Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Ranking Every 2D Simpsons Game

The Simpsons is the most successful animated series in history, and since the early days, game developers have cashed in on its popularity. 

We’ve seen Simpsons games show up on arcade machines, home consoles, and, most recently, smartphones.

In this video, I’ll be looking back and ranking the 12 Simpsons games that came out for the NES, SNES, Game Boy, and the Game Boy Color.

So that means I won’t be talking about some of my favorite Simpsons games, including 1991’s The Simpsons Arcade Game or 2003’s The Simpsons: Hit & Run

We’ll save those for another video.

Before we get started, this is just my list. Let me know what your favorite Simpsons game is in the comments.

Okay. Let’s get started!

Bart vs. The Space Mutants

Released back on April 25, 1991 for the NES, Bart vs. The Space Mutants was the first Simpsons game to make an appearance on home consoles. 

It was also the first game to feature Bart as the protagonist, a trend that will continue throughout most of this list.

Bart vs. The Space Mutants is a side-scrolling platformer that puts players in Bart’s shoes as he attempts to save Springfield from invading aliens from outer space who can disguise themselves as humans. 

(Unfortunately, the aliens here are just some generic aliens — not Kang and Kodos from the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes.)

This is a really, really tough game, but the most challenging part has to be the controls. For everyone familiar with NES platformers, the A button is always “jump,” and the B button is always “shoot” and if you hold it down, “run.”

Well, Bart vs. The Space Mutants does things a little differently. The A button is both “jump” AND “run.” 

It’s hard to explain, but to long jump, you have to hold down B and A at the same time. It’s one of the most unintuitive control schemes I’ve ever tried to get used to.

Compared to some of the later Simpsons games on the NES, the graphics here aren’t spectacular, but they get the job done. Fans of the series will appreciate seeing lots of familiar characters and iconic locations.

Overall, I’m giving this game a C. I think there’s a good game here underneath the bad controls.

Bart Simpson’s Escape from Camp Deadly

Next up is Bart Simpson’s Escape from Camp Deadly. Released in November 1991 for the Game Boy, Escape from Camp Deadly is a 2D platformer developed by Imagineering and published by Acclaim.

Once again, you play as Bart as he tries to escape Camp Deadly, a setting that might remind you of another Simpsons summer camp. But actually Escape from Camp Deadly was released almost a year before the fourth season’s “Kamp Krusty” episode.

Anyway, we’ve got a pretty fun little handheld platformer here. The controls take some getting used to, but they’re not nearly as awkward as the controls in Bart vs. the Space Mutants on the NES — despite the Game Boy having the same button layout as the standard NES controller. That said, Bart’s jumps are very floaty and take some getting used to. 

Your main weapon is spitwads. You have an infinite number of them, but they can’t kill enemies — they only stun them, so you’ll need to find other weapons as you make your way through the camp.

Most enemies are camp counselors and bees, but occasionally you’ll have to fight bosses, which offer fun challenges.

You can also change your outfits in this game. Lisa gives you outfits that give you different upgrades temporarily. For example, the beekeeper suit keeps you safe from bees, which is fine, but others are much more useful — like the football uniform, which lets you steamroll your counselors. 

Now that’s really awesome.

Another thing I love about this game is that when you stop moving, Bart turns and gives the camera a bored look. It’s a fun animation and captures some of the Bart Simpson attitude.

I’ll give this game a B.

Bart vs. the World

Bart vs. the World is Imagineering’s follow-up to Bart vs. the Space Mutants

This time, Bart wins a competition that sends him on a trip around the world on a scavenger hunt. 

But Mr. Burns rigs the game to try to kill Bart. (Isn’t that Sideshow Bob’s job…?) 

On his trip around the world, Bart takes on Mr. Burns’ family members and henchmen. 

Okay, so the plot’s a little weird, but the gameplay is actually pretty fun. Like Bart vs. the Space Mutants, Bart vs. the World is mainly a side-scroller, but the developers added mini-games, too! 

There are four main areas: China, the North Pole, Egypt, and Hollywood, and to progress to the next level, Bart has to find different collectibles, like Krusty-brand souvenirs, win mini-games, and take on bosses.

I really like the level design’s emphasis on verticality. In some levels, you’re climbing up and down as much as you’re moving left to right.

Even though the game looks and plays a lot like Bart vs. the Space Mutants, Bart vs. the World is a huge step forward and a much better game in general.

I’ll give it a B.

Krusty’s Super Fun House

1992’s Krusty’s Fun House is a reskin of a game called Rat-Trap, originally released on the Commodore Amiga. 

Acclaim published a few different versions of the game. One for the Game Boy, Game Gear, Genesis, NES, Master System, and Super Nintendo.

For this video, I played through the Super Nintendo version.

You play as Krusty as he tries to clean up his Fun House, which has been infested with mice. The mice move continuously, and your job is to create a path so that they walk into the extermination device.

Even though it’s just Rat-Trap with a Simpson’s coat of paint, Krusty’s Super Fun House is an addictive puzzle platformer. 

Like all Simpsons games, the controls take some getting used to. Krusty’s jump is a little floaty, and his walk is super slippery. It gets really tough to just stand on a block to pick it up.

Overall, Krusty’s Super Fun House is pretty good. The animations are nice, and the music is fantastic. I’ll give it a B.

Bart vs. the Juggernauts

Bart vs. the Juggernauts is a 1992 Game Boy game that parodies American Gladiators, a popular show in the early ‘90s where average joes face off in physical challenges against professional athletes — or “gladiators.”

Bart challenges different juggernauts and wins cash prizes for beating them.

That’s it.

I really wanted to like Bart vs. the Juggernauts, but I just couldn’t. The challenges aren’t very fun, and it doesn’t have the same heart as the other Bart vs. games.

Bart vs. the Juggernauts does one thing really well, though. Between challenges, Kent Brockman and Dr. Marvin Monroe have short dialogue snippets that read like they came straight out of an early Simpsons episode. 

I felt like I could hear Kent Brockman reading his lines in my head.

But… that’s not enough to save the game. I’m giving Bart vs. the Juggernauts a D.

Bart’s Nightmare

1992 saw the release of yet another Simpsons game — Bart’s Nightmare.

Bart’s Nightmare was released for the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis, and you can tell the developers were really trying something new with this one.

In the game, Bart falls asleep while doing his homework. In his dream, his homework flies out the window, and you have to run up and down the street to collect all the missing pages while avoiding enemies… like sentient mailboxes.

When you find a piece of paper, Bart can jump into it, leading to a random mini-game. There are eight total mini-games, and to beat the game, you have to win them all.

The game’s 16-bit graphics look great, and the mini-games give it an arcadey feel, but it just doesn’t feel totally fleshed out. The mini-games offer a lot of variety, but they’re not executed particularly well. 

This game is also really tough — just walking down the street is tough.

I want to give it a B. But I think it’s a C.

Bartman Meets Radioactive Man

You’re not going to believe this, but there’s another Simpsons game that came out in 1992 — Bart Meets Radioactive Man for the NES and the Game Gear. The game only has four chapters, but each chapter has a variety of levels, so you’re getting a lot a gameplay here.

The only issue is that the gameplay you’re getting… is bad.

It’s not difficult in a fun “get good” way – it’s difficult in a frustratingly unfair way.

Like the other NES Simpsons games, Bart Meets Radioactive Man is a tough game that’s only made tougher because of its bad controls. Bart’s sluggish and hard to control, and the enemy hit detection is way off. 

But the most egregious thing about Bart Meets Radioactive Man is blind jumping. Parts of this game don’t feel fair at all – the game asks you to make several blind jumps back to back, with enemies popping up everywhere. Huge sections of this game actually play like a bad metroidvania

Bart Meets Radioactive Man favors memorization over any kind of platforming skill, and that’s really frustrating.

Graphically, the backgrounds look muddy and uninteresting, but on a lighter note, Bart’s sprite and animations are a highlight. When you’re standing still, Bart crosses his arms and gives you his signature Bartman pose, and when you’re moving, his cape moves with you. It’s a nice touch in an otherwise charmless game.

By the time Bart Meets Radioactive Man was released, the Super Nintendo had already been on store shelves for more than two years, so this is one of those games released during the transition from one console generation to another. Because of that, I can’t help but wonder how good a 16-bit version of this game could have been.

I’m giving Bart Meets Radioactive Man a C.

Bart and the Beanstalk

Released in February 1994 for the Game Boy, Bart and the Beanstalk is a retelling of the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk but with a Simpsons spin.

Honestly, there’s not much to say about this one. The controls are hard to get used to, the enemies are tough, and it’s just missing any sense of the Simpsons’ charm. Outside of the large Bart sprite, this could be any platformer.

Bart & the Beanstalk is, unfortunately, immediately forgettable. I’m giving it a D.

Virtual Bart

Also in 1994, Acclaim released their last Simpsons game featuring Bart: Virtual Bart for the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis.

Virtual Bart is the best-looking Simpsons game on this list (and maybe ever).

The game is essentially a collection of six mini-games that take Bart from the Jurassic period to a post-apocalyptic hellscape. During a science fair at school, Martin shows off his new virtual reality machine. Bart gets stuck inside it and has to complete six stages to beat the game.

Each of the game’s six stages – Dino Bart, Baby Bart, Pig Bart, Class Picture, Mount Splashmore, and Doomsday Bart – have their own gameplay mechanics and generally feel very different from each other. Dino Bart, Baby Bart, and Pig Bart are different types of bizarre platformers, and they’re okay, but the big standouts here are Class Picture, Mount Splashmore, and Doomsday Bart.

Class Picture, Mount Splashmore, and Doomsday Bart really take advantage of the Super Nintendo’s power and show you why the game’s called Virtual Bart. In these three levels, you control Bart from a forward-facing view that’s completely different from anything other Simpsons game.

To be fair, these levels aren’t perfect, but they’re experimental and definitely worth a shot.

I’m giving Virtual Bart an A.

Itchy & Scratchy in Miniature Golf Madness

Acclaim released yet another Simpsons game in 1994, but this time, they weren’t relying on Bart to sell it. Itchy & Scratchy in Miniature Golf Madness for the Game Boy is an interesting – if frustrating – mini golf game that puts you in control of Scratchy as he tries to play a round of mini golf… while avoiding Itchy desperately trying to murder him.

Itchy & Scratchy in Miniature Golf Madness does a good job of capturing the humor of the Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, especially with Scratchy’s death animations. But the controls are weird, and you don’t know where the hole is, so you’re hitting the ball blindly.

It’s not bad. But it’s not good either.

I’m giving it a C.

The Itchy & Scratchy Game

In 1995, Acclaim gave it one last shot with The Itchy & Scratchy Game for the Super Nintendo.

The Itchy & Scratchy Game is an action-platformer that lets you control Itchy. In the game, you play through seven different episodes of The Itchy & Scratchy Show, but other than killing Scratchy over and over, there isn’t really an objective. You’re not trying to reach the end of the level or find any particular collectible. 

Once you’ve killed Scratchy enough times, the episode ends. Then, you play a short boss battle. But boss battles feel like more of the same. They don’t really mix up the gameplay at all.

But with all that said, The Itchy & Scratchy Game isn’t bad. It’s just repetitive.

I’ll give it a B.

Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror

Here it is, the last game on our list: THQ’s 2001 Game Boy Color title Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror.

Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror is a side-scrolling platformer that retells stories from the show’s “Treehouse of Horror” episodes.

Back in the day, I didn’t leave home without my Game Boy Color, but I missed this game somehow. It’s the only Simpsons game to make it to the Game Boy Color, but it was released pretty late in the system’s lifespan. I was really excited to play through this one, but honestly, I was really disappointed.

Man, this game plays like crap. It’s slow, it stutters constantly, and the levels are muddy.

The character sprites look good, and the animations are awesome, but that’s about all it has going for it.

I was hoping it would be better, but I gotta give Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror a D. 

So what did I miss? Let me know in the comments.

Justin McGee
Justin McGee
Lifelong Nintendo fan. Follow me on Twitter @PuffyRedShirt

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