’s new Tokyo Olympics Doodle is an homage to 16-bit video games

The 2020 Olympic Games are currently still on in Tokyo, Japan — against all odds — and in celebration of Japanese culture and sports in general, Google is debuting a new interactive Doodle on Thursday with art from Japanese animation house Studio 4°C. The new Doodle, called Doodle Champion Island Games, is actually a series of Olympic event-themed 16-bit mini-games that you can play, contributing to the scores of four teams Google will track on a global leaderboard.

Playing as Lucky the Calico Ninja Cat, you can join either the Blue, Red, Yellow, or Green teams, represented by Ushi (a cow), Karasu (a crow), Inari (a fox), or Kappa (a Japanese turtle-like water spirit), respectively. The seven mini-games break down across a several new and returning summer Olympic events, like skateboarding, table tennis, and climbing, each with its own “Legendary Champion” to challenge from Japanese folklore and history.

  • You can play table tennis against Tengu, a mythical bird-man spirit. Image: Google
  • There’s also a shooting gallery-style archery mini-game against famous samurai Nasu no Yoichi. Image: Google
  • Or you can rock climb against Fukuro, an owl sporting two ladles you might find outside a Shinto shrine. Image: Google

The whole package seems like a sports RPG in miniature, filtered through the kind of Flash games that would consume my afternoons as a kid. You’ll be able to navigate Lucky through a festival over-world populated with the games and champions, complete side quests, and experience the art and cutscenes Studio 4°C created for the Doodle. Google calls it an homage to classic Japanese 16-bit games — and while limited in some ways by living inside web browsers, it definitely seems to capture some of that spirit.

Doodle Champion Island Games will launch on Google at 9PM PT on Thursday, July 22nd / 12AM ET on Friday, July 23rd.