The horrible, horrible history of Smurfs games

Let’s make this brief: The Smurfs made their first appearance in long running Belgian comic written by Pierre “Peyo” Culliford in 1958. That story’s popularity saw them spun off into their own publication a year later, spawned a ton of merchandise, two animated films in 1965 and 1976, basically invented zombies, and then came a Hanna-Barbera cartoon series which dominated the Saturday morning airwaves for a ridiculous run of nine seasons.

Above: Who gives a shit? 

Assuming you spent any amount of time being a kid in the 80’s, odds are you share some history with The Smurfs. Whether or not you’re proud of that is of no importance here… I’m sure we’re all in agreement that the new movie looks fucking terrible. So, we’re riding that crest of nostalgic spite right into the magical village of games, and taking a look back at The Smurfs’ contribution to interactive entertainment. I think you’ll find each and every one serves as a fittingly atrocious precursor to the shiny Hollywood turd set to light up the big screen nationwide.

Smurfs: Rescue from Gargamel’s Castle | 1982

Right out of the gate, the world’s first Smurfs game landed with a deafening, hilarious thud. While kids everywhere were scrambling to get ahold of all things Smurfy AND grasp the burgeoning medium of gaming, Colecovision went and made one of the least intuitive, frustratingly difficult video games of all time.

I suppose when you’re an inch or two tall EVERYTHING has the potential to be deadly, and Christ, was that a notion Rescue from Gargamel’s Castle really ran with. Bats kill you, fences kill you, BLADES OF GRASS kill you.

Above: Mind the Death Grass! 

The only skill in your arsenal to overcome the now-nefarious, everyday obstacles was jumping, which Coleco cruelly made one of the most confusing, unintuitive inputs of all time. The only way to jump over stuff was to hop straight up in the air first, then jump a second time to move forward. If that weren’t enough to send children crying into the arms of Shirt Tales, there’s even a glitch in the last room that made Smurfette appear topless for a bit of unintentional Smurf Smut!

Smurfs Paint N Play Workshop | 1984

Lesson learned! If you’re not capable of creating a game that kids can actually play, put out a game that kids create themselves. And that’s basically what Coleco did, following up its laughable attempt at a sidescoller with a free-form artistic endeavor that let kids create whatever they wanted (within the legal parameters of Hanna-Barbera’s trademark, all rights reserved).

In short, it was just like a coloring book! I mean, assuming your coloring books required stamps shaped like enormous pixels instead of crayons.

The Smurfs | 1994-1997

HO BOY! Console gaming had found its legs, and Infogrames used the power of about a dozen consoles to pull off some of the most unremarkable games the world had ever seen.

Above: The Black “Zombie” Smurf actually appears in the NES version, even though Hanna-Barbera had colored them purple on TV in a ball-less act of racial sensitivity 

Okay, maybe you could excuse the NES/Master System version, but only judging by the sadistic standards of 8-bit sidescollers. The music was bouncy and the levels had colorful variety – let’s go ahead and give it that. But you were largely defenseless and anything that moved spelled three-hit murder for the poor blue creatures once again questing to rescue kidnapped Smurfs (it never ends!)

Above: Death can come from anywhere 

The 16-bit versions, however, are a different beast entirely - and goddammit! – someone should’ve known better. While the animation was more fluid, and arguably more representative of the cartoon show American audiences were rapidly forgetting, it learned nothing from the punishing Coleco version.

Above “HEY, THANKS BUDDY! It’s not like our continued existence is on the line!” 

Armed with yet another hyper-flawed jumping mechanic, everything was again ridiculously lethal. Not only do standing puddles of water bring about your mortal end, fellow Smurfs pop out randomly to kill you on your journey to save them.

Above: Interestingly, the Genesis version’s biggest sin was stealing Sonic the Hedgehog’s drummer


  • Kezmer - August 14, 2011 1:44 p.m.

    We need the mp3 of that Gargamel rap song so bad....
  • Xtapolapopotamus - August 3, 2011 6:25 p.m.

    Holy shit. I really, REALLY want to buy that Smurfs Dance Party as a gag gift for someone. When the price goes down, I WILL.
  • FunnyNameHere - August 2, 2011 9:17 a.m.

    What does that translate to on metacritic?
  • TheCakeIsaPie - September 29, 2011 3:34 p.m.

    It doesn't, because they don't have a number that low.
  • Thequestion 121 - August 1, 2011 7:08 p.m.

    Wow, those were some terrible games. And the video for the The Smurfs Dance Party was hilarious!
  • practicallyhitler - August 1, 2011 5:57 p.m.

    Awesome article! I'll be holding my breath for Peyo Vs. Capcom.
  • SHAPATTAK - August 1, 2011 4:55 p.m.

    Wow. All my horrible childhood memories just came smurfing back.
  • PevMaster - August 1, 2011 1:46 p.m.

    Great article Chris.
  • ObliqueZombie - August 1, 2011 7:09 a.m.

    Chris... I have the most respect for you than I've ever had for anyone. Not only did you brave some of the most horrendous games of all time and any system, you managed to brave The Smurfs, the most overtly sexual, face-palming "universe" of all time. Hats off to you, Chris. I also hate you for making me and watch so many Smurf-related things.
  • oldschoolgamer - July 31, 2011 10:13 p.m.

    just one more thing.. Picking on smurfs.. isnt very smurfy..
  • oldschoolgamer - July 31, 2011 10:07 p.m.

    I just wanna say, the coleco vision, rescue from gargamels castle is a wonderly fun jump game.. On contrary to what the reveiwer wrote, No you dont have to jump twice to jump over everything, that is what is known as a double jump. And its only needed for jumping things that are twice your size. there is something also known as the tripple jump, where you double, then jump again for even further air. With skill you will find you can jump over bats, birds and spiders, or duck them. They also loop around and come back, causeing you to have to jump around and sometimes back tracking to get away from the pesky buggers to get past each page. Sure the game isnt deep,But i fondly remember flipping smurfs back in the day. It was just as amusing as classics such as donkey kong, Or others of the old jump classics. Besides the tale ends with a big kiss from smurfette. Guess the reveiwer needs to brush up on skills... :P
  • IceHawk79 - July 31, 2011 9:56 p.m.

    I never knew they made so many smurf games.
  • bhamjustin - July 31, 2011 5:42 p.m.

    OMFG! Smurf Dance Party should receive the worst licensed game EVER award. I can't quit watching that video. Make it stop...MAKE IT STOP!
  • Joaovpo - July 31, 2011 5:38 p.m.

    I remember when I was 5~6, we had a lot of little smurfs that together with a candy. One day, my brother said his friend said that smurfs were the work of the devil, and one night, me with my brothers and friends made a fire and burned them all. I still remember their faces melting and hearing their cries as they burned. (I was little, I really heard that).
  • Sjoeki - July 31, 2011 4:29 p.m.

    Awesome! I was affraid that a whole lot of words in the text would've been replaced by the word smurf, but I should've known better!
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - July 31, 2011 4:24 p.m.

    These games sound fucking terrible, no wonder I've never heard of them!
  • ashleymenvielle - July 31, 2011 8:59 a.m.

    Great article, Chris! I used to watch the Smurfs cartoon constantly when I was younger so reading this article was like eating a warm, delicious, nostalgia cookie for me :). Oh, and my mind was officially blown by the discovery of the "Black Smurf" zombie smurfs! I don't remember watching that particular episode so I had no idea about them and I didn't know the origin of the actual Smurfs cartoon until this article, so thank you for the info!
  • Crabhand - July 31, 2011 7:28 a.m.

    I don't really give a shit about the Smurfs or the turd of a movie, but this article was very humorous. Good on you, Mr. Antista, you are in fact funny despite your claims to the contrarian,
  • ThatGamerDude - July 31, 2011 5:05 a.m.

    I cried the entire time. I didnt know much these games but wow... Oh yea and as stated before, those dead island ads kept on making me think these were rated M! I was about say, "WTF! HAS THE WORLD GONE MAD!" But then I remember after listening to the genesis opening to the Smurfs game, I automatically went to youtube and started listening to Sonic the Hedgehog music. Then everything went back too normal... until I heard 3,2,1 SMURF! And the rest is blurry.
  • Hoju - July 31, 2011 4:53 a.m.

    I actually have pretty fond memories of the Colecovision version. I'll keep them that way.

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