As Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” The same could be said for video game designers who create games based on literally any old movie or TV show they can think of. Problem is, many shows and movies (even great ones) simply aren’t video game material, leaving the resulting product equal parts awful and insane.
Here are some franchises that made for great viewing, but that invited nothing but head-scratches from confused gamers when attached to a controller.
12. Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit (SNES, 1994)
Home Improvement was a 90s sitcom starring Tim Allen as a supposed alpha-male raising a family, while hosting a local-access talk show about tools. Outside of maybe a table saw simulation, it shouldn’t be possible to turn that concept into a video game. And yet someone did, with Power Tool Pursuit barging uninvited onto the Super Nintendo in 1994.
The game’s “plot” is that Tim Taylor has lost a brand-new line of power tools, and needs to wander various TV studios to find them. For some reason, said studios are overrun with dangerous enemies like mummies, dinosaurs, ghosts, and robots. You fight them off with various power tools such as a nail gun, a blowtorch, and a chainsaw that shoots waves of energy. The only way any of this happens on the show is if you were to take mushrooms before watching it.
In the end, you beat the final boss (a giant, walking tank) and learn the whole thing was a big joke Al and the kids played on Tim. Remember, all those monsters Tim fought were real, meaning he risked his life time and again, for nothing. Amazingly, Tim resists the urge to immediately turn the blowtorch on the pranksters.
11. Wayne’s World (Various Systems, 1993)
“Wayne’s World” started out as a Saturday Night Live sketch before being adapted into a couple of movies starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey as two slackers hosting a goofy talk show in their basement. Somehow, the first movie was adapted into a game and if that knowledge makes you want to blow chunks, we understand.
The plot is as basic as it is nuts: Wayne and Garth get sucked into a video game and the evil alien inside kidnaps Garth. It’s now up to a giant-headed Wayne to wander music stores and cafes filled with evil music notes, evil pianos, and evil doughnuts to find him. He shoots them with energy waves from his guitar and yells “NOT!” everytime he gets hit. That might be a fun game … Yeah and monkeys might fly out of our butt.
But that’s just the SNES/Genesis version. The NES/Game Boy version doesn’t mention aliens or kidnappings at all, meaning Wayne and Garth are just wandering their town, fighting evil drums and zombies for literally no discernible reason. Also, they use a handgun, which is less surreal than an energy guitar though almost as ridiculous. Guess Wayne needed that gun rack after all …
10. Wizard of Oz (SNES, 1993)
At first thought, a Wizard of Oz video game could work, since the movie’s one big adventure in a strange land. But then you see what the SNES game developed by Manley & Associates actually gave us and you realize how wrong you were to ever think such a thing.
In this game, the Wicked Witch has dognapped Toto, and you have to get her back. To do so, you follow the Yellow Brick Road while battling literally everything in sight. Lemons, bluebirds, water faucets, teeth, living loveseats — if it moves, it wants poor Dorothy dead. Speaking of Dorothy, her main weapon (aside from a magic wand) is just plain kicking everybody to death. Yes, in this game you can just kick everything and win, which really doesn’t seem whimsical enough for a game about the Land of Oz.
Once you find the Wizard, he informs Dorothy her shoes have no more magic, but he’s sending her back to Kansas anyway. This is presumably to make up for how the Good Witch failed to tell Dorothy about clicking her heels right from the start. That could have saved everybody so much trouble, and given Dorothy’s feet some much-needed rest.
9. Beavis and Butt-Head (SNES, Genesis, 1993)
Beavis and Butt-Head was about two morons who watched TV and grunted all day. Somehow, that became a video game, all based around the boys trying to get into a GWAR concert.
The SNES version is fairly straightforward: Beavis and Butt-Head do a bunch of stupid stuff in order to see GWAR for free. This doesn’t happen, so they break in and beat everybody senseless until they make it onstage with GWAR. The Genesis version, meanwhile, offers more weirdness, as the boys’ tickets are torn up through a series of ridiculous events. They then have to walk around town and solve various puzzles to gather the pieces up. One such puzzle involves feeding rat-infested fast food to a customer who then vomits up a ticket stub. That’s pretty disgusting, but also par for the course with Beavis and Butt-Head.
The Genesis ending might be the worst assault on eyes ever, as the boys wind up onstage with GWAR, dancing around in nothing but skimpy bondage gear. To quote our heroes, “this sucks.”
8 Beethoven: The Ultimate Canine Caper (SNES, 1993)
You might remember Beethoven, the movie about a St. Bernard and the family who loved him. You may not remember his SNES title, which may just be one of the kookiest games ever created.
Basically, Beethoven’s puppies have gone missing and the titular good boy has to find them. This involves Beethoven unleashing superpowers he never had in the movies, like death barking — supersonic death waves that few can survive. For everyone else, there’s water. If the dog gets wet, he can shake the water off his fur, and if it hits an enemy they die. Sometimes, these “enemies” are just innocent skateboarding kids whose only crime was being in the way. Bad dog!
Between the inane plot, ridiculous weapons, and the failed attempt at making a four-legged animal controllable, this game probably would have been better off had it been about the actual Beethoven instead. We’ll take gathering lost symphonies over lost puppies any day.
7. Plan 9 From Outer Space (Amiga, AtarI ST, 1992)
It’s a terrible movie, so of course Plan 9 From Outer Space would make for a terrible game. To its minimal credit, developer Gremlin Graphics at least realized how bad its source material was, and makes it part of the plot. That still doesn’t make the game fun; just a tiny bit justified in its existence.
In this point-and-click game, Bela Lugosi’s body double steals the film, so he could add more of him and less of Lugosi. It’s up to you to find the film’s reels and then go through them, frame by frame, to eliminate any footage of the body double Bela added by himself. So in essence, you’re editing the movie by watching it, something nobody should do unless the robots from Mystery Science Theater 3000 are there to riff the pain away. Also, if Ed Wood had edited the movie as you’re required to in the game, maybe it wouldn’t have turned out so putrid in the first place.
6. The Blues Brothers (SNES, 1993)
Absolutely nothing about the SNES Blues Brothers game makes sense, from the story down to the gameplay. Of all possible things to happen to Jake and Elwood Blues, they get sucked into a jukebox fraught with evil and danger, and the pair must escape in time to perform a show. Luckily, each stage offers cake, which inexplicably turns Jake and Elwood into jacked-up, shirtless muscle heads. Yes, that’s a real feature. Imagine Altered Beast, but with sunglasses.
Unlike many games from its era, Blues Brothers features plenty of enemies, but no bosses. You just wander each stage, hopping on mushrooms and shooting vinyl records at evil owls and sentient bear traps until you reach the jukebox that takes you to the next stage. After a couple dozen stages, the Brothers are free to be blue once again. They don’t fight any Big Bad to escape, they just…do. Whatever evil being trapped them in there clearly didn’t care much about their job.
5. Dennis the Menace (Various Systems, 1993)
Thankfully, this adaptation of the 1993 Dennis the Menace movie doesn’t have you stalking Mr. Wilson and pelting him with slingshots until he has a heart attack and dies. But what the game does give us is almost as insane.
As five-year-old Dennis, you’re charged with tracking down the criminal who made off with your two best friends and Mr. Wilson’s coin collection. This involves you wandering town, slingshotting and spitballing evil cats, bats, rats, birds, bouncing footballs, vinyl records, and other bits of surrealism nobody asked for. Bosses include a giant ugly girl on a swing minding her own business, a giant angry gymnast with an unlimited supply of medicine balls to throw at your head, a giant fish who doesn’t actually attack you, and finally the burglar (appropriately, also giant-sized).
We’d wonder why an entire town (and multiple species) want Dennis dead, but the answer’s obvious: he’s Dennis. And he’s a menace, which is a euphemism for “gigantic pain in the rump.”
4. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (NES, 1989)
There may be a decent adventure game buried somewhere in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but the NES certainly doesn’t deliver it. Instead, it has you, as Eddie Valiant, aimlessly wander one of the most boring, nondescript cities in video game history, gathering items that are almost entirely red herrings, while occasionally stopping to answer horrible riddles or punch toons in the face.
If you somehow figure out what to do and don’t get totally bored of driving around the same tiny map and seeing the same boring buildings over and over again, you could enter Toontown, see more boring buildings, punch Judge Doom into some Dip, and save the day. But if you played this game, it’s more likely that you never figured out what to do, unless you somehow discovered that the game requires you to call the phone number found in Jessica Rabbit’s nightclub in actual, real-life. Doing so would provide the game-winning hint, but an in-game hint pointing you to that hint would’ve been much appreciated.
3. Barney’s Hide and Seek Game (Genesis, 1993)
To start: yes we know Barney’s Hide and Seek Game is for small children, being that it stars Barney the Dinosaur. But even for that age group, Barney’s Hide and Seek Game is overly simplistic on an insane, almost insulting level.
The goal, as you likely gathered from the title, is to help Barney find his friends, who are hiding. They’re incredibly easy to spot, and you don’t actually need to find all of them to win. Just go to the end of the stage whenever you’re ready. What’s more, you can’t die … like, at all. If you try to walk Barney into water or over a ledge, he grabs a STOP sign and implores you to wait to cross until it’s safe (actually, that’s probably good advice).
Oh, and if you leave the game alone long enough, Barney simply walks and finds the kids by himself. Yes, even if you’re a toddler too distracted by your toes to play the game, the game beats itself for you. “Achievement Unlocked: Did Literally Nothing.”
2. Three Stooges (Various Systems, 1987)
The basic premise of the Three Stooges video game fits the show’s premise quite well: the guys take various odd jobs (shown as minigames) to raise money to save an orphanage. The game’s execution, however, is a total letdown, in that there are only a few actual minigames to play, meaning you’ll either play the same ones over and over again, or wind up copping out by finding your money in a bag mindlessly thrown on the street.
Some of the games are based on Stooges episodes, but virtually all the humor’s been stripped away. This is probably because, aside from a minigame where you can slap Curly and Larry around, nothing in this title truly lets you be a Stooge. An updated version with more freedom, more jobs, more humor, and more violence — think Grand Theft Auto with eye pokes instead of guns — would likely do the trick, but apparently everyone’s too much of a knucklehead to make it happen.
1. The Flintstones: The Movie: The Game (Various Systems, 1994)
There have been plenty of Flintstones games, but none weirder than the game based on the wholly unnecessary 1994 movie starring John Goodman (Fred) and Rick Moranis (Barney).
On its own, this horribly titled game is just a basic side-scroller featuring Fred Flintstone as the playable character. But certain details about the game make less sense than a record player using a pterodactyl’s beak as a needle. For one thing, many of the enemies are pointless obstacles like frogs, when they’re not just fellow cavemen. But for some reason, the evil cavemen look like actual, primitive Neanderthals, whereas Fred is basically a modern man in a loincloth.
Also, Fred breathes incredibly heavily from start to finish. Even before he starts moving, he’s huffing and puffing, and he doesn’t stop until you win the game (or more likely, quit the game and sell it). He’s always been a big guy, but this game seems to be hinting that old Fred desperately needs to yabba dabba do more cardio, stat.