Few properties embody the 1990s’ trademark irreverent spirit like The Simpsons, Fox’s animated show about a family of five that took America – and the world – by storm. In fact, as the longest running show on television, gamers need not look far for new The Simpsons content but today we’re going to take a peek back at the beginning of the phenomenon in the 1990s and how this fad made its way over to the video game realm.
Those of you who have long memories may recall that legendary video game publisher LJN put out a few titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System, none of which were critical successes, but you might not be aware of an arcade title by Konami that bears The Simpsons’ moniker. Crafted in the same vein as Konami’s other co-op beat ‘em up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons Arcade Game aped the former title’s set up with the addition of one more player to the screen. For the early 1990s, a five-player arcade game was quite rare indeed, let alone a game as accessible and addictive as The Simpsons’ arcade game.
Though it was released all the way back in 1991, The Simpsons Arcade Game continues to conjure positive memories among gamers that played even today. Heck, you might even be able to spot the odd arcade cabinet here and there still in use such was the popularity of this game.
And it’s no mystery why. Looking back at 1991’s The Simpsons Arcade Game through the lens of 2018, the most immediately noticeable thing is how amazingly well done the game is. Not only is the animation style true to the television series of the same name, but also the gameplay doesn’t stray too far from what a fan would expect of a combat-oriented The Simpsons game. In terms of story, the arcade game does put Mr. Burns in a more actively diabolical situation than he is typically portrayed in more modern The Simpsons episodes which might be jarring for some players.
After all, kidnapping a baby like what happens to Maggie is a somewhat bizarre plot device but this is a show that made the phrase “Don’t have a cow, man!” common lingo in the 1990s so perhaps it is best taken in that spirit. Overlooking the otherwise absurd premise for the game, everything else is just absolutely perfect – almost too perfect, in fact. While gamers would receive multiple ports of the sibling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade Game, The Simpsons Arcade Game would only make appearances on the Commodore 64 and MS-DOS and in completely different forms from the arcade at that.
It wasn’t until the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live put the game on sale in the early 2010s that gamers could play The Simpsons Arcade Game at home, a true tragedy by any measure. That’s because The Simpsons Arcade Game is not only one of the best co-op games of the 1990s arcade scene but perhaps one of the best ever. Distilling the whole essence of The Simpsons into a fun, compelling experience for fans and non-fans alike. Making a game derived from a licensed property is always fraught with peril, but The Simpsons Arcade Game is a classic for the ages.