Let’s face it: there are a ton of terrible licensed video games out there. Every so often, however, a title actually manages to replicate the charm of the property it’s based on. And since Stranger Things 3 has just hit Netflix as well as its corresponding game, we figured we’d look at the best games inspired by popular TV shows. Keep in mind that software like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Dragon Ball FighterZ have been excluded from this list because they’re technically based off books.
Best Games Based Off TV Shows | The Simpsons: Hit and Run
The Simpsons: Hit and Run might as well be called Grand Theft Auto: Springfield, as it heavily borrows from 2001’s Grand Theft Auto 3. This isn’t a bad thing, as the game is rife with self-referential jokes and never takes itself too seriously. It’s obvious that the show’s writers played a role in development, as the Simpson family’s journey to uncover the truth behind a series of mysterious occurrences feels like an extended episode. Hardcore Simpsons fans who haven’t yet played the game are missing out on the best licensed title the franchise has to offer. It’s surprising that Activision hasn’t remade it for modern consoles yet, as it sold 3 million units worldwide a few years after it released.
Best Games Based Off TV Shows | Beavis And Butt-Head
Beavis And Butt-Head is just as idiotic as fans of the MTV show may expect, as it sees the titular duo run around Highland, Texas, in an attempt to piece together their Gwar tickets. While the game may seem like it was hastily made on the surface, it cleverly combines platforming and puzzle mechanics to keep players invested in each new hilarious set piece. Taking a picture of Butt-Woman, deep frying mice, and blowing up concession stands are as rewarding as they are hysterical. To top it all off, Beavis And Butt-Head‘s visual style stays true to the TV show’s jagged lines and dull colors. Nineties kids looking for a healthy does of nostalgia should dust off their Genesis consoles and get themselves a copy of this classic as soon as possible.
Best Games Based Off TV Shows | DuckTales
Though DuckTales and DuckTales Remastered are loosely based off Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comic book universe, the games mostly adhere to the 1987 TV show of the same name. It’s not hard to see why the original title was so popular on the Nintendo Entertainment System, as it takes a page from Mega Man‘s game design but incorporates a fun pogo stick mechanic that allows protagonist Scrooge McDuck to attack enemies from above. It stays true to the show by challenging players to collect five treasures scattered across the globe. Those who manage to amass a fortune above $10 million are treated to the game’s good ending, while those who finish the title with no money to their name must suffer a terrible fate.
Best Games Based Off TV Shows | SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom
There’s a reason why THQ is remaking SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, as the game gained a cult following after its release in 2003. As the titular sponge, fans are tasked with foiling Plankton’s latest attempt to takeover the undersea town of talking sea creatures. Players aren’t restricted to blowing bubbles and wielding spatulas as Mr. SquarePants, as they can switch to Patrick Star or Sandy Cheeks to throw melons and swing around lassos. Hopping around as these characters and dismantling a robot regime is fun for all ages, especially for memelords who can’t get enough of the internet celebrity. It’s got an upcoming remaster too, so players can jump in the underwater mayhem on modern systems whenever THQ thinks it is ready.
Best Games Based Off TV Shows | The Simpsons Arcade Game
The Simpsons Arcade Game is a button-mashing beat ’em up that gives fans the opportunity to play as each member of the Simpson family. When Maggie is kidnapped by Smithers at the start of the game, Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa journey through iconic Springfield locations like Moe’s Tavern, Krustyland, and the town’s nuclear power plant in order to rescue the infant. Though its presentation and ease of use are worthy of praise, one of the title’s best features is that it allows players to unleash deadly combo attacks when pairing certain family members together. Fans don’t have to mindlessly press away if they don’t want to, as there’s a degree of strategy involved in raking up high scores. The Simpsons Arcade Game can be enjoyed by newcomers and veterans of the genre, which is nothing short of impressive.
Best Games Based Off TV Shows | South Park: The Stick of Truth/The Fractured But Whole
South Park: The Stick of Truth and South Park: The Fractured But Whole both feel like new seasons of the hit TV show. Fans can tell that series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker oversaw the script, narrative, and design of each project during development, as the games are littered with obscene jokes and references to events that happened throughout the franchise’s long-running history. The fact that each plays like a traditional RPG (or, in But Whole‘s case, a strategy game), complete with character customization, classes, and unlockable upgrades, helps them stand out further.
From the outset, it’s clear that New Kid will never be the same after he or she’s introduced to Cartman, Butters, Stan, and Kyle. Pooping on the toilet or fooling around with alien probes have never been the same since these games released. Stick of Truth‘s multiple delays and the franchise’s shaky video game history made it easy to assume that it would be forgotten in the bargain bin of history. But it was a fantastic experience that benefited from Obsidian’s expertise but stuck out because of Parker and Stone’s commitment to the project. It shows that more original creators should be heavily involved in video games based off their IPs.
Video game tie-ins don’t all have to be bad. Developers need to be just as passionate about a TV show as its directors, producers, and actors if they want their licensed project to resonate with fans. Of course, people on either end of the deal need to work together for the magic to happen. Here’s hoping that Stranger Things 3: The Game appropriately replicates the charm of the Netflix sci-fi series when it debuts alongside the show’s third season on July 4, and that all future games based off TV shows tap into the allure that make their franchises so damn entertaining.