Ten Reality TV Shows That Became Video Games

by Matt Helgeson on Oct 13, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Activision's new game based on the hit television show Duck Dynasty is being released tomorrow, but it's far from the first reality TV franchise to get a video game adaptation. Here are ten of the (relatively) good, bad, and weird reality TV video games.

RollerGames (1990, 1991)
Systems: Arcade, NES
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami

RollerGames was a semi-successful attempt to bring the '70s fad of roller derby into the hairspray-and-spandex late '80s. Basically, it added tighter clothing and some cheesy MTV-era flash to the proceedings. RollerGames did well enough to spawn two video games, an arcade unit (pictured above) that was fairly faithful to the show and an NES game (video below) that was more like Double Dragon on rollerblades.

American Gladiators (1991)
Systems: NES, SNES, Genesis, Amiga
Developer: Incredible Technologies
Publisher: GameTek

American Gladiators is kind of hard to explain in retrospect; it was basically glam metal muscle men and women fighting in various environments in tight outfits (as you can see spandex was quite a thing in the '80s and early '90s. They all had silly names (perhaps inspired by the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man) and took turns hitting each other with padded clubs. The game adaptation was actually pretty fun...in my memory. (Spoiler alert: I tended to be a pretty uncritical gamer back then, so proceed with caution).

Dancing With the Stars (2007, 2008)
Systems: PlayStation 2, Wii
Developer: Zoe Mode
Publisher: Activision

While many games on this list seem like poor attempts to adapt subject matter that shouldn't be a game to begin with, Dancing With The Stars at least had a familiar template to follow. Dance Dance Revolution created the dance game genre, and this reality TV adaptation follows closely in its footsteps, even including a DDR-style dance pad with PS2 version. Wii owners had to make do with waggling their remote up and down if they wanted to pretend they were an out-of-work TV actor trying desperately revive their career.

Cesar Millan's Dog Whisperer (2008)
Systems: Nintendo DS, PC
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft

It's anyone's guess where the inspiration for this game came from...oh wait, maybe Ubisoft saw how much money Nintendo had made on Nintendogs and decided to sign popular TV dog guru Cesar Millan to a licensing deal to make a slow, boring dog training simulation. Nah, that couldn't be it. This game looks like such a snooze, check out the video below.

Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm (2008)
Systems: Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Liquid Dragon Studios
Publisher: Greenwave Games

The Deadliest Catch is one of the most unlikely TV blockbusters; it's made stars out of a gaggle of crusty Alaskan crab fishermen. While it doesn't sound great in concept, the show generates a lot of drama from both the extreme dangers the fishermen face on the seas and the clashed between the colorful personalities on the boats. It's a shame that The Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm, didn't have a bit more flash; it's fairly dry and complex fishing ship simulation game that was probably too complicated and slow-moving for the general audience that watches the show. Of all the games on this list, it's probably the one most worth checking out.

Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine (2008)
Systems: Wii, Nintendo DS
Developer: Black Lantern Studios
Publisher: Destineer

Iron Chef is one of the all-time great reality shows - seeing world-class chefs battle in the kitchen arena is a thrill. However, these thrills didn't translate well to the video game arena. Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine is closely modelled after the Cooking Mama franchise and earned mediocre reviews. Game Informer Trivia: Former Game Informer editor Lisa Mason was a producer on the game!

The Amazing Race (2010)
Systems: Wii
Developer: Ludia, Inc.
Publisher: Ubisoft

Globetrotting adventure can be a great foundation for a game - just ask Lara Croft or Nathan Drake. However, Ludia's The Amazing Race adaptation for Wii done on a little tighter budget than the show. As such, it's a ho-hum mix of world, travel, trivia, and simple minigames.

Deadliest Warriors: The Game (2010)
Systems: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Developer: Pipeworks Interactive
Publisher: Spike Games

Deadliest Warrior is a fairly ridiculous Spike TV show based on the conceit of determining which historical warrior would win in a fight. For example, could a Viking kill a ninja? Like I said, it's pretty silly, but people seem to like it and it was popular enough to spawn a 2010 video game. Again, at least there's a pretty decent format for a game in the show's concept; as you'd expect, the game is a one-on-one fighting games featuring characters from the show's first season like the Apache, knight, samurai, and pirate. It must have been successful, as Spike's game division released DLC characters for the game as well as a sequel Deadliest Warriors: Legends.

Survivor (2010)
Systems: Wii
Developer: Mindscape
Publisher: Dreamcatcher Interactive

Survivor's blend of outdoors living, physical challenges, and interpersonal drama seems like it could add up to a good video game. However, this attempt by Mindscape was a poor approximation of the show. The minigames (i.e. immunity challenges) were poorly conceived, and the game skipped most of the stuff that really makes the show compelling: the time spent conniving with allies at camp and the dramatic cast-off votes.

Wipeout: The Game (2010)
Systems: Wii, Nintendo DS
Developer: Activision
Publisher: Activision

In some ways, this brings us back full circle to one of the early games on our list, American Gladiators. Wipeout: The Game (not to be confused with the iconic futuristic racing series) is a giant, waterbound obstacle course where contestants must jump over moving pylons, giant bouncy balls, and other padded dangers. It's generally amusing to see people bite it on camera, especially because the show is designed in such a way where no one gets hurt. As a concept, this had a lot of video game potential, which sadly wasn't realized by this low-budget cash-in.