It's incredible to think that The Simpsons family first debuted more than 30 years ago as short animations on a variety program called The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987. The one-minute shorts ran until May 1989, which eventually led to The Simpsons becoming a full independent series in December 1989 starting with a Christmas special known as "Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire."
Since its first season's debut, the series has become a global phenomenon and one of the longest running scripted primetime television shows in the United States. At the time of writing, the series is coming toward the end of its 28th season, and over the years there have been many Christmas and Halloween specials, a movie, and, of course, video games.
The Simpsons video game franchise began on the home console in 1991, and have spanned the generations with many games appearing in arcades, handhelds, mobile devices, and even the current generation of machines like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Many of the titles were typical licensed cash-ins, but there have been some real gems too. So let's rank The Simpsons games from the worst to the best.
Back in the year 2000, the first PlayStation was still dominating the market, professional wrestling was in the midst of its popular "Attitude Era," and The Simpsons were still doing huge numbers in the ratings. So Fox Interactive decided to try and combine the three hugely popular entertainment mediums, and as a result created one of the worst games ever made in The Simpsons: Wrestling.
There was very little in the way of the technical gameplay that one would associate with a wrestling game, with the players being forced to mash the buttons. However, if you think you may get a kick out of Marge beating Homer across the head with a frying pan then look no further.
The Simpsons: Skateboarding was an attempt by Fox Interactive to capitalize on the rising popularity of the Tony Hawk: Pro Skater series. Unfortunately, unlike Pro Skater, The Simpsons: Skateboarding offered gamers absolutely nothing that was considered noteworthy — unless you consider the accolade for one of the worst PlayStation 2 games ever made.
The game featured terrible controls, blocky graphics and worst of all a complete lack of variety in skateboarding tricks. Fox Interactive were particularly proud of using recordings of the actual voice actors in the in the game, which would have been fantastic if you didn't hear the same short lines of dialogue repeated over and over again.
The Itchy & Scratchy Game had fairly decent looking sprites for a release that arrived on the Genesis/Megadrive in 1992. Unfortunately, that wasn't anywhere near enough to save a platforming game with terrible and inaccurate jumping mechanics, an awful soundtrack, and last but not least the complete lack of slapstick violence fans have come to associate with the hapless cat and the sadistic mouse.
The reason why the Itchy & Scratchy characters work so well in the context of the show is not only are they generally accepted as a parody of Tom & Jerry, but just like the original cat and mouse duo they are best watched in small doses – rather than being dragged through an awful platforming game.
The Simpsons: Bart Vs. The Space Mutants was a multiplatform game, and was the first ever Simpsons game (it released in 1991). The game's promising opening level was loaded with references to the show and contained some interesting adventure mechanics. Unfortunately, the early signs of a promise quickly took a nosedive due to the game's frustrating artificial difficulty and awkward controls.
The game's frustration not only comes from Space Mutants' lackluster gameplay and terrible difficulty, but in the lost potential of being a very decent game.
Gamers may remember SEGA's popular Crazy Taxi series, which saw success over several platforms including the SEGA Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. The goal of the game was to pick up passengers and take them to their destination within a set time limit. Enter The Simpsons: Road Rage, a game with the exact same premise as Crazy Taxi, but without any of the ingredients that made the formula work so well on SEGA's title.
The Simpsons: Road Rage suffers from seriously bad collision detection issues and loose controls that somehow made the roads feel like ice. Additionally, the game suffered from a terribly choppy frame rate that could slow the game down to a crawl.
American Gladiators was hugely popular in the early 90s, and with Fox not being shy about trying to capitalize on popular culture once again, they came to release Bart Vs. The Juggernauts on the Gameboy.
While the idea of working through Gladiator-like events is a fun idea, many of the mini-games boiled down to luck. Training for the events was unnecessarily grindy, and only gamers with the patience of a saint would find any enjoyment out of this game.
Placing The Simpsons characters within the realms of the of a mid 18th-century English fairy tale may seem like a strange idea, but Fox Digital went ahead and did it anyway. Bart & The Beanstalk placed Bart in the role of Jack in an adaptation of Jack and The Beanstalk.
It's not the premise that makes this game so below average, it's the game's boring and repetitive gameplay, and off-putting difficulty. Clearly, the game was aimed at a younger audience, which is asinine given the game's difficulty came from such awful precision-based slingshot mechanics.
Virtual Bart was on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and The SEGA Genesis/Megadrive in 1994. The game's setting has Bart wandering into a science fair and getting stuck on virtual reality machine, which he needs to escape by passing through different worlds in the machine.
Virtual Bart is really just an excuse to cobble together some half-baked stages onto one cartridge with a silly storyline to back it up. The developers clearly hoped that TV show's running jokes will somehow make gamers at the time forget that they've just wasted $50-$60 on yet another bad Simpsons game — it didn't work.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out was released on iOS and Android, it's another city-building game in the same vein as Farmville. Unfortunately, there's very little in the way of gameplay variety, and the game has a way of nagging you constantly if you aren't playing the game daily, while at the same time trying to charge you to reap the benefits.
The game makes several failed attempts at being ironic, the first being Homer playing "another boring Farmville clone," which may have been funny if Tapped Out was anything but. Perhaps, the most insulting attempt at humor (or parody) is when the game lets you know what kind of an idiot are for buying into microtransactions — which is something really need to do in order to get the most out of this game.
The Simpsons: Minutes To Meltdown was a mobile game that was promoted alongside The Simpsons Movie by featuring Spider Pig. The game puts you in Homer's shoes as he tries to prevent a meltdown at the nuclear plant where he works, trying to avoid obstacles and dangers along the way.
While the game isn't terrible to play, what is terrible is the game can be completed in less time than it takes to watch a Simpsons episode. Therefore, the complete lack of longevity made Minutes to Meltdown and absolute waste of money — the concept was repeated again on mobiles with the Itchy & Scratchy Land follow up.
The Simpsons: Bowling was an arcade only game that was released in 2000. Visually, the game was acceptable but wasn't beyond what the 128-bit era of consoles handle, which makes it quite baffling why the game was never released on the PlayStation 2 or the Dreamcast to help make up for the disastrous wrestling title the following year.
Its gameplay was very basic and simplistic, it required the use of a 'trackball' to control the bowling techniques. Despite being very simplistic, The Simpsons: Bowling was quite fun and entertaining. The disappointing factors associated with the game are mediocre visuals, lack of gameplay modes, and occasionally long loading times.
Bart Simpson's Escape From Camp Deadly was a 2D platforming game based on The Simpsons episode called "Kamp Krusty" and put the player in the shoes of Bart as he tries to escape Camp Deadly which was run Mr. Burns' tyrannical nephew.
Camp Deadly's visuals were quite pleasing on the Gameboy system, and despite the controls being very simplistic, its platforming and jumping mechanics were a vast improvement over Bart Vs The Space Mutants. However, the game was yet another disappointment because of its bad design, which constantly throws waves of enemies at you from all directions. Moreover, the limited screen size of the Gameboy, made maneuvering almost impossible.
Itchy & Scratchy In Miniature Golf Madness was released for the Gameboy in 1994. The game puts you in the shoes of Scratchy the cat who's trapped in a miniature golf park. In the meantime, you're being chased through the park by the sadistic mouse Itchy who's wielding rocket launchers, flamethrowers, and electric cattle prods.
The visuals weren't very creative, the audio was repetitive, and the plot device didn't make the slightest bit of sense, but the golfing controls were surprisingly accurate and easy to pull off, and was fun to play. Itchy & Scratchy In Miniature Golf Madness was never going to set the world on fire, but it definitely had some entertaining sections.
Krusty's Super Fun House was a bit of a departure from the previous The Simpsons games in that it was an environmental puzzle game, that required the player to direct rats through maze-like levels by overcoming complicated pathways to complete each level. For all intents and purposes, it is the opposite of Lemmings (which should give you a good idea of how it plays).
Although the game didn't offer much else in the way of gameplay variety other than some misplaced action elements, Krusty's Super Fun House was a rather fun little game aimed at a younger audience. Despite that, it was the type of game that even non-gaming parents could get involved with too. Fun House had nice clean visuals, and recognizable appearances from other characters in the TV show.
The Simpsons: Bart's Nightmare appeared on Super NES and The Genesis back in 1992, it was a colorful representation of the television series. Although some levels looked much better than others —which suggests that there were a few different teams working on the game— it was an all around good looking game.
The platforming mechanics were an improvement on previous titles, but the series' notorious difficulty returned, which could be off-putting to younger gamers. It was a good game with a decent variety of levels, particularly "The Temple Of Maggie" and the Itchy & Scratchy stages, which were standouts.
The Simpsons: Night Of The Treehouse Of Horror was the first Simpsons game to be released on the Gameboy Color in 2001. It featured seven playable levels that recreated several of the Treehouse of Horror Halloween specials. Unlike other entries where attempts at variety were used to glaze over rushed ideas, each level here actually feels its own thing.
The game had some great design, with nice colorful graphics and smooth animations. However, it was let down by dull gameplay. Moreover, its portrayal of the show's humor didn't translate well to the video game. Still, it was still a masterpiece in comparison To The Simpsons: Wrestling that was released in the same year on the PlayStation.
Bart Vs. The World was released on the SEGA Master System and the NES, and the game offered a compilation of five different levels that are tied to previous episodes of the television series. Each of the levels are far more varied in gameplay than Bart vs. The Space Mutants and was an improvement in both gameplay design and its visuals.
The notoriously frustrating difficulty was addressed in this sequel, and there was some fun to be had with each level's minigames. Stages like the skateboarding level and card games sections, added an extra layer of playability. Unfortunately, the game does suffer from a short lifespan as a result of being easier and once completed. There isn't much of a reason to return to the game after you've played through it.
Bartman Meets Radioactive Man released on the NES and the SEGA Game Gear in in 1992. Ultimately, the Gamegear version of the game is the better option out of the two. The Game Gear's smaller screen offered sharper and more crisp looking visuals, and its controls were far more responsive than was seen on the NES.
As a result of the improved responsiveness on the handheld machine, the pixel-perfect timing needed was a little easier to pull off for the jumping mechanics. However, the game's limited continues and unforgiving difficulty was still a let down for less patient or younger gamers.
Released on the PC for MS-DOS The Simpsons: House of Weirdness in 1992. The game was developed by Konami and was easily the best looking Simpsons title available at the time.
House of Weirdness implemented different gameplay styles such as action-adventure, platforming, and strategy. As a result, the game was so much more complex and entertaining than what was seen on both home and handheld consoles.
The strategy and adventure aspect made were the games best parts, it really make the player feel like they were exploring The Simpsons world.
The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield was another title that didn't make it on to consoles due to its complex nature and visuals. While questions have been raised about whether or not it's a true video game, it was a dream come true for Simpsons fanatics, and was as close as fans could get to a VR Springfield at the time.
The game allowed gamers to explore recognizable locales from Springfield, like Moe's Tavern, Springfield Elementary, The Kwik-E-Mart, and, of course, The Simpson's house. These areas offered lots of secrets for players to uncover, but its range of movement was a bit limited, and the interface slightly confusing.
There was still a lot to love if you're a fan of the show, but a ground up remake in modern day VR would be the perfect platform for the designers to realize their true version.
The Simpsons: Cartoon Studio wasn't really a game, more of a designing program. Still, it was a fantastic piece of software, which (if you had the time and patience) was capable of creating great little cartoons to amuse yourself for hours and hours. It is certain that obsessive fans of the show would definitely find themselves engrossed in the surprisingly versatile amount of options on offer.
As good as the game/software was, its flexibility was still hampered by the limitations of the technology back in 1997. With today's advances in technology, a modern day version of Cartoon Studio would work brilliantly on tablets, PC, and consoles.
The Simpsons: Arcade was a scrolling beat-em-up game that was released by Konami in 1991. The Simpsons family have to fight their way through waves goons in order to rescue Maggie from an uncharacteristic Waylan Smithers.
This game is a classic, and the fact that it's still fun and playable 26 years later speaks immeasurable volumes for the game's quality. The simple, yet effective, four-player gameplay is as enjoyable as it ever was when playing with friends and family. Additionally, it's amazing that even after all these years the original coin-op Simpsons games manages to capture what was so great about the series when it was at its peak.
There was a mobile game of the same name that was designed to be a tribute to the 1991 original, except in this version you only get to play as Homer in an entirely new story campaign.
The Simpsons Game was released across multiple consoles, but the lead platforms were the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360.
As this list has pointed out, many of The Simpsons games have shamelessly copied gaming mechanics from other franchises such as Mario, Crazy Taxi, and even Lemmings. The Simpsons Game does this as well, but —more or less— succeeds on all accounts. It works so well because The Simpsons Game successfully spoofs games like Grand Theft Auto, Medal Of Honor, and Katamari Damacy in a way that is self-aware and totally designed to make you laugh.
The Visuals are —for the most part— excellent, and use a clean cell-shaded style that emulates the cartoon really well within a 3D space. As a result, the game still looks very good today. The game does suffer from the occasional camera issues, and slightly basic gameplay. However, it more than makes up for this in the fun factor and an award winning script.
The Simpsons Lego Dimensions pack contains a Homer Simpson minifigure, Homer's car, and the Taunt-O-Vision. The Level itself is called "The Mysterious Voyage Of Homer," and is based on The Simpsons episode of the same name — the one where Homer hallucinates after eating an "insanity pepper."
The game contains all of the weird humor based on the episode, and the stages have plenty of secrets to unlock as you play through. Owners of the Doctor Who pack can uncover a dock for the TARDIS which will take them to a secret Jetsons level, which is a very nice touch.
Springfield is lovingly recreated within the Lego Dimensions world, and fans of the series will get a definite kick out of playing a Lego version of a classic episode. It's slightly let down by the lack of voice acting, but all of the fun gameplay from the Lego series is a perfect match with everyone's favorite cartoon family.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run is the perfect game for parents who is completely opposed to their children playing open-world games like Grand Theft Auto. Hit & Run provides all of the fun and enjoyment of the PlayStation 2 era of the GTA series, without any of the drawbacks of the violence and colorful language found in that series.
It also helps that Hit & Run is absolutely the best Simpsons games ever released, which in many aspects improved on the GTA formula that it borrowed from with instant mission restarts and a superior guidance system providing a much more user-friendly interface that gamers both young and old will absolutely appreciate.