Blockbuster's curious collection of exclusive games

Renter beware.

Before Blockbuster came to represent the death of the brick and mortar video game rental business, it was a blue-and-gold juggernaut whose reached extended from coast to coast. In its prime, Blockbuster's influence was so great that it actually began requisitioning video games to be released exclusively in its stores. And while I'm sure this seemed like a very good idea on paper, in practice it spawned a whole slew of bad to mediocre titles, many of which were mere updates to existing releases.

Building a comprehensive list of all the Blockbuster exclusives is surprisingly challenging, mostly because it comes by way of word of mouth. Rumors and speculation abound about which games were "true" exclusives and which had proper retail release after the fact. For those in the latter category, I've included the [Limited Exclusive] tag. Please let me know if there are any I missed! But now, without further ado...

ClayFighter: Tournament Edition (SNES)

True to its name, ClayFighter: Tournament Edition was a slightly updated version of the original, in the same vein as Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition and others. The game fixed bugs, added new modes, and did a bunch of other stuff no one ever noticed or appreciated. It helped pave the way for the bizarrely named ClayFighter 2: Judgement Clay and, later on, another Blockbuster exclusive on the Nintendo 64.

Donkey Kong Country Competition Cartridge (SNES)

This special version of Donkey Kong Country was designed specifically for the second Blockbuster World Video game Championships, which were held in 1994 (though it was really more of a North American championship). Donkey Kong Country was one of the featured games, and this version has only a handful of stages, no animal tokens, and a score counter, as the BWVGC was largely a high-score based competition.

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Eek! The Cat (SNES)

This is what most people expect when they hear the term "Blockbuster exclusive." Eek! The Cat on the SNES was a painfully overblown escort mission involving an old woman who relentless walks in whatever direction she's facing, a purple cat who was in no way Garfield, and teeth-gnashing, hair-splitting gameplay where you must protect this old lady from harm. The game itself is actually an updated version of Sleepwalker, developed by the same team.

Final Fight Guy (SNES) [Limited Exclusive]

When beloved arcade beat-'em-up Final Fight made its debut on home consoles back in 1990, fans were disappointed to see that several features got cut along the way. No industrial stage. No cooperative play. No Guy. Everyone loves Guy! That's why Guy later got his own version of the game, where he replaced Cody. Still no industrial stage or co-op though...

Mr. Nutz (SNES)

While Eek! The Cat didn't garner much love, developer Ocean once again stepped up to the plate with another Blockbuster Exclusive, Mr. Nutz. The games stars a red, anthropomorphic squirrel - because we were so clever in the '90s - in a short, 2D platformer. While largely forgotten today, those who do remember the game remember it because it was rather, well, strange. And if you lived outside of North America, you could totally pick up this gem at other gaming retailers.

The Ren & Stimpy Show: Fire Dogs (SNES)

Fire Dogs continues the time-honored tradition of developers making terrible platformers based off of popular cartoons. Miraculously, the game somehow manages to squeeze hours worth of content out of a single episode of the Ren & Stimpy cartoon, specifically the one about them painting themselves up as dalmatians to get a job at the firehouse. And if its sluggish, unresponsive controls didn't send you sprinting back to Blockbuster, the irritating music loop certainly would.

Blockbuster World Championship II (Genesis)

Not to be confused with the Donkey Kong Championship Cartridge mentioned earlier, the Blockbuster World Championship II video game was an all-in-one package for the Sega version of Blockbuster's World Championship event. The cartridge contained an oddball combo of Acclaim's NBA Jam and Judge Dredd, two wildly different styles of gaming for players to test their skills and compete for the high score. When the BWC was finished, these cartridges were supposed to be destroyed, however a few have survived to this day (fetching a pretty penny online).

Game Factory (Genesis)

The Game Factory cartridges were a forward-thinking bit of technology on the part of Blockbuster. They were basically flashcarts that could have any Genesis game available at the time loaded onto them via a dial-up connection. The cartridges came in different colors - blue, green, and red - which indicated the size and capabilities of the cartridge. It's interesting to think that a major retailer was using piracy techniques as a business strategy.

Thanks Assembler

Madden '93 Championship Edition (Genesis)

It's starting to seem like every video game franchise had an obligatory Championship Edition at some point in the '90s. In Madden '93's case, this new edition added in everything from the base game plus the eight greatest NFL teams at that point in time (as of 1992, anyway). As anyone who has been to a second-hand game store knows, there is a veritable sea of used Madden games on the market, but this one - because of its rarity as a Blockbuster exclusive - is the mother of them all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maxwell grew up on a sleepy creekbank deep in the South. His love for video games has taken him all the way to the West Coast and beyond.
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