While it’s unquestionably agreeable for most gamers that our favourite medium is at its best when running on the processor of a console or PC within the comfort of our own home, sometimes video games quite frighteningly find themselves represented in other forms of media – namely movies, television, and literature.
Spawned from the minds of filmmakers and visual creators as opposed to outright video game developers, it’s always interesting to see how those outside of the industry interpret the way games are supposed to play, feel and look. And so it’s with this in mind that we felt it necessary to explore some of the most notable fictional video games in media, those that while may not have been spot on, sure as hell look a lot of fun to play!
1‘Ninja Ninja Revolution’ – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
A clear hearken back to the golden arcade days of old in which masses of on-lookers couldn’t help but gaze and gasp at the likes of Dance Dance Revolution experts, which had a continual habit of dominating the arrow pads, Ninja Ninja Revolution took this core idea and ran with it. Complete with cheesy announcer guy voiceover, this Ninja/Dance machine hybrid pretty pulls from every Japanese stereotype imaginable. Ideal for the hyper stylised world of Scott Pilgrim.
Scott and Knives do an amazing job at making the high-octane ninja move action seem effortless and fun, even when the game’s final boss – NegaNinja – rears his cloth-covered head (a clear foreshadowing of the NegaScott towards the end of the film). Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is in many ways a video game in itself, so it makes sense for the wider framework to understand so well what made dance pad games so addictive and memorable.
2‘Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge’ – The Simpsons
Admittedly, this list could solely be devoted to the top 10 fictional video games to feature in the Simpsons, but who could forget the sheer dull brilliance of Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge as introduced in the episode ‘Marge be Not Proud’. Clearly based on the 1988 NES game Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf, Putting Challenge may not have sold well within the world of The Simpsons but this would hardly be the case in real life.
It’s as easy as choosing a nine iron, only to have in-game Lee Carvallo suggest the correct option with regards to type of club, style of swing, and even the heft in which you make it. The game is over with just one swoop, would you like to play again? We can probably guess your answer!
3‘Sword Art Online’ – Sword Art Online
Although there are many real life video game adaptations of Sword Art Online’s core MMO concept in existence on both the PlayStation 4 and Vita, each is an attempt to replicate this “always on” and connected experience that features in the anime as opposed to a fully-fledged accurate one.
Granted, the anime’s version of Sword Art Online depicts a dystopian world in which players must scale a multi-floored steel castle if they wish to survive, but remove that slight negative, and Sword Art Online is a visually stunning and deep MMORPG experience.
4‘The Hammer’ – The Regular Show
The Hammer is a side-scrolling beat’em up featured in The Regular Show episode ‘Rage Against the TV’, being clearly inspired by the likes of Double Dragon and Streets of Rage. In the show after making it past a tough enemy, teenage slackers Mordecai and Rigby are faced with the game’s fabled end boss The Hammer, who is powerful enough to take every life with just a single punch – only to be greeted by a nightmare-inducing black screen. We’ve all been there.
The game does a great job of faithfully interpreting the art style of old 8 and 16-bit side-scrolling games whilst still making sense within the heavily stylised cartoon world of The Regular Show. When they finally do eventually get The Hammer back up and running, the TV set comes back to life as a manifestation of the titular final boss himself. This final showdown is both epic and authentic, making The Hammer one of the most recent fictionalised games on this list.
5‘Buzz Lightyear: Attack on Zurg’ – Toy Story 2
Way better looking than any actual video games released based on the Toy Story IP, Buzz Lightyear: Attack on Zurg instead exists within the world of Woody and friends, being yet another sign of Buzz Lightyear’s immense commercial popularity. Not only is he on posters, TV shows, and pretty much every other form of merchandising you can think of, but Buzz even stars as the hero of his own video game.
Buzz Lightyear: Attack on Zurg does a great job of setting up the titular hero’s rivalry with intergalactic bad guy Zurg prior to our meeting with him later on in the film, expertly showing off everyone’s favourite space ranger’s status amongst children within the world of Toy Story.
6‘Chinpokomon’ – South Park
South Park as a TV show is by no means short on in-game parodies of exisiting video game properties; who could forget classics such as Heroine Hero or Heaven vs Hell to name a few? But it’s in their parody of one of the industry’s longest running Japanese RPG franchises the show really took this to the max, swapping out Pokémon’s “Gotta catch em all” slogan for the much more literal and candid “Got to buy it” with the unashamed Chinpokomon game.
Intertwined within a plot that suggests a Japanese government intent with converting all American children into Japanese child soldiers, Chinpokomon even became a core collectable mechanic in South Park’s real life RPG The Stick of Truth, earning its place as the best fictional video game to feature in the show.
7‘Sugar Rush’ – Wreck It Ralph
Any gamer will know that Mario Kart rip-offs are generally nothing but echoes of an already perfected game series. However, if we had to pick an alternative, Sugar Rush from Wreck It Ralph would absolutely be the next best thing! Featuring prominently in the second half of Disney’s wildly successful video game-themed film, Sugar Rush has all the merits of a great kart racer including customisable cars, well-designed tracks and an eclectic cast of characters.
Perhaps the overly glitzy and headache-inducing Sugar Rush theme could be made absent should the game ever be available for purchase in real life, but there’s no denying the amount of creativity developers could have with a confectionary-based racing game. We’re slightly blown away that this hasn’t been released already; who wouldn’t want to take a drive down candy cane forest or diet cola mountain?
8The Oasis – Ready Player One
Unlimited, endless, and a near-impossible feat of technological engineering, The Oasis isn’t so much of a standard video game, but rather the virtual reality platform to end all others – and it’s literally every pop culture nerd’s wet dream. Featured in Ernest Cline’s utterly brilliant love-letter to video games Ready Player One, The Oasis is a VR world accessed via haptic gloves and a visor that’s central hook is that it features a limitless number of worlds all based on heartfelt IPs.
The book’s unlikely hero Wade spends his time in The Oasis attempting to track down a series of Easter eggs laid out by the platform’s developer James Halliday, and while there’s a danger of not wanting to exit the world upon entering, Ready Player One’s world is one of the few incredibly detailed fictional video games in all of literature.
9Starfighter – The Last Starfighter
It’s every young gamer’s dream: getting so good at your favourite arcade game, only to be called upon by alien earth inhabitants to put these skills into effective action in an attempt to save the world. Just me? Okay. This is what happens to lowly teenager Alex Rogan after achieving the high score in The Last Starfighter, a space battling shoot em up reminiscent of Asteroids, Space Invaders and others.
Believe it or not, various attempts were made to spin a real life version of The Last Starfighter out of the film and into a genuine video game. The game had been in development for both arcade systems as well as home computer consoles by Atari, but eventually were canned. Needless to say, seeing the intense action play out on the big screen was probably where The Last Starfighter’s magic was best contained.
10Bonestorm – The Simpsons
The second fictional video game on this list to be featured in fan-favourite Simpsons episode ‘Marge be Not Proud’, Bonestorm tops the list simply for its uncanny ability to represent every parent’s fear with regards to video games. Bonestorm itself took the form of an ultra-violent fighting game created in the vein of Mortal Kombat, notable for cropping up in a lot of supplemental Simpsons media since.
We’ve all felt the thrill and excitement of playing a video game outside of the recommended age rating at some point or another within our early gaming careers, and Bart’s relationship with Bonestorm is a predicament every player has found themselves in at some point or another.