Video games based on outside properties have come a long way since the likes of Atari’s E.T., which was so poorly received that it almost destroyed the gaming industry. Now video games based on movies and comic books are routinely among the best-selling and most critically acclaimed titles every year.
Video games based on television shows, on the other hand, are a different story—which might have something to do with some of the more bizarre shows that have been adapted over the years. Here are 10 unlikely TV shows that got turned into video games.
1. DALLAS QUEST (1984)
In 1984, the family drama, corporate intrigue, and 10-gallon hats made famous in Dallas found their way onto the Commodore 64 in the form of Dallas Quest, a text adventure that puts players in the role of a renowned detective hired by Sue Ellen to track down a mysterious map that leads to a South American oil field (and, of course, piles of Dallas-y oil money).
By inputting commands (such as “look” or “dig”), players can investigate the Ewing estate, traverse through hazardous jungles, or (in one spectacularly odd sequence) tickle an anaconda to get to the bottom of this mystery. Much like the show itself, Dallas Quest rewards the eagle-eyed player that pores through the mountains of dialogue that leave hints and clues for each puzzle. Though text adventures are long extinct, and likely can’t hold the attention of most modern gamers, the spirit of Dallas was a perfect match for the genre.
2. ALF (1989)
Remember ALF? Well here he is in video game form, complete with all of his loveable cat-snatching hijinks. The game revolves around ALF attempting to find the parts necessary to repair his spaceship so he can take a joyride to Mars to visit his girlfriend. Along the way, players journey through dank caves, city streets, and the Tanner family home as Alf fights off wave after wave of enemies.
The game does occasionally stray from the typical side-scrolling formula by introducing underwater levels and a section where ALF needs to ride a flying Segway to victory. The whole thing ends up with ALF on the moon, where his spaceship repair kit just so happens to be.
3. THE ADVENTURES OF GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (1990)
If the mere prospect of releasing a video game based on Gilligan’s Island wasn’t strange enough, consider that this 8-bit oddity hit shelves about 23 years after the sitcom had gone off the air. This crude action game puts players in the role of the Skipper (followed closely behind by Gilligan) as he traverses the island, completing a number of tasks, like building a hut during a storm or finding Mrs. Howell’s wedding ring after it is stolen by a bird (players are rewarded with a jar of caviar once they return it to her).
Much like the show itself, the game consists of a lot of walking around; overcoming the occasional obstacle like gorillas, tigers, and cannibals; and wrangling the computer-controlled Gilligan long enough to complete the game’s story. To its credit, the game tries its best to replicate the dialogue found in the show with some banter that feels authentic to the characters (though there's sadly no button to whomp Gilligan with your hat).
4. HOME IMPROVEMENT: POWER TOOL PURSUIT! (1994)
Remember the episode of Home Improvement when Tim Allen had to battle an army of velociraptors, mummies, and scorpions the size of Buicks? Well it had to exist somewhere, because in 1994 that was the entire premise of a Super Nintendo game called Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit.
The plot begins with a line of power tools going missing on the set of Tool Time, which obviously leads to Tim arming himself with a chainsaw to hunt vampires and other ghouls. The whole affair is a standard side-scroller, complete with power-ups (in the form of hardhats) and a choice of weapons like a nail gun and flamethrower. The game does manage to capture the spirit of the show in one way: There was no instruction manual included in the box. Instead, players were just left with a fake booklet with a sticker plastered across it that read “Real Men Don’t Need Instructions.” We’ll grunt to that.
5. DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES: THE GAME (2006)
Desperate Housewives doesn’t exactly lend itself to a typical gaming genre (though a Street Fighter II-inspired fighting game sounds intriguing), but this Sims homage is probably the most appropriate for the show. In this game, players are tasked with creating their character—the new Housewife on the block—along with her husband and children. In typical soap opera fashion, your new housewife also has amnesia and has to piece her life together (and stir up salacious drama).
Gameplay objectives include shopping, gardening, socializing, and housekeeping, all while navigating a story that involves finding out your neighbor’s deepest, darkest secrets. Oh, you can also have an affair with pretty much anyone on your block, including the mailman and your maid. In that respect, Desperate Housewives: The Game might be the most faithful game on this list.
6. THE OFFICE (2007)
Few shows were as big as The Office was at its peak, so it’s only natural that someone would try to squeeze a little more cash out of the show by turning it into a video game. The problem is: How would an Office game actually work? In 2007, developer Reveille came up with a gameplay model that mixed the show’s humor with fairly casual gameplay reminiscent of Diner Dash.
This PC title featured the main Office cast as exaggerated bobblehead versions of themselves, with players running around Dunder Mifflin, playing pranks and handing off different supplies (folders, cash, paperwork) to the appropriate worker. There are some memorable quotes from the show sprinkled throughout, as well as some Easter eggs from the series, such as Pam laying Michael’s Foreman Grill on the floor to prank him. It may not be the in-depth Office simulator you were hoping for, but it’s an easy way to kill an afternoon.
7. LITTLE BRITAIN: THE VIDEO GAME (2007)
It’s only fair that a TV show as crude as Little Britain gets a game that’s equally as rough around the edges. There’s no story to progress through in the game; instead, there are seven mini-games to play, all centered around different characters from the BBC comedy. This includes a rather nonsensical roller skating mini-game with Vicky Pollard; Lou and Andy in a diving competition; and Marjorie Dawes in a Pac-Man rip-off.
The idea was for the mini-games to mirror the sketch comedy style of the show. It didn’t quite work, as the game predictably received unanimously horrid reviews.
8. IRON CHEF AMERICA: SUPREME CUISINE (2008)
In this Nintendo Wii adaptation of Iron Chef America, you can grate, mince, and dice your way to victory through the use of the system’s motion controls. The game boils down to a series of mini-games that you have to complete quickly and efficiently as you cook the dish the show’s host gives to you.
With voice acting provided by the show’s hosts, including Alton Brown and Mark Dacascos, Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine is as faithful an adaptation of the show as you’re likely to find. However, that doesn’t necessarily translate to fun, as both the Wii and Nintendo DS versions of the game have been soundly battered by critics.
9. MURDER, SHE WROTE (2009)
If you think Murder, She Wrote doesn’t lend itself to the world of gaming, you’d be wrong. It just doesn’t lend itself to the world of modern gaming. Taking its cues from the point and click adventure games of the ’80s and ‘90s, this 2009 release features five murder mysteries, leaving players to find the culprit behind each. Clues are discovered by watching conversations unfold and then clicking around locations until hints present themselves.
Though the game sets up the type of plots that a viewer would find in the Murder, She Wrote TV series, none of the actors lent their voices to the game; the mere likeness of Dame Angela Lansbury is all you’ll get. The game must have done something right, though, because Murder, She Wrote 2: Return to Cabot Cove came out just a few years after the original.
10. GREY’S ANATOMY: THE VIDEO GAME (2009)
Part dating simulator, part surgery minigame, 2009’s Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game attempted to squeeze all of the romantic dalliances, brooding, and occasional doctoring of the show into one cohesive title. During the course of the game, players take control of a number of Grey’s main cast, including Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang, as you guide them through the everyday drama that is being a doctor, including surgeries and flirting with your co-workers.
For Dr. Grey, you start the game out with a decision to make: Do you play hard to get with Dr. Shepherd, or do you go right at him and make some not-so-thinly-veiled advances on him in the elevator? As Dr. Yang, an early mission has you literally destroying bubbles of doubt as you build up your courage meter. Each decision dictates what graphic will appear afterwards (like whether or not you get to make out with Dr. McDreamy during your shift).
Some of these challenges do involve simulated medical procedures, but don’t expect anything harder than clicking and dragging your way to an easy victory (thankfully the Nintendo Wii graphics are as detailed as a WikiHow page, so you won’t get squeamish).