So you have decided to finally clear that big hurdle in your life: you are going to go through 1987’s hit video game Punch-Out!! and knockout Mike Tyson once and for all. I for one never could make it past the first round against the heavyweight champion and it is only recently that I decided to give it another shot, with the help of Nintendo’s Virtual Console. The first few matches were going fairly well, as my muscle memory was coming back quicker than anticipated, but as I was progressing through the list of stereotypes I was boxing against, I realized that I was going to need some help.
I did end up beating Mike Tyson (or Mr. Dream, as he is called in the Virtual Console version), but it wasn’t easy. I combed the internet for guides and YouTube videos that could make my journey easier, eventually compiling a list of bookmarks that could be described as a veritable bible for Punch-Out!! hopefuls. So, whether you just picked up the original version to give it a try or you are trying to finally slay that demon which has been nagging at the back of your mind for years, I decided that I would give you a hand. Most of these tricks are already well-known by experts, but this is a handy guide which assembles all of the best tips and tricks to destroy Punch-Out!!’s stable of misfits as quickly as possible.
So sharpen your reflexes, load up the NES one more time, and let’s work together to finally defeat Mike Tyson, one of the 8-bit era’s fiercest final boss.
15 The basics: How to get back some of your energy between rounds
First of all, if you are going to make it to Mike Tyson, you will need to defeat everyone who stands in your way as quickly as possible. But sometimes, the timing isn’t there or you simply get taken by surprise, and the matches will start stretching longer than you expected. If that is the case, you need to remember that there is a way to get some energy back between rounds. However, be aware that this trick will only work once per match, meaning that you need to determine if you absolutely need the boost after the first round, or if you should wait until a possibly worst situation right before the third one.
To get some of your lost energy back, wait until Doc Louis starts cheering you on in between rounds and then quickly press SELECT to gain back some of your health. Some people say that you only need one well-timed press of the button to get the desired result, but I prefer to mash the SELECT button for as long as Doc and the opponents are trading barbs to make sure that I maximize the effect. No matter which method you use, the only thing to remember is to press SELECT when Doc starts talking, and you’ll be golden.
14 Get rid of Glass Joe early with a one-punch knock out
Glass Joe is not to be feared, as he is the weakest fighter in the whole game. In fact, you can get an easy victory against the Frenchman even when you are just figuring out the controls. However, if you want to get rid of Joe as quickly as possible, there is a trick to remember which can KO the man with one punch if timed right.
Around the 40-second mark of the first round, Joe will back up, then shuffle forward in an awkward attempt at taunting Little Mac. If you time a left punch (high or low does not matter) just right, so that Little Mac’s outstretched arm graze’s Glass Joe’s tummy or head just as he is moving forward, you will knock him out instantly. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the timing, because even a mistimed punch will usually send him down for at least a quick count, putting you well on your way to a TKO. The timing of the KO punch will make you believe that you are pulling the trigger too early. You’ll know you got it right when the animation makes it look like Joe is actually running into your waiting fist.
13 Dispose of Von Kaiser in less than a minute with quick knockdowns
The German mustachioed wonder Von Kaiser is only slightly tougher than Glass Joe, but still isn’t much of a challenge. He has a bad habit of telegraphing his punches, which makes dodging easy. There’s also a secret which usually gets rid of this chump with quick successive takedowns.
For the first one, dodge his first jab and follow with five quick jabs of your own to his face. Then, just as he gets back in position, punch him a sixth time to get a star. Dodge his next jab, punch him once or twice to stun him, then use your super uppercut to send him to the mat.
When he gets back up, he will trade his jab for an uppercut. Punch him in the stomach when he crouches to get another star, then dodge his next jab to repeat the combo of stun/uppercut. The second knockdown will usually be the last. Sometimes, he will get back up for another try, but just repeat the previous step for the easy win.
12 Piston Honda does not know how to dodge uppercuts
Your first championship match is against Piston Honda, the first of your opponents to actually look like a competent boxer. Thankfully, he can still be taken down easily with some patience.
First of all, you need to acquire stars. The best way to do so is to punch him repeatedly in the stomach at the start of the first round. You should be able to easily get two or three stars before he even attempts to block anything. Then, dodge his uppercuts, stun him with a high jab, and throw your star punch to chip away at his health. Because Honda seems totally unable to dodge your star punches, you should be able to knock him down before the first minute is over. As soon as he gets back up, punch him in the stomach once more for a star, and IMMEDIATELY use your uppercut to send him back down. Repeat the same process again for the third knockdown.
If he survives your onslaught for one reason or another, at the one minute mark, he will back up for his patented Honda Rush. Counter just as he approaches with a high punch to send him down for the final time.
11 Take Don Flamenco down in 20 seconds
Don Flamenco, your first adversary of the Major Circuit, will only punch you if you punch him first. This will cause him to try an uppercut which you can easily dodge. With such an opening, you will probably want to batter him right away with a flurry of high punches, but you will have to resist your instincts if you want a quick KO.
When Don Flamenco misses that first uppercut, pause for about half a second before throwing your first high punch. The delay will give you a star instead of registering as a normal jab. Once you have that star, immediately use it to send him to the mat. When he gets back up, provoke him again, then dodge his uppercut. Now is the time to trust your instinct and use those quick high punches you were thinking about initially until he falls to the mat. Do it right and you will dispose of the Spaniard in 20 seconds of less.
10 Hit King Hippo in his big fat mouth and make him drop his shorts
Up next is King Hippo, the ruler of Hippo Island. He is massive when compared to your other opponents, which contrasts with the fact that he is one of the easiest boxer to defeat in the game. He can be dangerous if he does land a hit, but his patterns are so easy to predict that you should make it out of the fight without a scratch. The trick here is patience and making the most of your opportunities.
First of all, simply dodge his jabs, which are easy to predict because he covers his face before delivering them. Then, when he opens up his mouth, punch him in the face to make him drop his shorts. That’s your opportunity to strike at his belly again and again. Keep going at it until he brings his pants back up. Wait until he opens his dumb mouth again to repeat the process until he is finally knocked down. You should be able to deplete his entire energy bar before the end of the first round. Because he is that easy, he will stay down after the first fall, just like his pants.
9 Watch the jewel on Great Tiger’s head
The trick to beating Great Tiger quickly is to accumulate as many stars as possible to get him down quickly. Getting a star here is easy if you pay attention to the jewel on his turban. The jewel will flash before he goes for a jab and that is when you need to hit him in the face. You should be able to get as many stars as you want this way, but four or so should do the trick.
Once you have the stars, simply hit him with a succession of uppercuts. He won’t even try to dodge them. That should send him down to the mat in about 40 seconds. Sure, he will get up at one, but you only need to repeat the pattern again (hit his face when the jewel flashes, get a star, uppercut him) to send him right back down. Because he is a tenacious man, Great Tiger will get up again like a Chumbawamba song, but you know the trick by now. This one’s over with barely a minute elapsed in the first round.
8 Bald Bull gives you two openings for quick KOs
If you are quick enough, you should be able to beat the fearsome Bald Bull without even having to face his dreaded Bull Charge. That is because Bald Bull seems to forget how to block a punch in the first twenty seconds or so of the fight. Just pummel him with high punches to keep getting stars, and use your uppercuts as soon as they are available. That should take care of the first knockdown. From there, dodge his hooks and counter with face punches until he falls to the mat again. If you manage to do this again before the two-minute mark, you’ll have scored an easy win.
If you can’t finish Bald Bull before that two minutes, he will start using the Bull Charge. If you don’t dodge it, it’s an instant knockdown on you. Thankfully, a well-timed punch to the gut, right before he hits you, will take care of that. The timing needs to be precise, but shouldn’t be too hard to master if you pay attention to the photographer in the crowd. His flash going off is the indicator that you should start punching right then and there.
7 Take out Piston Honda's entire life bar with one well-timed punch
As your first opponent of the World Circuit, Piston Honda is also your first rematch of the game. He has improved his speed, but he has also acquired a brand-new weakness which can KO him with a single punch. That’s right. If you time it right, you’ll only need to throw one punch to get past him.
All you need to do is dodge all his jabs and uppercuts early on, until he gets tired and moves away to prepare for his patented Honda Rush. Hit him just as he lunges forward for the first punch in the series with a jab of your own in the stomach for an instant knock out. His entire life bar will get drained with little to no effort.
That one-punch trick can also work in your first match against Piston Honda, although it will only result in a knock down instead of a KO. Because of that, the method described previously is faster when it comes to the original encounter.
6 Bald Bull and Don Flamenco: The Rematches
Before we get to Soda Popinski, I want to mention the other rematches that occur on the World Circuit. Your second fight with Bald Bull is not much different from the first one. His speed has improved, but the only big change is how to get the stars against him. Since he now blocks the early high punches, you need to punch him in the stomach after dodging his straight jabs. The rest of the strategy applies: unload your uppercuts when he is already stunned, or else he could dodge them. The counter to his Bull Charge also still works, though you will need to be a bit faster this time around.
Your second encounter with Don Flamenco is a lot different. He will now attack unprovoked, but you can still get some easy stars on him by punching low when he brings his gloves up. You’ll get a star at least 50% of the time. The best time to use those special punches is either when you stun him after dodging his jab, or immediately after dodging his hook. After that, it’s only a question of perseverance: get more stars, stun him some more, and keep striking. Unfortunately, there’s no one-hit KO here.
5 Make Soda Popinski hesitate for the easy star
Soda Popinski (once known as Vodka Drunkenski in the arcade version of Super Punch-Out!!) is a very pink Russian boxer who prefers to fight in a speedo. What he lacks in clothing, he makes up for in speed. However, there is one way to neutralize his quickness, by making him hesitate before he delivers one of his trademark uppercuts. When he gets ready to deliver one, Popinski will crouch. Your instinct might tell you to get ready to dodge, but if you block instead, he will stay in the crouching position longer than usual. That’s your cue to hit him in the gut for an easy star. When he tries it again, dodge the uppercut, stun him with a few jabs to the face, then deliver your own star punch for a knockdown.
This tactic will need to be used two more times for the TKO win, but be warned: after the first minute or so of the first round, Soda Popinski can dodge your special punch if you are not careful. Make sure to stun him with at least three or four punches before attempting to use your star punches.
4 Mr. Sandman has a weak stomach
Mr. Sandman is where it gets really tough, because as far as I know, he’s the only character where it is almost impossible to get a star against him. Therefore, you need to keep moving and take your chances when they appear.
For the first minute or so, Mr. Sandman will do this shuffle with his hands before throwing a jab. Dodge these jabs and counter with a single punch to the face. That’s all you can get before he starts blocking. Eventually, he will start using quick uppercuts, which you can provoke by attempting to hit him high and that’s when you need to strike. Give him one punch to the face after you dodge, followed by three punches to the stomach is the best option. Sometimes he will allow a fourth punch, but he will often block it and immediately counter you, making it unreliable.
Finally, later in the round, he will attempt a quick series of three uppercuts. He will flash before delivering those and you must dodge each one before countering with a head punch. He will then be open for as many stomach punches as you can give. Just keep going until he gets back into position, as it is the only time he will truly be vulnerable. Use these three techniques to chip away at his health until you’ve taken him down three times.
3 Get your stars early against Super Macho Man to finish him quick
Super Macho Man is another tough fighter, but unlike Mr. Sandman, he does give you one opportunity to gain a star. When you counter his uppercuts, resist the urge to pummel his face and pause for a quick second, then counter with a punch of your own. This method is not infallible, but it is the one with the best odds at successfully gaining a star. You must remember however that Super Macho Man is very adept at dodging your super punches past the first minute, so use them while you can, or make sure to stun him properly before attempting your uppercuts.
The only other thing to remember is that his weird spinning punch combination varies in number every time. You might need to dodge one more time than necessary, but it’s better to be safe than sorry with those as they are quite powerful if they land. If you can stay out of the way and manage your stars properly, you’ll be able to knock him out in the first round.
2 Spare Tyson in the first round for a better chance at victory
So you have finally made it to Mike Tyson! This just might be one of the toughest boss fight in NES history, mostly because the majority of Tyson’s hits are instant KO. Fortunately, there’s a way to minimize their impact. First of all, that barrage of uppercuts only lasts a minute and a half. Counter each of them with two punches to the face. The timing is hard to get right, because Tyson will sometime pause before delivering one, screwing up your own combos.
Up next, he will come at you with jabs. He will wink before throwing them, so pay attention to his face. Counter those with a single jab to the face, lest you get countered yourself. If you did it all correctly, he should be nearing the end of his energy bar by the end of round one. Don’t knock him down! Keep dodging and wait for the second round to start…
At this point, he won’t do much until you run out of stamina, so keep punching until Little Mac runs out of hearts. He will then unleash a few punches, and that’s when you dodge and knock him out with a punch or two to the face. Repeat the dodge and punch process until you knock him down a second time. When he blinks repeatedly, punch him in the face for a quick star, but use those uppercuts wisely. Try to use them after you dodge his single jabs, once you’ve stunned him. He’s less likely to duck those.
After that… well good luck! If you never miss an opportunity, you might TKO Iron Mike in the second round. No matter what, just keep going with the dodge and punch technique, and you’ll eventually slay the beast.
1 Practice makes perfect
All of the techniques mentioned in this list are good in theory, but only practicing them will ensure that your timing is perfect. Playing through the whole game can be tedious if you are only looking to practice against a particular adversary, so it’s a good thing that the game includes a password function which can be used to send you straight to some of the tougher fighters.
First of all, not every fighter is accessible by password, but starting at a different circuit will certainly cut the time necessary to get where you want to be. To get to the Major Circuit, enter “005 737 5423.” For the World Circuit, enter “777 807 3454.” If you want to practice against the baddest man on the planet right away, enter “007 373 5963.”
There are a few more passwords available, but you shouldn’t need that much practice against Don Flamenco and Piston Honda anyway. So remember to be patient, perfect your timing, and you will finally knock out Mike Tyson after all those years.