Hello once again, dear reader. Last time we looked at the “Worst Video Games featuring The Simpsons”. We saw shocking skateboarding, a questionable beanstalk and God-awful wrestling. It wasn't all bad, however - for every bad mobile game there could possibly be a good mobile game, it’s not out of the realms of possibility!
So join me as we take a look at some of The Best Simpson Video Games!
The Simpsons Tapped Out (iOS & Android, 2012)
Now wait! Before you go questioning the validity of this list, let me try to convince you that ‘Tapped Out’ is actually a good game. There is no denying that the “freemium” market is now overloaded with lots of different city builders (Family Guy & Futurama just to name a few), but back in 2012 when the game debuted, in-app purchases were just blossoming and were not the vile poison they are today.
The premise of the game is simple; after a nuclear meltdown caused by Homer, he must rebuild Springfield with the help of Lisa. Sure it’s not the most complicated of narratives, but after a quick intro video you get down to business.
If you have ever enjoyed a city builder (the likes of SimCity or CitiesXL), then you will most likely enjoy ‘Tapped Out’ as well. You will find yourself rebuilding all the classic locations in The Simpsons, from their neighbourhood to the nuclear power plant and even some episode specific references to sweeten your appetite, such as the Monorail (what’s it called?).
Whilst the concept is quite plain and this could easily have any other franchise slapped on top of it, Tapped Out’ feels somewhat soulful. The game features ten of the show’s writers and the original voice actors for nearly all the characters (if they cannot get the specific voice actor, the character is hilariously mute when you tap upon them) and all this helps toward the Springfieldian charm that the game is trying to convey.
There is of course one downfall to the game, which is the in-app purchases (micro-transactions if you will) for premium currency, which is used to speed up timers and purchase “premium content”. Just like in real life, a Kwik-E-Mart does not just appear spontaneously in front of you - it takes time. However, unlike real life, you can pay an amount to make sure it is built straight away. The choice is up to the player, be patient and wait or use real life dollar to speed things up.
The game has generated over $150 million since its release in 2012, so saying it’s popular may be an understatement. Seven years after release, it is still making a fair amount of money and could be the reason we have yet to see a new big Simpsons game released on home console… So dear reader, I implore you to try ‘Tapped Out’ as long as you are patient and know what you are getting yourself in for; because let's face it, it doesn't seem like there is going to be another Simpsons game anytime soon.
The Simpsons Arcade (Arcade, 1991)
Not to be confused with the Electronic Arts iOS game, ‘The Simpsons Arcade’ game was released by Konami, unsurprisingly, for arcades.
In this game, we find Waylon Smithers robbing a diamond from a bank and accidentally bumping into our favourite yellow family. Maggie happens to catch the diamond and Smithers thinks “well fuck it, I’ll just take the baby”. It’s from this point you play as Homer, Marge, Bart (wearing his blue shirt) or Lisa in a 4 player Co-op beat em’ up to rescue the quietest Simpson. You find yourself going through the different parts of Springfield - from Krustyland to Moe’s Tavern and even the Nuclear Power Plant.
‘The Simpsons Arcade’ is full of so many early years Simpson references you might be a bit overwhelmed at first; background gags, character cameos, fourth-wall breaks and even references to Matt Groening’s ‘Life in Hell’ comic series, essentially making it “Fanservice: The Game”.
References to oneself does not make a good game, however, and ‘The Simpsons Arcade’ is based upon Konami’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Arcade game, this ensures a solid foundation was in place before development started. It did try to innovate by adding two player team up attacks that varied depending on which characters you were playing as, but mostly stuck to being somewhat ‘Final Fight’-alike, as were most games at this time.
The negative aspects of this game come from its length. There are only six levels in total and once you are familiar enough with the combat, you will find yourself blazing through this game with no real reason to come back afterward.
Another potential roadblock you may find is trying to play this game legitimately - it was re-released for Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3 in 2012 but was removed in December 2013. So it might be an idea to boot up the old Commodore 64, find an old MS-DOS executable or failing that, you could always purchase a Simpsons Arcade machine from eBay which seem to be selling from £500 - £1500.
The Simpsons Road Rage (Xbox, Gamecube & PlayStation 2, 2001)
In what can be described not so much a touching-homage but more like a blatant rip-off to Sega’s ‘Crazy Taxi’ (so much so they took them to court and won), ‘Road Rage’ holds a sweet spot in many Simpsons fans hearts as it was the first time you could truly drive around Springfield (albeit in six separate levels).
Mr. Burns is at it again! (A common theme with a lot of the Simpsons Video Games) He has created nuclear powered buses, which he claims to be completely safe! Enter one Hans Moleman who is stood next to one of the buses emitting a nuclear glow and asking for someone to kill him. Lisa convinces Homer they are a threat to the public and before you know it he makes his own taxi service (or Uber as they would be known in this day).
You play as The Simpsons family, unlocking more characters and vehicles as you play through the game. Ever wanted to play as Reverend Lovejoy and his Book Burning Mobile for some reason? Great! You can in this very video game! The objective is simple, pick up passengers and drop them off where they need to go before the timer runs out. As you earn more money you unlock more characters & vehicles as well as worlds/levels. You start off at the the familiar Evergreen Terrace but as you progress, you can find yourself at more questionable locations like the Springfield Dam or the Springfield Mountains.
The problems with ‘Road Rage’ are many; bad collision detection, slippery controls, questionable graphics, hitchy frame rate and a lot of low resolution textures all over the place. The Simpsons charm, however, is there for all to see, the interactions with the characters feel how they are supposed to feel, the voice acting causes genuine laughter and running over the Capital City Goofball mascot will always bring me pleasure.
‘Road Rage’ is by no means a perfect game, but it feels how the Simpsons should feel. After all this time the show and ‘Road Rage’ are somehow perfectly entwined with one another. Whilst at first it’s humour is undeniable, as time goes on you may start to wonder if it actually is all that funny.
The Simpsons Game (PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360, 2007)
The last time we saw The Simpsons on a console (excluding Lego Dimensions) was over 12 years ago at this point. As the name ‘The Simpsons Game’ would suggest, it is definitely a game about the Simpsons. Whilst ‘Road Rage’ copied ‘Crazy Taxi’, Arcade built upon T.M.N.T’s groundwork and ‘Tapped Out’ was Simpsons SimCity, ‘The Simpsons Game’ was built from the ground up to be its own creation, with the storyline written by the shows regular writers.
This game is a cel-shaded third person action adventure game in which you and a friend can control Homer, Marge, Bart (this time with his canon orange shirt) & Lisa. Bart buys a video game and, after having it confiscated,finds out that he himself is in a video game. Upon this revelation, the family use their powers to aid in their personal struggles. Homer becomes a huge ball to win an eating contest, Marge stops the release of Grand Theft Scratchy, Lisa helps stop deforestation and Bart foils the bullies. After this, aliens attack, the fourth wall is not so much broken as demolished and there are references a plenty not just to The Simpsons, but to pop culture as whole.
The Simpson Games excels in parodying its original works, from video games alone there are references to ‘Dead Space’, ‘Half-Life’, ‘Katamari’, ‘God of War’, ‘Metal Gear Solid’ and ‘Mortal Kombat’, just to name a few. It is like an extended episode of Treehouse of Horror. After many hours with the game you won’t question that you are facing Sims creator Will Wright in a boss battle, or Matt Groening for that matter, who additionally sends Zoidberg & Bender clones at you, which bizarrely feels like it fits and for the most part is funny.
The gameplay of ‘The Simpsons Game’ is its downfall. The titular game sees you in a variety of levels varying from a War Zone in “Medal of Homer” to a literal Bargain Bin where you will meet a low res Simpsons Family. Whilst this may be hilarious, the third person perspective with basic puzzles and repetitive combat does not help. Comparatively The Arcade Game was the same throughout, however due to its short completion time you never felt like it went on too long. ‘The Simpsons Game’ is a more of a slog as you play on to the end and is not as enjoyable as it could be.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run (Gamecube, PlayStation 2, Xbox & Windows, 2003)
When creating a list of the best games featuring The Simpsons, you would be a fool not to mention ‘Hit & Run’. H&R was developed by Radical Entertainment - the same people who made ‘Road Rage’, but this time it seemed like they had something to prove. They gave the game engine a complete overhaul and threw out everything from ‘Road Rage’, citing “We felt we could really improve the driving portion and were keen on adding an exploration element that would allow the player to get out of the car and navigate on foot.” Whilst ‘Road Rage’ was a blatant rip-off, H&R would be a more faithful parody of the game that influenced it, ‘Grand Theft Auto III’.
This is another game that features the writers of the show, who created “the story for the game, as well as all of the dialogue” with all of the original actors reprising their voices too. This all adds to what makes the game feel so special.
The plot for this games sees Springfield having multiple oddities appear all over the city; Wasp-shaped cameras, black surveillance vans, crop circles and a new flavour of Buzz Cola? Playing as Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart & Apu (still an odd addition looking back after all these years, but my god if it wasn’t awesome when you were playing the game), you try to figure out what exactly is going on with all the weirdness across the city.
Similar to the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series, you find yourself in an open world controlling characters in third person, completing a variety of missions and able to hijack cars from unsuspecting members of Springfield (or the more honest way of using a payphone to control Simpson inspired cars like the Canyonero, Pink Sedan or Bart’s Honor Roller). As you continue to play, you realise that the map changes with each day that passes, little subtleties on each road, as you play as a different character, a different perspective almost. Sure it’s not all connected on one big map like ‘Grand Theft Auto’ but it doesn’t need to be - each area feels like its own. It has so much love and affection in its creation it does not feel anything like GTA (due to the lack of weapons), and most Simpson fans wouldn’t even make that comparison unless you bring it to their attention.
According to Metacritic, over 15 years after its release ‘The Simpsons: Hit & Run’ is still the highest rated Simpsons video game, and with good reason. The only negatives most people found with it are some rare odd glitches, occasional odd behaviour from AI and a camera which is not very friendly with smaller spaces. Even with these things against it, it still manages to capture the most accurate representation of Springfield in a video game which is something amazing considering it started development as “Grand Theft Simpsons”.
There you have it folks, the definitive list of the best video games starring The Simpsons. They are not in any relative order, but we can all agree that ‘The Simpsons: Hit & Run’ is the pinnacle of Simpsons video games and I for one would love them to create a sequel to this beloved game.
Are there any games I missed? Let me know in the comments below!
You can follow me on Twitter @toomuchcraig. Beware I do not tweet a lot.