Celebrating The Simpsons 30th Anniversary: Here are the best Simpsons Games... ever
This month, The Simpsons celebrates its 30th anniversary. The iconic family debuted on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987, being the stars of some comedic shorts. On December 17, 1989, however, the first full-length episode of The Simpsons premiered. That episode, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” was a lot of folks' first time seeing the animated sitcom family, and the first chapter in what would become a massively popular multimedia franchise.
The show eventually spawned T-shirts, toys, comic books, a full-length film, and video games. In fact, there have been a lot of Simpsons video games over the past three decades — some folks might argue that there have been too many Simpsons games, as their quality has certainly been questionable. Thankfully, they haven't all been duds, and hidden with the nearly 30 installments of the Simpsons game series are a few high points.
Without further adieu, here is the definitive list of the best Simpsons games ever. That's right: ever. Or, ya know, at least five pretty good ones.
The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants (1991)
This is a tricky one. The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants gets a lot of hate, but I consider it to be more of a misunderstood diamond in the rough. It's by no means a perfect game, especially when it comes to the controls, which work well enough but aren't as precise as something like Super Mario Bros. 3. There's still a lot to love about the game, though. The platforming is fun and challenging. There are a lot of secrets to be discovered. And the game just shines with that classic Simpsons personality.
Each level has different requirements, bringing some variety to the fold. In the first stage, you have to get rid of purple items. You use spray paint to turn a purple item orange. You launch fireworks at purple window blinds. The second level has you collecting hats, many of which are placed in tricky locations and require some dangerous platforming. There's a Krusty Land level, too, where the goal is to grab balloons or pop them with Bart's slingshot.
There's a lot to do in Bart vs. the Space Mutants, and most of it is pretty cool. The game can get kind of frustrating, especially toward the end, but it's still a nicely designed Simpsons title.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run (2003)
For Simpsons fans, 2003's The Simpsons: Hit & Run was a dream come true. The game is set in an open world and lets players run amok in a living, breathing Springfield. The actual mission designs leave a bit to be desired, with a lot of them being basic fetch quests or simply requiring you to go from point A to point B. Still, it's cool driving around and seeing the Kwik-E-Mart, Moe's, Burns' Nuclear Power Plant, and other classic Simpsons locations. There are obviously better open world games, but none let you explore the infamous town of Springfield.
When The Simpsons: Road Rage first launched, all I wanted to do was hop out of the characters' cars and explore the world. While doing so isn't possible in that game, Hit & Run allows players to do just that. You could get out of your vehicle and see everything Springfield has to offer. The game brings The Simpsons to life in a way never before possible, and it's freakin' cool because of it.
The Simpsons Game (Console Version) (2007)
In 2007, the same year we got The Simpsons Movie, we also got The Simpsons Game. Don't let the timing fool you, though — this game wasn't a licensed tie-in to the movie, but rather an original adventure altogether. Penned by The Simpsons show writers, the game's original story is filled with tongue-in-cheek humor, referential jokes, and parodies of other games. It features a lot of great cut-scenes starring the series' massive cast of characters, and it's straight-up hilarious.
While there's no driving gameplay in The Simpsons Game, the level and mission designs are superior compared to those of Hit & Run. In a perfect world, we would've gotten the driving gameplay of Hit & Run and the objectives from The Simpsons Game in one incredible package. That said, even without the driving and open world Springfield, The Simpsons Game is a blast to play, and it's about as close as we've ever gotten to playing an actual episode of The Simpsons.
The Simpsons (Arcade Game) (1991)
We got a lot of great coin-operated beat 'em ups during the height of the arcade era. While it arguably wasn't quite on the same level as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time or Double Dragon 2: The Revenge, The Simpsons — often referred to as The Simpsons arcade game — was still a wholly entertaining experience. Despite its simplicity, it's still a blast to play today.
The game stars Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa, armed with fists, a vacuum cleaner, a skateboard, and a jump rope, respectively. The story sees the family chasing after Smithers, who, after robbing a jewelry store, also kidnaps Maggie after she grabs one of the diamonds he stole. Okay, so while I'd definitely say this is something Mr. Burns would do, I wouldn't really take Smithers for a common crook. But whatevs!
That weird story beat aside, it's pretty cool running around Springfield, Krusty Land, and the Nuclear Power Plant among other famous locations from the show. The beat 'em up gamplay isn't all that deep, but it's still highly enjoyable, thanks in large part to some really fun, larger-than-life bosses.
The game was exclusive to arcades for a very long time until it finally got a release on the PlayStation Network on PS3 and Xbox Live Arcade on Xbox 360. Sadly, that was short-lived as The Simpsons arcade game was pulled from both digital platforms a few years ago. Why, Konami, why?!
The Simpsons Game (Nintendo DS) (2007)
The DS version of The Simpsons Game is easily the greatest Simpsons video game ever made. In terms of its story, it's the same as its console brethren, featuring a lot of the same twists and turns, and using the same cartoon cut-scenes. The level themes are also the same across the two versions, with iconic stages like The Land of Chocolate and Duff Brewery taking center stage. In addition, all the pop culture and game parodies — The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Shadow of the Colossus, and countless others — are all there, too.
The biggest difference in The Simpsons Game for DS is its 2D action-platforming gameplay. The mechanics of the DS version are like a cross between a Mario game and The Simpsons arcade game. The controls work really well, the levels are expertly designed, and there's a solid degree of challenge. Not to mention the game utilizes the DS touch screen in some neat ways that add a completely new puzzle-y layer to the over experience.
The primary flaw of The Simpsons Game on DS is that it's not longer. You can finish it in a few hours, but during that time you'll have a blast. Typically, these 2D Nintendo DS versions of games were largely inferior — or at the very least, played second fiddle — when compared to their console counterparts. Shockingly, that's not the case here. The Simpsons Game on home consoles is good, great even, but The Simpsons Game on Nintendo DS is a bit better overall thanks in part to its tighter level designs and touchscreen additions.
Not to mention, that Pet Homer mini-game is kind of cool in a weird way.
Out of the almost 30 entries in the franchise, what's your favorite Simpsons game? Are you a Bart's Nightmare apologist? Do you consider The Simpsons: Tapped Out an underrated SimCity-like? Did you enjoy the Crazy Taxi style of The Simpsons: Road Rage? Sound off in the comments!