Ice Climber

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Ice Climber
North American NES box art
Developer(s)Nintendo R&D1
Director(s)Kenji Miki
Producer(s)Masayuki Uemura
Shigeru Miyamoto
Programmer(s)Kazuaki Morita
Toshihiko Nakago[5]
Artist(s)Tadashi Sugiyama
Composer(s)Akito Nakatsuka[6]
Platform(s)Arcade (Vs. System), Famicom/NES, PC-8801, Sharp X1, Famicom Disk System
October 1984
  • Arcade (Vs. Ice Climber)
  • Famicom/NES
    • JP: January 30, 1985[4]
    • NA: October 18, 1985[3]
    • EU: September 1, 1986
  • PC-8801
    • JP: October 1985
  • Sharp X1
    • JP: November 1985
  • Famicom (Vs. Ice Climber)
    • JP: November 18, 1988
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
Arcade systemVS. UniSystem

Ice Climber[a] is a platform game developed and published by Nintendo for the arcade Nintendo VS. System in 1984 and the Nintendo Entertainment System console in 1985. In Ice Climber, the characters Popo and Nana (Pepe and Nana in the German version), collectively known as the Ice Climbers, scale 32 vertically scrolling, ice-covered mountains to recover stolen vegetables from a giant condor. In some European countries, Ice Climber was a pack-in game for the NES console.

It was originally released in the arcades as part of the VS. series: VS. Ice Climber.[b] It has an animated title screen, a stage select menu at the start of the game and between levels, 16 more mountains, occasional blizzard and wind effects, more enemy characters, and bonus multiplier items.

The inclusion of Nana and Popo as playable characters in the 2001 in Super Smash Bros. Melee for the GameCube brought the game renewed attention. Nintendo released a version of the game for the Nintendo e-Reader in 2002.


Popo scales Mountain 1 surrounded by Topis and a Nitpicker.

The first player controls Popo, a boy wearing a blue Eskimo parka, while the second player controls Nana, a girl wearing a pink one. The only tool they carry is a wooden mallet to carve openings in the ice above and to club enemies. Each mountain level consists of eight layers of colorful ice and a bonus stage. Standard, dull ice blocks pose no threat other than an easily disposed-of barrier and platform. Square ice blocks with higher detail are indestructible, forcing the player to take another path. Hatched ice acts as a conveyor belt sliding the Eskimo either left or right. Finally, many mountains include unbreakable moving platforms resembling clouds. The bonus stage takes place at the peak. Within a 40-second time limit and no enemies, the Ice Climbers often face trickier jumps and multiple moving platforms. The peak is also the only place to recover stolen vegetables, most notably eggplants. Collecting just one piece of corn from the fifth bonus stage is the only way to gain an extra life.[7] At the top of the peak, the Condor flies overhead.

Enemies encountered on the way up the mountains include the Topi, Nitpicker, and White Bear. Topis come in two varieties: the blue seal featured in the Japanese Famicom Ice Climber release, and the short yeti seen in Western versions and Vs. Ice Climber. Topis have the ability to fill in holes in the floor with ice. To do this, a Topi scouts out opening in the floor, runs back to its cave, and reemerges pushing an icicle to fill in two blocks. This process repeats until no more openings on their layer of ice exist. The Nitpicker is a small, mountain-dwelling bird that swoops down from icy caves on the levels' edges. Unlike the Topi, which is confined to one floor of the mountain, Nitpickers can cross over multiple ice layers. Taking them into account along with moving platforms and sliding ice, timing jumps can be more difficult. The final enemy is the White Bear. This enemy, wearing sunglasses and pink speedo, appears on screen only when Popo and Nana take too long to advance. Pounding the ice, the Polar Bear forces the screen to move up. If an Eskimo is forced off the screen, the player loses a life. Other obstacles include deadly falling icicles. These can form on the bottom of any type of platform. After a few successful mountains climbed, all enemies' speeds increase.

The arcade game Vs. Ice Climber has a few more gameplay differences. The player must pick from an initial set of 24 mountains to conquer. After eight are cleared, a Super Bonus stage occurs in which the player must reach a high platform. Afterwards, the player must choose from the second set of 24 mountains, in which the Condor is replaced by a giant butterfly. After the next eight stages are cleared and the Super Bonus is over, the player resumes the cycle from the original mountain set. The game keeps track of whether the mountain was claimed by an Ice Climber or if it remains Topi territory—once all the stages are completed, the counter resets. Approximately 30 of the 48 level designs are borrowed from the NES game. Stage setups are generally trickier in Vs. Ice Climber, with some new mechanics such as cloud platforms that move diagonal or strong gusts of wind. In addition, a purple bee with a spear flying in a horizontal pattern is included as a somewhat rare fourth enemy.

After the bonus stage, the players' scores are tallied. Points are rewarded for every brick of ice destroyed, every Topi-pushed icicle smashed, every Nitpicker killed and every vegetable collected. Finally, a bonus score is rewarded if a player manages to climb to the top of the bonus stage and jump up and grab the Condor. The game keeps track of the high score, although there is no way to save it on the NES version.

The game can be played in one- or two-player mode. The latter places Popo and Nana against each other in a race to the summit. Players may prefer to play cooperatively on the way up, but during the bonus round, they must compete for the top.


Ice Climber, along with NES Open Tournament Golf, is one of two games directed by longtime Nintendo producer Kenji Miki.[8] It is also the first video game programmed by Kazuaki Morita. He considered his work on Ice Climber to be a "warm-up" before becoming a main programmer on Super Mario Bros.[9] Morita was later credited with central programming roles in numerous titles within the Super Mario Bros. series, The Legend of Zelda series, and in Star Fox 64.[10]


In Japan, Game Machine listed VS. Ice Climbers on their April 1, 1985 issue as being the eight most-successful table arcade unit of the month.[11] Former President of Finland Mauno Koivisto was reportedly keen on Nintendo games and his son-in-law has reported that Ice Climber was his favorite game.[12]

Reviewing the American release, Computer Entertainer magazine called it "addictive" for fans of climbing games. The reviewer praised the games graphics as well its varied gameplay which they claimed allowed for "hours of challenging play", awarding 3 and half out of 4 stars each for graphics and gameplay.[13]



Ice Climber, a launch title for the NES in North America, has been re-released for a number of Nintendo's major gaming consoles. For the release on the PC-8801, the game changes to a different and more limited color palette along with a reworked HUD.[14] Vs. Ice Climber has been re-released for the Famicom Disk System, removing the difficulty settings and changing a few graphics to be closer to Ice Climber (such as the bee and butterfly replaced by a Nitpicker and blue Condor, respectively). It has also been released as a part of the Arcade Archives series on Nintendo Switch, although the bee enemy has been removed for unknown reasons. Including the releases listed below, the entire NES game is found within the 2002 GameCube release of Animal Crossing.[15] It can only be officially unlocked via a North America-exclusive e-Reader card, or as a gift to players requesting their save data be transferred from the Japanese-exclusive Nintendo 64 version to the Doubutsu no Mori+ edition.

Name Date Platform Notes
Vs. Ice Climber 1984 Arcade Nintendo Vs. Series
Ice Climber 1985 Famicom/NES [16]
Ice Climber 1985 NEC PC-8801 Published by Hudson Soft
Ice Climber 1988 Famicom Disk System Port of Vs. Ice Climber
Ice Climber-e 2002 e-Reader Barcoded cards, readable with e-Reader and Game Boy Advance.
Ice Climber 2004 Game Boy Advance Classic NES Series
Ice Climber 2007 Wii Virtual Console
Ice Climber 2011 3DS Virtual Console
Ice Climber 2013 Wii U Virtual Console
Ice Climber 2018 Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Online
Vs. Ice Climber 2019 Nintendo Switch Arcade Archives

Super Smash Bros.[edit]

The Ice Climbers, as they appear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

The Ice Climbers, voiced by Sanae Kobayashi, appear as playable fighters in the Super Smash Bros. series. Their symbol is an eggplant, the first vegetable rescued from the original game. Although they are collectively the same fighter, players only control Popo while Nana mimics his every move, and vice versa if the player switches the costume and the character.

In Super Smash Bros. Melee, the Ice Climbers appear alongside Polar Bears and Topis in Adventure Mode. The seal and yeti Topi respectively appear in the Japanese and Western version of the game. Popo and Nana's stage is "Icicle Mountain", a level partially influenced by the mountains of Ice Climber. However, their target test stage is a direct, 2.5D representation of NES-style graphics. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the Ice Climbers return with a different stage. "Summit" recreates the bonus level mountain peak right down to the original vegetables.[17] Enemies from the NES title appearing in Brawl include the Polar Bear and Condor. Along with these new Ice Climber elements, a demo of the original 1985 game appears along with other Virtual Console titles as a part of the "Masterpieces" collection.[18]

The Ice Climbers and the Summit stage were initially planned to make a return in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U but were taken out during development because of technical issues encountered in the development of the 3DS version. While the Ice Climbers and their home stage would have been functional on the Wii U version of Smash, game director Masahiro Sakurai excluded them from the final release so he could keep the two games' rosters and stages equal. Sakurai also stated that there was not a high priority to include them since the Ice Climber series was "unlikely to have another installment" at the time.[19] Despite this, they are still mentioned in-game via a collectible trophy. The Polar Bear from this series also appears as an enemy in the 3DS version's Smash Run mode.

The Ice Climbers and Summit stage returned to the series in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.[20]

Other appearances[edit]

Themes and imagery from Ice Climber regularly appear in the WarioWare series' classic Nintendo microgames. In Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land and Kirby Air Ride, when Kirby gets the Freeze ability, he dons Popo's parka in the same manner it is worn in the Super Smash Bros. series.[16] In Tetris DS, an Ice Climber backdrop makes an appearance among other classic Nintendo games. Topi seals remain, even outside Japan.[21] Daigasso! Band Brothers, a DJ music game for the Nintendo DS, includes the bonus stage music theme.[22]

The Ice Climbers appear in Super Mario Maker as an unlockable Mystery Mushroom costume as part of an update.[23]


  1. ^ Japanese: アイスクライマー, Hepburn: Aisu Kuraimā
  2. ^ Japanese: VSアイスクライマー, Hepburn: VS Aisu Kuraimā


  1. ^ Akagi, Masumi (October 13, 2006). アーケードTVゲームリスト国内•海外編(1971-2005) [Arcade TV Game List: Domestic • Overseas Edition (1971-2005)] (in Japanese). Japan: Amusement News Agency. p. 128. ISBN 978-4990251215.
  2. ^ "アイスクライマー" [Ice Climber]. Famitsu (in Japanese). Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  3. ^ "Ice Climber retrospective: A slippery slope for platforming". YouTube. Jeremy Parish. May 24, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  4. ^ Famicom 20th Anniversary Original Sound Tracks Vol. 1 (Media notes). Scitron Digital Contents Inc. 2004. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
  5. ^ "Ice Climber" (PDF). Nintendo. 1985. Instruction manual. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ "Kenji Miki". IMDB. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  7. ^ "Inside Zelda Part 9". Zelda Universe. p. 1. Archived from the original on 2009-03-31. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  8. ^ "Kazuaki Morita". IMDB. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  9. ^ "Game Machine's Best Hit Games 25 - テーブル型TVゲーム機 (Table Videos)". Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 257. Amusement Press, Inc. 1 April 1985. p. 25.[circular reference]
  10. ^ "Uutuuskirja: Mauno Koivisto hullaantui 30 vuotta sitten videopeleihin ja kyykytti kavereitaan Nintendolla: 'Etkö sä oikein hallitse tätä?'", on 26th of September 2019, Ilta-Sanomat,
  11. ^ "The Video Game Update" (PDF). Computer Entertainer. Vol. 5 no. 1. April 1986. p. 11.
  12. ^ "NEC PC-8801 Games". Strange and Wonderful. p. 1. Archived from the original on 2008-12-24. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  13. ^ Schneider, Peer (September 11, 2001). "Inside Animal Forest Part VII (GameCube, N64)". IGN. p. 1. Archived from the original on December 26, 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  14. ^ a b "'Ice Climber'". NinDB. Archived from the original on 2010-06-19. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  15. ^ "Summit". Super Smash Bros. DOJO!!. October 31, 2007. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  16. ^ "Masterpieces". Smash Bros. DOJO!!. January 25, 2008. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  17. ^ Brian (September 16, 2014). "Sakurai addresses Ice Climbers' absence in Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS and more in new Famitsu column". Nintendo Everything. Retrieved September 16, 2014..
  18. ^ "Back in the battle after a ten-year absence! There are two of them, so does that make them twice as strong as other fighters?". Super Smash Blog. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  19. ^ "Tetris DS". Nintendo. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  20. ^ Gerstmann, Jeff (December 10, 2004). "Daigasso! Band Brothers Import Hands-On". GameSpot. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  21. ^ Benson, Julian. "The Ice Climbers are coming to Super Mario Maker". Retrieved 12 May 2016.

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