The Vault: Top 10 Videogame Cartoons of Interest
Adapting a videogame to other mediums is a tough thing to do. For every great game such as Street Fighter II, there are adaptations that really scrape the barrel, like the Street Fighter II comic (HAH! You thought I was going to mention the film!).
However, for some reason, Saturday morning cartoons have fared better in this regard. Nobody expects cartoons in this genre to be works of art, but they are entertaining enough to occupy any child under the age of 10/over the age of 21. There have been plenty of cartoons over the years that have tried to capture the videogame medium, so allow me to take this opportunity to remind you of some old classics, and introduce you to some adaptations you may not have known about.
Please note that I am not including anime on this list, I’m focusing purely on the Western-created cartoons of yesterday (So no Pokemon here!).
In no particular order of quality…
The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (DiC Entertainment, 1993-1996, 65 Episodes)
The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog was one of two Sonic cartoons that were broadcast at the same time (The other being the “darker” Sonic the Hedgehog series). In my opinion it’s the Adventures series that is the best, if only for its simplistic nature. It’s just a chilli dog-addicted Sonic and his pal Tails, versus Dr. Robotnik and his hench-bots, Scratch and Grounder.
It’s stupid, it’s fun and it doesn’t try to be “edgy” like the later Sonic shows; just what you want from a Saturday morning cartoon. Oh, and there were also those annoying PSAs that every American show seemed to have (which were removed from UK broadcasts and video releases).
The Super Mario Bros. Super Show (DiC Entertainment, 1989, 52 Episodes)
Easily the most famous cartoon on this list, the tubby plumber has had multiple cartoon series in his name. First there was the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, famous for its live-action skits featuring WWE alumni, Captain Lou Albano. The original Super Show focused on Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 2. While later Mario shows would focus on Super Mario Bros. 3, then Super Mario World; it’s the original that is the most memorable though.
Plus, every gamer should know how to “Do the Mario”.
The Legend of Zelda (DiC Entertainment, 1989, 12 Episodes)
If you ever imagined Link to act like an clumsy idiot, and speak like an early 90’s surfer dude; then this is the cartoon for you. The Legend of Zelda cartoon was a regular segment as part of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show (although sometimes it was shown as a standalone cartoon).
Other than dodgy characterisation, the cartoon is relatively faithful to the game. We’ve got the three pieces of the Triforce (Courage, Wisdom & Power) as well Ganon and his cronies. There are even sound effects ripped straight from the game.
Earthworm Jim (AKOM, 1995-1996, 23 Episodes)
Featuring possibly the only theme song to rival that of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Earthworm Jim was a slice of mid-90’s surreal cartoon humour (think Ren & Stimpy or The Tick, and you get the idea). Every episode, Earthworm Jim and his sidekick, Peter Puppy would battle against arch-enemies such as Psycrow and Queen Slug-For-A-Butt. It’s easily one of the better cartoons on this list, and is still genuinely funny to this day.
‘Toon Trivia – Earthworm Jim is voiced by Dan Castellaneta, otherwise known as the voice of Homer J. Simpson (oh, and a few characters in Clayfighters on N64, but we don’t talk about that).
Sam & Max (Nelvana/Fox, 1997, 24 Episodes)
The canine and lagomorph detectives originally made their name in a comic strip in the 80’s, before the release of their debut game Sam & Max: Hit The Road, but in 1997 (four years after the release of Hit The Road), a 24-episode cartoon series was broadcast around the world (even showing up over here on Channel 4 on Saturday mornings for a short while).
The show was slightly toned down from the original source materials, with language and comic violence toned down to appeal to a younger audience audience. The series was successful, although a second series was never commissioned.
Street Fighter (InVision Entertainment, 1995-1997, 26 Episodes)
With Street Fighter II being so damn popular throughout the world, it is no wonder that it’s had its fair share of animated adaptations. While the Japanese have done a relatively decent job with the various Street Fighter anime series and movies, trust the West to royally screw up the series and make it a horribly neutered mess.
For some reason, the Street Fighters are a crimefighting team of heroes. Go figure.
Donkey Kong Country (Nelvana, 1996, 40 Episodes)
If you thought the infamous Donkey Kong 64 DK Rap was terrible, then you obviously haven’t heard the intro theme to this short lived CG animated adaptation of the popular primate series.
Terrible animation (the much older ReBoot series puts it to shame) and terrible voice acting make for a bad videogame cartoon. Watch ReBoot instead to see how a CG animated videogames show should be done.
Double Dragon (DiC Entertainment, 1993-1994, 26 Episodes)
I didn’t even know this existed until a couple of weeks ago, such is the rarity of this series. Someone at DiC thought it would be a great idea to bring the exploits of Billy & Jimmy Lee to the realm of cartoons. It’s only slightly better than the Double Dragon movie. Just.
Battletoads (DiC Entertainment, 1992, 1 Episode)
This entry is somewhat of a black sheep. Rare’s long-forgotten amphibians made the jump from videogame to cartoon, but it was only a pilot that was never picked up as a full series.
Captain N: The Game Master (DiC Entertainment, 1989-1991, 34 Episodes)
This show was not so much of a cartoon based on a videogame, as it was a total Nintendo propaganda-fest. The title character is a normal teen (Kevin), sucked into his NES to save Videoland from Metroid villain, Mother Brain (voiced by Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops, the same voice behind Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors).
Many first and third-party Nintendo characters appear as heroes or villains; including Mega Man, Kid Icarus, Simon Belmont from Castlevania, King Hippo from Punch Out! and more. This show features insane amounts of product placement with Kevin wielding a NES Zapper, and his belt buckle being a NES pad that allows him to freeze time by pressing the ‘Start’ button on it. In later series, he even had a sentient Game Boy as an annoying sidekick.
That’s it for my little rundown of Saturday morning memories. Some of these series are available on DVD, some are even available legally online on services like Netflix and websites like Jaroo. These aren’t all of the videogame-related animations out there, adaptations exist of franchises like Mortal Kombat, Mega Man, and…
BONUS! Bubsy The Bobcat (Calico Creations, 1993, 1 Episode)
OH GOD NO! MY EYES AND EARS ARE BLEEDING!