Up and AT THEM
Hi, I'm Justin Towell. You may remember me from such GamesRadar articles as 'What if Killzone Shadow Fall's OWL was a real owl?' and 'Oh no, my house is not compatible with Kinect'. I've been a Simpsons fan since the show's early days when someone my mum knew would lend us a VHS of episodes he'd recorded off Sky (it's like Cable, US-chums). Oh how we laughed at Bart's tongue stuck in the beaters.
However! That early success was so sudden, there wasn't time to carefully construct the perfect Simpsons game first time. So we ended up with hastily-cobbled-together cash-in games that only vaguely resembled anything in the show itself. That's changed these days, of course, but the series's decades-long history has left us with a large, extremely eclectic collection of titles bearing the Simpson name. And here they are! All of them--ranked from the crappiest to best. Don't bother with the goggles. They do nothing...
24. The Simpsons Skateboarding (PS2, 2002)
EA thought it would be a great idea to release an extreme sports version of The Simpsons. Makes sense, doesn't it? Bart rides a skateboard, Lisa... um... Oh well, Homer had a tramampoline (gotta say it right), and that's all about getting graded on tricks. And what's a tramampoline if not an elasticated, wheel-less skateboard? Exactly. Sadly, the game engine is flaky, the voice clips repeat far too quickly and there's not much fun to be had here at all. Sigh.
23. The Simpsons Wrestling (PlayStation, 2000)
PSone was not a console best-suited to cel-shaded, polygonal 3D. But it was the console with the largest market share in 2000. So who cares? There was money to be made! The Simpsons Wrestling is a shambling mockery of a travesty (to coin a phrase), with awful graphics, poor collision detection, limited moves... it's technically awful. And it reviewed dreadfully too. But you know what? I played it at the time and thought it was hilarious. Krusty saying 'Oww!' every other second, constant spamming of the same attack... I think it was Barney's burp attack that got me best. What do you mean, 'lowest common denominator'?
22. The Simpsons Bowling (Arcade, 2000)
Did you know that Konami made more than one Simpsons arcade game? There's the good one, which appears later in this list and... there's a bowling sim too. Considering the 128-bit generation had already started at home in 2000, let alone the arcades, it's odd to see how scrappy the Simpsons Bowling looks. If I were in an arcade and looking at it, I would know I shouldn't waste my money. Yet my heart--and my hips--cry proceed! Sorry, I'm trying to get in a Simpsons reference whenever I can. So while this slide is not quite breakfast, not quite (breathes in an odd place) lunch... it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at ze end. ^.
21. Bart's House of Weirdness (MS DOS, 1991)
This is another offering from Konami, targeting PC users instead of arcade-goers. Presumably PC gamers can take more punishment, or perhaps have already paid their money so there's no need to entice them in with early gratification. Because while the game looks beautiful, it's ridiculously difficult. There is so much going on. All of the things. Go into the kitchen and Scratchy will be there, trying to hit you with an over-sized mallet. Butcher's knives are falling from the cupboard and bombs are rolling across the floor, detonating only when you try to jump over them. Those who never played it have never heard of it. Presumably because those who did... never spoke of it again.
20. Bart and the Beanstalk (Game Boy, 1994)
Bart appears in a bizarre fantasy platformer based on Jack and the Beanstalk. And yes, of course Homer is the giant. The music is decent, but sadly doesn't change from level to level. Bart looks like Bart, and his catapult attack makes sense (not so sure about the dynamite, mind), but the 8-bit platforming is basic and frustrating. Not a classic, but I'm sure it has some fans.
19. Bart vs The World (multi (8-bit), 1991)
A rather misshapen Bart walks around some levels that don't look much like the show at all, throwing things to kill birds and other creatures. The level design is basic even by 8-bit standards, although the lol-worthy Bartman sprite and said alter-ego's ability to fly at least keeps things interesting. Well... is it really interesting? Snuh. Oh, that's not a word? OK, then: Bof.
18. Bartman meets Radioactive Man (Game Gear, NES, 1992)
Bartman is cool. Fact. Not so cool is the way he looks in the NES version of this platform entry. It looks pretty amateurish. Things improved slightly in the zoomed-in Game Gear version, but nothing can disguise the basic and fiddly platforming. At least the intro is cool, with Fallout Boy appearing out of nowhere (and no, I don't mean to play a surprise show).
17. Virtual Bart (Mega Drive/Genesis, SNES, 1994)
In this oddity, Bart gets tied up to a wheel which spins around to randomly select a virtual reality minigame. Well, I say 'Virtual Reality', it's more just an excuse to have a load of game types that can't feasibly be linked together with any sort of coherent plot. Ooh how cynical of me! Me--and, indeed--ow! The game is predictably underwhelming, but at least looks pretty decent. Well, it does on SNES, where Mode 7 allowed for loads of cool rotation and pseudo-3D effects. The Mega Drive version? Not so much.
16. The Itchy & Scratchy Game (SNES, Game Gear, 1994)
They bite! They fight! They bite and fight and bite! Bite, bite, bite, fight, fight, fight... Hey wait a minute! This doesn't even have the theme music! I know this was 1994 and cartridge memory sizes were restrictive, but this could have been recreated with (counts on fingers) maybe 5 different small sound files for the lyric. Instead, we get a vague soundalike MIDI version that sets up the rest of the game perfectly. Because it's bad. The most generic of platforming, with decent-sized sprites and colourful backgrounds. And with downplayed gore, this is far from the bloodbath it should be--surely missing the entire point of Itchy & Scratchy. It bites. It bites! It bites, it bites, it bites! Etc...
15. Itchy & Scratchy in Minigolf Madness (Game Boy, 1993)
It is madness. Absolute madness. You play as Scratchy, trying to play a simple round of mini golf (which equates to a 2D platformer with a ball you knock around the levels--a nice idea to be fair), while Itchy keeps attacking you with an woodcutter's axe. It's hard to 'play where it lays' when your head is on the floor. The game would arguably be better if Itchy wasn't in it. In fact, a lot of Scratchy's life would be better if Itchy wasn't in it. Did I mention that they bite, and fight? And bite and... ("YES!"--everyone).
14. Virtual Springfield (PC/Mac, 1997)
It's a point-and-click adventure game set in Springfield! This is not as disastrous as it sounds. The voice acting is great (if a little slower-spoken than perhaps was necessary), Springfield looks exactly right (if a little pixellated), and there are jokes everywhere you click. Unless you click on something that isn't clickable. Then there are no jokes. It isn't exciting enough to be a real win, but it made great use of 1997's CD-based tech to bring gamers the closest experience possible to taking part in an episode of the show. A bit like The Stick of Truth does today for South Park. Only with fewer dildos.
13. Bart vs The Juggernauts (Game Boy, 1992)
Ever seen American Gladiators? Of course you have. Well, this game is based on that. So Bart has to podium-joust two 'juggernauts', after jumping around on a chequerboard-esque basketball court. Oh, and skateboarding from left to right for a bit. I never thought it possible, but this both sucks and blows at the same time.
12. Bart's Nightmare (SNES, Mega Drive/Genesis, 1993)
Bart's got to run around, jumping on pages from his school report, at which point he gets sucked into a strange minigame world, where he turns into Bartzilla or... Indiana Jones? Tsk, who would make a game set in a dream? Anyway... this at least has a decent Simpsons vibe to it, though it's too repetitive and laborious to truly be fun. Ah well, a decent effort that hasn't got significantly worse with age.
11. The Simpsons: Minutes to Meltdown (Mobile, 2007)
Remember when mobile phones were just mobile phones? And smartphones were just phones that looked really posh, or maybe had a necktie stuck to them? Well, there were games on those. And one of them was Minutes to Meltdown, where Homer has to prevent a nuclear explosion after neglecting his duties. Again. I can't say I've played it, but I'm so glad we don't have to put up with number buttons as D-pads now. Ugh.
10. Itchy & Scratchy Land (Mobile, 2009)
Another mobile offering, this one sees you attempting to traverse the infamous Disney Land-esque Itchy & Scratchy Land. Unnecessary Surgery Zone is always a firm family favourite. Right? You get to play as four Simpsons characters, although a little creativity has been applied to their abilities. Marge has a vacuum gun. Lisa has a bomb generator. Comic Book Guy actually says in it "Congratulations on playing the worst. Cell phone game. Ever!" That's got to bode well for its quality.
9. Bart Simpson's escape from Camp Deadly (Game Boy, 1991)
This is a Game Boy platformer, with only two frames of walking animation for Bart and very little actually going on while you play. GamesRadar's Dave H swears it was/is a good game. I have never played it. But I can see it on YouTube and it looks awful. Plot-wise, at least, it's classic Simpsons, with the kids staying at summer camp, only to be bullied and harassed by the evil nephew of Monty Burns. With an escaped psycho also on the loose, I'd love to say fun and hijinks ensue, but I just don't feel that would be accurate. Sorry, Dave. Sorry, Bart.
8. Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror (Game Boy Color, 2001)
This one has a bad reputation, which is a little unfair. Given the limitations of the GBC hardware, this is actually an endearing take on the Treehouse of Horror Hallowe'en specials in the series proper. Trying to stop Santa's Little Helper from becoming Satan's Little Helper tickles me in ways that if Loretta were to tickle me, I would say... Oh, sorry, wrong show. But it's still funny. And I love the idea of haunted attics and spooky goings-on in suburban America. This isn't a disaster.
7. The Simpsons: Road Rage (Multi, 2001)
This is the most shameless rip-off of any game I've ever seen ever. And I've seen Flappy Owl. It's clearly just a shoddy clone of Crazy Taxi, removing all the finesse and quality and replacing it with overly-repetitive sound bites and garish graphics. But what annoyed me most of all was my best mate at uni who refused to play Crazy Taxi, but played the hell out of this. You can't imagine my frustration. All of the frustration.
6. Bart vs The Space Mutants (Multi, 1991)
This was the big one. The 16-bit (with 8-bit conversions) Simpsons game that looked like the show, only you could play it. And it still holds up pretty well, thanks to smooth scrolling, colourful visuals and a neat 'X-Ray Specs' mode that lets you see the same world, only now the space mutants are no longer disguised as normal people. Yes, the skateboarding bit is fun, and no, I still can't get off the first level (it's not my fault, it's the reed! Er... I mean, 'pad'), but I like this one. Clunky, basic but dressed up in 1991's finest clothes, this was something of a pleasant surprise when I picked it up in a second-hand shop recently. Even if Bart's 'Eat My Shorts' begins to grate after a few deaths. Well, one. OK, half-way through the first one.
5. Krusty's Fun House (Multi, 1992)
I remember this game well, not because of how it played, but because a magazine review at the time introduced me to the word 'fricassee'. I still don't know what a real fricassee looks like, but I will never forget the word. As for the game? Well, it's a sort of March of the Minis/Lemmings-alike, where you have to play as Krusty and lead a load of cute rats into traps... which then kill them dead. Hmmmm. It didn't review well, but is fondly remembered by several members of the GR team.
4. The Simpsons Game (Multi, 2007)
2007 was a great year because it was the first time we got a non-genre-tied Simpsons game that was actually good. The Simpsons Game is funny, enjoyable and full of gaming references and amusing Achievements/Trophies. It's the sort of game that should have been made for the franchise from the start, but 1991's hardware wasn't up to the task. And the mix of game styles in the brilliantly-named levels like 'Medal of Homer' and 'Bartman Begins' ensured the game easily won the coveted 7/10--Solid award from GamesRadar. As Mr Burns would say: "Eeeeeeexcellent".
3. The Simpsons Tapped Out (Mobile, 2012)
No, this isn't a wrestling game as the name might imply (we'll get to that later... no, really). Instead, it's a decent SimCity-style city-builder. Necessary after Homer neglects his nuclear reactor monitoring duties through playing his MyPad and destroys all of Springfield ("What's an 'Eltdown?"). Quite how he expects to be able to rebuild it again the way it was is beyond me, but it makes for a decent enough premise. What a shame it's designed to take as much of your money as possible, being chock-full of micro-transactions. And dressing them up as 'donuts' does not sweeten the taste. Mmmm... donuts.
2. The Simpsons Arcade (Arcade, 1991 / Multi, 2009)
Interesting one, this. As close as The Simpsons came to a quality game in that initial blaze of popularity, this arcade offering from Konami is a side-scrolling scrapper, allowing up to four players to play co-operatively in their attempts to rescue Maggie, captured by Mr Burns and a very out-of-character Smithers. Home conversions at the time were limited to DOS and Commodore 64 (yes, this was a long time ago), but it has since found new life on mobile phones and the likes of Xbox Live / PSN--although it's sadly delisted on both. Smooth, chaotic and full of characters from the show, this really captured the essence of 'electric shock therapy'-era Simpsons.
1. The Simpsons Hit & Run (Multi, 2003)
Ah, yes. The obligatory GTA clone. However! This is one of the most successful, both in terms of sales and the quality of the game itself. With 3D sandbox gaming taking off--and so many developers all having a go at the same formula--it makes a big difference to have the real show's writers and voice cast on-hand to make the game world as authentic as possible. Everyone remembers the 'you'd better drive, brother' from GTA3. Well, getting behind the wheel of the Simpson's car and seeing Springfield laid out in front of you ready to be explored is just as full of the good stuff. Which, along with the fact it doesn't seem to have a review on the GamesRadar archive, means I can safely say that it is the best Simpsons game of all time. Ha-h... oh.
Ha ha! I mean... Think of any more?
Hello again! I'm Justin Towell. You may remember me from such outro slides as 'Read any good games recently?' and 'The Erotic Adventures of Sonic'. But let's be honest with each other, The Simpsons Cartoon Studio doesn't really count as a game, because it's an art package with a Simpsons theme. But perhaps you can remember a Simpsons game that I've forgotten. In which case, you are perfectly entitled to say 'haha' and point in the comments.
And if you're looking for more, check out 22 things you didn't know about Sonic the Hedgehog and The Simpsons Arcade: RadarPlays.