The Simpsons has been satirizing all aspects of American life for over two decades, so it’s no surprise that they’ve taken a few digs at video games along the way. Some of these references are sharp, some are affectionate, and some even end up looking like pretty cool games. Let’s take a look at all the fake video games created throughout Simpsons history.
12. Babyblast (the Simpsons Movie)
Most of the time when video games appear in The Simpsons, it’s to poke fun of the stereotype of mindless violence marketed to kids, similar to the way the show approaches cartoons with Itchy and Scratchy. This edgiest of edgelord games is literally a dead baby joke, which Bart makes all the more outrageous by playing in church. Later on in the movie, Maggie gets her hands on the pseudo Game Boy along with Babyblast, and she’s even less inclined than her brother to show mercy to her fellow babies.
11. Billy Graham’s Bible Blaster (Alone Again, Natura-Diddily)
A bit of the old ultra-violence is fine for a cool kid like Bart, but that kind of thing is definitely not okelly-dokelly in the Flanders household. Rodd and Todd introduce Bart to Billy Graham’s Bible Blaster, a shoot-’em-up where your gun shoots streams of bibles at your enemies, which are represented by such tasteful characters such as animal skin-wearing pagans and levitating Hindus. A successful hit converts the heathen into a Christian, although it’s not always so simple. A glancing hit results in only a partial conversion, turning the heathen into a Unitarian.
The late Billy Graham was an actual Evangelist minister who achieved infamy for his influence on politics. Bible Blaster itself is probably inspired by the religious games produced by Wisdom Tree. But when it comes to heathen-converting fun, I’ll stick with the priest from Age of Empires.
10. Bonestorm (Marge be not Proud)
Bonestorm is a not so subtle parody of the enemy of moral guardians and spelling enthusiasts everywhere, Mortal Kombat. The game ratchets up MK’s absurd elements, showing Liu Kang being shot by a tank, and two Goro-like figures with 6 arms each engaged in bloody battle.
The TV commercial for Bonestorm is a pure gold parody of edgy 90’s marketing, with a jacked, shades-and-bazooka toting Santa urging kids to tell their parents ‘Buy Me Bonestorm or go to Hell!’
Bonestorm itself does look like fun, and after Bart’s failed attempts to buy, borrow or rent the game, he’s tempted to shoplift a copy from the store by the dark angels of video gaming — Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Sonic the Hedgehog, and, uh…Lee Carvallo?
9. Cat Fight (Bart Star)
Cat Fight is just a throwaway gag, a game Bart plays for a few seconds in the Kwik-E-Mart, but I think it would be funny enough to spend a quarter or two on. There’s some evidence that networks did not find the premise (or the insults) to be in good taste, since the game segment is removed from syndicated versions. Disturbingly enough, there was an actual Mortal Kombat style game called CatFight made in 1996, with none of The Simpsons’ sense of humor at all, and it is very bad indeed.
8. Cereal Killer (Dangerous Curves)
Cereal Killer mainly exists to service the pun, where the player guns down various breakfast cereal mascots including Cap’n Crunch, Trix Rabbit, Count Fudge-ula and Toucan Sam. Bart plays it on his Game Boy Advance during a car ride, and for once his love of violent video games is encouraged by his family. As teenage hitchhikers make out in the car, Homer sternly tells his son to keep his eyes on the game. Funnily enough, you can get a taste of Cereal Killer in real life, at least if you’re an iPhone user.
7. Dash Dingo (Lisa gets an ‘A’)
Crash Bandicoot parody Dash Dingo calls back to The Simpsons’ digs at Australia – ‘Foolish dingo, you must find and devour the seven crystal babies, or spend eternity trapped in deed Digeree-Doo!’ Also, ninja koalas with nunchaku. Lisa is initially unconvinced by the game but she quickly loosens up and becomes addicted, playing for 3 days straight, uncharacteristically faking an illness to get out of school and get even more game time in. We’ve all been there.
6. Death Kill City II: Death Kill Stories (Yokel Chords)
Bart is introduced to this game by his therapist, Stacey Swanson. Grand Theft Auto franchise parody DKC2:DKS is so uber eXXtreme!11! that according to Bart, it’s rated “Bad for everyone”. In the first level, you destroy all human life forms. Through the magic of co-op video games, cool therapist Dr. Swanson unlocks an achievement: Bart’s feelings.
5. Earthland Realms (Marge Gamer)
A parody MMORPG that almost everyone in Springfield plays, Earthland Realms obviously has a huge amount of player options and characters, including giant insects, cyclops and dragons. It has a central part in the story and is one of the few Bart-Marge bonding moments, where Marge discovers that her son’s character is the terror of the online world. When Bart’s shadow knight is defeated after sacrificing health to revive his mother’s elf cleric, Marge takes on a new warrior persona to enact a bloody virtual revenge.
4. Escape from Grandma’s House Series (Multiple Episodes)
Escape from Grandma’s House is a harsh, long running gag in The Simpsons, a side-scroller in which a child has to outrun the affections of his grandmother, dodging obstacles along the way. Failure results in grandmother grabbing the poor kid and kissing him to death, each kiss marked with a skull graphic. Possible titles awarded to high scorers include ‘ungrateful grandchild’. Sequels include Escape From Grandma’s House III: The Great Thanksgiving Disaster, and Escape From Grandma’s House IV: The Night Over.
3. Hockey Dad (The Regina Monologues)
Bart and Milhouse hang out and play Hockey Dad, which is a parody of fighting games and a pretty dark joke about the famous Thomas Junta manslaughter case. After one kid scores a goal in a hockey game, Mr. Shadowski and Mr. O’Bannon attempt to beat each other up with fists, kicks, throwing coffee, or by whacking the opponent with a foldable chair or a briefcase, until one starts stomping on his opponent’s face. His kid tries to get him to stop before it becomes murder, but the winning dad does get to kill the other dad, striking a one-armed victory pose flanked by cops, with the announcer shouting “You’re a big man! BIG MAN!!”. Yep, you can play this one too.
2. Larry the Looter (Various Episodes)
A side-scrolling game in which the player smashes open store windows to steal as much merchandise as possible without being caught by armed shop owners. Larry the Looter is another dig at the amorality of video games and, naturally, another one of Bart’s favorites. Outside of canon, Larry even makes it into the official Simpsons video games, but sadly not as a real playable character.
1. Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge (Marge Be Not Proud)
Every young gamer knows the pain of receiving a stinker of a game as a gift from a well-meaning but clueless family member. After the Bonestorm shoplifting debacle, Bart receives this game as a Christmas gift from his mother and does his best to appear grateful. During the ending credits, the laughs are squeezed from Carvallo’s painfully uncool delivery and Bart’s desperate attempts to make the game entertaining by ignoring the master’s advice and power-driving the ball into the parking lot. It doesn’t work.
‘Would you like to play again? You have selected: No’
This article originally appeared on video games magazine site NowLoading.co. The site is no longer online, but I’ve uploaded a few articles from my time as a staff writer there (2016-2017) here as portfolio samples.