While Punch-Out!! has been one of Nintendo’s most beloved “fighting” series since its 1984 debut in arcades, it has rarely featured something common in the genre: a two-player mode.
On Monday, however, that changed. The resulting discovery has been hiding in plain sight on the series’ Super Nintendo edition for nearly 30 years.
Should you own 1994’s Super Punch-Out!! in any capacity—an original SNES cartridge, a dumped ROM parsed by an emulator, on the Super Nintendo Classic Edition, or even as part of the paid Nintendo Switch Online collection of retro games—you can immediately access the feature, no hacking or ROM editing required. All you need is a pair of gamepads.
Finally, you can be the Mad Clown
Credit goes to the coder responsible for the @new_cheats_news account on Twitter, which has routinely posted discoveries of leftover modes, menus, and gameplay features in classic games since 2014. Many of the account’s findings require Game Gear codes or hex edits to original ROM files to access them since the modes are often left behind in the games’ original code, never meant to be seen by average fans.
Yet today’s Super Punch-Out!! discovery revolves around a simple series of button combinations, which require nothing more than a second controller. The two-player mode is hidden behind an additional, previously undiscovered menu, which lets solo players skip directly to any of the game’s boxing combatants. It’s essentially a “level select” menu, which many classic games featured for internal testing, and speedrunners could arguably use it to practice against specific opponents more quickly.
This menu can be accessed by holding the R and Y buttons on player two’s controller at the “press start” screen, then pressing Start or A with player one’s controller. Do this, and a new menu appears, displaying all 16 boxers’ profile icons. Pick any of these icons to engage in a one-off fight; once it’s over, you’re dumped back to the same boxer-select menu.
In this menu, friends can access a two-player fight if player two holds their B and Y buttons down until the match starts. You won’t hear a sound effect or any other indication that it worked. Instead, the match will begin with the second player controlling the “boss” boxer at the top of the screen. Combine the “ABXY” array of buttons with “up” and “down” on the D-pad to pull off every single basic and advanced attack.
I have thus far confirmed that this works on an original SNES cartridge, along with both the SNES Classic Edition and the game’s version on Nintendo Switch—which I used to record the above video demonstration of the game’s wimpiest character, Gabby Jay, swaying from side to side. In traditional one-player modes, Gabby Jay stands still before throwing a few slow punches.
Thus far in my testing, I would not necessarily describe the game’s long-hidden two-player mode as “balanced” for competitive play, owing to both the boss characters’ high levels of power and their obvious pre-punch “tells.” The latter typically come with long pauses that solo players have studied for years; dodge them, and the boss is left open to be stunned and pummeled. Thus, I don’t imagine Super Punch-Out!! will land on competitive stages like Evo anytime soon. Still, the button-tap latency for the boss characters is fluid enough to make the mode an amusing option for longtime SNES fans to try out with their friends.
A more balanced version of the concept is featured in the series’ 2009 Wii version, which only allowed players to fight as palette swaps of longtime series character Little Mac. This week’s discovery of a two-player mode on SNES adds a much wider range of battling options for the second player.
The game industry’s history of hidden menus and Easter eggs is certainly bountiful, but today’s news arguably most resembles the 2016 discovery of a cheat menu hidden in the first three Mortal Kombat arcade games. This required inputting specific buttons on an arcade cabinet in the correct order, even without inserting quarters, and could unlock anything from “fatality” animations to free-play modes.
The Punch-Out!! series’ NES version was previously the subject of fan scrutiny in 2016 when frame-by-frame analysis confirmed a visual tell of when to punch some of that game’s toughest bosses. Years before that, an interview with one of Punch-Out!!‘s original developers suggested more secrets were inside the NES classic that fans had yet to discover. Might there be a two-player mode hidden inside the older game as well?