25 Fun Facts About Your Favorite Nintendo NES Games

If you managed to get your hands on the new Nintendo NES Classic today, consider yourself lucky. Like a scene out of the mid-1980s, the miniature game system—which comes pre-loaded with 30 classic video games—is flying off store shelves before it even touches them. While we can’t promise you’ll find one in your stocking this holiday season, we can share these fun facts about your favorite NES games.

1. THE KONAMI CODE’S ORIGINS ARE IN GRADIUS.

Way back in 1985, Kazuhisa Hashimoto was working on the arcade game Gradius. Because he didn’t want to actually play the whole game during the testing process, he developed a little shortcut that gave him a full set of power-ups, letting him live long enough to easily get to where he needed to without dying. When the game went live in 1986, the code was still there. To get full power-ups, all a player had to do was enter the code up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A.

The trick caught on, and soon, the so-called “Konami Code” could be found in a number of arcade and video games. Most notably, it gave you 30 extra lives in Contra. This super-secret (…or not) code has a special place in the hearts of geeks who have since grown up and used the insider code in websites, in movies, and on TV shows.

2. SUPER C USED A DIFFERENT CODE.

The original Contra was famous for featuring the Konami Code (Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start) to score a player 30 lives. For whatever reason, Super C, the Contra sequel, instead used the code Right, Left, Down, Up, A, B, Start, which only gave a player 10 lives.

3. BALLOON FIGHT WAS ONE OF SATORU IWATA’S FIRST PROJECTS.

Balloon Fight was one of the first games the late Satoru Iwata worked on as he began his career at Nintendo. He later went on to become Nintendo's president and CEO, presiding over the launches of the Nintendo DS and Wii.

4. BUBBLE BOBBLE IS GOOD FOR YOUR BRAIN.

Bubble Bobble may seem rudimentary by today’s video game standards, but it proved that video games can be good for the brain. Educators praised the game’s ability to help kids overcome developmental challenges with its focus on problem-solving, strategy, and motor skills.

5. PIZZA INSPIRED PAC-MAN.

YouTube

It’s not easy to create a game based solely on the concept of eating. But Namco employee Toru Iwatani did just that in 1980 by taking the idea of a pizza with a slice missing, and then having it eat a bunch of dots while being chased by ghosts in a maze. (Iwatani has also said that the shape is a rounded version of the square Japanese character for “mouth.") The name of the game, Pakkuman, was inspired by the Japanese onomatopoeia, “paku-paku," which describes the sound of eating, similar to the English word “chomp." As the game was brought to market, the title morphed into Puck Man.

But when Puck Man made his way to North America there was concern that the arcade cabinets would be vandalized by making the P into an F to spell something entirely different. A compromise was reached and the game became known as Pac-Man instead. Thanks to the American marketing machine, the name Pac-Man was eventually adopted for the game all over the world.

6. AN ORIGINAL COPY OF CASTLEVANIA IS WORTH SOME SERIOUS CASH.

The Dracula-based video game Castlevania is particularly valuable these days. Sealed versions of the game sell for upwards of $900, depending on the condition. Original Nintendo NES editions of Castlevania and Castlevania 2 have sold for more than $950.

7. ICE CLIMBER GAVE BIRTH TO SUPER MARIO BROS.

Ice Climber was the first game that Kazuaki Morita worked on. He would go on to refine the game's formula for his next title at Nintendo: Super Mario Bros., where the action moved horizontally instead of vertically.

8. THE REAL MARIO WAS A LANDLORD, NOT A PLUMBER.

YouTube

During the development of Donkey Kong, Jr., a Nintendo employee reportedly pointed out that the character looked a lot like Mario Segale, the Italian landlord of Nintendo’s U.S. office. Thus, Mario was born. The original “Lady” character became “Pauline” at the same time in honor of one team member’s wife, Polly.

9. THE GAME VERSION OF MARIO WAS ORIGINALLY A CARPENTER.

In Mario's first appearance in Donkey Kong, he was portrayed as a carpenter. But after a colleague remarked that his overalls made him look more like a plumber, legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto changed the character's occupation. This alteration also led to the game being set underground in the pipe-populated sewers of New York City.

10. THE NEW YORK TIMES THOUGHT MARIO AND LUIGI WERE JANITORS.

When longtime Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi passed away in 2013, The New York Times ran an obituary that quoted one of its own articles from 1988, in which Mario and Luigi were incorrectly described as janitors. On September 27, 2013—25 years after the article in question ran—the paper ran a correction:

“An obituary on Sept. 20 about Hiroshi Yamauchi, the longtime president of Nintendo, included a quotation from a 1988 New York Times article that inaccurately described the Nintendo video game Super Mario Bros. 2. The brothers Mario and Luigi, who appear in this and other Nintendo games, are plumbers, not janitors.”

11. THERE’S AN EXCITEBIKE ARENA IN MARIO KART 8.

In 2014's Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, an Excitebike arena became available as downloadable content (DLC), allowing the original game's 8-bit track to be played in a 3D environment.

12. FINAL FANTASY GOT ITS NAME FROM ITS CREATOR’S DESIRE TO RETIRE.

One of the most popular role-playing game franchises of all time got its name from almost becoming the last project its creator ever worked on. According to Hironobu Sakaguchi, he named the game he'd been working on Final Fantasy because he planned to quit the video-game industry if it didn't sell well. Despite the small staff of developers he was afforded for the game, it managed to sell—to the tune of 400,000 copies initially and a long list of sequels, spin-offs, and remastered releases in the years to come. Sakaguchi went on to serve for several years as President of Square USA, the company that first took a chance on Final Fantasy.

13. A U.S. COURT RULED THAT DONKEY KONG AND KING KONG ARE TWO DIFFERENT APES.

Filed in 1982, argued in a federal court in May of 1984, and concluded that October, Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd. represented Universal’s demand for a piece of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong action. The game had pulled in $180 million in sales from around 60,000 arcade machines by 1982, and the studio alleged copyright infringement due to the titular villain’s resemblance to King Kong.

Attorney John Kirby, Jr., who represented Nintendo (and for whom it's believed the company’s puffiest character was named, in thanks), pointed out that Universal itself had proved in the case of Universal City Studios, Inc. v. RKO General, Inc. that the plot and characters of King Kong were in the public domain. In the Nintendo case, the court ruled that Universal had acted in bad faith with the suit, had no right to the characters, and that, in any case, the studio had failed to prove that “there was any likelihood that an appreciable number of prudent purchasers [were] likely to be misled or confused as to the source of Donkey Kong” based on the ape’s and the game’s attributes.

14. YES, METROID AND KID ICARUS ARE RELATED.

If you think Metroid and Kid Icarus are similar, there's a reason for that: They were both developed by the same team, including director Satoru Okada, co-director/artist Yoshio Sakamoto, and composer Hip Tanaka.

15. METROID LOOKED TO ALIEN FOR INSPIRATION.

YouTube

A fantastic game on its own, 1986's Metroid became the stuff of legends when it saved its biggest surprise for the final moments. After a player completed the game, a short scene revealed that the space-suited, missile-blasting hero was in fact (*gasp*) a woman! This shocking revelation wasn't something that had been planned from the start, and was instead the result of a programmer asking, “Hey, wouldn't that be kind of cool if it turned out that this person inside the suit was a woman?” midway through the game's development. The Metroid team already counted Ridley Scott's female-led, sci-fi horror movie Alien as one of the game's chief inspirations, so they decided to run with that innocent suggestion—and the rest is gaming history.

16. WE MAY NEVER KNOW WHO JUSTIN BAILEY WAS.

Justin Bailey was a programmer. Justin Bailey was an inside joke. Justin Bailey was referencing British slang for "bathing suit."

If you played Metroid in the 1980s, chances are you’ve heard one of these explanations for the game’s most infamous password. Entering "Justin Bailey" and keying in an additional 12 blank spaces allowed players to begin the game with heroine Samus Aran appearing in a leotard instead of her armor while being supplied with a full arsenal of missiles. Where did he come from? Was he man or myth? Or was it all just one very weird fluke?

Turns out, he could very well have just been a bored player who accidentally became the most famous (and hypothetical) NES gamer of all time. (Click here for a much more detailed explanation.)

17. THE ARCADE VERSION ENDING OF DOUBLE DRAGON II: THE REVENGE IS DIFFERENT FROM NINTENDO’S.

The end of Double Dragon II: The Revenge differs on both the NES and arcade. On the NES, damsel-in-distress Marian is brought back to life after being killed early in the story; the arcade version ends on a much more dour note, leaving her dead. You can compare both versions below:

18. A SEQUEL TO MEGA MAN 2 WAS ANNOUNCED, BUT NEVER MATERIALIZED.

In 2010, Capcom announced that it would release Mega Man Universe for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade the following year. The company promised that the new video game would have similar gameplay to Mega Man 2 and would give the player the ability to customize their own levels and stages. But a few months later, Capcom canceled the game and apologized to Mega Man fans who were anticipating the new release.

Capcom didn’t disclose a specific reason why they canceled Mega Man Universe, instead citing “various circumstances,” which might have included the exit of the designer of Mega Man Universe, Keiji Inafune.

If Mega Man Universe had actually been released, it would have been the first time the character would have been called “Mega Man” in his native Japan. Historically, the character was called “Rock Man," but was changed when the video game was imported to the United States.

19. NINJA GAIDEN REVOLUTIONIZED THE CONCEPT OF CUTSCENES.

Ninja Gaiden's director, Hideo Yoshizawa (credited as Sakurazaki), wanted the NES version of the game to have a much deeper story than the arcade version, so he implemented 20 minutes of cinematic cutscenes. Though standard now, a story told through cutscenes was revolutionary at the time.

20. BEFORE PUNCH-OUT!’S OFFICIAL RELEASE, 10,000 JAPANESE FANS GOT A GOLD VERSION.

YouTube

Nintendoficionados who submitted high scores from 1987’s Golf U.S. Course Famicom Tournament received gold-colored Famicom (the Japanese equivalent of the NES) cartridges containing Punch-Out!’s near-identical precursor, with Super Macho Man as its final foe.

21. TO ADVANCE IN STARTROPICS, YOU NEEDED TO HAVE THE BOX.

In StarTropics, to advance the story, players were required to input a code that was attached to a letter. However, the letter didn’t exist in the game; it was physically included in the box the game came in. This obviously caused problems as players could easily lose it (or wind up with a rental copy lacking the letter at all) and be stuck forever, so Nintendo had to reprint the code in Nintendo Power magazine to try and help confused gamers.

22. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA’S “ZELDA” IS NAMED AFTER ZELDA FITZGERALD.

YouTube

Despite being conceived in Japan, The Legend of Zelda’s titular princess was named after a native Alabaman. Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed that Zelda Fitzgerald—novelist, feminist, and wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald—was the inspiration for his Hyrulian heroine’s handle.

23. THERE IS SIGNIFICANCE TO LINK’S NAME, TOO.

Originally, The Legend of Zelda was meant to be a game that spanned in-universe time periods, beginning in the canonical “past” and ending up in the “future,” with the Triforce acting as a mode of transport between them. The series hero’s unusual moniker was meant to symbolize his role as a link between the eras. But Nintendo’s current position is that he is a “link” between the player and the game.

24. SHIGERU MIYAMOTO WAS DISAPPOINTED BY ZELDA II.

When gaming site Kotaku asked Miyamoto if he’s ever made a bad game, the designer responded that Zelda II: The Adventure of Link didn’t live up to his expectations. “We could have done more with [Link],” he said. “It would have been nice to have had bigger enemies in the game, but the [NES] hardware wasn't capable of doing that.”

25. GHOSTS 'N GOBLINS IS CONSIDERED ONE OF THE TOUGHEST VIDEO GAMES OF ALL TIME.

YouTube

Not only is Ghosts 'n Goblins known as one of the hardest games of all time, you actually have to beat it twice to actually complete it (it turns out the first play-through is all just a dream for the player).

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Dog Owner
iStock
iStock

The bickering between cat people and dog people is ongoing and vicious, but in the end, we're all better off for loving a pet. But if anyone tries to poo-poo your pooch, know that there are some scientific reasons that they're man's best friend.

1. YOU GET SICK LESS OFTEN.

Dog snuggling on a bed with its person.
iStock

If cleaning commercials are to be believed, humanity is in the midst of a war against germs—and we shouldn't stop until every single one is dead. In reality, the amount of disinfecting we do is making us sicker; since our bodies are exposed to a less diverse mix of germs, our entire microbiome is messed up. Fortunately, dogs are covered in germs! Having a dog in the house means more diverse bacteria enters the home and gets inside the occupants (one study found "dog-related biodiversity" is especially high on pillowcases). In turn, people with dogs seem to get ill less frequently and less severely than people—especially children—with cats or no pets.

2. YOU'RE MORE RESISTANT TO ALLERGIES.

Child and mother playing with a dog on a bed.
iStock

While dog dander can be a trigger for people with allergies, growing up in a house with a dog makes children less likely to develop allergies over the course of their lives. And the benefits can start during gestation; a 2017 study published in the journal Microbiome found that a bacterial exchange happened between women who lived with pets (largely dogs) during pregnancy and their children, regardless of type of birth or whether the child was breastfed, and even if the pet was not in the home after the birth of the child. Those children tested had two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, that reduce the risk of common allergies, asthma, and obesity, and they were less likely to develop eczema.

3. YOU'LL HAVE BETTER HEART HEALTH.

Woman doing yoga with her dog.
iStock

Everything about owning a dog seems to lend itself to better heart health. Just the act of petting a dog lowers heart rate and blood pressure. A 2017 Chinese study found a link between dog ownership and reduced risk of coronary artery disease, while other studies show pet owners have slightly lower cholesterol and are more likely to survive a heart attack.

4. YOU GET MORE EXERCISE.

Person running in field with a dog.
iStock

While other pets have positive effects on your health as well, dogs have the added benefit of needing to be walked and played with numerous times a day. This means that many dog owners are getting 30 minutes of exercise a day, lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease.

5. YOU'LL BE HAPPIER.

Woman cuddling her dog.
iStock

Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than non-pet owners. Even for those people who are clinically depressed, having a pet to take care of can help them out of a depressive episode. Since taking care of a dog requires a routine and forces you to stay at least a little active, dog owners are more likely to interact with others and have an increased sense of well-being while tending to their pet. The interaction with and love received from a dog can also help people stay positive. Even the mere act of looking at your pet increases the amount of oxytocin, the "feel good" chemical, in the brain.

6. YOU HAVE A MORE ACTIVE SOCIAL LIFE.

Large bulldog licking a laughing man.
iStock

Not only does dog ownership indirectly tell others that you're trustworthy, your trusty companion can help facilitate friendships and social networks. A 2015 study published in PLOS One found that dogs can be both the catalyst for sparking new relationships and also the means for keeping social networks thriving. One study even showed that those with dogs also had closer and more supportive relationships with the people in their lives.

7. YOUR DOG MIGHT BE A CANCER DETECTOR.

Man high-fiving his dog.
iStock

Your dog could save your life one day: It seems that our canine friends have the ability to smell cancer in the human body. Stories abound of owners whose dogs kept sniffing or licking a mole or lump on their body so they got it checked out, discovering it was cancerous. The anecdotal evidence has been backed up by scientific studies, and some dogs are now trained to detect cancer.

8. YOU'LL BE LESS STRESSED AT WORK.

Woman working on a computer while petting a dog.
iStock

The benefits of bringing a dog to work are so increasingly obvious that more companies are catching on. Studies show that people who interact with a pet while working have lower stress levels throughout the day, while people who do not bring a pet see their stress levels increase over time. Dogs in the office also lead to people taking more breaks, to play with or walk the dog, which makes them more energized when they return to work. This, in turn, has been shown to lead to much greater productivity and job satisfaction.

9. YOU CAN FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR PERSONALITY.

Man running in surf with dog.
iStock

The kind of dog you have says a lot about your personality. A study in England found a very clear correlation between people's personalities and what type of dogs they owned; for example, people who owned toy dogs tended to be more intelligent, while owners of utility dogs like Dalmatians and bulldogs were the most conscientious. Other studies have found that dog owners in general are more outgoing and friendly than cat owners.

10. YOUR KIDS WILL BE MORE EMPATHETIC.

A young boy having fun with his dog.
iStock

Though one 2003 study found that there was no link between pet ownership and empathy in a group of children, a 2017 study of 1000 7- to 12-year-olds found that pet attachment of any kind encouraged compassion and positive attitudes toward animals, which promoted better well-being for both the child and the pet. Children with dogs scored the highest for pet attachment, and the study notes that "dogs may help children to regulate their emotions because they can trigger and respond to a child's attachment related behavior." And, of course, only one pet will happily play fetch with a toddler.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.
16 Prehistoric Creatures You’ll See In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Chris Pratt meets the vicious T. rex in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Chris Pratt meets the vicious T. rex in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.

The sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World ups the ante with a huge roster of dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and marine reptiles. While some are familiar favorites (see: T. rex), others have never been seen in a major motion picture before. Pull off your nostalgia goggles and let’s take a look at what modern science has to say about the long-gone animals of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

1. TYRANNOSAURUS

Lived: 68 to 66 million years ago in North America

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum Length: 40 feet

Name Means: “Tyrant lizard”

Apparently, the most popular dinosaur of all time wasn’t above cannibalism: Multiple Tyrannosaurus rex bones have bite marks on them that match the teeth of other tyrannosaurid species. Debate has arisen over the issue of T. rex plumage. University of Alberta paleontologist Scott Persons recently compared tiny skin impressions left behind by Tyrannosaurus and its close cousins Gorgosaurus, Daspletosaurus, and Tarbosaurus. These reveal that the dinos had pebbly scales, but the samples contain no evidence of feathers. Keep in mind though that the skin impressions only represent small patches of the dinosaurs’ tails, necks, abdomens, and pelvises—so Tyrannosaurus might’ve had feathers elsewhere on its body. For the record, Persons thinks the giant carnivore would still look “pretty cool and plenty scary” with a little fuzz. “[Nobody] ever complained that tigers weren’t scary, and they’re fluffy,” he said.

2. APATOSAURUS

Artistic interpretation of an individual of A. louisae arching its neck down to drink
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Lived: 155 to 150 million years ago in North America

Diet: Herbivore.

Maximum length: 80 feet

Name means: “Deceptive lizard”

In 1879, an unidentified sauropod (a long-necked dinosaur) was found in Wyoming. At first, this creature was given the name Brontosaurus excelsus but in 1903, paleontologist Elmer Riggs rechristened it as Apatosaurus excelsus (the Apatosaurus had been described before the Brontosaurus, so the name had precedence). A few scientists now think the Brontosaurus and Apatosarus actually are distinct and the much better-known name ought to be reinstated for that particular group, but others disagree. Regardless, Apatosaurus was pretty awesome. Some of its bones were pneumatic and the body contained a number of air sacs. Such traits would’ve made the big plant-eater very lightweight for an animal of its size. Apatosaurus may have also been able to break the sound barrier by cracking its sinuous tail like a bullwhip.

3. TRICERATOPS

Lived: 68 to 66 million years ago in North America

Diet: Herbivore

Maximum length: 29 feet

Name means: “Three-horned face”

Give credit where it’s due: Look at the baby Triceratops in Fallen Kingdom and you may notice that the horns above its eyes curve backward ever so slightly. This is scientifically accurate. The brow horns of Triceratops newborns were tiny bumps which bent backward during the adolescent years. Then they changed course and bowed forward while the animals matured. Puncture wounds and lesions on the skulls of adult Triceratops tell us these animals locked horns in head-to-head combat. Triceratops was constantly replacing its teeth, which were arranged in tight clusters and most likely used to shear through fibrous vegetation.

4. SINOCERATOPS

Lived: 75 to 66 million years ago in China

Diet: Herbivore

Maximum length: 19 feet

Name means: “Chinese horned face”

A newcomer to the Jurassic Park films, Sinoceratops first came to light during a 2008 fossil-hunting excursion into China’s Shandong Province. It belongs to the same family as Triceratops and was the first member of this group to be found in Chinese rock. Small, forward-bending horns lined the top of its frill, which was proportionally smaller than that of Triceratops. A single cone-shaped horn sat over the nostrils.

5. ALLOSAURUS

Lived: 155.7 to 150 million years ago in North America and Portugal and possibly elsewhere

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum length: 28 (or possibly 35) feet

Name means: “Different lizard”

In one of the trailers for Fallen Kingdom, a running Allosaurus falls flat on its face. The dinosaur was no stranger to injury in real life. Cracked ribs, broken arms, and badly-infected toes are just a few of the medical maladies that Allosaurus skeletons have been preserved with. Selected as Utah’s official state fossil in 1988, Allosaurus is one of the most commonly found predatory dinos in the American west. Strong neck muscles may have allowed the carnivore to disembowel prey by pulling its head backward in a falcon-esque tugging motion. And here’s something we’d really like to see on the silver screen: According to a 2015 study, Allosaurus could possibly open its jaws at a nightmarish 92-degree angle.

6. MOSASAURUS

Lived: 70 to 66 million years ago in Europe and North America

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum length: 56 feet

Name means: “Lizard of the Meuse River” (It was first discovered along this European river in 1764.)

Mosasaurus wasn’t a dinosaur; it’s more closely related to snakes and monitor lizards than it is to any of the other creatures you’ll read about here. Both Jurassic World flicks show the marine reptile leaping high out of the water to snag unwary prey. According to mosasaur expert Michael J. Everhart though, these animals didn’t have the tail strength or speed to pull off such an athletic feat. Mosasaurus is the most famous member (and the namesake genus) of the mosasaur superfamily. Late in the age of dinosaurs, these were some of the ocean’s major predators. They probably swam like gigantic crocodiles, keeping their flippers pressed against the body. Fossil evidence tells us that mosasaurs gave birth to live young at sea and at least some of them had vertically-fluked tails.

7. PTERANODON

Lived: 88 to 80.5 million years ago in central North America

Diet: Carnivore (probable fishing specialist)

Maximum wingspan: 20 feet (or possibly 24 feet)

Name means: “Toothless wing”

Here’s another non-dinosaur for you. Good old Pteranodon was a kind of North American pterosaur. What’s that, you ask? Pterosaurs were flying reptiles that patrolled the skies from 228 to 66 million years ago. Long before birds or bats took to the air, pterosaurs became the first vertebrate animals to ever achieve powered flight. The good people of Kansas designated Pteranodon itself as one of their official state fossils in 2014. Back in this animal’s heyday, there was a vast inland sea which covered most of the Great Plains, splitting North America in two. Pteranodon may have behaved like a modern albatross, using its narrow wings to soar for vast distances on air currents above the ocean waves. The creatures were apparently keen on seafood: Pteranodon skeletons are sometimes found with masses of fish bones in their throats and stomachs. We may never know how they captured prey, but one idea can be dismissed outright: Not a single known pterosaur had opposable toes, so Pteranodon couldn’t have grabbed things with its feet like the genetically-engineered flyers in Jurassic World do.

8. CARNOTAURUS

Bryce Dallas Howard and Justice Smith are trapped by the Carnotaurus in 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' (2018)
Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.

Lived: 72 to 69 million years ago in Argentina

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum length: 25 feet

Name means: “Meat-eating bull"

Carnotaurus didn’t show up in the first four Jurassic Park movies, but Michael Crichton wrote the horned creature into his 1995 novel The Lost World. The book depicts Carnotaurus as a nocturnal hunter that can change colors like an overgrown cuttlefish. There’s no reason to put any stock in this idea, but the real Carnotaurus was not without its quirky attributes—including its forelimbs. While T. rex gets a lot of flack for its meager arms, those of Carnotaurus are proportionately smaller, and the Argentine dino didn’t even have any wrist bones. On the flip side, Carnotaurus’s strong legs and powerful tail would’ve made it a gifted sprinter. Skin impressions reveal that its back, neck, and tail were studded with bony knobs, much like the ones Carnotaurus shows off in Fallen Kingdom.

9. GALLIMIMUS

Lived: 70 million years ago in Mongolia

Diet: Probable omnivore

Maximum length: 20 feet

Name means: “Chicken mimic”

Gallimimus belongs to an ostrich-like family of dinosaurs known as the ornithomimids. Though it lacks plumage in the Jurassic movies, real ornithomimids were covered in fuzzy down as youngsters and the adults grew long feathers on their arms. Gallimimus and its brethren couldn’t fly, but their showy, wing-like forelimbs could’ve been used to help them attract mates. Ornithomimids compensated for their lack of teeth by swallowing rocks, which ground up food in the stomach. Exactly what they ate is unclear, though most paleontologists think the ostrich mimics were either omnivorous or herbivorous.

10. BRACHIOSAURUS

Lived: 155 to 140 million years ago in North America

Diet: Herbivore

Maximum length: 72 feet

Name means: “Arm lizard”

Even though it’s poorly represented in the fossil record, Brachiosaurus is well-known to the general public. This is largely due to its breakout role in the first Jurassic Park movie. The Brachiosaurus in that classic film hold their elongated necks in an almost vertical position, and this depiction might not be too far off. A 2010 biomechanical analysis argued that browsing on treetops would’ve been a more energy-efficient option for Brachiosaurus-like sauropods than holding their necks horizontally and eating ground-level plants. It’s interesting to think about the behemoth’s cardiovascular system: In order to pump blood up that lengthy neck and into the head, Brachiosaurus may have required a gigantic heart weighing in the neighborhood of 880 pounds.

11. ANKYLOSAURUS

Lived: 68 to 66 million years ago in North America

Diet: Herbivore

Maximum length: 21 feet

Name means: “Curved lizard”

We know this formidable animal had a backside covered in bony plates; yet because no one’s ever found a complete Ankylosaurus skeleton, scientists disagree about how the armor was arranged. The 19-inch-wide club on its tail was probably a weapon. Using CT scans and anatomical measurements, a Canadian research team estimated that a large Ankylosaurus club could strike its target with enough force to break bones. Evolution made some of the tail vertebrae in these dinosaurs stiff and inflexible so they could support their heavy clubs. A hammer needs its handle after all.

12. STYGIMOLOCH

Lived: 68 to 66 million years ago in North America

Diet: Probable herbivore

Maximum length: 10 feet

Name means: “Styx devil”

It’s kind of ironic that Stygimoloch is mentioned by name in Fallen Kingdom’s promo videos. Paleontologist John R. “Jack” Horner has worked as a consultant for all five Jurassic Park films. He thinks that Stygimoloch is nothing more than the juvenile version of the thick-headed dinosaur Pachycephalosaurus, which lived at the same time and place. (You may remember the latter’s cameo in 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park.) This would render the name Stygimoloch invalid. Horner’s argument is supported by the trademark feature of both dinos: the iconic domes on the top of their craniums. Stygimoloch’s skull bones were not fully fused together, suggesting the animal had a lot of growing to do. CT scans have also shown that Stygimoloch’s dome was significantly thinner than that of Pachycephalosaurus. Perhaps these dinos used their special skulls to flank each other—or maybe the thick noggins were designed for heavy-duty headbutts. For his part, Horner has proposed that these were used for identification.

13. STEGOSAURUS

Mounted skeleton of Stegosaurus stenops in right lateral view at the Natural History Museum, London.
Susannah Maidment et al. & Natural History Museum, London, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Lived: 155 to 150 million years ago in North America and Portugal

Diet: Herbivore

Maximum length: 23 feet

Name means: “Roof lizard”

Nobody knows what to make of the bony plates on Stegosaurus’s back. If self-defense was their purpose, why do they project upward from the spine, leaving the flanks of this vegetarian wide open? And why do the plates of other spiky-tailed dinosaurs in its family have radically different shapes? One hypothesis is that these bizarre accessories were used to attract mates—much like the peacock’s gaudy tail feathers. Maybe they also helped the small-headed herbivores recognize other members of their own kind from afar. The quartet of spikes on Stegosaurus’s tail were almost certainly used to ward off attackers. Live Stegosaurus got plenty of mileage out of these weapons: One survey, which compared 51 individual spikes, reported that just under 10 percent had been broken and re-healed at the tip.

14. COMPSOGNATHUS

Lived: 150 million years ago in Germany and France

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum length: Four feet

Name means: “Elegant jaw”

Only two skeletons of this dinosaur have ever been discovered, both of which were found with the remains of tiny lizards tucked inside their rib cages. That’s a pretty far cry from the scene in The Lost World: Jurassic Park where a swarm of “Compies” gobble up the man who’s been tormenting them with a cattle prod. But we digress. Named in 1859, Compsognathus used to be the smallest type of non-avian dinosaur known to science. It no longer retains this title, as the creature would’ve dwarfed some more recently-discovered dinos like the 15-inch Mongolian Parvicursor.

15. BARYONYX

Bryce Dallas Howard and Justice Smith encounter the Baryonyx in 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' (2018)
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.

Lived: 130-125 million years ago in England, Spain, and Portugal

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum length: 25 feet

Name means: “Heavy claw”

Sail-backed Spinosaurus was the main villain in 2001's Jurassic Park III—a casting choice that irked plenty of fans. Baryonyx was a close relative of this beast who now joins Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s Mesozoic ensemble. Preserved stomach contents have shown that Baryonyx ate fish as well as the herbivorous dinosaur Iguanodon. On each hand, Baryonyx had a 12-inch hooked claw that served an unknown purpose. (Artists like to imagine it as a fishing tool.) The animal’s conical teeth look well-equipped for grabbing hold of slippery prey. Despite the narrowness of its snout, Baryonyx’s jaws were able to withstand a great deal of bending and torsion.

16. VELOCIRAPTOR

Chris Pratt with a baby Velociraptor in 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' (2018)
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.

Lived: 85 to 70 million years ago in Mongolia and China

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum length: 7 feet

Name means: “Swift thief”

Velociraptor stood less than two feet tall at the hip and weighed around 55 pounds. Michael Crichton’s description of the animal was inspired by its bigger cousin, Deinonychus. Even that dinosaur was smaller than the man-sized predators of Jurassic Park, though. Both Velociraptor and Deinonychus were dromaeosaurs: bird-like carnivores with bony rods in their tails and sickle-shaped toe claws. (When we say “bird-like,” we mean it: Dromaeosaurs are thought to be some of our feathered friends’ closest relatives. Many had plumage; Velociraptor itself came with sizable feathers on each arm.)

The notion that they hunted in packs can be traced back to the maverick paleontologist John Ostrom of Yale. During the 1960s, he worked at a Montana dig site where four Deinonychus were found around the body of a larger herbivore named Tenontosaurus. Ostrom’s belief that dromaeosaurs hunted in organized groups gained traction with scientists and novelists alike. A newer interpretation of the data is that the dinos lived alone and at most occasionally came together to mob vulnerable plant-eaters.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios