Simpsons Did It
In a rare pop culture feat, The Simpsons has established itself as a decade-spanning global phenomenon. Indeed, Matt Groenings family comedy has captured the cultural zeitgeist for over 25 years now, stuffing episodes full of satirical in-jokes, including nods to gaming. Starting its historic run in 1989, The Springfield family practically grew up with video games, even contributing its name to a slew of titles (all of which are ranked in GR "best Simpsons games list).
As early as the first season, Homer and Bart engage in virtual combat with one-button joystick paddles and hang out at the buzzing Noise Land Video Arcade. Later in the series, Lisa feigns sickness to skip school and play the faux Crash Bandicoot game, Dash Dingo. A surly, washed-up Donkey Kong even appears at an unsuccessful meet-and-greet. But what happens when the situation is reversed? In the wake of FXX rebroadcasting all 552 episodes of The Simpsons, here's a look at instances where the game industry returned the favor and referenced America's favorite non-prehistoric cartoon family.
League of Legends
Riot Games love to dabble in pop culture references in its MOBA, League of Legends. Many skins pay homage to legendary characters, every dance animation can be traced back to an infamous YouTube or music video, and some dialogue references four-fingered yellow cartoon people.
As a blood-thirsty Viking, Olaf the Berserker (a nod to Kevin Smith's Clerks) naturally has an inclination towards killing, not unlike Homer Simpson when beer and television dry up during a special Halloween episode. While traversing Summoner's Rift, Olaf often says, "Urge to kill, rising," the same line Homer repeats throughout the "Treehouse of Horror 5" parody of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. The bear-totting arsonist Annie also pays her respects to The Simpsons. In a nod to Ralph Wiggum's mistake of eating poisonous berries in the episode "Das Bus" ("It tastes like... burning."), Annie revels in the demise of her enemies by saying, "They smell like... burning."
It shouldn't be all that surprising that the creator of Psychonauts and Brutal Legend, Tim Schafer, loves The Simpsons. In another ode to paste enthusiast Ralph Wiggum, Broken Age's overbearing AI Mother delivers the line, "I knew you'd choo-choo-choose that one," after her apathetic surrogate son,
Shay, decides to play with his runaway train set. The dialogue comes from the classic episode I Love Lisa and refers to the "I Choo-Choo-Choose You" card Lisa gives to Ralph after she sees him sobbing over his empty Valentine's Day mailbox. Upon receiving the memento, the adorable Ralph says, "You choo-choo-choose me?" Poor naive Ralph misunderstands her friendly intentions and chaos ensues. Luckily, everything works out in the end, and the pair are able to "bee" friends.
Team Fortress 2
The description for Team Fortress 2's hat, "Ze Goggles," literally reads "Nothing." Granted, the medic probably finds them useless since they never leave his forehead. And Im betting the goggles would fail to shield his eyes from tidal wave of acid, as they did for Rainier Wolfcastle.
In the seventh season episode Radioactive Man, The Simpsons Schwarzenegger doppelganger stars as the eponymous super hero in a film adaptation of Barts favorite comic book. Filming in Springfield, the producers naturally takes advantage of the regulation-adverse power plant in town, sending a vat of bright green acid towards Wolfcastle. With his trusty sidekick Fallout Boy, played by Milhouse, missing in action, Radioactive Man only has a slick pair of Hollywood goggles to help him. Spoiler: much like in Team Fortress 2, the goggles do nothing.
Portal 2's Wheatley and Homer Simpson have quite a bit in common: they love to cut corners, often take credit for others' work, and don't know much about nuclear reactors or how to prevent them from melting down. As the Aperture Science facilities plummet towards destruction under the misguided vision of Wheatley, we come upon an all-but-expected blue screened monitor. The system begs the operator to, "Press any key to vent radiological emissions into atmosphere," a task Homer once delegated to a plastic drinking bird.
The classic episode "King-Size Homer" tracks Homers quest to become morbidly obese in order to apply for disability. Upon achieving his goal, the mumu-clad father oversees the safety of his co-workers from the comfort of his home. After a pause in computer hacking to search for the Any key, Homer continuously releases the plant's nuclear waste into the atmosphere--more specifically, on Paul Newman's corn crops. Could that be where Aperture's waste goes as well?
Dragon Quest 9: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Though The Simpsons isn't as big in Japan as it is in the US, that doesn't mean one of the country's most significant role-playing franchises won't reference it. The Luminary class from Dragon Quest 9: Sentinels of the Starry Skies is known for their dazzling dance moves in battles. At the top of the class Je Ne Sais Quoi unlockable skill set sits the ability Disco Stew, "A dance so dangerous, it damages all enemies."
Pulling off the action during an encounter transports you to the dance floor where you and your masked backing dancers swirl in place to produce a psychedelic whirlwind of energy. The moves are reminiscent of Simpsons stalwart Disco Stu, one of the weirder one-joke characters that keep coming back. Stu first appeared in the season seven episode "Two Bad Neighbors," seemingly invented just to capitalize on Homer's old, misspelled "Disco Stud" jacket. Of course, he doesn't buy the jacket because "Disco Stu doesn't advertise." And from that one silly joke, Stu has gone on to appear dozens of times in the series.
Duke Nukem 3D
Always up for lampooning pop culture in the 1990s, Duke Nukem set its sights on The Simpsons a few times throughout the seminal Duke Nukem 3D. During the Stadium level, you can see a blimp labeled "Duf Beer," likely misspelled to avoid any legal hassle. Springfield's Duff Beer blimp shows up a number of times throughout the series, including "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming," where the blundering criminal mastermind detonates a nuclear bomb within one, and "Lisa the Beauty Queen," where Barney crashes the zeppelin like the Hindenburg.
But Nukem isn't done with his winking asides. In The Birth level, you can find two more homages to The Simpsons. The words "pick up bart," referring to the episode "Brother From the Same Planet" which, in turn, spoofs The Shining, can be seen written backwards on a bathroom wall, just as Milhouse wrote it in the show. Homer's workplace Sector 7G can be found later in that same level, complete with his T-437 Safety Console, naturally littered with boxes of donuts and cups of coffee.
With its cheeky British sense of humor (or humour), Fable feels like the perfect game to feature a signature Simpsons catchphrase. And Fable 3 proves that assumption correct when, after players assist in the retrieval of the legendary play, The Ham Sandwich, you watch the premiere performance of the "tragicomedy. A strange mixture of Shakespearean soliloquy and lewd jokes, the stagecraft meets with negative reviews from the on-looking crowd.
One such audience member calls it the, "Worst. Play. Ever." It's popular parlance today, but it derives from a certain Comic Book Guy that spends his free time on the internet rendering his disgust throughout the world. Now it's grown far bigger than the show, where a version of "Worst. [BLANK]. Ever." appeared as early as season eight's "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochy Show." Who knows if designer Peter Molyneux fretted over Fable 3's development out of fear that fans might declare it the "Worst. Fable. Ever."
Counter-Strike: Condition Zero: Deleted Scenes
In the Deleted Scenes expansion for Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, you can find a sign for an establishment featuring two wide-eyed, grinning, gold fish near the start of the Japanese-inspired Hankagai level. Fans of Mr. Sparkle dishwashing detergent will no doubt realize their origin.
During the episode "In Marge We Trust," Homer becomes obsessed with a Mr. Sparkle box featuring what appears to be a caricature of his head. Later, he finds out the symbol is merely a combination of Matsumura Fishworks' and Tamaribuchi Heavy Manufacturing Concern's independent logos, the former being the ecstatic fish found in Counter-Strike: Condition Zero: Deleted Scenes. After the mission, the counter-terrorists can join the fish in disrespecting the dirt tarnishing their uniforms.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
A Simpsons reference actually found new life nearly 13 years after it first aired in the World of Warcraft expansion pack, Wrath of the Lich King. You meet Lord Marrowgar early during the add-on's final raid, Icecrown Citadel. Built from the skeletons of dead adventurers, Marrowgar unleashes on to the player his signature move, Bone Storm.
Though not spelled exactly the same, in the Christmas episode, "Marge Be Not Proud," Bart shoplifts the Mortal Kombat-inspired Bonestorm because of his affinity for ultra-violent fighting games. His four-finger discount backfires when he gets caught by the store's security officer, Don Brodka. Delivered with such ferocity in Warcraft, the quote apparently has become somewhat of a griefing tool, so good job, Bart. Way to ruin a community like you ruined Christmas, Thanksgiving, Christmas again, and Lee Carvallos handicap.
Gearbox Softwares Borderlands 2 goes a step further by incorporating a Simpsons reference into its lore. The description for the legendary pistol Maggie reads, Montys wife dont take no guff. Manufactured by the Jakobs corporation, the weapon was likely used by a woman named Maggie to gun down her assumed husband and the companys founder, Montgomery Monty Jakobs. Another malicious businessman named Monty took a bullet from a Maggie, only the shooter was the youngest member of the Simpsons clan.
During the two-part phenomenon "Who Shot Mr. Burns," the gunman is revealed to be Maggie Simpson, who popped Burnsy as he pathetically attempted to steal the three-year-old's lollipop. Borderland's version of Maggies gun can be found on the body of Mick if you side with the Hodunk family in their Clan War against the Zafords. Coincidence that Jimbo Hodunk shares his name with a notorious Springfield Elementary School bully? Yeah, probably.
Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag
With its prolific use of pop culture in-jokes over its 25 seasons, The Simpsons were bound to fall into a meta joke of their own creation. The opening of season 23's "The Food Wife" finds Homer, Lisa, and Bart visiting the E4 conference (Expensive Electronic Entertainment Expo), where they preview games such as Medal of Duty, Guts of War 2: Entrails of Intestinox, Human Centipede, and Assassin's Creed: Summer of Love. The latter features a peace-loving hippie wielding dual hidden blades and an acoustic guitar.
A notable Easter egg from Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag concerns an email chain between Abstergo employees. The two discuss time periods Desmond's ancestors have operated within, including the French Revolution, Ashikaga Shogunate, and the Summer of Love. Assassins Creed referenced the Simpsons who referenced Assassins Creed. Its almost too meta for our brains to take.
Up and atom...
With 552 episodes already made and many more bound to arrive, The Simpsons will remain an iconic fixture in pop cultureand gamingfor years to come. Know other games that acknowledge George Bush's least favorite family? Let us know in the comments.
Need more Simpsons? Check out our list of the best Simpsons games (though it's really just a ranking of every single one, even the awful ones).