Seven Great Franchises that Never Got a Decent Video Game

itchy [2]

Most games based on other media (comics, movies, TV shows, celebrities, soft-drink mascots) have just plain sucked. The plots didn’t translate well to stages, leveling up and multiple pointless enemies, and the systems weren’t advanced enough to truly tell the story the way the franchise demands.

Until now. Today’s systems are more powerful than a rabid chimpanzee, and the writers are smarter, having grown up as fans of the shows and movies they are now commissioned to base games upon. After years of electronic vomit, fans have finally been rewarded with well-written, intelligent, and fun-to-play games based on media such as The X-Men and The Simpsons.

It’s time to do the same with these seven franchises…

South Park

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The Simpsons finally got a good game once the show’s writers handled the story, so why not South Park too? This series is so absurd, so random, and so surreal, that setting its creators loose would likely yield several games’ worth of material. You don’t even have to tie the chapters together with a grand story arc, because grand story arcs are for dirty hippies. Just write a bunch of new ridiculous episodes and let you guide Cartman and company through them. Fun shall ensue.

This might sound vague, but it’s certainly better than what we’ve been subjected to in the past: generic platform and racing games featuring the game’s characters and voices. The show’s genius deserves better than randomly inserting “kick-ass!” into the soundtrack. That does not a South Park game make.

Friday the 13th

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With a single eight-note riff playing over and over again, you wandered around like a moron, completely directionless and holding a map that corresponded to absolutely nothing, rushing to fight off Jason before he killed the counselor furthest away from you. You, of course, were power-walking the entire time. Because that’s exactly how any of us would react to a machete-wielding monster. By jogging briskly.

Even an old-school system could have done justice to this premise, with an above-head Zelda-style POV that would have actually made navigation less complicated than cold fusion. And what could have been the original survival horror game, featuring the most psychotic mother-son duo since Norman Bates and Norman Bates in a dress, instead became the absolute most frustrating experience in gaming history. It was a shit sandwich that we were told to love. We did not.

Itchy and Scratchy

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It’s Tom and Jerry on ultra-violent steroids. How can you screw this up? Simple: just make it a regular old side-scrolling game, which is what has happened before. No blood, no guts, no nothing. Sure, you can kill Itchy, but in the most unsatisfying manner possible. It’s more cathartic to stomp turtles and mushrooms.

Today’s 3-D environments would be perfect for an Itchy and Scratchy fighting game. Pick one of the characters and stalk the other through the game’s many vast, expansive worlds. Anything and everything would be a weapon, you only have one enemy (as opposed to the NES making up stupid random enemies to pad out the levels), and it’s truly kill or be killed. Of course, there would be more blood and gore than your average butcher’s table, but that’s what the ratings are for, right?

Animaniacs

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So, so, so much more could have been done with this show than their few games allowed. There were at least 20 characters in the show, every one of them deserving of their own mini-games and stages. If having Yakko, Wakko and Dot collect pages of a movie script was seriously the best the developers could do, they were either total morons or truly gave less than a shit about the whole product. More than likely, it was the latter.

And it’s not too late; much of the generation raised on Animaniacs still play games, and are the prime age for nostalgic whims. So why not make a fully 3-D, genre-busting, epically silly Animaniacs game featuring everybody we remember and loved? Even a scrub like Chicken Boo would fare well in a stealth level where he attempts to make it to the end without being exposed as a giant chicken dressed in a half-assed plumber suit.

Three Stooges

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The NES version of Larry, Curly and Moe had the right basic idea: the boys try to make money by working various odd jobs. But they got a few things wrong: for one, they were raising money to save an orphanage, a good and just cause that the real Stooges were too stupid and selfish to ever get behind. Also, they never fought each other in the game, which is simply sacrilege. No real Stooges game would be complete without a few “torture Curly” minigames to help let off some steam.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all: the goal was to do these jobs well? Win a boxing match? Win the soup-eating contest? A true-blue Stooges game should be just the opposite: the worse your job performance, the more damage you cause, and the more fights you get into, the better. No orphans need apply.

Michael Jackson

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Let’s face it; Michael (Mr. Jackson if you’re nasty) was a living cartoon character. As such, his game could have been a magnificently absurd romp through the many ridiculous tabloid stories he inspired. Seriously, would you not play a game where you, as Michael, went tomb-raiding in search of the Elephant Man’s bones? In addition, a stage where you have to make Michael both white AND attractive could have been the most challenging thing from any game ever.

Sadly, the best we got was Moonwalker on the Genesis, where you kicked fairy dust into the eyes of smooth criminals and Thriller zombies while rescuing little children from Joe Pesci. But don’t worry; they were all little girls, so it’s not like the game was foreshadowing anything.

Oh, and that new music game where you just play Michael songs? Pure cop-out. It’s fine and dandy to do that with AC/DC, a group of guys who play music and that’s it. Michael’s wacky life story deserved far better.

Bugs Bunny

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Unless somebody has the guts to write a rude, crude and somewhat racist video game in today’s age, Bugs’ time has passed. Even if somebody like that came forward, Bugs is owned by a gigantic, publicly traded corporation that would never ever allow it in a millionjillionbillion years. So yes, his time has passed.

Bugs has been in many different games, and they’ve all sucked. Why? Because the early systems couldn’t, and wouldn’t, handle the endless slapstick and unadulterated violence that made Bugs as popular as he is. Games were seen as purely for kids, and a fuckton of what they did in his cartoons were either geared toward adults, or relied on politically incorrect humor declared “offensive” decades before.

So Bugs, in order to survive the ages, had his character watered-down to the point where one of his games featured him evading his enemies, only to find them all at his birthday party near the end. The whole game was his “friends” playing a “very funny” joke, one where they actively tried to kill him the entire time. The fact that Bugs didn’t whip out a gun the size of Mount Rushmore and blow everybody to smithereenies dashed all hopes of him being an interesting video game character. What a maroon.

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