Arcade at Home
The modern console versions have been ported by two different companies. The PlayStation and Steam versions come from 612 Entertainment. In these versions, the game starts with a brief zoom through a 3D rendered arcade. Visual options are scarce, with players able to toggle the display of an arcade cabinet (with poorly-rendered sticks and buttons) and turn scanlines on or off. No matter what, the graphics will always have a slight blur due to the scaling or antialiasing used. The default button layout stinks, but it can be remapped. Save states and pausing are not supported. As for the Switch version from Golem Entertainment, it has better visual options (but no virtual cabinet), save states, and supports pausing. The button layout is the same crummy one as the other versions and can’t be remapped, so you’ll have to remap at the system level if it bothers you.
Players craving the true arcade experience can seek out the Arcade1Up Burger Time cabinet or the AtGames Legends Ultimate home arcade cabinet. Arcade1Up’s Burger Time cabinet was produced as a limited edition in 2020, so you’d have to find it on the second-hand market nowadays. It’s not the best-designed cabinet, though. The monitor is vertically-oriented for Burger Time, the marquee game, but it also includes two horizontally-oriented games: Joe & Mac and Bad Dudes. Thus, Joe & Mac’s display ends up quite tiny and letterboxed – not the ideal way to play. The AtGames Legends Ultimate doesn’t suffer from this issue, so it’s likely to deliver a superior experience (I don’t own it).
New Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja
The Super NES and Sega Genesis versions of Joe & Mac also support local co-op. They both differ dramatically due to coming from different developers (Data East and Takara). The Super NES game gets a Super Mario World-style map, redesigned levels, and keys that unlock areas on the map. While it’s a larger and better-balanced game, it loses the ability to charge up attacks, and the default weapon doesn’t shoot projectiles, so it doesn’t actually play quite as well as the arcade game. Joe & Mac on Genesis is a more faithful arcade port, though perhaps a less memorable game as a result.
In addition to the arcade sequel, Joe & Mac Returns, and a console spin-off, Congo’s Caper, the franchise has continued with the recent release of New Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja from Mr. Nutz Studio and Microids. New Joe & Mac launched in a rough state, lacking some promised features and unlimited continues. After an update or two, the game has been improved significantly with new modes and difficulty settings. The new, high-definition art style lacks some of the original game’s charm, but much of the fun still shines through. Read our full co-op review for more details!
Still Caveman Cool
Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja is more of a cult hit than a mainstream one, but it still maintains a respectable following to this day. The mere concept of cavemen versus dinosaurs is attractive enough all on its own, but the game features amazing artistry, creative level design, and fun mechanics to boot. Battling against enormous pixel-art dinosaurs with a friend is a timeless joy that you don’t have to be a fossil to enjoy.
Retro Classix – Joe & Mac sells for $4.99 on PlayStation and $6.99 on Steam. Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Joe & Mac costs on Switch. New Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja sells for $29.99 on Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch, and $24.99 on Steam. Physical versions for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Switch go for $39.99.