Remember Konami's Ultra-Fruitful Past With Retronauts

Remember Konami's Ultra-Fruitful Past With Retronauts

This week's Micro episode looks at a strange time when the vanishing publisher produced too many games rather than too few.

Strange as it may seem to think just days after publisher Konami has stated mobile games, not traditional console video games, have become its core business, the company once published so many games they had to open up a dummy corporation in order to get them all onto the market.

Ultra Games was the video game equivalent of an account in the Cayman Islands to circumvent Nintendo's third-party laws, a backdoor through which the studio crept in order to bring us classics like Metal Gear, TMNT, Skate or Die, and Nemesis. In this week's Micro episode, I talk a bit about what Ultra published and the relationship it had with parent corporation Konami — a question that piqued my curiosity the very first time I booted Ultra's Metal Gear for NES and saw a copyright attribution to Konami, a company whose products I'd been buying religiously. I also wade into the history and context that made Ultra necessary.

Ultra only brought us entertainment for about four or five years, slipping a few dozen Konami titles past Nintendo's rigid limitations for NES and Game Boy until such a thing was no longer necessary. And it was never a "real" video game maker to begin with. In other words, this episode is about a non-existent entity, as ephemeral as a soap bubble. But with better box designs.

Download links:

Libsyn (8:51 | MP3 Download) | SoundCloud


Only '90s kids will understand the appeal of games published by a great studio under a different name! In the NES days, Ultra Games brought us tons of quality Konami creations, because Konami couldn't. Jeremy contemplates the whys and wherefores of Ultra.

Music in this episode comes from the Game Boy Wario Land games. I couldn't find any actual music rips from real Virtual Boy games, so those will have to do.

Remember that Retronauts is available for free on the iTunes Store, or you can use our RSS feed to plug in to your favorite podcast audio player. You can also help us pay for the cost of producing the show on Patreon, if you're so inclined. Thanks for your support, even if it's just enjoying what we produce!

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Related articles

A Fresh Look at New Super Mario Bros. U on Switch: Does it Measure Up to the Classics?

Where does New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe rank alongside Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World?

The State of Destiny 2 After Forsaken: A Game That Can't Shake Its Troubles

Forsaken was a solid start, but it wasn't enough to pull everyone back.

Sorry Pokemon Fans, Your Gold-Plated Cards from Burger King Aren't Worth Squat

Burger King's Pokemon cards from 1999 look kind of nice and they're fun to remember, but they're barely worth the cost of a milkshake.

You may also like

These Are the Movies and TV Shows to Watch Before Playing Cyberpunk 2077

From Akira to Dredd, there's a lot to watch before Dec. 10.

Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond's Multiplayer Looks Surprisingly In-Depth for VR

That lever-action rifle spin does look like it'd be incredibly fun.

A New Scientific Study Aims to Learn More About Why Players Do or Don't Invert Controls

The researchers say the work could be "useful for almost all aspects of gaming and visual technologies."