As kids, the combination of video games and cartoons are what we enjoy to get by in school and dealing with chores. Playing on a Sega or Nintendo console provides great entertainment while watching cartoons offer us important lessons that also bring great stories and characters. So the idea of a show being based on a video game seems like a match made in heaven, right? In the old days, that was certainly not the case.
Being able to see iconic video game characters like Link or Mario on the small screen sounds cool, but the shows’ creators were going in a completely different direction. Like movies based off of video games, these shows are recipes for disaster. Some shows on this list are mostly made in America, but even Japan has some embarrassing adaptations that make us cringe or laugh due to how bad they are compared to today’s anime.
When we were younger, we didn’t mind these shows since they provided entertainment to pass the time, but as we get older, these shows were either cheesy in a bad way or just completely unnecessary. Think about this, for example: Mortal Kombat, a video game so controversial for its violence, has a cartoon catered for kids despite the irony.
Thankfully today, there are some decent shows based on video games like Castlevania, but if that were made around the same time these cartoons aired, it would suffer just as much. Let’s take a look at twenty shows based on video games fans pretend don’t exist.
20 Ultimate Cheese
This entry is technically a mix of video game characters from Nintendo, but the show itself is still not that good in today’s standards. Captain N: The Game Master is not exactly the worse cartoon to ever come out in the late 80s, but it is certainly outdated and incredibly cheesy.
The real intention for this show is to promote Nintendo.
That is definitely not a bad thing since Nintendo games are incredible, but the show itself can be misleading since some of the characters are poorly represented. It is also outclassed by Disney’s Wreck-it-Ralph, which features multiple video game characters and represents them well.
19 Arguably The Worst
One of the first anime to appear on this list, School Days is based on a visual novel starring Makoto Ito, a high school boy who falls for a schoolgirl and then meets another who is jealous of their relationship.
However, Makoto himself is an excruciatingly bad person for going back on Kotonoha with every other girl he gets to spend the night with. For some reason, the anime decides to go with the route of him being unfaithful because that will certainly make him a likable protagonist. At least he got what he deserved for being stupid in the end.
18 Inaccurate From The Source
Darkstalkers is the perfect example of taking anything likable from the source material and changing everything to make it worse. Based on the 2D fighting games from Capcom, this animated adaptation gets everything wrong from the characters, story, and the animation.
Like another video game that got a terrible adaptation to appeal for kids, Darkstalkers fails to be entertaining. Trying picturing Morrigan, a dangerously beautiful succubus who has to be toned down greatly just to cater to kids. That does not work and it backfired greatly. This show only had one season and thirteen episodes, so being canceled was a blessing.
17 Just Generic
Double Dragon is based on the beat ‘em up series featuring twins Billy and Jimmy Lee. This cartoon features weak animation and cheesy music, making the action scenes unappealing and boring. Strangely enough, the twins use magical swords to fight, when they are known for using martial arts in the video game.
How can you make a show based on a game with martial arts and not feature it?
Who knows what the animators or writers were thinking into adapting this video game to not include one of the most important features. Double Dragon is just an unfortunate victim in bad video game adaptations.
16 Disrespecting A Legend
Dragon’s Lair might not look like a video game at first, but the stellar animation by the legend Don Bluth and controversy around its difficulty brought popularity into this cult classic. An animated series for Dragon’s Lair is not a bad one, but the horrible mistake of not hiring Bluth is what put this show in this list.
Other than the disappointing animation, the violence was also toned down even though it was not too violent to begin with. The characters are also poorly treated, with Dirk being an idiot while Daphne lacks her gorgeous charm that she was intended to be.
15 Somewhat Mixed
Sonic X is an anime adaptation that has taken liberties to add in new characters and create intriguing storylines, but the former reason is one of the problems this show has. If this was watched in the original Japanese version, this show is not that big of a problem. So why is it on this list?
4Kids is responsible for the cringy localization.
Because this is catered to kids, the fates of characters are altered, and some suggestive content is removed. Speaking of the characters, Chris Thorndike is easily one of the most annoying characters and he is essentially the main star instead of Sonic. Sonic X, at least the 4Kids version, is just an adaptation that should not exist.
14 Rather Vague
While there are some video games being adapted into TV shows that can create stories, Frogger is one video game that seems irrelevant. The gameplay has no indication of a plot, just a goal to get to the end. Yet somehow, there is a cartoon on this video game.
Frogger appears in Saturday Supercade and in today’s cartoon standards, it is rather outdated. It can also be kind of complicated for a Saturday morning cartoon. It isn’t the absolute worse, but the cartoon does not really go into detail of the game itself, rather being its own identity.
13 Simply Outdated
It’s one thing to be a TV adaptation from a popular video game, but also trying to compete with an already insanely popular cartoon is a gateway to failure. Battletoads only lasted for one episode and while the game was created in response to the hugely beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a TV adaptation was just not the way to go.
If it only had a pilot episode, then it’s a guaranteed bomb.
The game will always have a reputation for being entertaining and insanely difficult, but the TV pilot can be forgotten for the years to come.
12 Ripping Off A Classic
Q*bert is also one of the video games that appeared in Saturday Supercade along with a few others. There is really no plot alongside the other entry Frogger, so how did the writers decide to go on with making a story for Q*bert?
Rip off Happy Days, of course!
To make this show more cringy than it needs to be, the characters have the nerve to add the letter Q to words, which might be funny at first, but can get annoying pretty quickly. This was definitely not a popular segment and it shows.
11 Stale In Quality
Donkey Kong Junior is the last of the Saturday Supercade segments to appear on this list. Like the other two, this cartoon lacks any originality other than being a continuation of the game it’s based on. To picture what Donkey Kong Junior is like, imagine a Looney Tunes segment with Road Runner and Coyote.
Case in point, repetitive and unoriginal.
This show only lasted for thirteen episodes and it was the right call. DK Jr. is not exactly the worst to be represented in cartoon form, but we wouldn’t be doubting that there was no more of him after this cartoon ended.
10 No Interactive Fun
Pole Position is one of the earliest driving games and arguably one of the most influential. As a cartoon, it is respective and pretty much a mixture of Speed Racer and Knight Rider. Because of that, it tries to be a completely different and original show instead of being a faithful adaptation of Namco’s video game series.
The plot is even complicated for a cartoon aimed for kids. Anything involving the government should not be included in a show about race car driving. This cartoon only lasted for one season and we are relieved that there was not more than what we got.
9 Still Not As Good
Sonic Underground might have strong nostalgic attachments to kids who grew up with the show, but other than the memorable music, the cartoon went in a completely different direction. Being in a separate canon is fine, but there has to be elements from the game that fans can dig into.
This incarnation of Sonic is just all over the place.
The episodes felt uninspired and lack any substance. It’s nice to see Family Matters’ Jaleel White reprise his role, but that alone does not help the cartoon. Sonic Underground is a nice nostalgic treat, but it does suffer from complicated plots and featuring unneeded filler characters.
8 Not That Exciting
Pac-Man is a recognizable video game icon and his arcade games are simple, yet fun. The cartoon from the 80s however, not exactly an interesting take on this character. The episodes are formulaic as they can get, and the characters must be given personalities to make the show work.
Sadly, that does not work. Pac-Man is not known for having a personality, but for being a playable character in an ordinary, but at the same time, the legendary arcade game. If anything, the cartoon Pac-Man is bland and not that memorable.
7 What Is That CGI?
Donkey Kong Country at the time had it going for the use of CGI to be reminiscent of the games. But if you look at it today, it looks dated and somewhat spooky. Like with other cartoons trying to add more to what is really not needed, this show added unnecessary characters that are strictly from the show and they don’t add anything to the table.
Not to mention, the musical numbers are just so out of place and abysmal. We would rather take the catchy DK Rap than any kind of music that comes out of this cartoon.
6 Just As Annoying
Rabbids Invasion seems like a good adaptation of Raving Rabbids, but it tones down the violence which is not that serious to begin with, making this catered to little kids rather than fans of the games. For that matter, it plays with the viewers' intelligence, so that also adds to how this show is more fitted for a younger audience.
The humans are also displayed as idiots to make the Rabbids themselves look intelligent. Enjoy the games than this annoying excuse of a cartoon, since the Rabbids give young kids ways to become troublemakers.
5 Where Memes Are Born
The Fire Emblem anime is the first exposure of the franchise in the west, way before Marth and Roy were introduced in Super Smash Bros. Melee. With only two episodes, this anime adaptation is lackluster and does not represent the first Fire Emblem game well. If there is one thing that was good about this series, it would be the memes.
Hearing Gordin say, “But Mars!” is downright hilarious and so forced that it takes away the seriousness of this anime. This OVA can be watched mostly for the laughs, but Fire Emblem deserves better than this cheesy 1996 adaptation.
4 Such An Abomination
Street Fighter as a cartoon could have worked, but its subpar animation, terrible plotlines, and cringy dialogue make the show fail altogether. It makes the Street Fighter live action movie look good, and that was also a bad adaptation.
If there is one good thing that came out of this cartoon, it is the M. Bison meme where he says, “Yes! Yes!” This cartoon is also only good for being too over-the-top and downright cheesy. It is a shock how this got two seasons despite having a negative reception overall.
3 The "Kartoon" For Kids
While Street Fighter is just as bad, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm is worse when it comes to cartoons based on fighting games. First off, Mortal Kombat is a game that is for a mature audience. Who had the nerve to create a concept of the show catering to kids? The characters might look accurate, but the plot centered around this show takes away the entire point of the game’s story.
What’s the point of this cartoon if there aren’t any fatalities or intense violence? It was a blessing that this show got canceled after one season. That way, we don’t have to hear Sonya yelling, “Kombat time!” for the umpteenth time.
2 Excuuuuuse Me, Princess!
Fans of the critically acclaimed Legend of Zelda series were surprised that there would be a cartoon based on the video game franchise. The thought was strange, and not in a good way. The show, simply titled The Legend of Zelda, just gave the games a bad image. It is somewhat reliable to the source material, but one of the problems is Link.
Link himself is a wisecracking jerk who is too thirsty for Zelda.
The catchphrase he is associated with is excruciating and makes us dislike him more. While this cartoon does take inspiration from the first two games, it still suffers from an annoying protagonist.
1 Something Seems Off
This cartoon is infamous for just how campy and bad it is. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! features the late Lou Albano as Mario and late Danny Wells as Luigi. They appear in both live action and cartoon form, which blends in strangely well with the former taking place in the beginning and end of each episode.
Unfortunately, this show relies heavily on failed slapstick.
While this show had good intentions to raise awareness of the Mario franchise, this adaptation is a huge mistake and fails to offer laughs while also being uncreative. Along with The Legend of Zelda, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! is a part of Nintendo history we would like to forget existed.