The Best Simpsons Games

Starting today and for the next 12 days DVRs across the US will be running around the clock to capture the first ever Simpsons marathon on FXX.  We couldn’t be happier to revisit the classics like “Marge vs. the Monorail,” “22 Short Films about Springfield,” or our favorite episode ever, “Homer’s Enemy.”  IGN is hosting a helpful rundown of airings right here for those who are curious.

We thought we’d continue this pomp and circumstance by commemorating the contributions to video games the Simpsons have made for over the past two decades.  Tragically there aren’t many standouts but there are some solid memories here for us and a few games worth playing even today; so, without further ado, CoopDojo proudly presents the Top Simpsons Video Games ever!

 3.  The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare (October 12th, 1992) – SNES, Genesis

Full disclosure, we spent hours playing this on our SNES after school so this title easily was on our shortlist despite it not being very good.  Reading about the game now makes it sound like it was designed an escaped mental patient.  The game pulls a Super Mario 2 having you play through a dream sequence of the lead, in this case obviously Bart.  At a high level, it appears as though you’re completing your homework while unconscious as the quality of your grade revealed at the end of the game is judged purely on how much you accomplish in the game.  But you probably won’t notice that considering how distracted you’ll be by the game itself.

Bart’s Nightmare is comprised of two parts.  First, you’ll navigate what appears to be the neighborhood in front of the Simpsons’ house (Evergreen Terrace to enthusiasts but called Windy World here).  Your mission here is to find a piece of homework to unlock the next section of the game but you’ll have to contend with a variety of traditional Simpsons tropes that cause absolutely insane reactions.  For instance running into a fairy version of Lisa will turn you into a frog however she’s helpful if you’ve fallen in with Jimbo and gang.  Of course you can avoid Jimbo completely if you find Skinner who will creepily dress you in your Sunday School attire.  It’s just insane.

Thankfully the second part of the game, accessed by touching one of the homework pages, is more compelling.  There are 5 mini-games you must complete to successfully win the page.  These sequences include a Rampage like sequence where you play as Bartzilla, a level where you fight off germs in Bart’s blood stream via an air pump, an Indiana Bart sequence, multiple Itchy and Scratchy fights (which were ridiculously challenging compared to the rest of the game) and finally, our favorite, a Bartman flying segment as you coast over Springfield battling Barney, Smithers, and eventually Mr. Burns.

In retrospect the game is obviously wildly all over the map with its gameplay and none of it is really that good.  It arrived though early in our gaming history and on the SNES which didn’t have an abundance of competition at the time and considering the Simpsons were still “cool” in 1993, this was a must play title for us.  We enjoy it now for nostalgic reasons but certainly don’t condemn anyone who switches on the Game Genie to see this one through.

2. The Simpsons Game (2007) – DS, Wii, Xbox 360, PS2, PS3, and PSP

This game went otherwise unnoticed by us at the Dojo but it’s worth highlighting here. The story is told tongue-in-cheek as the Simpsons find out they have to participate in yet another video game.  Self-referential throughout and aiming jokes at video games (Marge campaigns to stop the sale of the new violent video game Grand Theft Scratchy) and even aiming jokes at its publisher, EA, The Simpsons Game at least has its sense of humor in the right place.

You play as the 4 non-baby Simpsons members in this platformer teaming up in pairs for each level to solve basic puzzle elements (e.g. Bart’s slingshot shutting down a machine).  As you play you’ll help each of the Simpsons accomplish their own personal goals before the game Inceptions itself and you travel into the game engine facing off with the game’s designers.  

Unfortunately all of these good ideas, which are surprising considering the actual show was considered to be less than inspired by now, are simply marred down by poor controls and a contentious camera.  Compared to other similar titles that were out around this time like Futurama and Family Guy, The Simpsons Game was substantially better, but certainly not enough to merit much favor with critics with the 360 version averaging a 71 on Metacritic.  It’s a shame too as the recent South Park game proved that you can, in fact, make a great game off an animated property with years of equity.

1. The Simpsons Arcade Game (March 4th, 1991) - Arcade

As oft cited by fans of the show (we picture them as Comic Book Guy), the Simpsons peaked a while ago and that’s certainly true of the games too.  The original Simpsons game arrived in US arcades in the early 90s from the powerhouse Konami who, in that same year gave us TMNT: Turtles in Time and Sunset Riders and thusly defined our childhood arcade experiences.  They didn’t deviate much from their winning 4 player beat-em-up gameplay because it simply worked and still makes for a compelling game today on XBLA or for MAME enthusiasts.

Weirdly the story involves a jewelry heist by Smithers gone awry and Maggie getting kidnapped as she clutches the diamond thinking it’s a pacifier.  You can play as any of the nuclear Simpsons family members through a few of the show’s early scene pieces such as Moe’s Tavern, Krustryland, and the Power Plant - remember, they only had around 3 seasons of show to exploit so far. 

The game encouraged cooperation including special attacks only available when played with a buddy as the family would join together to perform unique moves.  Seeing Home and Marge “dance” together by cartwheeling around the screen knocking back all enemies was our favorite.  It’s a winning gameplay formula and digestible experience that takes only about an hour to complete with friends.  We only wish they had made a sequel after around season 8 when the town of Springfield was much more developed.  How cool would it be to face off against Troy McClure or, better yet, the ghost of Frank Grimes?

What Simpsons games did we forget that you loved?  Let us know in the comments below.  In the meantime, we’ll be off watching the marathon on FXX like the rest of you!