In 2007, the unthinkable happened: a genuinely GOOD Simpsons game was made. Yes, for a cartoon series that has been around for decades they sure did produce a lot of crappy games. And we’ll get to the good Simpsons game in a minute, but for right now, I wanted to highlight the cacophony crapshoot that was an endless series of failures in the Simpsons megaverse.
1991, Arcade – The Simpsons Arcade Game
Alright alright…so actually there are FEW good Simpsons games, but you’ll see why it kind of doesn’t matter. So this one is actually really damn good, but…it doesn’t quite capture the “essence” of Simpsons. What I mean is, well…who exactly are you fighting? What, a bunch of random goons that have absolutely fuck all to do with the show?
And I get Mr. Burns is dirty stinking rich, but why the hell would he up and kidnap Maggie in broad daylight? Yeah yeah, I get that they just needed to work in a generic plot for a brawler, but this has bothered me for a while. And it’s not as though they don’t feature a lot of the main characters from The Simpsons, but the point is it’s mostly just the Simpsons themselves, a few supporting characters, and a bunch of anally derived, slap together “villains” to fight just for the sake of getting in your fucking way.
It’s still an incredibly fun game, but the only home release of the game was a really terrible PC port. Honestly, I have no idea why it took Konami so long to get off the shitter and finally release this on XBLA…or for any other console for that matter. It really is one of the finer Simpsons games, but again, it has very little to do with the actual show itself.
1991, NES, Genesis, Etc. – Bart vs. the Space Mutants
So we’ve probably all seen the AVGN review of this, but here’s the low down. This game…is not fun. Sure, from a distance it seems alright and this let’s player certainly makes it seem easy, but the thing is the platforming sucks, the controls aren’t tight at all, very little is explained well in the game, it’s incredibly easy to die, there are no true checkpoints…yeah, it’s a mess.
This was the first Simpsons game I played, actually. At the time I thought it was hard, but still fun. Now I know I was just young and retarded. This game is terrible.
1991, PC – Bart’s House of Weirdness
Okay, I never really played this game growing up, but it doesn’t look any better. If anything, it looks 10 times worse. At least the graphics are better and they have a lot of great references to the series, but come on. Look at all that shit! Initially I thought it was just going to be some puzzle solving adventure game, but no, it’s a terrible ass platformer full of balls ass difficulty. Pass!
1991, Game Boy – Escape from Camp Deadly
Once again, another Simpsons game featuring only Bart along with absolutely terrible platforming, drab graphics, and not very inventive in general. You’ll notice this as an unfortunate trend as time goes on, sadly. True, Bart is one of the more popular characters of the show (personally my favorite is Homer), but it seems he was ESPECIALLY popular in the 90s. Eh, maybe it was a generational thing.
1991, NES, Game Gear – Bart vs. the World
Ayup, a Bart only platformer of indescribable difficulty. Good fuck is this game hard. Back in the day I got pretty far in it, but it’s really just an exercise in torture. I honestly cannot recommend this game to anyone, even diehard Simpsons fans.
1992, Game Boy – Bart vs. the Juggernauts
Alright, another Bart only game…but it’s kind of like American Gladiators? I don’t know, never played it myself. At least it’s a bunch of mini-games rather than one giant terrible platformer. Even still, it has very little to do with the actual Simpsons, soooooo…yeah.
1992, NES, Game Gear – Bartman Meets Radioactive Man
Mmhmm…another Bart only platformer…that’s absolutely terrible. At least they decided to spice stuff by having Bartman, but it didn’t help much. And just for the record, I don’t hate Bart. Actually, back in the 90s, he’s pretty much the only one I selected in the arcade game. It’s just when you see him in so many terrible games, you just know they were using his face to hopefully sell just ooooooooooone more copy.
1992, SNES, Genesis – Bart’s Nightmare
Another game featuring only Bart…well, wait a minute. This isn’t a platformer only? And it’s a bunch of mini-games?! Joy! Oh wait, it’s still terrible. Ultimately, the problem with this game is they delve too deep in the “it’s only a dream” archetype and allow for odd platforming elements, don’t explain the different mini-games and controls well, throw in a dash of extra difficulty, and…well, you’ll hear me repeating myself later too, I’m sure.
The thing that makes this one nice is its variety…but it kinda fucks itself pretty quick. Sure, there’s a lot of variety, but it’s also highly repetitive, the life system doesn’t make much sense, and often it’s more about luck than skill, which should never be the case in a good platformer. It’s not terrible, but it’s not that great either.
1992, SNES, Genesis, Etc. – The Itchy & Scratchy Game
So, I’m really not understanding the point. There doesn’t seem to be a life meter or anything, so I’m guessing it’s just who fucks over the other more within the time limit or something. Not very interesting and not very well made either.
1992, NES, SNES, Etc. – Krusty’s Fun House
Now, this one’s actually not half bad. Sure, it has nothing to do with the show, but what HAS up to this point? It’s a lot like Lemmings, but with enemies, platforming, and blocks. So okay, not EXACTLY like Lemmings, but you get a good idea of what I mean from the video. Oh, and if you’ve never played Lemmings, go kill yourself.
1994, SNES, Genesis – Virtual Bart
Another Bart game featuring Bart doing platforming, but at least there’s variety, much like in Bart’s Nightmare, but not really as interesting, and it has pretty much the same gimmick from the get-go, but it’s tougher and you probably won’t like it. Okay, next!
1994, Game Boy – Itchy & Scratchy in Miniature Golf Madness
…this has absolutely nothing to do with golf. Fuck this game.
1995, Game Boy – Bart & the Beanstalk
Yes, another woefully generic ass Bart only title for the Game Boy that has absolutely nothing to do with anything. I daresay this one’s even worse than Camp Deadly because of even worse platforming elements.
1996, PC – The Simpsons Cartoon Studio
Mario Paint, but with Simpsons. Pass.
1997, PC – Virtual Springfield
Myst, but not an adventure game, and with Simpsons. Don’t get me wrong, it looks funny and has a lot of great Springfield stuff, but it’s not really a game, per se. Pass.
2000, Arcade – The Simpsons Bowling
Once again, I’m not seeing the point. It’s bowling, but with Simpsons. Sure, there are wacky powerups and stuff, but it’s not all that interesting.
2001, GBC – Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror
Another terrible Bart only platformer that is absolutely and thoroughly ridiculous on the challenge front. Seriously, why are most Simpsons games so fucking hard? I could understand if it got tougher over time, but most of these games are ridiculously hard from the get-go.
2001, PS1 – The Simpsons Wrestling
Oh God…it’s…just…oh God…
2001, PS2, Xbox, Etc. – Road Rage
Oh look, it’s Crazy Taxi, but with Simpsons. Seriously, who thinks this makes a good game?
2002, PS2 – The Simpsons Skateboarding
Tony Hawk, but with Simpsons. Horribly generic and while it does contain a lot of characters from the series, it does no justice to The Simpsons or skateboarding in general.
2003, PS2, Xbox, Etc. – Hit & Run
Unfortunately, I never got to play this one extensively. It was pretty fun what little I played, but the platforming elements were fairly terrible. It did include a shit ton of Springfield, all kinds of characters from the series, and a lot of great one-liners, so I’d still recommend it even having only played it a very little bit. It’s basically GTA with Simpsons, but it’s done remarkably well.
2007, 360, PS3, Etc. – The Simpsons Game
And finally we have our game. The cool part about this game is it makes fun of all kinds of videogame tropes and in general has all kinds of in-jokes, videogame parodies, and much more. Hell, EA even pokes fun at itself in the form of the Madden games, various Sims games, and much more. It really is the ultimate mashup and such a fantastic game overall.
So why did it take so long for such a great game to be released? Well, I have a few theories. For one, far too many studios kept concentrating on Bart. Now, it is true that Bart is one of the more likable characters in the series, but as time has gone on in the show, we’ve explored more and more of the townsfolk and often concentrate on Homer more than Bart.
Sure, there’s still the whole Bart vs. Sideshow Bob and all that every so often and that’s not to say the series has completely sidetracked itself from Bart and his mischief, but as the show has matured, so have its themes, issues, and jokes. It’s very similar to how South Park has matured and often focuses on much more than just the four boys.
This game reflects that and also pays beautiful homage to so many aspects of The Simpsons, even some of the more obscure references like Mr. Sparkle. It truly is a game that from the ground up was made to be the ultimate Simpsons game. Sure, it’s still got some weird platforming issues from time to time, but overall it’s easily the best platformer that has ever involved The Simpsons.
Sure, it only took 16 years, but we finally have our masterpiece. And there will always be more and more Simpsons games, so long as the series exists on television, but hopefully this one shining example will reflect exactly what is expected of a TV game for future developers.