We now see countless IPs adapted into all media types, including video games. Television shows are perfect for video game adaptations since there’s a lot of world-building in a multi-episode format and more material to build a game around. Some of these adaptations over the years have been stellar, while others have insulted video game players and fans of the IP.
Here is our list of the best video games based on TV shows.
THE SIMPSONS: HIT & RUN COMBINED EVERYTHING WE LOVE ABOUT THE SHOW WITH GRAND THEFT AUTO
After the commercial success of 2002’s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, it’s no surprise that other video games wanted to capitalize on that and try to recreate their own sandbox open world game set in a big city. The Simpsons: Hit & Run, released in 2003, may have been the best GTA-like from that generation of games. It successfully incorporated the driving and mission mechanics from a more mature GTA series while keeping that family-friendly magic that makes The Simpsons special. Hit & Run let you play as different characters throughout its story arc years before Grand Theft Auto V did.
Something strange is happening to Springfield’s citizens, and it has something to do with Buzz Cola. You’ll explore the many parts of Springfield through platforming and driving to piece together what’s going on. Various Easter Eggs and callbacks to the show are scattered worldwide, such as popular venues and vehicles.
TELLTALE’S THE WALKING DEAD SERIES IS ONE OF THE BEST VIDEO GAMES BASED ON A TV SHOW
No other developer was succeeding in the decision-based adventure game genre quite like Telltale was in the 2010s. Their Walking Dead series is the best example of that. Based on the popular comic book series and TV show, it made good use of the many implications of making decisions in a world full of zombies where the wrong choice could easily lead to death.
The series spans across four different seasons, with each one including five episodes. The first episode was released in April 2012, and the series finished in September 2019 while restructuring at Telltale. Season 1 of the series won several Game of the Year awards in 2012, in addition to awards for its narrative and performances.
GOOF TROOP WAS DESIGNED BY A RESIDENT EVIL ALUM
The demographic for the short-lived Goof Troop TV show was perfect for the young audience playing video games in the early 90s. Goof Troop was released for the SNES in 1993 when video games based on IPs were much more commonplace. Developed and published by Capcom, Goof Troop was one of the first games designed by legendary creator Shinji Mikami.
It’s a top-down action-adventure game similar to The Legend of Zelda, albeit with much simpler combat and puzzles. There are multiple stages where the player needs to progress through the level by solving puzzles and defeating a final boss to advance to the next stage. You can play as either Goofy or Max, and it can be played in local co-op.
DUCKTALES IS AN ALL-TIME NES CLASSIC
Many of Disney’s properties have received video game adaptations over the years, but DuckTales is one of the standouts. Capcom helped develop and publish several of these games during the NES and SNES eras, and DuckTales was the first. The developer lent some of their Mega Man team staff to help produce it, which showed in the game’s mechanics. You’ll play Scrooge McDuck as he travels across different world landscapes in search of treasures.
DuckTales is often hailed as one of the best NES games ever. It was so successful that it was revived in the form of 2013’s DuckTales: Remastered with reimagined visuals similar to the style of the TV show. The remastered version was included in The Disney Afternoon Collection in 2017, which featured a series of retro video game adaptations from other Disney cartoons of that era, like TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck.
LOST: VIA DOMUS WAS DEVELOPED BY UBISOFT MONTREAL
Lost was one of the most successful network TV series of the 2000s. It garnered initial attention due to its big production and mysterious plotline as it went from being a more grounded Gilligan’s Island to an extended episode of The Twilight Zone. Unsurprisingly, there was an attempt to recreate this successful formula in the Ubisoft-published and developed Lost: Via Domus.
Some of the show’s cast lent their voice to the game, and a score from the show’s composer Michael Giacchino helped recreate the drama’s atmosphere. Executive producers and writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cruse helped work on the game as well.
The player assumes the role of Elliot Maslow, an Oceanic Flight 815 survivor, and must traverse the island to uncover its mysteries. Many of the show’s main storylines coincide with the events of Via Domus.
SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: BATTLE FOR BIKINI BOTTOM IS ONE OF THE BEST VIDEO GAMES BASED ON A TV SHOW
There’s been a long line of SpongeBob SquarePants video game adaptations, and Battle for Bikini Bottom is regarded as the best in some circles. It’s a 3D platformer that takes pages out of collect-a-thons like Banjo Kazooie and Super Mario 64 while incorporating the goofiness often associated with the SpongeBob cartoon. Mainstays like Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke offered their voices to the game, and many memorable locales from the series were included.
The fun gameplay, mixed with staying true to the source material, makes it one of the video games based on a TV show.
24: THE GAME IS A PLAYSTATION FIRST-PARTY GAME
The high-stakes action drama 24 captured the world in the 2000s. Each season followed counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer as he saved America in the span of 24 hours. SCE Studio Cambridge, creators of the MediEvil series, adapted the TV series into a PlayStation 2 exclusive title in 2006. It was such an accurate representation of the show that it was aptly named called 24: The Game. It featured the main cast of the show’s voices and likenesses and a script from one of its writers, Duppy Demetrius.
The game could be compared to the Grand Theft Auto series with third-person gunplay and cover mechanics. Similar to the show, a countdown clock will appear on the HUD to signify how much time you have left to complete the mission. There are also stealth gameplay sections to make you feel like Jack Bauer.
SOUTH PARK: THE FRACTURED BUT WHOLE PAYS HOMAGE TO CLASSIC RPGs
South Park: The Fractured but Whole is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed RPG South Park: The Stick of Truth. Just like its predecessor, it was developed by Ubisoft’s San Francisco studio and took place in the South Park universe. Some of the talent from the series helped develop the game, including showrunners Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The two also provide their voices for many of the characters in the game.
The Fractured but Whole is turn-based and reminiscent of many classic RPGs. The protagonist is New Kid, and they help the show’s main cast of characters foil the plans of groups who plan to sabotage the town of South Park. New Kid’s appearance can be modified at any time in the game, including gender, sexuality, and race, which makes it feel like a more customizable role-playing adventure.
WWE SMACKDOWN! HERE COMES THE PAIN IS A WRESTLING FAN’S PLAYGROUND
Developed by wrestling game veterans Yuke’s, WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain is one of the highest-rated wrestling games, and for a good reason. It features a roster of over 50 wrestlers to pit against each other in head-to-head matches to act out iconic moves from the WWE. Here Comes the Pain was released in an era of wrestling games that focused less on the realistic simulation aspects of WWE but rather on the spectacle and fun of the sport.
MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS IS PERFECT AS A SIDE SCROLLING BEAT ‘EM UP
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was an IP that felt perfect for a video game adaptation. The show’s audience was already acting out its fight scenes in their living rooms, so why not turn it into a 2D beat ’em up video game to be played on the same TV they watch it on? The formula was perfect to become one of the best video games based on a TV show.
Like Streets of Rage and classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles titles, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers designed each playable character to have different move sets and abilities. You’ll start each stage in your high school student form and will eventually reach a point where you morph into your ranger form. The bosses at the end of each stage are all villains featured in the show.
DRAGON BALL FIGHTERZ IS ONE OF THE BEST REPRESENTATIONS OF THE ANIME
If anyone was going to do a Dragon Ball Z fighting game right, it’s Arc System Works. The Guilty Gear developer released Dragon Ball FighterZ in 2018 and received resounding praise for its visuals, polish, and overall gameplay. They nailed the game’s visual style so well that any screenshot from gameplay looks as if it could have been taken from the anime source material.
There are over 40 fighters, including a dozen or so available through DLC. Matches have a 3 vs. 3 format with team mechanics similar to Marvel vs. Capcom.
XBOX’S BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER IS ONE OF MANY ADAPTATIONS OF THE POPULAR SERIES
2002’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer is surprisingly one of six video games released based on the popular 2000s TV show. It’s a 3D beat ’em up released exclusively for Xbox. As vampire slayer Buffy, the player can utilize hand-to-hand combat or weapons to fight monsters and human enemies. Many of the show’s cast reprised their roles for the game except for Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar. Two writers who worked on pieces of fiction in the “Buffyverse” helped write for the game as well.
There are hundreds of video games based on TV shows. Did we miss any on this list? Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re into adaptations, you can also look at our list of video games adapted for the silver screen that don’t suck.