Video game cartoons are notorious for their quality, both good and bad. As video games rose into prominence with Atari in the early 80s and again with Nintendo a few years later, the marketing machine went to work, churning out as much licensed crap as possible. And let me tell you, crap doesn’t even begin to cover it.
While Japan has certainly flooded the market with anime like Gungrave or Power Stone, I want to focus on shows made for an English speaking audience, not imports (sorry Pokemon), or else we’d be here all day.
First, in no particular order, is Double Dragon (1993). While the quality is a mixed bag, I will commend them for going all out. With so little to go off of from the games, they had a lot of inventing to. After all, there were toys to sell! My REDACTED – grade friend bought them all. They were fun to play with. They often battled the Ronin Warriors. I didn’t play much of the game, but I don’t remember the car, or the frequent transformations. And where’s Alyssa Milano (meta joke!). The most surprising fact is this lasted two seasons, meaning, someone thought it was a good idea to make more of this. Also, every name is a cliche (Shadown Khan, Fireball, Oldest Dragon, etc.).
Nintendo is certainly the worst offender with programs like The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, The Legend of Zelda, and Captain N. Fans today wonder why Nintendo doesn’t license out their properties anymore, this is why. And the movie. Mostly the movie. Though these didn’t help. Regardless, Nintendo wasn’t finished assaulting audiences with this subpar crap. The 90s saw one more Nintendo product brought to animation, Donkey Kong Country (1996).Much of the characters and design fell in line with the Country games. To be fair, this was the best Nintendo based show yet, not that there was much competition. Like bananas? Like song performance? Then DKC has you covered. Oh, and the animation was horrifyingly awful.
While I’ve never played the games, I did watch Earthworm Jim (1995). From what I can tell (I read a lot of game magazines as a kid), the translation was pretty spot on. Jim was the first in a long line of kids shows based on irreverent humor. Bolstering the quality is the fine voice cast; Dan Castallaneta (Homer Simpson – The Simpsons), Charles Adler (Buster Bunny – Tiny Toon Adventures), and Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck – Darkwing Duck) to name a few. Again, not amazing but certainly the best on this list.
Back in the day, Electronic Arts had a sports game series, Mutant League (1994), though I’m not sure it can be called a series with only two entries (Mutant League Football and Mutant League Hockey). An earthquake during a football released fumes from hidden toxic waste, mutating the players and fans, including MVP Bones Justice. The Mutant League was created where the mutants played all manner of sports. Honestly, I could completely see this one happening, in New Jersey. I don’t mean that be a pop shot either, I did a report about it once.
Skipping ahead a few years, Viva Piñata (2006) was a thing. While the show was a bit much, I can attest that the games are amazingly fun. You’re only robbing yourself! Anywho, piñatas with candy/animal names lived on Piñata Island, hoping to get filled with candy and be sent to parties a stuff. Surprisingly this didn’t touch upon the duality of living a life to earn a noble death, as it’s apparent that all the piñatas had a death wish. Oh, the animation was atrocious.
Finally, a few quick fires. Both Bubsy (1993) and Battletoads (1992) had pilots that were never picked up. While I’ve never seen Bubsy I can confirm that not picking up Battletoads was a smart decision. Currently, there’s a Pac-Man cartoon titled Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures (2013). It’s a CG version of Pac-Man, if that tells you anything (which it should). And lastly, other games to cartoons I’ve written about; Video Power, Mega Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Carmen Sandiego.
What’s your favorite video game cartoon? Any good ones I missed? Comment below!
In addition to THN’s Saturday Morning Cartoons and Nerd at the Movies, Tony writes for his own site, thecredhulk.com, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates on Facebook or Twitter. Drop by and tell ‘em hi.
Watched ’em anyway.