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The Simpsons is one of the longest-running TV shows, spanning over 30 seasons, its characters and humor have become a part of pop culture. As is usual with popular franchises, they’ve also had some ventures into video games over the years, with titles that have had varying levels of acclaim.
Since the family’s first game, Bart vs. The Space Mutants, which was not so highly acclaimed at the time, until the legendary Simpsons: The Arcade Game and Simpsons: Hit & Run, which became a timeless hit, The Simpsons had several landmark games.
Check out some of the best games from one of the most famous families of all time.
The Simpsons’ first game wasn’t quite the linear platformer game the public might have expected, but many players have fond memories of it. You played as Bart trying to stop an alien invasion by doing unexpected things like getting rid of purple objects or taking everyone’s hat off, which was an interesting idea at the time as you were not just supposed to reach the end of the level.
Some objects could just be sprayed over, but others were like puzzles you had to solve, like dropping sheets over them. If you collected all the letters in a family member’s name, like Maggie in the first stage, then you’d have their help when fighting the end of level bosses.
The Genesis version of the game was the best one as it came out a year later than other versions on NES, Master System, and PC, solving several of their problems. It had better graphics and more buttons to work with, dismissing the need for weird button combinations, although it was still a bit weird to control.
A better and more linear adventure came in 2001 with Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror for the Game Boy Color. Considering the popularity of the Simpsons’ Halloween episodes, it’s weird that we haven’t seen more of these portrayed in games.
The titles bring each member of the family to live its own horror story, sometimes with different gameplay. Bart and Homer had the more solid parts of gameplay as a platformer game, while Marge had shoot’em up stages, Lisa got stealth ones, and Maggie had a flying stage inspired by the movie “The Fly”.
The Gameplay can be a little slow at times, but it’s mostly straightforward run, jump, and shot with the occasional scavenger hunt. Characters’ sprites are big, detailed, and very colorful, which was amazing to see on the Game Boy Color screen.
Bart vs. The World was a fun little platformer with straightforward stages where Bart travels around the world and fights relatives of Mr. Burns from different countries. Each country had its own action stage and a few minigames where players could earn extra lives, which could come in handy depending on the version of the game you had.
The NES version suffered from similar problems as in Bart vs. The Space Mutants, frustrating gameplay caused mainly by bad hit detection and controls that didn’t feel all that responsive for a platformer. Other versions of the game were a lot better, including the Master System one, but especially the Amiga version.
If you were lucky enough to play Bart vs. The World on Amiga, all the problems from the NES and Master System versions are gone and the gameplay is a lot better. Although not many people played this version, it was probably the best Simpsons game at the time.
One of the most interesting Simpsons games for mobile devices is The Simpsons: Tapped Out, a game that uses the traditional mechanics of building cities from free-to-play games but with a Simpsons theme. After Homer had an accident at the nuclear power plant, the entire city of Springfield has been wiped off the map and players need to rebuild it in their own way.
The game is very fun and gives you the chance to bring your own Springfield to life by getting Simpsons’ characters to inhabit it and fulfill quests to earn money and experience. The graphics are very sharp and capture the essence of the cartoon really well. It’s an always-online game, but that usually isn’t much of a problem, and you can also visit your friends’ own Springfield if you have more people playing with you.
The only major problem is that it relies heavily on free-to-play mechanics too, like waiting timers and microtransactions. On the other hand, that’s probably why it’s still active after these many years and it keeps seasonal content coming through updates.
One of the Simpsons’ first big 3D games was Road Rage, clearly inspired by Crazy Taxi on the Dreamcast. In this game, the player needed to drive the inhabitants of Springfield to different destinations, and it was the first time we saw a glimpse of what a 3D Springfield could look like, even if a little limited.
Players could choose from a couple of characters in the Simpsons universe and unlock more of them and new parts of the town the more they played. While Crazy Taxi was more about mastering the special techniques of arcade gameplay, Road Rage was more on the light side, unlocking content as the player went along and trusting the franchise charisma to drive it home.
Although it wasn’t very deep, it certainly was fun, especially because of some nice character dialogue. We could say Simpsons Road Rage walked so Simpsons Hit & Run could… well, run.
Around the same time that The Simpsons made their big-screen debut, Electronic Arts’ The Simpsons Game hit consoles. Technically speaking, this is the most advanced game from the family to date, with cel-shaded graphics that looked like the cartoon and big levels to explore.
The gameplay itself is like a platformer game where each member of the family has certain special abilities and each stage is like an episode with its own peculiarities. The writing is one of the game’s strongest points, as it came from a time when the Simpsons were much more self-aware, making fun of themselves and other games from that period.
The game is a bit short, with a campaign of approximately 8 hours, but what was considered a major flaw back then it’s a nice adventure nowadays that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
One of the best and more beloved Simpsons’ games, which could easily compete for the top spot, is Konami’s multiplayer arcade game, called just “The Simpsons” back in 1991 but usually now referred to as The Simpsons Arcade for clarity and disambiguation.
The game is a traditional four-player beat’em up, similar to the company’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade, but with the Simpsons characters on a rescue mission after Mr. Burns kidnaps Maggie. Each player could join as one of the family members and it was possible to combine their abilities for special moves, like Bart piggybacking on Homer or Bart and Lisa running while holding their hands.
The journey is filled with cameos from various Springfield characters and the action is fun and enjoyable, even if a bit simple and short. Recently, Arcade1Up started selling the game again for those interested in having an arcade at home. You can check it out on their official website.
The top place for the best Simpson’s game, however, goes to The Simpsons: Hit & Run, a game heavily inspired by the Grand Theft Auto series. For the first time, players were able to roam freely in an open-world Springfield and perform a lot of different missions with different vehicles from the Simpsons show and clothes to customize the family, all with the characteristic humor the series is known for.
Most of the gameplay happens when the player is inside a vehicle, be it with races, fetch quests, or trying to trash someone else’s car, but it’s also possible to get out of the car and explore. Seeing Springfield as an open world was a big step back then. There are points of interest all around the town and many easter eggs for fans to discover while they fight an invasion of mechanical wasps.
Some other games on the list might have better graphics and even better jokes at times, but Simpsons Hit & Run has the best Springfield. The city feels alive as a character in its own right, where players can spend hours just having fun and feeling like they’re part of the show.
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