Looking back at TV Shows inspired by Video Games
Having been born in the 80's, I've been fortunate to grow up with some awesome television shows like He-Man, Ghostbusters, and Transformers. Even the likes of Thundercats and Ducktales hold a special place in my younger days. I was also a huge fan of video games growing up with such classics like Battletoads (that badass pause music!) and Super Mario Bros. 3. Knowing that a lot of kids shared these similar interests, television executives jumped at every opportunity to capitalize. This is a look back at the shows I specifically remember and how they hold up today.
Captain N: The Game Master
When first thinking back on this topic, I knew Captain N: The Game Master had to be mentioned. This show introduced Kevin, an average young kid, who gets sucked into the world of video games where he gets to meet heroes like Simon Belmont and Kid Icarus. The idea alone was a dream come true for any kid with an escapist fantasy. Admit it. While playing Super Mario Bros. 3, you wished you could stomp on goombas and fly in the air wearing a Tanooki Suit all day.
As awesome as this idea sounded like on paper, there were some serious off-putting elements that any gamer will spot out immediately. These blatant changes were confusing at best and just plain ignorant at worst. Probably the worst offence was Mega Man sporting a puke green color and sounding like he has lung cancer. He's not nicknamed the "Blue Bomber" for nothing. His constant use of the word "mega" may have been endearing as a disillusioned kid at first but that got real old real fast.
"Don't ask me why they mega-screwed up my character."
Kevin, Captain N himself, was an obvious attempt to relate to the viewer. While his character was a stereotypical white suburbanite, at least he had the Nintendo Zapper gun. His constant squabbles with the cocky and arrogant Simon Belmont made for some chuckle-worthy moments.
Super Mario Bros. Super Show
This show holds a lot of fun memories for me as a kid. You know you "did the Mario" back then. In a lot of ways, this was one of the first sitcoms I ever watched because of the way it was formatted. I'll use an old VHS tape I owned as an example. Famed wrestler/actor "Rowdy" Roddy Piper brings in his bagpipes to get fixed despite the fact that the Mario Bros. are plumbers. He comes to visit and check on them when it's revealed that Mario mistakenly turned his bagpipes into a vacuum cleaner. The show cuts to the cartoon then returns after the brothers "fix" the problem by modifying the vacuum cleaner to play bagpipe music automatically. It's probably best not to ask how that works exactly.
The humor, acting, and production value is straight-up Disney Channel level. Seeing Mario and Roddy Piper together on TV was pure gold for me back in 1989. Now? Oh, the pain! Nostalgia aside, this is a show that has aged like milk. I'll give Lou Albano some props for playing as a more accurate Mario than Bob Hoskins in the Mario Bros. movie but that's not really saying much.
There was a Legend of Zelda cartoon that would usually play on the same block. Thankfully, there was no washed-up wrestler in green tights to introduce it but the show itself wasn't any better. Let's just get the "Excuuuuuuuse me, princess!" line out there and call it a day.
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog & Sonic the Hedgehog: The Animated Series
Not to be outdone by Nintendo, Sega's own mascot Sonic the Hedgehog had a couple of shows of his own. One was the more kid-friendly Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog while the other, which I most remember liking, was Sonic the Hedgehog: The Animated Series.
I remember watching a bit of the Adventures series but grew tired of the overly "kiddy" nature of it. This was the 90's now and being at an older age made me crave for something that wouldn't talk down to me.
Around the same time, the Animated Series came out which still had a cartoon-ish flavor but with some darker themes. Robotnik was more of an evil badass as opposed to the bumbling version in Adventures. There was also the concept of Sonic and Tails being part of a group of "freedom fighters" who would try to save their animal brethren from a soulless robotic fate.
Despite the cooler concept and a much better theme song than the previous series, Sonic the Hedgehog: The Animated Series also suffers from aging poorly. I'm not sure if it's the voice of Jaleel "Steve Urkel" White or just the way he portrays the character but Sonic comes off extremely one dimensional trying to be the cool kid on screen at all times. This may still be entertaining for kids now if they can bypass some of the 90's lingo and mannerisms.
"Hey! I'm still cool!"
We now start getting into shows of a higher quality starting with the mid-90's Mega Man animated series. Badass intro and song? Check. Slick animation? Check. No annoying voices or side characters? Checkmate!
"Super fighting robot... MEGA MAN!"
Oh yeah! Anyone who has seen at least one episode from this show had that intro song stuck in their head at one time or another. The entire intro alone was simply awesome and got you pumped for whatever episode was coming up next.
Okay, so maybe Mega Man wasn't the best role model with his misogynistic views towards his sister Roll and a tendency to litter energy cans (3:14 - 3:51). He was still badass though thanks to the direction of the show making him look and act older. Having his "brother" Proto Man as a personal rival made for some excellent fights between the two that always seemed to mess up Dr. Wily's plans. The episodes have a very formulaic way of fleshing out characters and moving the plot that's reminiscent to a lot of anime shows. Mega Man does justice to the source material and still holds up pretty well to this day.
Just like every young gamer in the 90's, I was a fan of Pokemon. The show started shortly after the original games were released and a phenomenon was born that hooked Japanese and American kids alike.
(from left to right) Brock, Misty, Meowth, Jessie, Pikachu, James, and Ash
The basic concept of the games had you fighting and collecting monsters echoing the famed catchphrase "Gotta catch 'em all!" This made for an easy to translate story of a young Pokemon trainer named Ash going on a journey to be the best. As addicting as this idea for the show was, I want to say the characters are what really made Pokemon the show popular. You have everyone's favorite cute yellow conductor Pikachu of course along with the "oh so cool" Brock. The absolute "show-stealers", however, have to be the bumbling baddies of Team Rocket comprised of Jesse, James, and Meowth.
I absolutely loved these guys. I call this the "Dick Dastardly complex" where the villain (or villains in this case) of a show is just so awesome and/or hilarious that they become the main reason to tune in. There was a time in the series where Jessie and James were replaced by a more successful duo named Butch and Cassidy (I see what you did there). It was that change which had me move on from the show entirely.
There were some other notable shows that also come to mind that I'd like to briefly mention. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? was an excellent kids game show that aired on public television. There were a lot of notable villains like RoboCrook and Vic the Slick along with the Chief (played by Lynne Thigpen) who would brief you on your case. That final round where you had to place 8 markers on different countries of a map within 45 seconds was brutal!
Another show I have to bring up is Battletoads. You may be asking yourself, "Really? There was a show based on Battletoads?" Well... sort of. Only the pilot episode aired and the concept took some liberties with the source material such as having the main characters as teenage kids who can change into the anthropomorphic amphibians at will. It mainly served as a prequel to the game but that didn't prevent it from looking like an obvious knockoff from the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon which was hot at that time.
I hope you enjoyed this look back down memory lane! Please share some of your favorite video game inspired television shows in the comments below.
I have only scarcely seen most of them although I do have to admit that that intro theme for Megaman is pretty awesome and that Team Rocket is the highly of the other series. Although, considering its time period, I would argue that the Zelda cartoon is THAT bad as people make it out to be.
yea i loved both the toys and show. the show was pretty serious for it's time. people actually getting killed and what not. Do you remember FOX's Peter Pan and the Pirates? So good. I wish cartoons these days had that quality
There was a part where he said "snooping as usual". "snooping as". "snoopingas". "pingas". Hearing how loud he said that part makes me think he made it sound like that on purpose.
i think that show was first on foxbox and that had the 2003 tmnt series and THAT was pretty damn awesome. but yeah that show sucked
Can't recall the name of the episode, though look it up on Netflix.
You're welcome. Anytime!
Y U NO BRING UP EARTHWORM JIM?!
Oh yeah, Mighty Max was an excellent show back in the day. The toys were kind of innovative and spawned a lot of knockoffs.
This would have made for an excellent companion article. Thanks for your insight!
ou're right, I didn't embellish too much on the Legend of Zelda cartoon. That line was annoying as all hell since it was in every single episode. The animation and portrayal of the characters were pretty bad from what I recall. If you enjoy it though then that's great. Those are just my 2 cents.
Megaman...good memories...god i remember the show when X came back from the future chasing Spark Mandril and i who had played X and megaman was all WTF -tableflips- X was such a bad ass...they shouldve made him a show id watch the shit outta that.
Oh nostalgia, you served me well, but now it's time for you to move on.
Brock will always be one of my favorite characters, he's managed to serve the purposes as antagonist, hero, mentor, comic relief, and chew toy :)
Yo How about them 90's fighting game cartoons? Mortal Kombat had a cartoon that I watched (okay from I recall), Darkstalkers also had a very lame cartoon, and of course, Street Fighter had a cartoon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3ALwKeSEYs
Actually I have the SF cartoon on Bluray since it came packaged in the SF 25th Anniversary Collectors Box :p
Edit: just remembered there was a Double Dragon cartoon, and probably one of THE best video game cartoons ever: Earthworm Jim! www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRli1rRMoSQ
The Legend of Zelda cartoon was okay. Your only reason for calling it bad seems to be that one line...
So many fond memories.
I was born in the late 70's so I watched Captain N, The Super Mario Bros Super Show, Sonic the Hedgehog (the only one I remember is the one with Jaleel White), Mega Man, and others you didn't mention (I was like 17 when the Pokemon craze started in the US so I never played any of the games or watched the cartoon).
Anyway, I was certainly aware of the liberties they took in Captain N at the time but didn't mind it then since I thought the show was pretty awesome. Even today I have no problem sitting down and watching an episode, so the show aged well for me.
The Super Mario Bros Super Show was my favorite of those shows and is probably the one that aged the best since I still have the same love for the show that I did as a kid. The live action segments were awesome as well as the cartoon. I loved how on Fridays they aired Zelda cartoons---everything about the show kicks ass in my opinion & I easily overlook the overused "excuse me princess" line. Later on when the show was in syndication and they changed it to Club Mario it was still OK, but lost a lot of its charm when the live action segments were altered with the new characters. The 2 other Mario cartoons that followed the Super Mario Mario Bros Super Show (Super Mario Bros 3 & The New Super Mario World) came out the following 2 seasons but aired only on Saturdays instead of weekdays. They were paired with Captain N but just weren't as good as the Super Mario Bros Super Show. I thought the Koopa Kids were annoying as well as the overexposure of Yoshi. They had no live action segments and no more Zelda cartoons. After the Super Mario Bros Super Show ended, the only time we saw Link & Zelda was on 2 episodes of Captain N.
The Sonic cartoon with Jaleel White was OK, but I'm pretty sure it was on in the mornings right before school so I didn't get a good chance to watch the entire episodes. I could probably watch the show today, but I probably wouldn't enjoy it as much as the other shows.
Mega Man is one I watched also every now & then, but that's the one I least cared for. I was & of course still am a huge fan of the classic 8-bit series on the NES but for some reason there was something about that cartoon that I didn't like.
Other video game shows I remember watching that aren't listed here are the Pac-Man cartoon, Saturday Supercade, Video Power, The Power Team, and GamePro TV.
The Pac-Man cartoon aired from 1982-1983 & was done by Hanna Barbera. It was possibly the first ever cartoon based on a video game character. Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, and Lorenzo Music are some well known voice actors who were involved with the show. It followed the Pac-Man family that consisted of Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Baby (probably the same character as Baby Pac-Man/Jr. Pac-Man), their dog Chomp-Chomp (from the Pac-Man sequel Pac-Man & Chomp-Chomp), and their cat Sour Puss. It takes place in Pac-Land and featured the ghosts (Inky, Blinky, Clyde, and Sue) as the enemies.
Saturday Supercade was a 1984 cartoon with a variety of video game characters from classic arcade games where each week the episode featured a different character. They included Q*bert, Frogger, Donkey Kong, Mario, Pitfall Harry, Donkey Kong Jr., Kangaroo, and Space Ace. Here is the intro:
It was like a Hanna Barbera variety cartoon based on video game characters and was corny, but if it was released on DVD, I would buy the hell out of it and watch it today with no problem.
I also watched the shows Video Power and The Power Team, which were paired together:
Video Power was a live action show featuring video game reviews of games that were out then, previews of upcoming games, and tips/hints for gamers who had troubles in certain spots of certain games all done by Johnny Arcade who was played by Stivi Paskoski. At times, he would even go to conventions/expos to booths so he could show upcoming games. Video Power was awesome & way ahead of its time, but was completely changed for its second season where it was turned into a game show based on video games where kids/teens would compete as contestants in various rounds that included playing video games and quizzes based on video games. I specifically remember an episode where 2 contestants competed in Double Dragon III and the one who got the furthest in the time limit won. The Power Team was a cartoon much like Captain N but was based on characters from games that Acclaim published. These included heroes like Kuros from Wizards & Warriors, Tyrone from Arch Rivals, Kwirk from his self-titled Game Boy game, Max Force from NARC, and Bigfoot from the Bigfoot NES game. The enemies include Mr. Big from NARC as the primary villain, Rowdy Roddy Radish from Kwirk, Malkil the evil wizard from Wizards & Warriors, Joe Rockhead and Spike from NARC, and a monster truck named Burnt Rubber. The heroes were led by the same Johnny Arcade who was in Video Power. He was like Kevin from Captain N (a real world character) except he remained in the real world and used his controller to communicate with the video game heroes. If I remember correctly, these shows were on Sunday mornings.
And the last video game show I remember was GamePro TV, which was done by the magazine of the same name. It was hosted by J. D. Roth & co-hosted by Brennan Howard and featured several new & upcoming video games for consoles such as the NES, SNES, Game Boy, Genesis and TurboGrafx-16. Gamers at home could send in recordings of themselves explaining tips/codes for games, where one would be chosen to be shown every week. Mailed in questions from viewers were also frequently answered on-air. Like the magazine, the show had a SWAT section for certain games. Here is an episode of GamePro TV:
I loved these shows because of the (now) classic games they focused on and provided reviews & tips for. I'm not sure if there are any shows today on TV that do the same things for current gen games, but it wouldn't be the same since the challenge that current gen games provide just isn't at the level of the difficulty of old school games where such tips & codes were extremely useful. That, and I just don't care about current gen games as I do about games from the 80's & 90's. For me, all these shows aged well because they all had charm that nothing I watch on TV today has.
let me first say, I was an 80's kid, I was there during the heyday of the arcades and home consoles and yes all the cartoons of the era. Now I can say with 100% certainty that as much as I have loved going back and looking at those shows from that now well bygone time (hell network tv doesn't even have morning,afternoon or weekend cartoons anymore) I need to say without nostalgia clouding my feelings these shows have mostly become laughably bad, the flaws like huge open wounds after this much time are just unbearable the writing,voices, the mostly piss poor animation of the time. Sure there are a few that held up well enough but those are the rarest of exceptions,most if not all of these I've watched in the last few years and they just hurt my soul, mario in particular is painful also for a true dose of late 80's early 90's throwback track down the episode with milli vanilli, yikes!
nope, I'd hand 4kids nothing, their dubs are crap at best and at worst straight up ruin the show (yu-gi-oh is a great example) add to that there penchant to edit the dumbest shit out or in to the show add terrible theme songs (come on the rap in one piece) and you see why so many hate them with a white hot passion.