Since 1991, The Simpsons have starred in more than 20 video games.
How many have you played? Two? Ten? Maybe you’ve never even been near any of them. Still, it’s unlikely that anyone but the most hardcore fan has actually played every single one. Given the bizarre scrapes the characters tend to get into, the Simpsons clan are ideal fodder for video games, especially with their Halloween specials introducing all kinds of messed-up antics ripe for adaptation (Kang and Kodos, robots, monsters, superheroes etc.).
Still, like any franchise worth its salt, the Simpsons has inspired its fair share of bad video games. As with entertainment powerhouses like Batman, Spider-Man, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Indiana Jones, bad games starring the Simpsons might just outnumber the great ones.
So, with the 28th season set to start screening in just a couple of days (in the US, at least), this is the perfect time to cast an eye over the best and worst games starring one of America’s most famous families …
- 1 The Best Simpsons Games
- 2 The Worst Simpsons Games
The Best Simpsons Games
The Simpsons Arcade Game
Not only was this the first Simpsons game released (though others swiftly followed), it’s also regarded by plenty of fans as the best ever made.
In the tradition of 90s arcade games, The Simpsons allows up to four players to take control as Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Bart fight their way through Springfield. The game does an awesome job of capturing the Simpsons’ world, with all its colour, humour, and strangeness.
Today, the game still looks gorgeous, and while beating dudes up as Lisa or Marge might feel a bit weird, the developers clearly had fun adding a distinctly comic tone – just check out Marge using a vacuum cleaner as a makeshift weapon, or Lisa’s jump-rope-based attacks.
The Simpsons Arcade Game is still well worth a play now, 25 years on.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run
In the wake of Grand Theft Auto III, a fair few GTA clones hit the market. Sure, The Simpsons: Hit & Run was one of them – but it’s actually a pretty great game nonetheless.
It doesn’t have anything close to the sheer depth, innovation, or variety of GTA III, but it’s still worth your time.
Being able to explore a living, breathing 3D Springfield is awesome: run into the Kwik-E-Mart to buy a new outfit, go into the school and meet Groundskeeper Willie, or just kick recognisable characters around for hours on end.
Springfield is recreated with impressive detail, and even now this looks terrific, thanks to the chunky cartoonish style. It might not keep you coming back again and again, but The Simpsons: Hit & Run immerses you in the series’ world like few games had before.
The Simpsons Game
Released to coincide with The Simpsons Movie back in 2007, The Simpsons Game received a warm welcome, and it’s easy to see why.
With the obligatory open-world structure, The Simpsons Game allows you to wander around Springfield, delve into various missions and challenges, and unlock characters. The graphics are incredible, even today, giving the game the authentic look and feel of an episode, and there’s some nice humour too.
It’s fun, nicely-made, and has pretty much everything Simpsons fans could want in a game.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out
Mobile games have become big business in the past few years, and many of the world’s most beloved franchises have their own paid or freemium apps out there. The Simpsons: Tapped Out is one of the best examples, demonstrating how creative development teams can get when given a different platform to play with.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a SimCity-style world-builder, giving players the freedom to construct Springfield after Homer accidentally destroys it (what else would you expect?). The aim is to recreate the town as it was, and bring characters back where they belong.
Along the way, there are fun quests to complete, and the game is constantly updated with themed packages (generally tied-in to holiday seasons). Sure, the microtransactions might bug some players (though you’re under no obligation to pay real money), but there’s lots of fun to be had in maintaining your own little Springfield nevertheless.
Krusty’s Fun House
Krusty’s Fun House was a different kind of Simpsons game when it was released across numerous consoles in 1992/3: it focused on Krusty the Clown rather than any of the key family-members themselves.
Another brave move? Making this a Lemmings-style adventure rather than a straight platformer or scrolling beat-em-up.
Playing as Krusty, you’re tasked with creating a path to ensure a pack of rats reach an extermination machine, while other animals try to stop him. Other characters, such as Bart and Sideshow Mel, cameo as operators of said extermination machines.
The graphics and structure are nicely-made, and this is still one of the more original, unique Simpsons games ever made.
The Worst Simpsons Games
The Simpsons Wrestling
Think the Simpsons world lends itself well to a one-on-one fighting game? There’s certainly some potential there: you could easily create some kind of bizarre concept that sees the characters thrust into a video-game world and forced to fight their way out, or a Mortal Kombat-like tournament rocking Springfield.
Either way, the team behind The Simpsons Wrestling squandered any potential and dropped the proverbial ball. Big time.
The concept of a wrestling game featuring Springfield’s cast of characters is odd enough, but it becomes even more so when you realise just how little wrestling is actually involved. This plays more as a straight brawler masquerading as a grappler, with the presence of a ring, ropes, and body-pins the only actual links to the wrestling world.
The voice-acting and sound effects are great, but the graphics are pretty shonky and the music is unbearable.
The Simpsons Skateboarding
Thought The Simpsons Wrestling was scraped from the bottom of the big barrel of ‘Simpsons Video Game Ideas’?
Well, you thought wrong.
The Simpsons Skateboarding is a bizarre concept. Sure, everyone knows Bart loves to ‘board – but that’s where the show’s skateboarding ends. Basing an entire game around the sport was clearly an attempt to ride the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater wagon, but this has none of that series’ flair, addictiveness, or depth.
The graphics are dull, and the whole thing feels lazily cobbled together.
The Itchy & Scratchy Game
Itchy and Scratchy should be the perfect characters to base a game around, but this one is incredibly forgettable.
Playing as Itchy, your goal is to chase Scratchy down and kill him, by way of running through stages and fighting other enemies along the way. The game was aimed at children as young as six, which makes sense from a cynical marketing point of view, but surely a hardcore, gratuitously-violent game for older players would have worked better?
This was heavily criticised at release, mainly for its repetitiveness and clunky controls, though its visuals are nice enough. Overall, it’s not one to bother with, Simpsons fans!
Bart and the Beanstalk
Surely mixing the series with a beloved fairy tale is a winning idea, right?!
Sadly, no, it’s not.
The idea behind this 1994 game is just as strange as The Simpsons Wrestling and Skateboarding – and the resulting experience is about as much fun.
While it looks decent for a Game Boy release, the gameplay is frustratingly hard and unforgiving, and not even the most obsessive fan should bother with this today.
Bartman Meets Radioactive Man
Radioactive Man is surely one of the best candidates for a Simpsons tie-in game. With his super-powers, colourful costume, and obligatory sidekick in Fallout Boy, he could have starred in a whole bunch of adventures over the years.
Bartman Meets Radioactive Man, though, is something of a missed opportunity. The platforming is often frustrating, with awkward jumps and mechanics, while the music and sound effects are headache-inducing.
On the positive side, the graphics are pretty cute. Bartman himself is a nice visual, with his purple mask and cape standing out against the sometimes-drab backdrops.
What are the best and worst Simpsons games you’ve played? Let us know!