the near future.


What is Bomberman?

Before I get into the complete history, it’s probably best to explain how Bomberman is played, so you have a rough picture in your head as you read on.

Bomberman is a long-running series created by Hudson Soft, a Japanese software developer and publisher that no longer exists. But we’ll get to that in this article.

Traditionally, Bomberman tended to consist of two main gameplay modes: the single-player mode and the battle mode.

Single-player

The single-player mode has you taking on a series of stages, trying to kill every enemy. You do this by dropping bombs, which then explode after a set time. Their explosions go off in a cross shape, creating a vertical and horizontal stream of fire like so:

bomb

Any enemy the explosion touches dies, and you can also use bombs to blow up parts of the scenery to open up new paths and uncover power-ups. However, your own explosions can kill you too, and it’s a one-hit kill affair.

Each level has an exit, which is usually hiding underneath one of the blocks in the level and has to be explosed by blowing the block up. After you kill all the enemies, the exit is activated and you can use it to go to the next level.

If you want an example to help you better understand it, here’s the first few levels of the NES version of Bomberman, one of the earliest and most basic forms of the mode.

Battle mode

As fun as the single-player mode is (I’ve personally always loved it), it’s the Battle mode that made Bomberman famous.

Here, each player is placed in a corner of the map, separated by a bunch of blocks. The aim is to be the last (Bomber)man standing by blasting your way through the blocks to reach your opponent and blow them up.

A SNES multitap for 5-player Bomberman
A SNES multitap for 5-player Bomberman

As you destroy blocks you’ll find power-ups which do all manner of things: these change depending on the game but the standard ones you always get are the bomb (which increases the number of bombs you can drop at once) and the flame (which increases the length of your explosion by one block’s width).

As few as two players can play Bomberman’s Battle mode, but generally speaking the more players are involved the more fun it gets.

As one of the first series that became well-known for its frantic 4-player and 5-player matches, the Bomberman games became responsible for vast sales of multitaps, special adapters that allowed more than the standard two controllers to be plugged into a console.

If you want an idea of Bomberman’s Battle mode in action, here’s a brilliantly odd clip from vintage UK TV show GamesMaster, in which a man dressed up as a Golden Bomberman takes on three kids in a row at arguably the series’ finest game, Super Bomberman 2 on the SNES:

So there you go, that’s your basic introduction to Bomberman.

Below, then, is a comprehensive guide to every major Bomberman release in history. Every high, many of the lows. The only things missing are a handful of obscure Japanese mobile games.

A few housekeeping notes first, though. In the early days, the naming scheme for these games in each region was all over the fucking shop. I haven’t stuck with a set rule for which game name I’ve gone with: I’ve just picked whichever one felt the most appropriate on a case-by-case basis.

Also, I appreciate that near the end there may be a bit of repetition referring to ‘traditional’ and ‘old-school’ Bomberman. That’s purely because I’m writing about 80-odd games. Humour me and put up with repetition, and for the sake of clarity, any time I refer to a ‘traditional’ single-player or battle mode I’m talking about the two examples above.

Right, that’s about it. Make yourself a warm drink and let’s get stuck into this absolute monster of a timeline.


Bomberman

01-bombermanOriginal release – July 1983

Formats – MSX, NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-6001, Sharp MZ-700, FM-7, ZX Spectrum

Alternative title – Eric And The Floaters (Europe)

It all kicked off in the summer of ‘83. I’d like to say I remember it well, but considering I was three months old and not living in Japan that would be slightly inaccurate.

The first Bomberman (or Bakudan Otoko, as it was originally known in Japan) was a basic-looking maze game released on a small scale for Japanese home computers.

Although it looks primitive by today’s standards, it already had the main Bomberman mechanic in place: you dropped bombs which exploded and created horizontal and vertical explosions, destroying any enemies and weak blocks in its path.

Oddly, it was renamed Eric And The Floaters in Europe and had you playing as an Indiana Jones-style archaeologist called Eric who’d found a hidden temple but had to destroy the evil ‘Floater’ monsters to get the treasure within. Um, fair enough.


3-D Bomberman

Original release – 1984

Format – MSX

A year later, Hudson Soft decided to experiment with a first-person version of Bomberman.

02-3d-bomberman

It was the same basic game, except this time you were looking through Bomberman’s eyes as he wandered through a maze dropping bombs.

It was maybe a bit too clever for its own good, and certainly a bit too advanced for the mid ‘80s, so it never made it outside of Japan.


Lode Runner

Original release – 31 July 1984

Format – NES

A year before Bomberman made its console debut, Hudson Soft released Lode Runner on the NES.

Why am I bothering to tell you this? Because the main character is actually Bomberman.

loderunner

You see, when Bomberman eventually launched in Japan a year later, its manual made it clear that it was actually a prequel to Lode Runner.

The story of the NES Bomberman goes that he’s a robot working for an evil force in an underground compound, and if he managed to make it to the surface he would be turned into a human.

Sure enough, when you finish the NES version Bomberman turns into a human and, lo and behold, it’s revealed he’s the hero from Lode Runner.


Bomberman

03-bombermanOriginal release – 19 December 1985

Format – NES

You know when you see the weird early Tracy Ullman shorts of The Simpsons and they look all weird and not really Simpsons-like?

The NES version of Bomberman is the equivalent of the first ‘proper’ episode of The Simpsons where they meet Santa’s Little Helper. Or something.

The NES Bomberman marked the beginning of the series’ long-running relationship with Nintendo, and is widely considered to be where Bomberman really got started.

Loads of the Bomberman traditions still present to this day started off in the NES Bomberman, including the power-ups that increase your blast size, let you drop more bombs and move faster. At this stage though, it was still only a single-player game.


Bomberman Special

04-bomberman-specialOriginal release – 1986

Format – MSX

Since the original MSX Bomberman was pretty primitive compared to the NES one, Hudson decided MSX owners should be allowed to be brought up to date.

Bomberman Special was an attempt to recreate the NES version on the MSX, with the new robot-like Bomberman character and the addition of power-ups.

Since the MSX was a less powerful system it still didn’t look quite as impressive as its Nintendo-based brother, but it did the job.


RoboWarrior

05-robo-warriorOriginal release – 7 August 1987

Format – NES

Alternative title – Bomber King (Japan)

Hudson was so happy with the NES version of Bomberman, it decided to repurpose the engine for a different game.

RoboWarrior put players in charge of a cyborg soldier called ZED, who had to destroy an evil alien leader and his troops.

See if you can guess how he does it. If you guessed “by dropping bombs” then you’re getting the hang of this article already: you’re going to go far in life, you are.


Bomber Boy

06-bomber-boyOriginal release – 31 August 1990

Format – Game Boy

Alternative titles – Dynablaster (Europe), Atomic Punk (NA)

As the 1990s arrived and the Game Boy’s popularity went stratospheric, most of the popular NES games were getting ported over to Nintendo’s much-loved handheld.

Bomber Boy was Hudson’s attempt at putting Bomberman on the Game Boy, and is actually two games in one. ‘Game A’ has you playing as Atomic Kid (Bomberman’s son) as he tries to stop the world being overrun by radiation thieves.

‘Game B’, meanwhile, is a straight port of the NES version of Bomberman, albeit with smaller levels to suit the Game Boy’s lower resolution.


Bomberman

07-bombermanOriginal release – 7 December 1990

Formats – TurboGrafx-16, Amiga, Atari ST, DOS, Sharp X68000

Alternative title – Dyna Blaster (Europe)

The first ‘true’ Bomberman game may have been on the NES, but it was the TurboGrafx-16 version that added the mode everyone would eventually associate Bomberman with.

This was the first Bomberman game with a multiplayer battle mode, allowing up to five players to compete against each other in an attempt to blow everyone up and remain the last (Bomber)man standing.

The single-player mode also got a stiff kick up the arse, featuring differently themed worlds and boss battles for the first time.

This, seven years after the first Bomberman, was the game where it all finally came together.


Bomberman

Original release – 1991

Format – Arcade

Alternative titles – Dynablaster (Europe), Atomic Punk (NA)

Getting sick of games just called ‘Bomberman’ yet? Hudson wasn’t, as it released an arcade version with that very moniker. Unoriginal pricks.

Similar to the home versions the year before, arcade Bomberman let you play either in single-player mode or against other players in a multiplayer versus mode.

08-bomberman

The main difference between this and the home version was the conditions for finishing a level. Whereas in the console games you had to defeat every enemy then find the exit hidden inside one of the blocks, here the level was simply complete as soon as the last enemy pegged it.

That’s mainly because it was an arcade game, of course. As with most coin-ops, the trick was to get the player to the harder stages quicker so they’d die sooner and the next player could put their money in.

The other major selling point was the graphics: this was still a time when arcade games looked far superior to those on home consoles.


Bomberman II

09-bomberman-iiOriginal release – 28 June 1991

Format – NES

Alternative title – Dynablaster (Europe)

Right, time for some confusion. The first NES Bomberman wasn’t released in Europe, so when its sequel came out it was renamed Dynablaster, not Dynablaster II. Look, the names will start making more sense soon.

The story of this one went that White Bomberman was walking through the city when he saw Black Bomberman robbing a bank. Black Bomberman fleed when the police arrived, leaving his swag with White Bomberman, who was wrongly jailed.

Eager to prove his innocence, White Bomberman had to escape from jail by… um, blasting his way through a load of levels until he made it outside. Not the best way to get released for good behaviour, mate.

Bomberman II is also the only game in the series to with a multiplayer mode that only supports three players.


Blaster Master Jr

10-blaster-master-jrOriginal release – 23 August 1991

Format – Game Boy

Alternative titles – Blaster Master Boy (NA), Bomber King: Scenario 2 (Japan)

RoboWarrior (Bomber King in Japan) was a relative success, so Hudson Soft let co-developer Aicom make a sequel for the Game Boy.

Oddly though, while it kept the Bomber King name in Japan, in the west it was published by Sunsoft, who renamed it to fit in with its own Blaster Master series.

So although it was sold as a Blaster Master game, in reality it’s another action game with Bomberman-style bomb-dropping mechanics.

I promise these names are about to get less confusing. When it came to worldwide game titles, the late ’80s and early ’90s were a fucking mess.


Bomberman World

11-bomberman-worldOriginal release – 1992

Format – Arcade

Alternative titles – New Dynablaster: Global Quest (Europe), New Atomic Punk: Global Quest (NA)

The first Bomberman arcade game brought in mad coins, so Hudson promptly plopped out a second one.

This time the evil King Bomber had taken over the UN building (seriously) in a bid to take over the world.

It was up to Bomberman and chums to stop them by travelling round the world, destroying all the robot soldiers commanded by King Bomber.

In terms of gameplay there wasn’t much different here, except for an ice cream cone power-up which turned you invincible for a while and let you kill enemies by running into them.

I don’t know why it’s ice cream.


Bomberman ‘93

12-bomberman-93Original release – 11 December 1992

Format – TurboGrafx-16

You may think the art of yearly releases is the domain of sports games, but Hudson Soft tried it back in the early ’90s on the TurboGrafx with Bomberman ’93 (and later Bomberman ’94).

Much like said annual sports titles, Bomberman ‘93 wasn’t massively different from its predecessor, other than a bunch of new single-player stages and a new wafer-thin plot to justify them.

This time Black Bomberman had stolen a city’s seven power circuits and taken them to different planets, so White Bomberman had to go and find them all to restore the city’s power.

Yes, only Bomberman could take a plot as boring as “our lights aren’t working, help us” and make it entertaining. Thankfully, the planned story for Bomberman ‘94 – that Bomberman had to go to his neighbour’s house to get back the lawnmower he’d lent them* – was scrapped.

* this may not be true

Super Bomberman

13-super-bombermanOriginal release – 28 April 1993

Format – SNES

Now you’re talking. While there have been shit-tons of Bomberman games released on countless systems over the past three decades, it’s the Super Bomberman series that’s most fondly remembered by fans.

The game itself may not have been revolutionary compared to the others, but because of the relatively poor sales of the TurboGrafx-16 system this was the first time the multiplayer mode properly took off.

I distinctly remember there being a Super Bomberman frenzy as SNES gamers snapped up third-party multitaps – the adapters that allowed up to four players – to play what was at the time considered the greatest multiplayer game of all.

Super Bomberman may not have been the first to offer multiplayer, but it was certainly the one that punted the series’ popularity into the stratosphere.

It was also host to a couple of firsts: not only was it the first game to be given the proper ‘Bomberman’ name in Europe (instead of bloody Dynablaster), plot-wise it also marked the ‘face turn’ of Black Bomberman, who finally became a good guy instead of your nemesis.


Hi-Ten Bomberman

Original exhibition – Summer 1993 (not made publicly available)

Format – Custom hardware

In the summer of 1993, the ninth Hudson Soft Super Caravan was held. Not actually a souped-up mobile home, the Super Caravan was in fact a travelling event held at 44 venues across Japan, showing off a variety of new games.

The main highlight of the 1993 Caravan was undoubtedly Hi-Ten Bomberman, a special version of Bomberman with a ridiculous ten-player multiplayer battle mode.

14-hi-ten-bomberman

Caravan attendees got to take part in a Hi-Ten Bomberman tournament, where prizes like trophies and consoles were given to the winners.

With so many players on-screen things could have been tricky to see, but Hudson had an obscenely expensive trick up its sleeve: HD televisions.

Bearing in mind this was 1993, more than a decade before HDTVs were properly made available to the public, Hudson had to make special custom-made units to both host and display the game.

Wondering why it was never released to buy? Well, only five units were produced in total, each costing $2 million to manufacture. Um… I think I’ll stick to four players on my SNES, mate.


Bomberman ‘94

15-mega-bombermanOriginal release – 10 December 1993

Formats – TurboGrafx-16, Mega Drive

Alternative titles – Mega Bomberman (Mega Drive version)

Instantly destroying my ‘sports game’ theory, Bomberman ‘94 added a shitload of new features and gimmickry, making it very different from its ‘93 predecessor.

Most notable was the introduction of Louies, kangaroo-type creatures Bomberman could find and ride on. Each Louie had a different ability depending on its colour, and also acted as a shield of sorts: if you took a hit while riding a Louie it fucked off, but you stayed alive.

The reason they were called Louie was perhaps an unfortunate localisation issue. In Japan they were called Rooi (as in ‘kangaroo’), but since Rs and Ls are interchangeable in the Japanese language (since its phonetic alphabet doesn’t have Ls in it), it seems a mistranslation led to them being called Louies instead of Rooies.

Awkwardly named beasts aside, Bomberman ‘94 was also the first game to offer visually distinct multiplayer characters, rather than just colour swaps.

You could now choose to play as a lady Bomberman (Bomberwoman?) as well as various other types of Bomberchap: mohawked, old, chubby, tiny, policeman, mech and miner.


Super Bomberman 2

16-super-bomberman-2Original release – 28 April 1994

Format – SNES

Having established the SNES version of Bomberman as the definitive multiplayer game of its generation, Hudson Soft decided a sequel was on the cards.

Yet another odd single-player story beckoned: this time Bomberman had been captured by five ‘Dastardly Bombers’ and had to blow them all to piss in order to save the universe.

It was the multiplayer everyone was interested in, though, and the 12 battle arenas on offer gave gamers the perfect excuse to dig out their four-player multitaps again.

Super Bomberman 2 was so addictive that Edge magazine once wrote about development studios around the world downing tools every lunchtime to play it, coining the phrase “Bomb o’clock”.


Hi-Ten Chara Bomb

Original exhibition – Summer 1994 (not made publicly available)

Format – Custom hardware

Remember Hi-Ten Bomberman, the special ten-player HD version Hudson showed off at its Caravan events?

Well, it gathered so much attention (and cost so much money to produce) that it decided to make a new version for the following year’s Caravans.

hi-ten-chara-bomb

Hi-Ten Chara Bomb once again offered ten-player Bomberman action, but this time the characters were all stars from other Hudson Soft games.

Players could now play as the likes of Bonk, Milon from Milon’s Secret Castle and characters from Hudson RPGs Far East Of Eden and Momotaro Densetsu.

This would ultimately be the last ‘Hi-Ten’ version of Bomberman that Hudson would produce for its Caravan events, but fans would get the chance to experience something similar just a couple of years later…


Bomberman GB

17-bomberman-gbOriginal release – August 1994

Format – Game Boy

Although there had already been a Bomberman game on the Game Boy in the shape of Bomber Boy, Hudson clearly decided there was room for more.

Bomberman GB was only released in Japan and differs from other games in the series in that its single-player mode had more of a multiplayer feel to it.

Instead of facing off against normal enemies, Bomberman had to defeat a bunch of other evil Bombermen, who could also drop bombs like you.

It was essentially a series of multiplayer-type battles, then, but presented in a single-player way. Those bloody loose cannons, what would they think of next? Actually…


Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman!

18-wario-blastOriginal release – November 1994

Format – Game Boy

Turns out what they thought of next was to release it in the west and add Mario’s rival Wario into the mix.

Wario Blast was actually exactly the same game as Bomberman GB, except instead of playing as a Bomberman killing other Bombermen, you could choose to play as either Bomberman or Wario.

If you played as Wario you had to kill other Bombermen, which was all well and good. But if you played as Bomberman, you had to kill a bunch of Wario clones, which was where the concept sort of fell over a wee bit.

Still, it was an interesting crossover, especially given how few guest stars the Bomberman series would get over the years.


Bomberman: Panic Bomber

Original release – 22 December 1994

Formats – PC Engine Super CD, Neo-Geo

If there’s one thing ‘90s gamers bloody loved, it was puzzle games with shit dropping from the air.

The global success of Tetris meant all manner of clones and imitations did the rounds for the years that followed, and Hudson got in on the act with Bomberman: Panic Bomber.

19-panic-bomber

With similar mechanics to Puyo Puyo (or Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine as it was better known in the west), Panic Bomber had you dropping Bomberman heads and trying to match their colours to remove them from the board.

Of course, being a Bomberman game, every now and then you’d get to drop a bomb and blow the board to piss. Hooray!


Super Bomberman: Panic Bomber W

20-panic-bomber-snesOriginal release – 1 March 1995

Format – SNES

A mere three months after Panic Bomber, this sort-of sequel made it onto the SNES.

As well as the single-player mode, which had you taking on various enemies in player vs CPU battles, there was also multiplayer support for up to four players (dust off that multitap again, fuckers).

It also featured a ’dokuro’ mode, which let you inflict a random status effect on your opponent(s) if you blew up a lot of bombs. This could be anything from reversing their controls to making all of their bombs disappear.

Presumably the ‘W’ stood for ‘wanker’ then, as that’s what was probably shouted a lot during these multiplayer battles.


Panic Bomber

Original release – 21 July 1995

Format – Virtual Boy

A lot of well-loved gaming series can claim to have a long history with Nintendo systems, but how many are hardcore enough to have been on the Virtual Boy?

Yes, of the mere 22 games released for Nintendo’s failed VR device, one of them was indeed a Bomberman game. Well, of sorts.

21-panic-bomber-virtual-boy

As you may have guessed by the name and the vintage black-and-red screenshot, Hudson’s Virtual Boy offering wasn’t a traditional Bomberman game, but instead a new version of Panic Bomber.

At least it was a little unique: because the game was monochrome, the coloured Bomberman heads were replaced by little monster icons.


Super Bomberman 3

22-super-bomberman-3Original release – 28 April 1995

Format – SNES

After all that puzzle game and handheld port tomfoolery, it was good to see a good old traditional Bomberman title on a home console again.

Super Bomberman 3 didn’t fuck around: it was back to the standard single-player story mode and multiplayer battle mode (with up to five players for the first time on SNES).

It also marked the return of the kangaroo-type Louies from Bomberman ‘94 on the TurboGrafx: in fact, some felt the whole game was pretty much an enhanced port of ‘94.

To be honest though, most SNES gamers were too happy riding about on pink kangaroos and punting bombs into pricks’ faces to care.


Bomberman GB 2

23-bomberman-gb-usaOriginal release – 10 August 1995

Format – Game Boy

Alternative title – Bomberman GB (Europe & NA)

The Game Boy continued to be a huge seller as the ‘90s progressed, so Hudson decided that more Bomberman games was the order of the day.

This one starred the legally dubious Indy Bomber, a suspiciously Harrison Ford inspired Bomberman wearing a hat and brandishing a whip.

It was up to Indy (sorry, I mean Indy Bomber) to find a lost treasure called the Ring of Wishes by negotionating a price with the local natives.

I’m joking, of course. He did it by blowing everything to fuck with bombs.

Here’s a confusing fact: although this was called Bomberman GB 2 in Japan, there was no Bomberman GB 1 in the west because it had been renamed Wario Blast.

To get around this, Hudson dropped the ‘2’ in the west and simply called this one Bomberman GB.

I promise that’s the end of the confusing game names. For a while.


Super Bomberman 4

24-super-bomberman-4Original release – 26 April 1996

Format – SNES

By early 1996 the SNES was more or less on its arse in the west.

The PlayStation had launched the year before so Nintendo’s 16-bit beauty was finally showing its age, with many Nintendo fans content to sit and wait for the eventual release of the Nintendo 64.

In Japan though, SNES game sales were still puttering along nicely. That’s why Hudson decided to continue the Super Bomberman series there, releasing a fourth instalment that never made it outside the land of the rising sun.

Super Bomberman 4 ditched the Louies and replaced them with a bunch of different rideable beasts instead, ranging from fish and flying turtles to even a triceratops.

Other than that, us western gamers didn’t really miss much, as the rest of the game was pretty much business as usual with single-player stages and the now customary multiplayer battle mode.


Saturn Bomberman

Original release – 19 July 1996

Format – Sega Saturn

Although Bomberman remained the multiplayer party game of choice throughout the first half of the ‘90s, tales of the fabled Hi-Ten games from Hudson’s caravan events continued to be shared in hushed tones among those who never got the chance to experience them.

That all finally changed when, in 1996, Hudson released a Bomberman game for the Sega Saturn, the cleverly titled Saturn Bomberman.

25-saturn-bomberman

With a multitap, Saturn Bomberman could be played by up to seven players at a time. But that wasn’t all. Plugging in a second multitap finally allowed the dream to be realised: 10-player Bomberman at home.

Granted, it wasn’t on an HD screen, making things a lot trickier to see, but it was still glorious. And the addition of cameos from other Hudson characters like Master Higgins from Adventure Island and Bonk from… um, Bonk made it even sweeter.


Bomberman B-Daman

27-bomberman-b-damanOriginal release – 1996

Format – SNES

Japanese toy company Takara (best known for creating Transformers) started selling a range of marble-shooting toys called B-Daman.

Loosely based on the design of Bomberman (hence the name), these were little figures with marbles in their stomachs which could be fired at other figures.

Eventually a game was released which essentially said “‘loosely based’ my arse, let’s seal the deal” and came with an actual toy B-Daman version of Bomberman.

The game itself was a puzzler in which each stage laid out a number of bombs. Armed with your trusty gut marble, you had one shot to fire said marble at the bombs and try to blow them all up at once.

The Bomberman B-Daman friendship continued for years and included an anime and a couple of manga series.


Bomberman GB 3

28-bomberman-gb-3Original release – 20 December 1996

Format – Game Boy

“Hey, remember the Game Boy, you pricks?” shouted Hudson Soft from the top of a mountain.

“We sure do,” replied the Japanese gaming public. “Any chance of one more Bomberman game for it, albeit one that doesn’t have a multiplayer mode and has a fairly standard single-player mode, maybe with gem-collecting bonus stages added or something?”

“No problem,” Hudson Soft replied. “Here’s Bomberman GB 3. Hey, Europe and America, do you guys want us to release it over there too?”

“Release what?”

“Never mind, it doesn’t matter.”


Super Bomberman 5

29-super-bomberman-5Original release – 28 February 1997

Format – SNES

The Nintendo 64 launched in Japan in June 1996, but Hudson Soft wasn’t ready to let go of the beloved SNES just yet.

Eight months after the N64’s launch, Hudson pretended it didn’t exist by releasing the fifth and ‘final’ (until next week) game in the Super Bomberman series.

Designed to be a celebration of the entire Super Bomberman run on the SNES, each of Super Bomberman 5’s worlds was based on a previous game in the series: World 1 looked like the first game and so on.

The single-player mode was also non-linear: every time you cleared a level you were given a choice of levels ot play next. This encouraged players to play through the solo mode multiple times to complete it 100%.

In all, this was a fitting end for the Super Bomberman series. At least, until the Switch launches and it makes its comeback, nearly 20 years to the day.


Neo Bomberman

30-neo-bombermanOriginal release – 1 May 1997

Format – Neo Geo

SNK’s Neo Geo was a unique concept: it was available both as a home console and an arcade system.

The idea was that you could play arcade-quality games at home, but it came at a cost: the home version cost $650 (that’s $1,125 today, adjusted for inflation) and games cost $200 each.

Not every Neo Geo arcade game was made available for the home system: this was the case with Neo Bomberman, which was arcade-only.

The Neo Geo arcade version of Bomberman had the standard single-player mode fans had come to expect, as well as a battle mode.

However, because Neo Geo arcade cabinets only had two joysticks, the battle mode in Neo Bomberman could only be played by two players. To make up for it, battle mode also had a single-player option in which you fought against three AI bots.


Atomic Bomberman

Original release – 31 July 1997

Format – PC

Oh dear.

On paper, Atomic Bomberman sounded fantastic. It was a version of Bomberman released for Windows 95 that – just like Saturn Bomberman – featured that rarest of beasts, a 10-player multiplayer mode.

There were problems, though. A lot of them. For starters, it wasn’t developed by Hudson Soft: it was licensed to US company Interplay, who set about removing all the cute Japanese charm and replacing it with sassy late ‘90s American ‘attitude’.

26-atomic-bomberman

Ugly pre-rendered characters replaced the sprites, and each Bomberman was given a voice, with the likes of Charlie Adler (Starscream from the Transformers films) and Billy West (Fry / Stimpy / Doug) lending their vocal talents. Which would be fine if, you know, it wasn’t Bomberman.

Most awkwardly, fans quickly found a bunch of unused .wav sound samples on the disc (Windows 95 CD-ROM game files could usually be easily browsed by anyone) and they were fairly offensive, to say the least.

As this NSFW video collating them shows, tucked away on the disc for curious little Jimmy and Susie to find were such enlightening quips as “I’ll break your fuckin’ head with a ratchet”, “time for a fuckin’ dirt nap, you shitfuck” and “That’s right there, sweet tits”.

That last one doesn’t even make sense as a sentence, which I think offends me even more.


Bomberman 64

31-bomberman-64Original release – 26 September 1997

Format – Nintendo 64

Alternative title – Baku Bomberman (Japan)

After Super Bomberman 5, Hudson Soft finally decided to let the SNES rest in peace and move onto its successor by making a Bomberman game for the Nintendo 64.

It would be a controversial move, though, as Bomberman 64 took a cue from Super Mario 64 and moved the action to fully 3D open environments, with Bomberman able to run diagonally for the first time.

This ability to run in eight directions meant the bombs would have to change too, so instead of exploding in a cross shape this time they exploded in a round wave, like bombs do in other video games.

The multiplayer mode also gathered a little controversy when its block-based arenas were also ditched in favour of wide open stages.

It took fans a while to warm to Bomberman 64 because it was just so different to what they were used to. It wasn’t a bad game by any means, but it wasn’t really a ‘Bomberman’ game in the traditional sense.


Saturn Bomberman Fight!!

31-saturn-bomberman-fightOriginal release – 11 December 1997

Format – Sega Saturn

Maybe it’s because the first Saturn Bomberman was so iconic with its 10-player mode, or maybe it’s because it was only released in Japan, but whatever the reason Saturn Bomberman Fight!! has been generally forgotten over the years.

It’s a shame, because it did some genuinely interesting things with the battle mode that could have evolved into something brilliant had Hudson Soft stuck with it.

Unlike Bomberman 64 the battle levels remained old-school grids with destroyable blocks, but they were presented in polygonal 3D, meaning there was height to them too.

Players were able to jump and could throw bombs over blocks by default, making the game feel more like Capcom’s future Dreamcast gem Power Stone at times.

One-hit kills were also replaced with energy bars, with more powerful bombs doing more damage. This did sort of remove the tension a bit, but given the action was a lot more frantic it was welcome.


Pocket Bomberman

32-pocket-bombermanOriginal release – 12 December 1997

Formats – Game Boy, Game Boy Color

Oddly, it took Hudson Soft 14 years to eventually think “you know what, we should make a 2D platformer and put Bomberman in it”.

However, in late ‘97 that’s exactly what happened, and Pocket Bomberman was born.

Set in a medieval world because reasons, it had Bomberman trying to collect five Power Stones so he could unseal the Sword of the Sun and defeat an evil monster. It’s Zelda’s plot, basically.

Pocket Bomberman also had a bonus mode called Jump Game, in which Bomberman was constantly jumping and had to climb up a tower. It was ahead of its time in a way, because it was pretty much Doodle Jump with bombs.


Bomberman World

33-bomberman-worldOriginal release – 29 January 1998

Format – PlayStation

Time for Sony to get in on the action. A full three years after the PlayStation launched in Japan, the system finally got its first Bomberman game.

While Bomberman 64 differed wildly from the traditional Bomberman gameplay, Bomberman World stuck with its roots and offered the more tried-and-tested ‘grid and blocks’ formula.

Although graphically it tried to make things interesting with an isometric viewpoint and stages with sloping sections, at its core the single-player and multiplayer modes were old-school Bomberman.

Its Battle mode also introduced a bunch of odd costumed Bombermen – a fairy, witch, bishop, monk, merchant and the like – who were never seen again.

It’s a shame: I’d have been well up for a Bishop Bomberman spin-off series.


Bomberman Wars

34-bomberman-warsOriginal release – 16 April 1998

Formats – PlayStation, Saturn

Having tried its hand at a puzzle game and a 2D platformer, Hudson decided that Bomberman’s next spin-off would be a turn-based strategy game.

Cue Bomberman Wars, a game where players have teams of four Bombermen and must use each of their unique abilities to defeat the opposing team.

It was an interesting way of trying to take the series in a different direction, but the west wasn’t quite ready for strategy games yet – the likes of Famicom Wars and Fire Emblem hadn’t made it overseas yet either – so it was only released in Japan.


Bomberman Hero

35-bomberman-heroOriginal release – 30 April 1998

Format – Nintendo 64

After fans complained that Bomberman 64 wasn’t quite the traditional Bomberman experience they had hoped for, Hudson pondered this feedback and gently placed it into a package marked “to be fired into the fucking moon”.

Bomberman Hero once again ditched the grid-based Bomberman gameplay in favour of a 3D platformer, making it even more platformy (it’s a word now) by letting him jump and giving him a life bar.

Hudson even went one further by launching the game with no multiplayer mode whatsoever, causing Nintendo 64 owners to look at their console’s four controller ports and wonder what in Planet Fuck was going on.

I quite liked it though, to be fair.


Bomberman Fantasy Race

36-bomberman-fantasy-raceOriginal release – 6 August 1998

Format – PlayStation

In 1998 Bomberman got a karting game, because of course it did.

Well, I say a karting game, but it actually wasn’t: instead of racing Mario Kart style vehicles, the game stuck to Bomberman canon and had you racing Louies and Tirras (which are sort of rhino things).

Other than that, it was still standard Mario Kart clone fare, with power-ups and the like dotted around the track. Guess what they used instead of green shells? Rockets and baseballs!

I’m joking. It was bombs.


Bomberman Party Edition

37-bomberman-party-editionOriginal release – 10 December 1998

Format – PlayStation

With Bomberman Party Edition, Hudson decided it was time to take the series back to its roots, and it wasn’t messing around when it said that.

Bomberman Party Edition’s single-player mode, you see, was actually an enhanced remaster of the NES game.

To drive this point home, players could switch between modern PlayStation graphics and old-school NES visuals on the fly.

The Battle mode, however, was very much forward-thinking with a frankly ridiculous 24 different multiplayer arenas to choose from.


Bomberman Quest

38-bomberman-questInitial release – 24 December 1998

Format – Game Boy Color

Yet another change of genre for Bomberman: this time Hudson put him in an action RPG similar to the likes of the old-school Legend Of Zelda games.

The story went that Bomberman had crashed his spaceship on an alien planet, and so video game logic dictated that he had to find the missing pieces to repair it and leave.

Naturally, he did this by delivering a lot of bombs, first class and recorded, to a lot of monsters’ faces.


Bomberman 64: The Second Attack!

40-bomberman-64-2Original release – 3 December 1999

Format – Nintendo 64

Alternative title – Baku Bomberman 2 (Japan)

Continuing with the quest to ensure Nintendo 64 players would never get a ‘normal’ Bomberman, the sequel to Bomberman 64 was another 3D platformer.

Hudson did concede one thing though: the round bomb explosions in the last game were shite. To the joy of fans, the explosions in this sequel were the classic cross-shaped ones again.

Unfortunately the game was average at best and not even the introduction of a cute new sidekick called Pommy (think a cheap bootleg version of Kirby) was enough to win over fans and critics.

Were Nintendo 64 fans destined to never play Bomberman in its purest form? Well, you’ll obviously find out if you keep reading. I don’t know why I set up the suspense like that.


Bomberman Max

39-bomberman-maxOriginal release – 17 December 1999

Format – Game Boy Color

By this point you may be noticing a slight movement away from traditional Bomberman games, with Hudson trying to fit their hero into a lot of other genres.

Bomberman Max flicked a sturdy middle finger to that concept, offering an old-school single-player Bomberman campaign with plenty of block-bombing shenanigans.

That said, it did still have a gimmick. Due to the continued success of Pokemon, a lot of other games were doing ‘red and blue’ versions: pretty much just slightly different versions of a game in the hope some would buy both and increase sales a bit.

Sure enough, Bomberman Max came in Blue Champion Edition and Red Champion Edition flavours. The difference between the two games was the Charaboms, little animals you can collect and power up. Each version had different species of Charabom.

So, a bit like Pokemon then.


Bomberman Land

41-bomberman-landOriginal release – 21 December 2000

Format – PlayStation

And so the millennium arrived, and Bomberman would begin to enter its dark ages and become less popular among gamers.

Bomberman Land, released in Japan only, was the sole Bomberman game to launch in 2000. Its main meat was the Story mode, in which Bomberman is strolling through a theme park and takes part in a bunch of mini-games.

Thankfully, things were saved a little with Battle Pack mode, which contained the normal grid-style Bomberman gameplay.

Classic single-player Bomberman lived on… for now. But this wouldn’t be the last we’d see of the Bomberman Land series (far from it).


Bomberman Tournament

Original release – 27 April 2001

Format – GBA

Alternative title – Bomberman Story (Japan)

Interestingly, the western and Japanese titles for the first Bomberman on the Game Boy Advance focused on different game modes.

In Europe and America, the name Bomberman Tournament referred to the battle mode, which could be played by 1-4 players by linking GBAs together (with only one cartridge needed).

42-bomberman-tournament

In Japan meanwhile, the name Bomberman Story referred to the single-player adventure, which was a nifty action-adventure RPG which combined Zelda-style adventuring with classic cross-shaped exploding bombs.

More interesting things were happening behind the scenes, however. In the late ‘90s the bank Hudson was using, Hokkaido Takushoku, went into bankruptcy. This had a massive impact on Hudson so in 2000 it entered the Japanese stock market, hoping to find money that way.

In August 2001 Konami bought a load of shares in Hudson. More was to come…


Bomberman Online

43-bomberman-onlineOriginal release – 30 October 2001

Format – Dreamcast

Sega’s Dreamcast console was ahead of its time in a lot of ways. Not only was it an absolute beast in terms of power, it was also the first system to come with online capabilities built in.

Although its pishy 33.3kbit/s dial-up modem made for many a laggy session, it was still many console gamers’ first taste of the online multiplayer revolution to come.

Released only in North America, Bomberman Online did what it said on the tin. Well, the box. It didn’t come in a tin.

As well as a single-player mode (which was made up of battles against AI bots, not traditional enemies) and local multiplayer, it also let players take part in online battles against their fellow Americans.


Bomberman 64

44-bomberman-64-japanOriginal release – 20 December 2001

Format – Nintendo 64

Eh? Didn’t we already have a Bomberman 64? JOKE’S ON YOU, HUMAN PUBLIC.

Actually, because the Bomberman 64 games were called Baku Bomberman in Japan, the name of this Japan-only release was suitable there.

It was a sort of compilation of previous types of Bomberman games and spin-offs. It had a Bomberman Park mode with mini-games (similar to Bomberman Land), and a Panic Bomber mode, like the puzzle game of the same name.

Best of all though (unless you lived in the west and couldn’t play it) was the Classic Mode, which finally brought traditional Bomberman gameplay to the Nintendo 64, just as the system was dying.


Bomberman Kart

45-bomberman-kartOriginal release – 20 December 2001

Format – PS2

Another racing game? Don’t mind if I do!

This time the conceit of riding around in animals was ditched and Hudson decided “fuck it: you all know this is supposed to be Mario Kart so we’re just going to put them in karts.”

It was exactly what you’d expect it was, then. 30-odd tracks, typical kart racing skullduggery.

Later on, in 2004, Japan got an enhanced version called Bomberman Kart DX which added a classic Bomberman battle mode, presumably for anyone who bought the game expecting normal Bomberman because they somehow failed to notice the big bastard go-kart on the box.


Bomberman Max 2

Original release – 7 February 2002

Format – GBA

Although the standard single-player mode from the ‘80s was all but dead by this point on consoles, it was still ticking away on handhelds.

46-bomberman-max-2

Bomberman Max 2 offered another series of standard ‘kill all the enemies’ stages, ensuring long-time fans still got their fix of how it used to be.

Like the first Bomberman Max, it also came in Red and Blue versions, adamant that you still wanted to collect and train those bloody Charabom things. Nobody gave a shit, but it didn’t matter: this was still pure Bomberman goodness.


Bomberman Generation

47-bomberman-generationOriginal release – 3 June 2002

Format – GameCube

Around the time the GameCube launched, cel-shading was the big gimmick doing the rounds.

Sure enough, the first Bomberman game on Nintendo’s new system also got the cel-shaded treatment, giving it a clean look that suited the simple gameplay.

Best of all, it was a return to form for Bomberman on Nintendo, with the normal, no pissing around, running-in-four-directions multiplayer making a welcome comeback.

Long-time solo fans weren’t quite so happy, mind you: the single-player story mode consisted of wide, open levels and the return of those round bomb explosions. The quest for a traditional Bomberman single-player mode on consoles continued.


Bomberman Jetters: The Legend Of Bomberman

Original release – 24 October 2002

Format – GBA

On 2 October 2002, the Bomberman Jetters anime started in Japan. It told the story of a White Bomberman who worked in a special intergalactic police force called the Jetters.

Confident that the anime would be a success, Hudson was already working on a video game tie-in. Sure enough, 22 days later this GBA action RPG hit Japan.

48-bomberman-jetters

In it, Bomberman and his cyborg chum Max have to save their home planet from the Dark Star, which is basically a big Death Star that’s been designed to crash into Planet Bomber and kill all the Bombermen.

The game didn’t make it outside of Japan. I mean, it did if you imported it, but not officially.


Bomberman Jetters

49-bomberman-jettersOriginal release – 19 December 2002

Formats – GameCube, PS2

A couple of months later, a home console game based on Jetters also hit Japanese stores.

This one played more like Bomberman Generation and once again featured wide open stages.

Players could switch between Bomberman and Max, each of whom had different abilities, to solve various bomb-related puzzles.

You could also use Charaboms (Jesus, Hudson, enough with the wee pricks already) and their abilities too to help you out.

Unlike the GBA game, Bomberman Jetters did eventually make it to North America a couple of years later, but anime purists complained that the voice acting had ballsed up each character’s personalities.


Online Bomberman

50-online-bombermanOriginal release – 2003

Format – PC

The second Bomberman game with online multiplayer sadly didn’t make it outside of Asia.

Released on PC in 2003, it was only available in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

It’s a shame because it sounded great, offering online battles for up to six players and a few quirky variations on the theme too.

The most notable of these was Panel Paint, in which your bombs coloured the floor with paint. It was essentially an early version of Splatoon.


Bomberman Land 2

51-bomberman-land-2Original release – 17 July 2003

Formats – GameCube, PS2

Hey. Hey, you. Don’t think you can get away from that fucking Bomberman theme park.

If Bomberman Land wasn’t enough, Bomberman Land 2 offered another taste of funfair frolics with minigames up the wazoo.

In its defence though, it did actually have a few other substantial modes, including versions of Panic Bomber, Bomberman Kart and – glory be – traditional multiplayer battles.


DreamMix TV World Fighters

52-dreammix-tv-world-fighteOriginal release – 18 December 2003

Formats – GameCube, PS2

Here’s an interesting one. In 2003 Hudson, Konami and Takara combined forces to make a Smash Bros style game featuring characters from each of their franchises.

Characters included Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Solid Snake from Metal Gear, Tyson from Beyblade and Optimus Prime from Transformers.

Oh, and Bomberman of course, who joined characters from Adventure Island and Bloody Roar to fly the Hudson flag.

Sadly, this one never made it outside of Japan. It was half-decent, too.


Bomberman

53-bomberman-n-gageOriginal release – 20 July 2004

Format – N-Gage

Deciding it wanted a slice of the Game Boy Advance’s handheld gaming market, phone company Nokia released the N-Gage.

This was before people used their mobile phones to play games all the time, though, and this – combined with the bizarre choice to give it a vertical display – meant it died quicker than a Robin Thicke tribute act’s booking schedule.

But not before getting its own version of Bomberman, which at least FINALLY gave long-time Bomberman fans a taste of the original, proper single-player gameplay again.

I mean, the three people who bought it, but whatever.


Bomberman Hardball

54-bomberman-hardballOriginal release – 7 October 2004

Format – PS2

Alternative title – Bomberman Battle (Japan)

By this point, pretty much every Bomberman spin-off game had a multiplayer Battle mode chucked in as standard, to appease the fans who had been around since the SNES multitap days. Bomberman Hardball was no different.

As well as that, it also offered a bunch of sporting games: baseball, golf and tennis, to be precise.

Oddly, it also included a ‘Living Mode’, in which you take care of a little Bomberman in his house, Tamagotchi-style.

Despite Konami being Hudson Soft’s main shareholder, it still didn’t have control over the company so Bomberman Hardball was published by Ubisoft. Konami was about to take the next step, though.


Bomberman DS

55-bomberman-dsOriginal release – 19 May 2005

Format – DS

Another new Nintendo system, another Bomberman game.

This time it was the Nintendo DS to get some bomb-chucking action and – to the delight of solo Bomberfans – it had an old-school single-player mode!

With no fewer than 100 solo levels to play through and traditional multiplayer battles for up to an impressive 8 DS owners with a single cartridge, Bomberman DS was excellent.

This one was also published by Ubisoft, but it was to be their last.


Bomberman: Panic Bomber

Original release – 23 June 2005

Format – PSP

Remember Panic Bomber? The puzzle game I was talking about way back when you started reading this bastard something like two hours ago?

Well, it made a comeback on Sony’s PSP handheld.

Other than a little graphical update, it wasn’t massively different from the ‘90s versions. It was only released in Japan and passed by without too much drama.

56-panic-bomber

In fact, it went so far under the radar you can’t even find a good quality screenshot of the bastard online.

There was more important goings-on in the real world, though. In April 2005, Konami bought more shares in Hudson Soft, bringing its total share up to 53.99%.

This meant Konami had become Hudson’s parent company, letting it control Hudson’s business decisions.


Bomberman Land 3

57-bomberman-land-3Original release – 4 August 2005

Format – PS2

Mate, seriously, enough with this theme park pish now.

As before, the third Bomberman Land game put players in a Bomberman-themed amusement park and gave them a bunch of mini-games to play.

There was nothing massively offensive about Bomberman Land 3, but at this point it seemed that Hudson was beginning to struggle to maintain Bomberman’s popularity.

The series’ prime in the early ‘90s had been over a decade ago and each new release was seeing diminishing returns. New gamers didn’t care about the old-school gameplay, while old gamers didn’t care about spin-offs like Bomberman Land 3.

It was time for Hudson to start considering drastic measures. This would lead to some bizarre new directions for the series.


Bomberman: Bakufuu Sentai Bombermen

Original release – 6 March 2006

Format – PSP

The first of these odd reimaginings was this Japan-only PSP release.

Ditching the cute and cuddly Bomberman characters that had been a staple for the series since the very early days, instead they were redesigned to look like ‘Sentai’.

58-bomberman-bakufu-sentai

For those not in the know, ‘Sentai’ are basically Japanese superhero groups: the Power Rangers were known as Super Sentai in Japan.

What you had here, then, was a standard Bomberman game in which all the characters looked like Japanese superheroes. Odd, but in terms of gameplay still fun enough.


Bomberman

Original release – 20 July 2006

Format – PSP

Alternative title – Bomberman Portable (Japan)

Thankfully, Hudson wasn’t willing to let the original Bomberman designs die just yet.

59-bomberman-psp

A few months after the Japanese Sentai game, a more familiar-looking Bomberman title was also released for the PSP.

It played just as familiar too, with classic NES-era single-player stages and loads of multiplayer battle arenas.


Bomberman Land Touch!

60-bomberman-land-touchOriginal release – 20 July 2006

Format – DS

After three PS2 Bomberman Land games all launching in Japan only, it was finally time for the theme park based spin-off series to make its way to the west.

Bomberman Land Touch! continued where the PS2 games left off, offering 30 mini-games to choose from.

On paper it sounds like shovelware but in reality it was critically acclaimed and considered one of the best Bomberman games to date, partly thanks to its online classic multiplayer.

I was at Official Nintendo Magazine at the time and we gave it 86%, calling it “a brilliant turnaround for Bomberman adventuring and a great multiplayer game for your DS”. And who are you to argue with… um, whoever it was who reviewed it, because it wasn’t me?

Nobody, that’s probably who.


Bomberman: Act Zero

Original release – 3 August 2006

Format – Xbox 360

You hear that?

That’s the sound of arses collapsing around the world as anyone reading this who played Bomberman: Act Zero suddenly remembered it existed.

In easily the worst move in the series’ history, some utter maniac decided it would be a good idea to make a dark, futuristic Bomberman game in which the characters were metallic, armour-wearing cyborgs.

61-bomberman-act-zero

Not only did it look like a bucket of dicks, it played like one too (unless you like buckets of dicks, in which case it played like a bucket with no dicks in it).

The collision detection was horrible, the AI was all over the place and the bizarre ‘first-person Bomberman mode’ was actually in third-person. And was still shite.

After hearing a clanging noise and realising they’d hit rock bottom, Hudson and Konami vowed never to make Bomberman look anything other than classic and cute ever again.


Bomberman Land

62-bomberman-land-wiiOriginal release – 8 March 2007

Format – Wii

It was fantastic on the DS, so could Bomberman Land succeed on the Wii too?

Sadly, not so much. With Wii hype at its peak, Hudson couldn’t resist getting involved in the motion control craze, meaning this version was packed with sub-par mini-games.

It did still have a classic Battle mode, but the main mode was so weak we gave it 59% at ONM, saying: “Shoddy visuals, no online mode and a basic quest give this a budget feel.”


Bomberman Land

Original release – 21 March 2007

Format – PSP

Alternative title – Bomberman Land Portable (Japan)

Good God. Look, you know what the deal is by now. I’ve written about five of these bastards.

It’s Bomberman Land. Theme park, mini-games, battle mode. But this time it’s on the PSP. Job done.

63-bomberman-land-psp

Use this space to take a breather and contemplate everything you’ve read so far. It’s been a lot, eh? 9,237 words to be exact, including this sentence.

Did you know I’ve got a wrist injury? Are you surprised? You should be, it’s unrelated.


Bomberman Story DS

64-bomberman-storyOriginal release – 21 March 2007

Format – DS

On the same day the PSP game was released, DS owners got the third instalment in the action RPG series that included Bomberman Quest and Bomberman Tournament.

Once again the solo mode was like Zelda with bombs, and once again there was a multiplayer battle mode added complete with online for up to four players.

There was a nice twist though: when playing in multiplayer mode you could connect to other DS Bomberman releases and use their maps too.


Bomberman Land Touch! 2

65-bomberman-land-touch-2Original release – 19 July 2007

Format – DS

Sigh.

So how are things with you? Everything good? Family all well?

How’s work? That’s good. Me? Ah, you know can’t complain.

I know, I know, can’t complain because who would listen, right? Ha ha!

Ha ha.

What’s that? Oh, Bomberman Land Touch! 2. You know, mini-games at a fairground, the usual.


Bomberman Live

Original release – 18 July 2007

Format – Xbox 360

It took until 2007 for Hudson to realise that some people just played the multiplayer battle mode and couldn’t give a shit about anything else.

They didn’t want mini-games, or puzzles, or kart racing or tennis. They just wanted to lob bombs off their pals’ skulls.

66-bomberman-live

Bomberman Live was the first in a trio of digital games that essentially said: “You know something, you’re right. We’re just going to give you the multiplayer, and we’re going to do it properly.”

And it did. Up to eight players, local or online? That’s all people were looking for.


Bomberman Touch: The Legend Of Mystic Bomb

67-bomberman-touch-the-legeOriginal release – 10 July 2008

Format – iOS

The day before the iPhone 3G was released, Apple launched the App Store and changed the face of mobile gaming.

And right there on day one, on 10 July 2008, was Hudson Soft with a Bomberman game.

Bomberman Touch starred another suspiciously Indiana Jones style character, but this time his name was the more subtle Bomber John.

With no multiplayer mode at all this was a strictly solo affair so it’s a good job it was fun, offering traditional single-player stages.


Bomberman Blast

Original release – 12 September 2008

Format – Wii

After the success of Bomberman Live on Xbox 360, the second of Hudson’s trio of digital-only console releases launched on the Wii.

As before, Bomberman Blast featured local and online multiplayer battles for up to eight players.

68-bomberman-blast

This time though, Hudson also released a packaged retail version in Japan which included a traditional single-player mode too.

It was to be the last time (at the time of writing) that this mode would be featured in a console or handheld (i.e. non-mobile) Bomberman game. Fans of the single-player mode didn’t know it yet, but they were in for a long wait if they wanted more of the same.


Bomberman 2

69-bomberman-2-dsOriginal release – 4 December 2008

Format – DS

Despite its straightforward title suggesting this was business as usual, this DS game was actually a pretty big departure from the rest of the series.

Taking place in a sort of cyberspace setting like the Mega Man Battle Network games, the single-player mode let you collect and equip different parts for your Bomberman.

Instead of it being a one-hit kill game you had a life bar, and the whole thing just felt a bit more like Nintendo’s Custom Robo Arena games in which you built your own robots and tried to blow up your opponent.

It was still fun, mind. Just very different to what Bomberman fans were used to.


Bomberman Ultra

Original release – 11 June 2009

Format – PS3

Concluding Hudson’s trio of digital releases, this time it was the PS3’s turn for some download-only, multiplayer-only goodness.

70-bomberman-ultra

Yet again there was local and online battling for up to eight players, and once again it was bloody good fun.

The twist this time was a rainbow-coloured ball which would sometimes appear as an item. If you collected this you’d earn a costume part which let you customise your Bomberman.


Bomberman Touch 2: Volcano Party

71-bomberman-touch-2Original release – 17 June 2009

Format – iOS

The first iPhone Bomberman game was so well received, another was released the following year.

The single-player mode was expanded so it no longer consisted of traditional small stages but instead had larger dungeon-like mazes.

It also introduced multiplayer mode, something the original iOS game was missing, but again the maps here were a little more spacious than usual.


Bomberman Blitz

72-bomberman-blitzOriginal release – 6 November 2009

Format – DSi

Alternative title – Itsudemo Bomberman (Japan)

Realising it was onto a winner with its digital Xbox 360, Wii and PS3 multiplayer games, Hudson got cracking on one for Nintendo’s DSiWare service too.

Bomberman Blitz was basically the battle mode from Bomberman 2 stripped away from the single-player mode and presented as a standalone download.

Not that this was a bad thing: most people (who didn’t already have Bomberman 2, at least) were happy enough with it.

The Japanese title was probably more appropriate though. Even though ‘Itsudemo’ roughly means ‘Anytime’ (as in you could play the multiplayer mode wherever you were), I’m sure “it’s a demo” is what a lot of players thought when they realised it was part of a bigger game.


Bomberman Dojo

73-bomberman-dojoOriginal release – 14 February 2010

Formats – iOS, Android

The next mobile Bomberman game was based on a bonus mode that was featured in Saturn Bomberman.

It had a thing called Master Mode, where players had to kill all the enemies in a level as quickly as possible to get a high score.

This is what Bomberman Dojo was pretty much like: although it was still a bunch of traditional stages in the NES Bomberman style, you were scored depending on how quickly you could blow up all the pricks around you.


Bomberman Live: Battlefest

Original release – 8 December 2010

Format – Xbox 360

Of the digital trio released a couple of years earlier, it was the Xbox 360’s Bomberman Live that was the best seller (probably because the Xbox One’s Live Arcade service was more popular than the PlayStation Store or WiiWare at the time).

Hudson decided to go with more of the same, so a sequel was developed.

74-bomberman-live-battlefest

More multiplayer, more modes, more unlockable costumes: it was all a fairly straightforward update of the original game.

Spare a thought for PS3 and Wii owning Bomberman fans though: versions of the game were also planned for both systems but they were cancelled.

That wasn’t the only behind-the-scenes rumbling going on at the time. A month after Battlefest launched, Hudson Soft became a wholly owned subsidiary of Konami, and not long after that Konami liquidated Hudson’s California studio.

Battlefest was the last Bomberman game published by Hudson Soft – Konami took over from this point.


Bomberman Chains

75-bomberman-chainsOriginal release – 10 February 2011

Format – iOS

I know what you’re thinking.

“This has been one enormous yet fascinating article Chris, and the fact you’ve used the word ‘traditional’ about forty times definitely hasn’t detracted from it.

“However, one thing that depresses me is that Hudson never released a Bomberman spin-off which was essentially a match three game in the style of Bejeweled.”

Well, CHARADE YOU ARE.


One Hundred Person Battle Bomberman

Original release – 28 March 2012

Format – iOS

On 1 March 2012, Hudson Soft officially died, merging with Konami Digital Entertainment to form a single company.

Four weeks later, the first Bomberman game owned and published by Konami launched on iOS.

76-100-person-battle-bomberman

As the name suggests, One Hundred Person Battle Bomberman was a bizarre spin-off in which you and four AI-controlled Bombermen had to battle against 100 other AI enemies.

It was basically Saturn Bomberman times 10, and was frantic to say the least.


Bomberman

Original release – 8 November 2014

Formats – iOS, Android

In Japan, Konami released a free version of Bomberman on iOS and Android, offering just a multiplayer mode.

It could be played alone or with three other players over either WiFi or Bluetooth.

77-bomberman-2014

It also included a Bomber Coliseum mode, where players had to defeat boss characters as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, players complained that the controls were a little uncomfortable, and eventually the Android version was taken off the Google Play Store.


VS! Bomberman

Original release – 1 March 2016

Formats – iOS, Android

A couple of years passed and Konami decided to make another Bomberman game for mobile.

VS! Bomberman was once again only released in Japan, and offered local and online multiplayer.

78-vs-bomberman

Here’s the deal though. Picture how Bomberman fans were feeling at this point. Especially people who, like me, had been playing the game for decades and preferred to play on a console or a handheld.

People who were concerned that the days of the early ‘90s, the glory days of Super Bomberman 2 and Saturn Bomberman, were finally long gone.

“Is this really how Bomberman is destined to live, now?” we asked. Well, I mean, I did. To myself.

“Is this once great series now relegated to a bi-annual mobile release?”

Well… about that.


Super Bomberman R

91-hgxwegrl-_sl1500_Planned release – 3 March 2017

Format – Switch

Fucking YES.

It’s been more than six years since the last Bomberman game was on a home system. It’s been more than seven since that system was a Nintendo one.

And it’s been more than eight years since that classic, NES style ‘kill all the enemies, clear the stage’ single-player mode has been seen on a console or handheld game.

Super Bomberman R promises to reset all these ridiculously long tallies to zero.

It offers classic multiplayer for up to eight players. It’s got a traditional 50-stage single-player mode (which can also be played with another player in co-op).

More importantly, as a sign that Konami isn’t messing around here, the Super Bomberman name has been resurrected and is appearing for the first time since Super Bomberman 5 on the SNES two decades ago.

79-super-bomberman-r

At the time of writing, it’s out in under a week. I plan to review it as soon as possible for the site.

It’s clearly too late to ask now because the game’s finished, but PLEASE Konami – the 12-year-old me who spent countless hours in front of his tiny CRT television in his bedroom playing Super Bomberman 2 on the SNES is begging you:

Please don’t fuck this up.

It’s time for Bomberman to come home.


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So, if you live in the UK and are tempted to buy Super Bomberman R on Switch after reading all this, doing it through this link will pay me back.

26 thoughts on “The complete history of Bomberman

  1. Brilliant read, good to have the complete history of a video game series all in one place to be read whenever. I’d love to see more features like this one (wrist injury permitting).

    Nice way to bring up hype for Super Bomberman R!!

    Like

  2. Damn, great stuff. I am so unbelievably excited for this one, apparently Breath of The Wild is sold out, and I didn’t pre order it! Bomberman R will be a fine distraction while I wait for Nintendo to get their act together haha

    Like

  3. Thanks for making this. I was born in ’90, so I grew up with Bomberman from the NES era onward…
    He is my favorite character of all time, and it is my favorite series of all time, despite there being many stinkers in the mix.
    The one thing that’s hard to forgive is underselling the value of Bomberman 64: The Second Attack! You know, that game has a special cult following among a certain part of the Bomberman fanbase! It’s my personal favorite game of all time~ the reason I decided to cast everything else to the abyss and claim Bomberman as my video game purpose in life, even if it is a vastly different experience than classic titles.
    I now own just about every Bomberman game released physically in the US, and couldn’t POSSIBLY be happier about Super Bomberman R… What an INCREDIBLE treat we (hopefully) have in store for us!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bomberman Touch: The Legend of Mystic Bomb, you’ve put 2008 as the year of release but 1998 in the main text.
    Not being a dick, just helpin’ out.

    Like

  5. I usually don’t leave comments on random posts on the web, but something this epic deserves all the attention and kudos it can get. Most of this is generally familiar to me (though I don’t think I ever heard of the Hi-Ten events before), but it’s great having all of this set in an easily-digestible timeline and with the additional context of both the gaming industry at the time and business shenanigans happening with Hudson and Konami. I had thought about doing a write-up like this one at some point down the line, but I’m glad you came in to save the day because you seem to have a better grasp on context than I do, and boy howdy do I already have a long list of Bomberman-related projects to attend to…

    My informal introduction to the Bomberman series was with Bomberman 64 multiplayer at a not-cousin’s house, but the game that got me personally invested in the series was Bomberman Hero, with Second Attack sealing the deal. So my bombernostalgia is rooted in the open-world style of gameplay, rather than the grid-based stuff that SBR is taking its cues from. With that said, though, I’m super hype about this return to console gaming for the franchise. (I also hope that it will lead to at least one open-world style game. I cried at least ten oceans of Kool-Aid tears when Bomberman 3DS got scrapped.)

    TL;DR every hour is bomb o’clock for me as far as I’m concerned, and I’m looking forward to your analysis of SBR! Thanks again, and take care of yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Chris, that is one monster read. Very much enjoyed it and it’s great to see you getting some love from Konami on the Twitter

    Like

  7. This was a pretty epic post. I love the Bomberman series and am excited for the Switch game. Though, I really reallllly wish a company like Nintendo would just outright buy the character from Konami. I don’t trust them to do anything good anymore.

    Like

  8. Took three sittings to read through but it was well worth it 😀 Probably waiting a few months to get Super Bomberman R since it’s had middling reviews, and I’m well busy with Zelda, but without this site I wouldn’t even have known it existed as something to be interested in! You’ve earned yourself a rabid reader my friend 😉

    Like

  9. hey good post but this isnt the think i was searching because i searching the origin of bomberman that is who is the person created bomberman and the course of his creation and finaly his first appear in a game but good post 😀

    Like

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