The 1980’s brought us many memorable video games, and with this came publishers’ realization that their beloved franchises could be pimped out onto all kinds of merchandise. In no time, millions of gamers were powering off their NESes every Saturday morning to watch a lineup of cheaply-made video game animated series, and none of them were prepared for the horrors that they were about to behold. With that in mind, we present a frank discussion about the top ten most atrocious, embarrassing, and hilarious video game cartoons adaptations of all time. Be afraid.
#10: Street Fighter
Joe: So Japan made the fairly cool Street Fighter animé movie, and then they did the awesome Street Fighter II Victory series. Of course, the good ol’ US of A has to stick their nose into everything, which is why the US Street Fighter animated series became G.I. Joe: International Edition
Sinan: I don’t understand how you get from fighting the fuck out of each other to being a peace brigade, with Guile as the leader – what the hell? Street Fighter is all about Ken, Ryu, and Chun-Li ‘cos she’s hot.
Joe: Point taken. Do you remember the toy line for the animated series? It was like “Guile’s Sonic Boom Tank” and “Bison’s Street Slammin’ Missiles.” Despite only being 10 at the time, I was like, “So wait…where is the actual street playset to fight on?”
Sinan: Ha-ha! Anyway, I reckon Street Fighter underlines the overriding theme with all of these cartoons: when you put voices to previously mute characters, everything goes to shit.
Sinan: So this is the one on our list that offends me the least…
Joe: The problem that I have is this, taken directly from Wikipedia: “Most episodes of the series center around the ongoing battle between the Pac family and…the Ghost Monsters (with their leader) Mezmeron, a mysterious figure bearing a likeness to Darth Vader. His sole mission is to locate and control the "Power Pellets", which serve as the primary food and power source for the city.” OK…Mezmeron??
Sinan: Yup! When you see him, he is very much out of place; you’ve got this cutesy world — even down to the ghosts — and then this evil bastard with a weird mouth guard shows up.
Joe: I especially like how they came up with a reason why people want Power Pellets. Here is the real reason: because Pac-Man is hungry.
Sinan: Actually, that’s the stuff I like about the cartoon; its strange take on Pac-Man’s world, like how Mrs. Pac-Man somehow embodies 80s fashion, and the odd addition of Sue, the female Ghost Monster. That’s why I don’t get offended by it…because it’s quirky and harmless. It’s just a bit shit, that’s all.
#8: Pole Position
Joe: How did they take the simplest, 8-bit, Point A to Point B racer and turn it into a group of ragtag secret agents fighting crime in their supercars?
Sinan: That actually sums up the whole thing…it really was a bizarre evolution. I guess they just wanted the name. Still, purely as a cartoon and regardless of how it relates to the game, Pole Position was awful. It had terrible animation — the kind that would have been frowned upon in the 70s, let alone the 80s. The characters — who are supposed to be cool government agents — are the most boring, vanilla crap I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch. To top it all off, there’s a weird animal that is a hybrid of a raccoon and a monkey for no good reason. It’s not just a contender for the worst video game cartoon; it might be the worst cartoon ever made.
Joe: ‘Nuff said, although I now can’t wait to see Gran Turismo: The Series, about a group of undercover cops infiltrating the seedy world of drugs and sex on the Vegas strip.
Sinan: Ultra-realistically, of course.
#7: Double Dragon
Joe: Double Dragon is one of the few huge 80s games series’ that hasn’t returned to prominence in recent times, and I believe that this cartoon and the awful movie are partially responsible. They didn’t even do Abobo right!
Sinan: It didn’t do anything right. The whole premise was weird. I just re-watched the opening episode and I couldn’t understand what was actually going on. Is Billy being trained in Chinatown or in China? Is that policewoman the only officer around? Who the hell are the bad guys? Why does Billy have an American accent and talk like a pansy?
Joe: I don’t know, man. I do know this: they say “dragon” fourteen times in the theme song (I counted), and “you gotta fight for right the might of the Dragon!” The theme song was 100% win.
Sinan: Oh yeah, you reminded me! Billy’s go-to phrase was “By the Dragon!”
Joe: Ha-ha, of course it was. Those clever writers had it all figured out.
#6: Donkey Kong Country
Joe: I have to say that I now hope to never see Donkey Kong used in anything ever again.
Sinan: I cannot believe this was made. I understand most of these cartoons, but why did this one get the green light? Who honestly looked at its visuals, its production values, its voice cast, and thought, “This will do well, let’s broadcast this shit!”
Joe: I simply can’t get past the voice acting; whoever decided that Donkey Kong should sound like a sass-talkin’ Spaniard should be whipped with a cane.
Sinan: Exactly. Also, anthropomorphic monkey babes? Not cool…don’t ever do that.
Joe: That sums it up perfectly.
Sinan: When we were preparing this list, we got a backlash from our colleagues for this choice.
Joe: Understandable, the series and the games were bigger than Jesus. I was never able to get into the show because every clip I saw from it was batshit crazy.
Sinan: Haha, well that’s the thing with Pokémon. It’s the only cartoon on this list designed with selling the games in mind, so it was very authentic. My problem with the cartoons was very specific: the visual design was a butchery of traditional animé to make it more appealing to the Western audience. That feels like a pretentious thing to say, but I think — regardless of how it wasn’t a true animé — it looked ugly.
Joe: Of course, that’s probably why I never bothered to watch the show. It looked like it was animated in Mario Paint.
Sinan: Maybe it was. My other major problem with this series was its characters. Instead of bringing over what’s great about Japanese animation – the look– the makers went with the other mainstay of anime: dodgy characters. We’ve got a 12-year-old girl who wears barely anything and a 14-year-old guy who is as horny as hell going after all those babe clones in every single episode. This is a damn kids show!
Joe: The above all sounds fantastic to me. The fact that it’s still running today shows just how far you can get with a catchy theme song and a lot of marketing money.
Sinan: You know what? I bought the latest Pokémon game and loved it, so more fool me.
Joe: Then you, sir, are part of the problem. You should probably seek professional help. I can’t excuuuuuuuuuuse such behavior.
Sinan: Oh dear.
#4: Captain N: The Game Master
Joe: OK, so Captain N: The Game Master was the embodiment of every 80s kid’s fantasy: getting sucked into your Nintendo.
Sinan: Hell yeah!
Joe: But — like all fantasies — it was never quite as cool as you’d envision it to be. So, where to begin? The hard-edge, vampire killing Simon Belmont becoming horny comic relief? Kid Icarus becoming America’s first “emo” kid? Mega Man becoming a chain-smoking midget with television’s most unbearable voice? The villains? A jive-talking Mother Brain, a walking Eggplant and — for reasons unknown — an undead King Hippo? And as if the entire show wasn’t enough of a Nintendo advertisement, Season 2 brought a walking, talking Game Boy as a new character.
Sinan: The funny thing being that the more you talk about how awful and off the mark it was, the more it makes me want to watch every single episode.
Joe: Same. We should move on.
#3: The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
Joe: The only prominent memory I have of the Sonic cartoon is summed up by the phrase “chili dogs.” What the hell were they thinking?
Sinan: You can find so much YouTube poop about Sonic’s chili dogs, and rightly so. Wow, that’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.
Joe: While the cartoons are bad, I’d argue that the werehog and Biggs the Cat from recent Sonic games are far more offensive than Urkel and chili dogs.
Sinan: I’m playing Sonic Unleashed and it totally validates your statement, but still… Urkel? Getting Urkel to play the coolest video game character of that generation? Really?
Joe: Considering that Sonic was built as this badass game character that didn’t play by the rules and was surging with ‘tude, picking TV’s most beloved nerd to represent him vocally made no sense.
Sinan: And yet no game character has had more cartoons made about him than Sonic. I don’t understand that franchise at all.
#2: The Legend of Zelda
Joe: I’m going to say this right away, and everyone will hate me for it: I am not a huge fan of the last decade of the Zelda series. I loved the 2D stuff but the N64 completely broke it for me. It took me four separate attempts to make it through Ocarina of Time.
Sinan: Well, excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me, Joe!
Joe: Ha-ha, see, that’s why The Legend of Zelda is the single greatest video game cartoon.
Sinan: Oh come on, now you’re spouting crazy left, right, and center.
Joe: Zelda was cool because every element of it was taken directly from the game, namely the enemies, music, and sound effects. It was a fantastic translation that was brutalized as soon as a line of dialogue was uttered.
Sinan: So, I get where you’re coming from by bringing up recent Zelda games — because they’ve invalidated the look of the Zelda cartoon — but the series invalidated itself by how it portrayed Link. God, I hated him… he was such a douche. The guy was perving all over Zelda in the very first episode, and then they gave him the worst catchphrase ever.
Joe: They took gaming’s purest character and hit him on the head with the puberty stick.
#1: The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!
Sinan: When I think of the Super Mario cartoons, my first thought goes to Super Mario Bros 3 ‘cos it was actually pretty good – relatively speaking. It kept true to the game and had lots of fan service. I could probably say the same for Super Mario World as well, but the Super Mario Bros. Super Show….
Joe: While I love the opening credits — mainly because Captain Lou and Slim are blue-screened so poorly into the cartoon — my favourite aspect of the series is the ending credits. “Do The Mario” was possibly the best and worst thing ever filmed. The song is my frickin’ ringtone! The part that makes me fall down laughing every time is at the end where he ducks to get into position, the camera view switches, and then he ducks again.
Sinan: The live action stuff is just surreal, so badly acted, and so unrelated to what Mario’s about. Somehow they were able to get special guests to come on it — it’s actually a little disturbing that someone thought it was a good idea at the time.
Joe: Agreed, and the guests they got on…. Super Mario Bros. and Ghostbusters are two of my favorite things ever, but when Ernie Hudson — a Ghostbuster — showed up on Super Mario Bros, it left me with nightmares unrelated to any paranormal activity.
Sinan: I just wish the guys making the live action movie had watched this abomination. They could have prevented so much hurt.
Have any memories from video game cartoons that didn’t make the list? Leave them in the comments below!