Five truly horrendous TV shows based upon videogames

Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm

Hey, if watered down sex doesn’t sell, toned down violence sure as hell will. Or at least, that’s what USA must have been thinking.
Fresh off the “success” of Darkstalkers, USA decided that its next children’s show should be based off of a game that uses a man ripping another man’s spine out as its biggest selling point — Mortal Kombat.

Actually, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, as USA named the show, was the mildest of the multiple animated, comic book and cinematic interpretations of the patron saint of video game violence. It toyed with the MK mythology and featured a team of Sonya Blade, Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage, Jax and Nightwolf battling against everyone else in the MK universe. Unable to feature the signature brutality of the series, Defenders of the Realm took a page from Ninja Turtles and featured robotic enemies that could be killed and maimed with impunity.

Not content with skimping on violence, the shows creators felt that they also needed to follow in the steps of the cartoon greats of the past (Super Friends and GI Joe, for example) and teach the youth of America life lessons with comically cheesy public service announcements.

One episode, for example, features an angst wracked Jax whining about being teased in elementary school because he was “the fat kid.” Of course, he grew up to be a ripped defender of the mortal realm. The lesson: It’s ok to be fat as long as you lose weight and save the planet with your flesh-rending cyber-arms. Otherwise, you’re worthless. Mortal Kombat wasn’t afraid to teach kids the hard truths about reality.

Apparently the harsh light of life’s tough lessons was too extreme even for 1990's television. USA pulled the plug after one season.


Maniac Mansion (1990)

Above: One of the greatest adventure games of all time 

Maniac Mansion was the first major adventure game success from LucasArts. The company would release nearly a dozen smash-hit adventure titles (the Monkey Island games, Day of the Tentacle, etc) in the ten years after the 1987 release of Maniac Mansion. These games were based around dialog and humor. Seems like a natural fit for a TV show – in theory.

In the early 1990's, The Family channel (now ABC Family) was just one of dozens of other cable channels hungry for content. So it teamed up with Toronto-based Atlantis television to develop the Maniac Mansion TV series.

Eugene Levy, best known for his role as “the dad from American Pie,” was selected to head the show. The writing staff and cast was composed of guys from SCTV, an adult-oriented Canadian sketch comedy show that Levy was involved in. Despite the writers’ “adult-only” credentials, The Family Channel chose them as the right men for the job. And to their credit, Maniac Mansion wasn’t offensive or inappropriate. It was family friendly – and boring as hell.

Above: Maniac Mansion intro

Maniac Mansion premiered on The Family Channel and Canada's YTV in 1990, and was about as hilarious as the intro video above. Which is to say, not at all. The show managed to have zero comedic timing, despite being staffed and acted by comedy veterans. Someone who didn't know better would watch the show and conclude that the worst Canadian stand-up wash-outs were given their own TV program. How Maniac Mansion and the brilliant, if very Canadian, SCTV managed to come from the same creative team is a mystery too terrifying to comprehend.

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  • habs - December 22, 2010 12:53 a.m.

    i dont agree with the maniac mansion review. the actors wernt reject canadian talent.all if not most of that group had long careers after this show. as well taking jokes 20 years out of context doesnt lead to funny does it? i can name quite a few lame arcade to tv shows that didnt make the list.ones i consider alot worse than maniac mansion. im sure the only reason that maniac mansion was included was that it wasnt mainstream.was on cable and canadian. why wasnt heman and the masters of the universe included or super mario or teenage mutant ninja turtles? so you didnt get the canadian humor eh?then gtfo and go watch some guy talking to a puppet.
  • gidget - October 20, 2010 1:18 a.m.

    Hahaha..Dic.... lord knows i thought that was some funny shit as a kid.... and pole position,.... no amount of alcohol will was that song from my brain.Especially after downloading it here: and listening to it continuously. what the shit was i thinking??
  • 2cute2Bcruel - September 22, 2010 9:41 a.m.

    Somehow, I own a copy of an animated prequel to the first (only watchable) Mortal Kombat movie. I never saw MK: DotR, but if it was anything like that... wow. It had badly integrated and repetitive digital animation, interspersed with CGI that reminds me of Drake of the 99 Dragons. It's kind of so-bad-it's good, and it did have some professional voice talent on its cast
  • Mysticgamer - August 2, 2010 5:44 p.m.

    Just thank God that awful Bubsy cartoon never got the green light. The pilot makes Street fight look like a masterpiece.
  • Hadokenchild - July 15, 2010 6:43 p.m.

    I was expecting Q-Bert, Captain N, and The Super Mario Bros. Super Show to be on there as well. But yeah, everything on this list is God-awful.
  • MassSaber - July 11, 2010 1:57 a.m.

    I dunno about the rest you I loved Pole position as a kid it was way before I discovered video games (or tranformers a way better series) and I still find myself humming to this day
  • Skullkan6 - July 10, 2010 3:53 p.m.

  • presc1ence - July 10, 2010 11:31 a.m.

    ummm so not crass enough to say the pac man nickname, but perfectly happy to say it when ever we mention a certain patrick in GTA? Odd standards there! lol!
  • grumpyDinosaur - July 10, 2010 3:14 a.m.

    Ahhh memories, I remember watching episodes of all of those, on another note this also made me remember I used to pretend to be Captain N. D:
  • TyeTheCzar - July 10, 2010 12:32 a.m.

    Looks like you've forgotten: The Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog Sonic Underground Super Mario Bros. Super Show Legend of Zelda Captain N: The Game Master *shudders* The only excuse these shows have to exist is for [ab]use in Youtube Poop, which makes them a hundred times better.
  • Metroidhunter32 - July 10, 2010 12:11 a.m.

    Epitome of fail.
  • soccerclownking - July 9, 2010 8:30 p.m.

    All i can say is, you know, I truly can't think of a word to describe such atrocities
  • Xplosive59 - July 9, 2010 8:03 p.m.

    its nice to see not very obvious ones cause i was kinda expecting to see the legend of zelda cartoon, mario, sonic, captain N and megaman but i was plesantly suprised
  • D0CCON - July 9, 2010 6:44 p.m.

    As soon as I saw this, I thought Legend of Zelda. Am I alone here?
  • isaacbaade - July 9, 2010 6:40 p.m.

    i think pokemon gets boring after a while
  • KnightDehumidifier - July 9, 2010 3:22 p.m.

    Four words: Battletoads: The Animated Series.
  • ACE-VAMP - July 9, 2010 2:48 p.m.

    i remember that pac-man cartoon and pac-mans nik name lol still find it funny it was put in a cartoon lol never knew pole position was based on a game, great cartoon. as for horrendous TV shows based upon videogames how could u forget all the bad mario ones.
  • Conman93 - July 9, 2010 12:49 p.m.

    Like many people here I think zelda should be on this list. Still these are pretty damn deplorable! On another note, doesen't japan have a kirby show. Is that meant to be crap?
  • pin316 - July 9, 2010 10:54 a.m.

    oh god, pole position, whatever were they thinking... I bought a disc with all 13 episodes of 'Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light' (now that was a show - can't believe it got canned after only 13 eps), and it had a bonus disc with the intros to a load of awesome 80s/90s cartoons. The Centurions, Defenders of the Earth, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors (best. cartoon. ever.), Ulysses 31 etc, and it had the nerve to include the Pole Position intro...putting it right next to the others showed it up for the awfulness that it was.
  • philipshaw - July 9, 2010 9:37 a.m.

    What about the awful Bubsy show,it seem to go on longer than necessary

Showing 1-20 of 46 comments

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