For whatever reason, translating movies to video games (and vice versa) seems to produce some dicey results. While there are some gems, many attempts at this cross-over lead to duds, regardless of whether or not the source material is of quality. But what about TV shows?
There have certainly been plenty of stinkers on this front as well. All one needs to do is hearken back to those crude early South Park games or the awful Celebrity Deathmatch fighter for evidence. And yet, there have been a surprising number of success stories that manage to capture the essence, character, and overall charm of various TV programs. Some have even become all-time classic video games in their own right.
With that said, let's tune in to some of the greatest examples of TV shows turned video games.
Ah, the good ol' days of the early 90s... The Chicago Bulls were actually a contending team, MTV still played music, and Konami was still cranking out solid action games.
Most tend to think of the recent Batman: Arkham entries when it comes to quality Batman titles. Yet, as early as the SNES days, there was, in fact, at least one great game featuring the Dark Knight, The Adventures of Batman & Robin. We're talking long before Christopher Nolan steered the franchise in a darker, grittier direction. Being heavily adapted from the TV series during this era, this game superbly captures the cartoony and comic-book feel that comprises early Batman material.
The Genesis version, which focuses on shoot-em-up mechanics, is also a worthy entry in its own right. Yet, this action-platformer on the SNES is the superior version; not just because of how well it adheres to the animation, but because its gameplay is surprisingly appealing.
If you've wondered why an obscure title based off a moderately popular cartoon has recently been granted a remaster, it'll become apparent when dusting off your old NES and playing. Yes, the game is that good. Though it's not too surprising when you find that key developers from the Mega Man series were responsible for this hidden gem.
This isn't just one of the best games based on a TV show, but this Capcom platformer just may be one of the best NES games ever. It contains well-designed stages, solid mechanics, and a terrific soundtrack - at least for NES standards.
Sure, this interactive mini-series may not have the memorable world building, characters, or writing that G.R.R.M., or even the TV hit's Benioff and Weiss are known for. Still, as far as video games go, it contains an absolutely emotional and engaging story, along with a diverse cast of memorable characters.
As is the case with Telltale's point-and-click adventures, the fun is mostly found in the choices you make as you struggle to gain prominence - and indeed, survive in the harsh fantasy lands of Westeros and Essos. It does feel like you're watching Game of Thrones while actually controlling some of the on-screen heroes' actions. And, since you'll be playing during the turmoil of the War of the Five Kings, it's pretty much just as violent as the show too...
Whether you're a fan of the hit anime or not, Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2 proves to be an excellent and endlessly addictive fighter. Up to 4 players can have a blast duking it out, giving it a Super Smash Bros. party vibe. The game masterfully blends stylish 2D graphics with a semi-3D arena that both literally and figuratively adds depth without being overwhelming.
This sequel refines and fleshes out many of the already solid mechanics of the first entry, with more characters, environments, and attacks from the anime. There is plenty of trigger-happy button mashing to be had here, but enough nuance for experienced players to shine, especially by exploiting the satisfying Ultimate Combos.
Pokémon Red & Blue exploded onto the scene in the late 90s, coinciding with the similarly massive phenomenon that was the anime. The Yellow version, coming soon after, refined and fleshed out those classics even further. To the joy of the TV show fans though, this rendition also adhered more to the plotlines and overall attributes of the Indigo League saga.
The game features a visible Pikachu companion that follows you around for the duration. Other show callbacks include appearances by Team Rocket and their talking Meowth, Officer Jenny, and Nurse Joy. You even get the bonus of an amusing surfing Pikachu minigame!
This classic action-packed anime seems to provide the perfect template for a fighting game. Thus, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a number of Dragon Ball-based fighters have been churned out over the years.
This recent Bandai-Namco entry, however, just might be one of the most elaborate, well-crafted, and enjoyable examples yet. The game utilizes a system of "tag teaming" with three rotatable characters, which allows for interesting new dynamics, like the simultaneous "Assist" move. It features a plethora of satisfying combo moves, special attacks, and finishers, complete with some epic animations that even give the anime a run for its money.
Like the Game of Thrones Telltale series, this is a difficult one to pin down or categorize in the same vein as other games. This isn't just because of its unorthodox style, which is more interactive TV than video game, but because it's divided into separate "seasons". These are further broken into a handful of smaller episodes.
As a whole, however, this series contains some fun action and engrossing drama, and often feels like you're playing an interactive version of the hit show. The game draws mainly from the comic series, and its appealing cell-shaded graphics help bring that forward. While the action isn't at the level you'd imagine for a post-apocalyptic zombie game, the variety of choices, as well as the depth of the writing, characters, and plotlines, make for an enduring ride.
Sure, on the one hand, you could make the argument that The Simpsons: Hit & Run is basically an open-world Grand Theft Auto clone with a Simpson's overlay tossed onto it. Though, as long as this is executed properly, it's surely not a bad thing that this wacky action racer is modeled off one of the most enjoyable and iconic classics of all time. And make no mistake, despite its cheap, cartoony look, this game is surprisingly well executed.
Apparently, the citizens of Springfield have had their minds warped by a toxic new flavor of Buzz-Cola, and need your help. Thus, it's on you, the Simpsons family + Apu, to drive around the town like madmen, nab coins, and complete a variety of tasks while occasionally getting chased and mowed down by relentless cops.
There was some pondering to be had as to whether or not this game, or its successor, The Fractured But Whole deserved a spot on this list as the strongest South Park RPG. But ultimately, while that title offered a more interesting and dynamic combat system, The Strick of Truth was the breakthrough, and the superior South Park game altogether.
The game offers a fine balance of simplicity and RPG complexity. In typical Obsidian fashion, this title isn't without a few bugs and glitches. Yet its gameplay, narrative, and amusing environments (Canada stage, anyone?) proved so great that it's easy to forgive. Like the show itself, the game is tinged with some crudeness; but also is wrought with writing and situations that range from foul, to clever, to downright hilarious.
It's pretty impressive that this almost thirty-year-old Konami classic has yet to be matched when it comes to the ultimate TMNT game. Simply put, there's a reason gamers both old and young return to this classic for action-packed turtle power decades later.
Not only does it capture the essence and character of the 80s cartoon show with perfection, but it also has the gameplay to back it up. You've got some solid air-tight mechanics and controls that are simple, yet satisfying. A diverse palette of awesome environments with cool historic themes and memorable boss fights also await you. Turtles In Time is a totally bodacious example of a TV show-based game done right.