Why limit creativity to one medium when there are so many possibilities to explore? That’s the logic behind the creation of quality shows based on popular video games. Cater to a fanboy’s nostalgia, and see the dollars come raking in.
Watching the video game characters, who fans have grown to love, talk and interact in their world can be awe-inspiring. Young fans rush home after school or wake up early on Saturday morning to catch their gaming heroes in action. Who wouldn't want to see Mario and Luigi save the Mushroom Kingdom in front of their television screens? What about watching Mega Man kick robot butt without having to lose hundreds of lives?
Adapting a videogame into a TV show is not an easy thing to do. Many are the programs that failed to capitalise on a game’s popularity, usually because they were unfaithful to their source material while offering lackluster talent both in front and behind the camera.
The following are the best of the best of the pleasing intersection between gaming and television. Quality and faithfulness to the source material were key factors in the rankings. One show per franchise was chosen as to offer a more diverse selection while narrowing down the field. The ‘80s and the ‘90s have a strong presence on the list, as that time period corresponds to the video game boom initiated by Nintendo.
10 10.Kirby Right Back At Ya!
This is a fun little show starring everyone’s favorite pink Star Warrior. The child-like Kirby is capable of acquiring special abilities when sucking up other beings. He uses this power, both in the show and in the video games, to stop the evil King Dedede, the ruler of Dream Land.
“Right Back at Ya!” sees Kirby crash land on the planet Pop Star, where he befriends brother-sister duo Tiff and Tuff. Jealous of this new arrival, King Dedede plots to take down Kirby with help from his slimy servant Escargoon. A greater danger looms over Pop Star, however, as an evil entity known as Nightmare beckons…
Offering awesome action and an undeniable sense of fun, “Kirby Right Back at Ya!” contains many elements from the gaming series that translate well to the television medium. Fans were excited to see the accurate portrayal of their favorite characters, from the innocent but tough Kirby to the mysterious Meta Knight.
9 Donkey Kong Country
A CGI show featuring the whole cast of the “Donkey Kong Country” video game franchise? Yes, please!
Donkey Kong, future ruler of Kongo Bongo Island, serves as the protector of the Crystal Coconut, a magical item capable of granting wishes. Just as in the video games, standing between DK and his mission is King K. Rool, the leader of the anthropomorphic lizard clan known as the Kremlings. Popular franchise mainstays Diddy, Candy, Funky and Cranky Kong aid DK in protecting the island.
Much more melodious than its video game counterpart, the show features musical numbers in every episode that serve as a sort of break in between all the action. The dancing and singing, along with its humorous nature, add to the overall appeal and aesthetic of the program, making this show something to check out.
8 Mega Man
This ‘90s cartoon brought together key elements from the early entries in the Mega Man franchise and managed to capture the true spirit of the video games. Once partners and best of friends, robotics experts Dr. Wily and Dr. Light go their separate ways after a failed experiment.
Dr. Light eventually builds Mega Man, the heroic robot who would continuously thwart Dr. Wily’s evil schemes that were carried out by his metallic henchmen. Extravagant and exhilarating with absolutely crazy action, “Mega Man” offered nostalgic goodness as the Blue Bomber dished out punishment – and cheesy one-liners – to the delight of young fans everywhere.
Capcom got the show right: it was very much like the game, featuring fan-favorite characters from the first five games with excellent voice acting and beautiful animation.
7 Earthworm Jim
Absurd, surreal and most definitely odd, “Earthworm Jim” relates the story of, well, an earthworm named Jim who battles evil in a robotic space suit that granted him super human strength and dexterity.
With an insanely catchy theme song and humour geared towards kids and adults alike, the show features the groovy superhero as he battles enemies such as the frightening bounty hunter Psy-Crow and the evil Queen Slug-For-A-Butt. Aiding him in his quest is the anthropomorphic dog Peter Puppy – who often transforms into a monster when he’s hurt or scared and attacks poor Jim – and Princess What’s-Her-Name, the aforementioned slug queen’s sister.
While the show was cut too short after only two seasons, its snazzy animation, over-the top storylines and colorful cast of characters that featured excellent voice talent such as Dan Castellaneta – the same actor who portrays Homer Simpson – made “Earthworm Jim” a delightful little show that shouldn't be missed by fans and casuals alike.
6 The Legend of Zelda
Well excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me, Princess!
Every fan of this awesome cartoon knows the line, and it surely brings a smile to their face. The mute hero Link from the iconic video game franchise “The Legend of Zelda” finds his voice in this cartoon, portraying a more reckless, edgier hero who has the hots for Princess Zelda. Sexual tension aside, the plot follows the two heroes as they try and protect the kingdom of Hyrule from the menacing wizard Ganon.
Broadcast as part of “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show” during Friday episodes, “The Legend of Zelda” is loved by many because of the things it gets right: the soundtrack, the characters, the monsters, the Triforce – the list goes on.
While it only lasted 13 episodes with its questionable writing and campy nature, to deny the greatness (and cheesiness) of the show is a mortal sin among its rabid fan base.
5 Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?
The Emmy Award-winning “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” was originally an educational computer game where players would have to track down the criminal mastermind Carmen Sandiego and her villainous henchmen and stop them from committing various evil deeds across the globe. To do this, players would use clues left behind in order to guess the bad guy’s next location among 30 different countries.
A kid’s quiz show based on the game was a natural progression for the series. With help from the Chief and Senior ACME Agent Greg Lee, three junior detectives answered questions centered on history and geography with the goal of discovering the location of a henchmen, much like the video game.
With a theme song that will surely get stuck in your head, “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” is the only entry on the list that arguably found more success in its television incarnation than it did as a video game.
4 The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!
While “The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3” and “Super Mario World” were fantastic shows in their own right, this is the definitive Mario show. How could it not be with the likes of Captain Lou Albano and Danny Well portraying a goofy Mario and Luigi in live-action segments?
DIC Entertainment brought forth a faithful and charming adaptation of the Nintendo mascot in the animated portions of the show. Featuring the brothers Mario, Princess Peach and Toad trying to save the Mushroom Kingdom from the Koopa King and his clan, each episode served as a parody of some popular film or television series at the time.
Excellent animation characterised the series, in addition to a tremendous soundtrack and sound effects ripped straight from the games. Fans everywhere would sing along to Captain Lou’s rap, performing their own version of “Doing the Mario.”
3 Sonic the Hedgehog
While many prefer “The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog” for its lighthearted, fun nature, the quintessential Sonic television show and best animated adaptation of the game is the simply-titled “Sonic the Hedgehog”.
Dark in its nature, the show sees the titular hedgehog battle the cruel Dr. Robotnik and his army of evil robots in a post-apocalyptic world. Excellent voice acting and animation highlight this war between animals and androids as franchise staples Sonic and Tails are joined by series originals Sally Acorn and Bunnie Rabbot.
Ditching the episodic format for overarching storylines made for better television, as characters and stories were fleshed out and offered more challenging narratives for the younger viewers to sink their teeth into. It features the drama, humour and lightning fast action expected from the Blue Blur with attitude.
Oh, and the theme song is not to be forgotten – Sonic truly is the fastest thing alive!
2 Captain N: The Game Master
This was a Nintendo fanboy’s wet dream. A fun, original show that brought together iconic gaming characters, “Captain N: The Game Master” flawlessly captured the sense of wonder and excitement found in video games.
Produced by DIC Entertainment, the show starred a normal teenager named Kevin who got sucked into his Nintendo Entertainment System and got transported to Videoland. Destined to become the hero Captain N, Kevin used his Zapper to save the world from a group of video game villains led by the wicked Mother Brain. Helping him in his quest were classic video game heroes such as Mega Man and Simon Belmont of Castlevania fame.
What made Captain N work so well? It tied so many video games together in organic fashion, offering surprisingly good writing while letting the characters and stories develop. It created a sort of synergy that was unmatched, especially for its time. Best of all, it brought fan favorite video games to the small screen.
When you’ve been on the air for 18 years, you’re doing something right.
“Pokémon” follows Ash Ketchum on his quest to become a Pokémon Master with his best buddy Pikachu at his side. He befriends a bevy of fellow trainers on his way to capturing hundreds of Pokémon while beating the respectable Gym Leaders in various towns. Ash must also confront Team Rocket and their various incarnations on his difficult quest.
Fun. Colorful. Heart-warming. Hilarious. All elements of a successful recipe for the perfect video game show. The writing was great, seamlessly tying up the show and the game, offering interesting story arcs while fleshing out familiar characters. Catchy tunes like the main theme song and the Poké Raps are still hummed by legions of fans, as Pikachu remains a gaming symbol and mascot to this franchise.
With over 870 episodes spanning 18 seasons, this television behemoth is still going strong, with the quality never having dipped. The show offers a flawless formula that made the franchise the cultural phenomenon it is. And for that, it rightfully earns the top honours on this list of best video game shows.