Ever hear of a game for the Atari 2600 called River Raid? It was one of the best games on the console. You have to steer a jet to avoid obstacles and walls, yet have to collect gasoline at the same time. It was a fun game, so when the NES game Back to the Future ripped it off, you would have thought that it would be fun too. But it was not.
The 1989 Back to the Future NES game was developed by LJN, a crappy game developer that would make licensed games such as this one. This game barely resembles the movie in any way. Apparently I was not the only one to notice this. According to Wikipedia (which is never wrong) the music during the main gameplay is supposed to be from the movie, but to me has no resemblance at all.
So what is the gameplay like in Back to the Future? You roller-skate (or run? I cannot really tell) down the street and have to avoid obstacles and walls. Like I said, it is like River Raid for the Atari. But the thing about the Atari was that it was not a powerful console, so repetitiveness was expected. In this game though, a billion levels with the same music, same environment and same obstacles made it a rip-off to buy. I guess it did not matter back in the day, because I am sure parents were the ones buying their bratty kids these movie-licensed games to begin with. They figured little Johnny liked the movie, so ruining their birthday by buying them the corresponding video game made sense.
Some people compare the Back to the Future NES game to the game Paperboy, it seems. In that game, you also avoid obstacles, but more importantly your goal is to deliver newspapers to certain houses. So the parallels to me are sort of weak, but I guess it is similar in some ways.
So is the game like the movie at all? Well, sure. There are some weak references. As mentioned, there are a couple music similarities, and also mini-levels at the diner and other recognizable areas. But beyond that, the game is super weak and super crappy. But when you are a pip squeak little kid that has nothing else to talk about in elementary school at the time this game was released, you could brag about having this game. Chances were that they had never seen it anyway, so they would just guess that it would be as cool as the movie. Which it is not. Pick it up for a fiver at a garage sale anyway and check it out.