Top 100 NES Game: #36 – Paperboy (1988)

Just as fun as earning minimum wage!

Relive a life of menial labor and marginal existence. 

Paper Boy Start Screen NESSydLexia’s Ranking: #36/100
Rating: Star

My first job paid $6.50 per hour at the good ol’ YMC of A. Little did I know that such a small commitment at 15 would lead to almost 10 years of disappointment. Be careful who you sell your soul to kids, and be especially wary of non-profits that injudiciously use buzz phrases like “values-based leadership” or “no raises this year, but here’s a branded koozie cup!”

Paperboy was supposed to be like my first job where I didn’t expect much and just wanted to be able to buy a handle of Aristocrat by the end of the pay period. That’s some low expectations right there, but somehow Paperboy missed the mark: swigging bathtub vodka would be much more entertaining than this game.

After all, It’s a game about delivering newspapers for Christ’s sake! What was going to be this developer’s next hit? A game about the person who screws on toothpaste caps?

Paperboy NES Too Many Windows
What floor plan do you have that requires that many windows? And what is that double fence for?


A simple rags to riches story as we follow a young man’s supposedly first journey into capitalistic society. As he pulls himself up by his bootstraps each morning, he is faced with many adversaries: free roaming tires, traffic, storm drains, oddly placed fences, and a woman wielding a knife. He is rewarded points for each successful delivery and bonus points if he slings it into the mailbox. Each failed delivery leads to another cancelled subscription which not only affects his point total but the company’s bottom line.

Paperboy Cut down in line of duty NES
Karen was unhappy that I placed the paper on her azaleas.


The game captures the plight of the laborer.

You only have three lives with no way to earn more. This isn’t surprising given that the paper boy is a contracted employee who receives a 1099 and is not eligible for benefits, including healthcare. Such a small safety net would give most existential dread, but adding in the additional perils of unfairly compensated labor is almost too much to bear.

The game is extremely unforgiving — just like the market! Everything will cause you to wreck and lose a precious life. The spatial factor is also distorted; several times when riding, you will wreck when you weren’t close to something. Unlike most games of the sort that want you to build up a little bit of momentum in the early levels, Paperboy is frustrating right out of the gate.

The Plan
Customers paint their houses depending on whether they want a paper delivered. Mess up and they will get so mad that they will paint it red before the next day.

There is some charm in the ridiculousness of the neighborhood. You never quite know what to expect. You just can’t enjoy any of it and revel in the quirkiness: this street is a certified warzone and you’ll be too busy dodging for cover.

Break Dancing Paperboy NES
Break dance on the sidewalk? Do what ya feel!

I remember playing some version of paperboy on my Sega Game Gear back in the early 90s. While slightly fascinated with the idea of earning money, I was much more into doing whatever I wanted without having to answer to the man.

Unfortunately, times change. With meager scraps of free time, I’d prefer spending it with something more entertaining. Slightly grazing a wooden fence that irreversibly wrecks my entire career was not my idea of a good time.

Local Paper Covers Paper Boy NES
At least you made the front page!


I’d rather earn money by filling out online surveys instead of playing this game.

Other People’s Takes:

  • 0% Imagination: Overall I don’t really know why this game got so much praise, its not really bad but I personally don’t like it that much and just don’t see anything special about it. Breaking peoples windows getting boring quickly when nothing really happens.”
  • A Modest Collection of Thoughts“The Paperboy’s own brand of justice for those who chose not to subscribe to the paper was brutal and efficient. Broken windows were the least of their problems once the Paperboy was done with them.”
  • Professional Moron: “As the player, you deliver them in unconventional fashion—hurling the paper across time and space to demolish local resident’s hard-earned properties.”



Author: Casual But Smart

I review the top 100 books, movies, albums, and games of all time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s