15 Forgotten Games Based on Popular TV Shows

These forgotten games prove that being associated with once-popular TV shows isn't enough to rescue you from the depths of obscurity.

Forgotten Games Based on Popular TV Shows
Photo: Fox Video Games, HBO Interactive Entertainment, Alternative Software Ltd

Much like movies, video game companies have historically been eager to make games based on popular TV shows. To be fair, certain shows do lend themselves to great games. Capcom was able to spin gold out of the Disney Afternoon animated lineup, and Konami’s big arcade hits were based on the ever-so-popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, an extremely early take on The Simpsons, and an X-Men cartoon.

Sometimes, though, you got some really weird adaptations. While some are remembered for the wrong reasons (like that Home Improvement SNES game where Tim Allen has to fight dinosaurs, robots, and vampires), others have been mostly lost to time despite being based on once-popular properties. Here are just some of the most bizarre and forgotten games based on popular TV shows.

The Real Ghostbusters arcade

15. The Real Ghostbusters (Arcade)

In 1987, developer Data East took a bird’s eye run-and-gun with crazy monster designs called Meikyuu Hunter G and spruced it up with an extra player and bells and whistles that made it qualify as a Ghostbusters tie-in. Machine guns were replaced with proton beams, Slimer was tossed in as a power-up, and The Ghostbusters theme song would play on a loop and drive you insane.

What’s rather surprising about the game is that other than Slimer being a good guy, there is no reason for it to be based on the cartoon. It looks nothing like the show, it doesn’t use any of the ghost designs, and there is no story to it other than Red Ghostbuster, Blue Ghostbuster, and Yellow Ghostbuster going around catching specters.

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The only other Real Ghostbusters game we would get would be released on Game Boy five years later. Funnily enough, that was a reskin of a Garfield game and a Mickey Mouse game. Believe me, the Kemco Crazy Castle series is a rabbit hole you do not want to dive into.

Pigs in Space

14. Pigs in Space (Atari 2600)

This obscure Atari game based on a recurring sketch from The Muppet Show was really three different games in one.

As Link, you play a take on a variation of Space Invaders where the enemy ships are chickens. Shooting Gonzo will get you extra points, and losing will transform you into a chicken. As Miss Piggy, you take part in a Frogger clone (fitting!) that involves trying to get to the ship while dodging or karate-chopping flying spaghetti and meatballs. As Strangepork, you do a vertical space shooter where you use boomerang lasers to shoot various Gonzos.

At the very least, the “BLOOP” laser noise does strangely sound like Link Hogthrob’s voice.

The Sopranos: Road to Respect

13. The Sopranos: Road to Respect (PlayStation 2)

Released during the final season’s hiatus, Sopranos: Road to Respect should have been a home run. In it, you play Joey LaRocca: a small-time criminal and bastard son of the late Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero. Tony Soprano decides to offer Joey the opportunity to make something of himself and navigate his way through a series of heightening mafia situations.

Grand Theft Auto with the Sopranos cast sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? You even get Vincent Pastore reprising his role by playing the ghost of Big Pussy (who bizarrely acts as a guide to Joey). It really should have worked, but it didn’t. What should have probably been a GTA clone ended up being more of a linear beat ‘em up powered by a buggy engine. Everything about the game felt awkward. At least it gave us the amazing prompt of “Press X to GET MADE.”

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There’s a lot to talk about with Road to Respect, but when you get down to it, the most important thing you have to remember about this whole 7 Studios fiasco is that sometimes you

Bill Nye: The Science Guy – Stop the Rock!

12. Bill Nye: The Science Guy – Stop the Rock! (PC)

First off…Stop the Rock? Okay, but am I playing as Mick Foley or the Justice Society?

The beloved Bill Nye: The Science Guy show got its own edutainment PC game back in 1996. It’s one of those PC games from that era that consists of poor CGI that’s supposed to represent real rooms and architecture but really just makes you want to claw your eyes out.

The gist of the game is that an asteroid is coming to kill us all and you and Bill Nye need to stop it. Rather than do some cool action game based around that, you just have to wander through Bill Nye’s zany headquarters and solve riddles. You’re better off sticking with Carmen Sandiego or The Magic School Bus.

The Munsters

11. The Munsters (Commodore 64, Amiga)

This Munsters game for the Commodore 64, Amiga, ZX Spectrum, MSX, and DOS isn’t much of a hidden gem. After all, despite being a family of monsters, the Munsters were never all that active. Outside of Herman’s accidental feats of strength, it’s not like they flaunted their supernaturalness to the world in any cool way. At least with the Addams Family, you can count on them to impale you or burn you alive out of pleasure.

For the most part, this game has you wander through the Munster residence trying to solve puzzles. Ghouls of all kinds attack you in various rooms, but luckily Herman has projectile bolts, Lily has fireballs, and Grandpa has…exploding bats? Sadly, there isn’t a part in the game where you get to dig through the ditches and burn through the witches as you slam in the back of your Dragula.

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M*A*S*H Atari

10. M*A*S*H (Atari 2600)

Making games based on war is hardly a new idea. Those are a dime a dozen. It’s just that while M*A*S*H was technically about the Korean War, it was more about comedy and drama than action. However, that didn’t stop someone from relating an Atari 2600 game based on the show during its final season in 1983.

To be fair, the basic premise isn’t that bad. The main part of the game has you control a helicopter with either the CPU or another player controlling another helicopter. You have to fly around trees and pick up as many wounded soldiers as you can carry before returning to the base tent. The second part, which is more of a bonus round, sees you perform surgery on the wounded soldiers. It very much feels like the developer was more interested in making Operation for Atari.

There were reportedly plans to make a sequel but said plans were seemingly shot down. They spun in. There were no survivors.

Thunder in Paradise

9. Thunder in Paradise (Philips CD-i)

Between Hulk Hogan’s classic run in the WWF and his rebirth as Hollywood Hogan, there was an extra cheesy few years where he spent half of his time trying to get his movie career off the ground. During that time, he starred in Thunder in Paradise: an action show where he was a former navy seal who got into “we have the A-Team at home” adventures.

Thunder in Paradise ended up getting its own video game for the infamous Philips CD-i. In it, you basically take part in a new episode of the show that involves a Terminator going haywire and JT from Step-by-Step helping save the day. The playable parts of that premise take the form of a live-action rail shooter. For instance, there’s a level where you’re on Hogan’s boat and numerous levels that ask you to shoot a bunch of generic bad guys who seemingly got a rate on henchmen uniforms.

What’s that, you say? Thunder in Paradise wasn’t a popular show by any metric? I’ll have you know that if you were to ask Hulk Hogan about it, he’d insist that every episode was watched by 100 million Thundermaniacs, brother.

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Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game

8. Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game (Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PC)

Grey’s Anatomy ended up getting its own video game for the DS, Wii, and Windows back in 2009. The whole thing is basically a visual novel featuring stylized CGI versions of the cast in what I feel is actually the right balance of real-life likenesses and video game avatars. You end up controlling the medical staff in a lengthy episode based on an outbreak and a hospital-wide quarantine.

What makes this one stand out as bizarre is how there are a bunch of minigames sprinkled throughout. Some of the minigames see you work through the characters’ feelings, while others are based around doing medical stuff to patients. It comes off like a weaker version of WarioWare with less hustle to it. Then again, I don’t think WarioWare has any minigames based on ripping scabs off of a stranger’s legs.

The Fonz

7. The Fonz (Arcade)

Fifteen years before Sega introduced Sonic the Hedgehog, they had a way cooler speedster on the payroll.

To capitalize on the success of Happy Days and the insane popularity of Arthur Fonzarelli, Sega released a motorcycle-based arcade machine based on the Fonz himself. Actually, the game was originally called Man TT and then Moto-Cross, but Sega decided to just put the Fonz’s image all over the machine for the sake of roping people in.

While incredibly simple by today’s standards, the game was actually quite revolutionary. The basic idea is that you are the Fonz, riding his motorcycle down the street and you have a limited amount of time to reach your goal. You must both dodge traffic and keep from riding off the ever-scrolling road. If you fail at either, the screen and controls will let out some feedback similar to an early version of rumble technology.

Their timing was impeccable, at least, as Fonz was only a year away from jumping over that pesky shark.

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Desperate Housewives

6. Desperate Housewives (PC)

Ah, Desperate Housewives. So many memories. Remember that episode where that one housewife got so mad at the other housewife? What about the episode with the misunderstanding?

Okay, I don’t know the first thing about Desperate Housewives other than Teri Hatcher from Lois and Clark being in it. Still, it’s hard not to be taken aback when you learn there was a Desperate Housewives game released in 2006 for PC!

Where there are some cooking, gardening, and card-playing minigames thrown into the gameplay pot, Desperate Housewives is really little more than a Sims knockoff with coherent voice acting and a narrative. The narrative is that you’re a housewife who just moved into town with your husband and son and you’re trying to fit in while dealing with amnesia. It’s somehow both incredibly bizarre and exactly what you’d expect. Hey, Lois Lane’s certainly been in worse games.

Monty Python's Flying Circus

5. Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Commodore 64, Amiga)

Featured on the Amiga, Commodore 64, and the other usual hardware suspects of that era, 1990’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus was an odd bird.

In the game, you play a character named DP Gumby who has lost his brains and tries to recover them through some platforming and shoot ‘em up levels. The whole thing is done in the style of Terry Gilliam’s iconic animation…for better and for worse. It certainly recreates his design and humor of the show with little issue, but the game itself becomes such a surreal nightmare that it’s easy to get lost in it all. One moment your head is placed on a fish’s body and you’re flying around. A moment later, your head is placed on a spring. It’s all more than a little disorienting.

If you decide to stick with this Dadaist adventure, your enthusiasm may waver sooner than you think. Shooting projectiles as a fish is a novelty that only goes so far.

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4. COPS (Arcade)

Based on the Fox docu-series with the catchy “Bad Boys” theme song, this arcade game from Atari uses LaserDisc technology (think Dragon’s Lair) to replicate the look of the show. It then hands you a gun and asks you to shoot at the innocent until proven guilty. Wait…what?

Actually, this game features two main forms of action, both presented in live action: shooting or driving. The cabinet even comes complete with a gun and steering wheel. Each mode offers four locations you can choose from. The shooting is your usual target practice stuff (including a civilian who blatantly leans right in front of you with her arms up yelling “Don’t shoot!”), while the driving portion strangely forces you to lose fuel whenever you turn in the wrong direction.

Beyond any personal feelings you may have about the COPS series, the general idea of the show was clearly to humanize the police involved (as well as some of the criminals) and to bring those moments of police work down to earth. However, the arcade game opens every level with annoyed officers giving you instructions on how to help clean up the street before telling you to shoot a bunch of perps. It’s….a lot.

Homey D. Clown

3. Homey D. Clown (PC)

Before the days of Mad TV, Fox’s In Living Color sketch show offered five seasons of Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier, 28 different Wayans siblings, and some guy named Jim Carrey. It was a great show that gave us plenty of fun recurring sketches, including Homey D. Clown: a Damon Wayans character who was too cantankerous to do regular clown stuff and would instead just smack children with a sock.

Wouldn’t you know it, Homey got his own PC game back in 1993. It was a point-and-click adventure where Homey hears about a TV gig that pays better than the terrible one he’s stuck with. He has to make his way through miles of urban decay in order to put together the makings of a suit so he can sneak into that job interview.

Try to be surprised but it’s way worse than you think. When it comes to Homey, don’t play that.

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Beavis and Butt-Head

2. Beavis and Butt-Head (Arcade)

Back in the mid-90s, Beavis and Butt-Head came to SNES, Genesis, and Game Gear in adventures based on them trying to see Gwar in concert. There were even a couple of point-and-click adventure games released for the PC. All of those games are of varying quality, but many of them are remembered in some way.

However, this entry is devoted to the Beavis and Butt-Head arcade game. While that arcade game was never actually finished (despite being promoted on MTV), there are a handful of prototypes spread around the world. They allowed you to play as Beavis and/or Butt-Head in a beat ‘em up that feels like they’ve wandered into an Art Crumb acid trip. The bosses include such characters as the bearded lady at a freak show, a giant lounge singer, and a one-eyed hippy guru who will grab you and floss you through his nose.

I’m not sure how long it was in development before they decided to throw it all away, but the game’s imagery is clearly based on the earliest episodes. Could this have been another Simpsons arcade game, or was there a good reason this one got canceled beyond how weird it was?

Sgt. Saunders’ Combat!

1. Sgt. Saunders’ Combat! (Super Famicom)

Combat! was a World War II drama that ran for over 150 hour-long episodes in the 1960s. Starring Vic Morrow as Sergeant “Chip” Saunders, it depicted the struggle of being an American soldier fighting the Germans in Europe, and offered a fairly grim and serious take on the subject for its time and format. Nearly 30 years after the show’s debut, developer Play Avenue released Sgt. Saunders’ Combat!: a Super Famicom strategy game that was only available in Japan.

Yes, a game based on an old-timey TV show about the US’s involvement in World War II was only available in Japan. Sure, the show was syndicated in Japan for a time, but that’s still such a strange choice for an exclusive. There’s also the aforementioned matter of the adaptation being released about three decades after the source material’s debut.

Still, Combat! isn’t the worst basis for a video game. The show certainly lends itself to a video game adaptation more than something like M*A*S*H does. Here, the show is reimagined as a turn-based strategy war game that uses images and character names from the show (as well as a 16-bit take on the opening credits) and mixes it with some real-life names in the war to add some authenticity. There’s really nothing quite like this on the SNES/Super Famicom, which makes its already strange existence that much more bizarre.

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