Video games have had a somewhat storied history when it comes to adaptations. Movie tie-in games are notoriously bad, and now we don’t even see those on consoles and PCs but instead on the mobile platform where any art can be slapped onto any engine and microtransactions are turned on. Yet that doesn’t mean the baby should be thrown out with the bath water. A medium that could certainly use some love in the video game adaptation department is animation.
Many of us have fond memories of growing up with select cartoons. Cartoons that taught us morals, engaged us with action, and sometimes both. No other medium has better potential for truly amazing video game adaptation than cartoons, yet it’s a vein that has been rarely tapped, at least certainly not well. What follows is a list of 10 amazing cartoons and the video games that should be made about them. They were chosen based on the quality of the cartoon itself and the awesomness-potential its video game adaptation would have. Without further ado, here are the top 10 cartoons that deserve a good video game.
#10: MEN IN BLACK
GENRE: OPEN WORLD
The Men in Black cartoon is an adaptation of an adaptation, taking its inspiration and characters from the live action movie from the 90s, which in turn was based on a comic book series. The show followed Agents J and K, who worked for a secret organization that kept alien visitors under wraps and out of trouble. Sometimes their job was diplomatic, but they were always equipped with advanced weaponry should things go sour. Think X-Com, if things hadn’t gotten off to a rough start.
The ideal Men in Black game would place the player in the heart of one of the most alien-inhabited cities on Earth: New York City. They could play as either J, or, even better, a custom character that would be a new agent sent out into the field. Missions would be collected or sent from the Men in Black headquarters and carried out in the city itself. The player would need to balance effectiveness and covertness, as the human population at large does not know about alien life on earth, and the Men in Black like to keep it that way. There would of course be a larger story to progress the player to different areas of the city, but the main thrust would be the open world exploration of the city and the tracking down of ne’er-do-well aliens.
GENRE: VEHICLE COMBAT
MotorCity tells the story of a group of young people who escape the doldrum and miserable life of living in the under city of a futuristic utopia by racing their supped-up cars. Living on the fringes of society and challenging the corrupt law, their cars need to be equipped with weaponry to defend themselves, but top tier racing skill is their main method of defense.
A genre that’s sorely been lacking in modern gaming is vehicular combat. Back in the day, Twisted Metal is was driving force behind the genre, but we haven’t seen a new entry in that franchise in years. Both the characters and the world of MotorCity are tailor made for a vehicle combat game. And if that doesn’t get your fancy, then a racing game ala Mario Kart would suit the racing+fighting niche well too.
#8: G.I. JOE
GENRE: HERO SHOOTER
One of the oldest entries on this list, G.I. Joe is no less well known for its age. A staple of Saturday morning television, G.I. Joe was about a group of varied individuals who all brought their unique talents and personalities to the battlefield. Ironically, for a show that’s as old as G.I. Joe, the genre best suited for it is one of the newest to hit video game shelves: a hero shooter.
Games like Overwatch and Paladins equip the players with not an arsenal of weapons, but an arsenal of heroes. Each one is unique in their appearance and skillset, and each must contribute to the team if they want any hope of success. Sound familiar? While the G.I. Joe roster wasn’t designed with tanks and healers in mind, it’s not a stretch to see some of the crew of both the Joes and Cobra take on those mantles.
#7: YOUNG JUSTICE
GENRE: STEALTH ACTION
Despite a terrible name, Young Justice remains one of the best DC animated shows out there, and certainly the best non-Bruce-Timm related series in the animated pantheon. It followed a group much like the Teen Titans: super hero sidekicks who go on missions the Justice League can’t be bothered to deal with, while being supervised by a member of the JL now and then. Surprisingly, it didn’t fall prey to the stereotype you might imagine a show about a group of teenagers would. Instead it followed the team on covert missions, going against fearsome enemies and odds, while still, of course, building relationships with each other (hormones, am I right?).
Just like the show, an appropriate game for Young Justice would blend action and stealth, as well as some relationship building (think Persona). You would choose a team to take on a mission, with one or more heroes under you direct control. It could even play out like an X-Com game. Bonus points awarded for keeping things stealthy, with some missions requiring it, but others would let you complete them by going loud just fine.
Metalocalypse was a series about the murderous misadventures of a super star death metal band, Dethklok. The five-member group was often woefully oblivious to how the real world worked and how their actions affected it. No matter how much death surrounded their escapades, they still found time to lay down some truly sick tracks. All of the music in Metalocalypse was original and awesome, and would make the perfect track list for a Rock Band style game.
You can probably already imagine exactly how a Metalocalypse game would go, so there’s not much need to describe it beyond saying “Rock Band but with Dethklok songs.” The genre has sadly gone quiet the past few years, thanks in large part to Activision pushing the Guitar Hero brand too hard and turning people off from the constant need to buy expensive plastic instruments. Enough time has passed, and Dethklok is unique enough of a brand, to warrant a new rhythm game, courtesy of Dethklok.
GENRE: TELLTALE ADVENTURE
Archer follows the titular character, a secret agent, and the various employees he works with and has comedic back and forths with. Archer is a witty and smart program with fast quips and great one-liners. The cast of characters is lovable, and their relationships endearing and amusing in equal parts. So what better developer and genre to capture the spirit of the show than a Telltale adventure game?
An Archer game would put the player in the shoes of Sterling Archer himself, as he navigates his comedic relationships and deadly encounters. Who wouldn’t want to play a game where you get to pick the perfect comeback to one of Sterling’s mother’s stinging barbs?
A staple of 90s cartoon television, Gargoyles was dark, serious, and all around a great show. The titular gargoyles were heroes by night and statues by day, looking over the city of New York. Their arch enemy Xanatos remains one of the best fictional villains in the animated sphere, and there is a large group of people who would love to see him, and the gargoyles, return in one form or another.
The Batman Arkham games are not a genre unto themselves, but saying a game is “Arkham-like” elicits a very clear picture in the other person’s mind, assuming they’re somewhat familiar with the series. An Arkham-like game for Gargoyles would be a perfect fit, as the gargoyles and Batman take very similar approaches to fighting crime, inducing fear in their enemies with their imposing shapes and aesthetics. Different gargoyles could be swapped in as the mission dictates, but all would be equipped with some means of both combat and stealth approach.
#3: HEAVY METAL
The only movie entry on the list, the Heavy Metal movie is made up of both awesome and so-bad-it’s-good parts, but it’s all told through the magic of heavy metal music. The world of Heavy Metal does not follow just one story or group of characters, but rather is an anthology with plenty of memorable characters, most of whom come from the sci-fi and fantasy genres. What better home for a large cast of vicious heroes and villains than the blood-soaked battlefields of a Musou game (i.e. Dynasty Warriors)?
Musou, or Warriors, games plant the player in the feet of one hero who is facing against thousands. The main thrust of a Musou game is to feel like you are a complete and total badass, wiping the floor with hundreds of enemies at a time with slick and devastating combos. Just imagine racking up the kill counter as Taarna while Don Felder’s “Heavy Metal” plays and tell me that doesn’t get you excited.
#2: MEGAS XLR
GENRE: GIANT ROBOT DESTRUCTION
Megas XLR was a criminally short-lived cartoon about a simple mechanic, his best friend, and a warrior badass chick from the future piloting a giant mecha with a hotrod car for a head. If you can’t already tell, it wasn’t a series that took itself seriously. In fact it leaned into the stereotypes of giant robot shows by making it all about the untold destruction Coop and his friends cause in the name of saving the planet. The series often parodied other famous shows like Captain Harlock and Sailor Moon, as well as some comic inspiration in Magnanimous, the Bruce Campbell-voiced, MODOK-inspired, fight announcer.
Megas XLR would translate beautifully to a game with a physics engine that loves destructible environments. The name of the game would be to defeat the enemy, of course, but also to cause as much destruction as possible. There’s no greater fun in a sandbox than being able to destroy everything in it.
#1: SAMURAI JACK
GENRE: CHARACTER ACTION
Samurai Jack tells the story of the titular character’s quest to travel from the distant future back to his time of feudal Japan and defeat the living embodiment of evil, Aku. Throughout his journey, Jack meets many interesting and fascinating characters, some friend, but most foe. The animation in Samurai Jack is often breathtaking, with fluid movements and gorgeous set pieces. It was action-packed, it was funny, it was glorious. Fans had to wait a very long time to get a conclusive end to the series, which was arguably not what many were hoping for.
A cartoon that elevated itself above its genre and medium deserves a game that could do the same, and the studio to do it is Platnium. While Jack has been in several games, none have ever done him justice. What Jack needs is a game that utilizes his powerful sword-fighting style and effortless way he glides from enemy to enemy. If you don’t believe me when I say a character action game made by Platinum would be perfect for Jack, just look at Metal Gear Rising: Revengence and tell me Jack wouldn’t do perfectly in that engine.
Cartoons can make for great video game inspiration, as both genres are near limitless in what they can capture of the creator’s imagination. However, cartoons seem to only be good for mobile game fodder, at most, and browser flash games at least. The medium deserves better. These shows above deserve better.
What do you think? What are some other cartoons you would love to see be turned into a video game? Let us know in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for reading!
The views expressed are that of the article’s author and do not necessarily reflect the views held by the rest of the Keen Gamer staff.