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Top 10 Unlikely Television-Based Games

by Jeff Marchiafava on Jun 29, 2011 at 12:00 PM

A few months ago we took a look at the most unlikely movie licenses ever to be turned into video games. These weren't just movies that resulted in bad video games, like RoboCop or The Matrix. These were movies that even a monkey would know are no good for gaming.

But bad ideas aren't exclusive to the silver screen. Television producers have been pimping their shows for extra cash for decades, with results that are as horrendous – and hilarious – as you'd expect. Here are 10 TV-based games that never should have been attempted in the first place.

Cue Tim Allen's patented groan. On second thought, any groan will do

Home Improvement
You can't think of lame '90s TV shows without thinking of ABC's long-running family sitcom, Home Improvement. Despite being convicted for drug trafficking in the late '70s, Home Improvement is by far the worst thing that Tim Allen has ever done to society – and I'm not forgetting about The Santa Clause, or Jungle 2 Jungle, either. Home Improvement is worse because unlike those horrible movies, it went on for eight years. I'm pretty sure that's longer than purgatory lasts!

Tim Allen may have redeemed himself somewhat with his roles in Galaxy Quest and the Toy Story series, but the Home Improvement brand only got worse thanks to the supremely horrible SNES game, Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit! Apparently the designers only got as far as the MIDI version of Home Improvement's obnoxious theme song before they realized that the show isn't a good idea for a video game, at which point they just gave up and added dinosaurs, mummies, and robots to the game's shoddy platforming before calling it a day.

[UPDATE]: Dan has shown me the error of my ways with this amazing promo video he did for Home Improvement back in his college days. I'm now convinced that this was, in fact, the best thing Tim Allen has ever done for society:

(If the video doesn't show up for you, check it out here.)


Take a wild guess...

Wayne's World
Speaking of things that were funnier in the '90s: In 1993, THQ published Wayne's World, a video game based on a movie based on the old SNL skit. Like Home Improvement, Wayne's World's platforming-based gameplay has little to do with the source material. Wayne can shoot sound waves out of his guitar to destroy attacking musical instruments, such as trumpets, accordions, and bagpipes. Why these inanimate objects have come to life and started attacking Wayne is beyond me - I'm going to assume it has something to do with marijuana. If you need any more evidence of how bad Wayne's World is, check out the in-game rendition of the "Bohemian Rhapsody" driving scene:

(If you can't see the video, watch it here.)

Next: An outdated cat, some morons, and reality television games...


Heathcliff: The Fast And The Furriest
Folks, it's a Heathcliff game with a The Fast and the Furious pun in the title. Developer EC-i didn't even spring for a Garfield license, which also would have been ridiculously outdated, but at least he's recognizable to people under the age of 50. Seriously, I don't even know who the hell Heathcliff is - and I watched his show as a kid! That's how outdated he is!

Oh yeah, the game is a kart racer. Because the world needs more of those.

Oh man, those old dudes have no idea what they've started...

The Three Stooges
Nothing appeals to gamers like a 1930s comedy trio based on an old vaudeville act. The Three Stooges have had a number of video games based on their shtick over the years, and I guess it's understandable, considering their movies are essentially just non-interactive beat 'em ups anyway. Still, it takes a visionary to even consider making kid-friendly video games based on the stars of such movies as Woman Haters, Pardon My Scotch, and Whoops, I'm an Indian!

You leave that snake alone, Bear!

Man vs. Wild
Developers have a hard enough time translating scripted TV shows into worthwhile gaming experiences - now they're making reality shows into games? In the video game adaptation of Man vs. Wild, players try to keep Bear Grylls alive in a variety of levels based on real world locations. Staying alive is the object of most video games, but instead of fighting aliens or blowing up hordes of zombies, Bear stays alive by drinking his own pee out of a dead snake. I'm not even joking - watch this episode of Reiner and Phil to see for yourself.


Looks like the deck crew is ready to drop it like it's pot? *applause*

Deadliest Catch
Deadliest Catch
is a reality show about the dangerous working conditions that fishermen face in the Bering Sea during crab fishing season. If the real life struggles and tragedy facing these hardworking crewmen doesn't sound like a great idea for a video game to you, you're just not trying hard enough (to make money).

Whether the Deadliest Catch line of video games is an exploitative cash-in or an honest attempt at conveying the dangers of crab fishing to the show's fans, one thing is certain: The games just aren't very good. Among the chief complaints from critics: horrible frame rates, game-ending bugs, and boring gameplay.

Next: The bottom of the barrel, plus a game that actually had a chance at being decent...

That guy looks like a mutant. Why do you want to date a mutant?

The Bachelor: The Video Game
I honestly can't think of a worse reality show to make into a video game than The Bachelor. Just looking at the show's Wikipedia page for 30 seconds made me vomit in my mouth a little. And yet people actually got paid to make this show into a Wii game, undoubtedly shuddering as they cashed their checks.

So, what do you do in The Bachelor: The Video Game? Compete for the fictional man or woman of your dreams by completing a series of stupid mini-games, of course. The worst part is that the Bachelors and Bachelorettes you're vying for are based on the real-life losers from the television show, including what's-her-face, and that-guy-who-tries-too-hard. There's also a multiplayer mode, but if you're so desperate for companionship that you're playing this game, do you really have friends to play with? Look, I don't know you, but believe me when I say that you can do better.


Why do all the characters in these reality show games look like mutants?

Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine
You know what? After writing about The Bachelor: The Video Game, I'm going to give Iron Chef a pass. The show is actually pretty entertaining, and if Cooking Mama can be popular enough for multiple sequels, why not Iron Chef?

Hold on a minute, this game is based on the American version of Iron Chef? Boo!


I didn't realize the Ubisoft logo joined the cast of Grey's Anatomy

Grey's Anatomy: The Video Game
I've watched a few hospital dramas in my time, but when people starting referring to Grey's Anatomy's characters as McDreamy and McSteamy, it ceased being a medical show in my mind and became another facet of pop culture to avoid like the plague (and if I did contract the plague, I sure as heck wouldn't trust somebody named McDreamy to treat me).

I've never seen a single episode of Grey's Anatomy, but the video game box art tells me everything I need to know about the show: It's a bunch of dumb people dressed as doctors trying to look serious and sexy at the same time (my favorite is that James Pickens Jr. has to share his box with the ESRB rating). Logically, gameplay is another collection of stupid mini-games. Is it possible to expect more from something that you don't know or care about at all?


Finger pointing isn't going to fix this crappy game

Prison Break: The Conspiracy
Out of all the games on this list, Prison Break: The Conspiracy was probably the best idea for a video game adaptation, though deciding to go for a "T" rating was a dubious decision at best. The premise of the show is absurd: An architect decides to rescue his wrongfully-convicted brother from the gas chamber by getting sent to the same prison with the instructions for their escape encoded in tattoos he has all over his body. The first season had enough material for a solid blend of action and stealth gameplay, but unfortunately the finished product was a mess of spotty detection, laughable character models, and overabundant quick time events. At least the show taught me how to gouge a man's eye out with a broken light bulb. What did the game ever teach me? Oh, yeah – to choose my video game purchases more wisely.

Did we forget about a surprising TV-based game? Share it in the comments below.