When the “Every Simpsons Ever” marathon on FXX airs its final episode on Labor Day, what’s a true fan to do to continue feeding the obsession? Unless you own every DVD and want to start the whole thing over again, your best bet is to dive into the world of Simpsons video games.
Once The Simpsons started taking over the airwaves, it didn’t take long for the dysfunctional family to start appearing on more than just television screens. They’ve starred in more than two dozen games since 1991.
Some of them are pretty old, and you’d only be able to play them if you’ve got an impressive collection of retro gaming hardware. Others would even require a visit to an actual arcade. Fortunately, while there are many gems in the back catalog, there are also plenty of great choices for contemporary platforms. Here’s a sampling of the best Simpsons video games.
The basic premise of this title is that the Simpsons family obtains super powers. They’ll each be the star of a different section, and you need to use their powers to take down the villains. While the special skills aren’t much of a surprise, they play out in the levels in fun ways. The Simpsons Game also includes a wry sense of humor about video game tropes, with Comic Book Guy appearing from time to time when you stumble upon a well-known cliche, such as a pile of unexplained crates blocking your path.
Available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PSP, Wii, and Nintendo DS
2. The Simpsons Arcade
It’s probably the least accessible of the bunch, but it’s also largely considered the best Simpsons game. It was the one that kicked off the show’s presence in games, way back in 1991. Up to four players can beat down hordes of enemies in an effort to rescue Maggie from the clutches of Mr. Burns in this arcade game. The family members had fun joint attacks for causing extra mayhem.
3. The Simpsons Arcade (Mobile)
If you don’t happen to have access to an old-school arcade with the previous title, you can still get a somewhat similar experience on an iPhone. The mobile Simpsons Arcade game was the handiwork of EA, and it focuses on Homer rather than all family members equally. It does a nice job of recreating a classic arcade vibe, though, as you chase after a donut that has information about a secret evil plan spearheaded by, of course, Mr. Burns. Good, light mobile fun.
Available on iPhone and iPod Touch
The most recent entry into the Simpsons game family is this free-to-play mobile title, also from EA. As with the best Simpsons creations, the game’s full of knowing nods to how this type of casual game works. Among the very crowded free-to-play space, this one at least has the benefit of delightful writing that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of the show. Even if you don’t usually go for this style of mobile game, the true Simpsons fan will at least give it a glance.
Available on iOS, Android and Kindle.
5. The Simpsons: Hit & Run
A combination of the animated yellow family and Grand Theft Auto probably sounds like madness, but this riff on the well-known Rockstar Games franchise wound up being one of the most popular Simpsons games. Springfield doesn’t condone the casual slaughter of pedestrians, but you will spend a lot of time behind the wheel of various vehicles as you explore and tackle missions. Expect lots of show references, a great recreation of the city, top-notch writing, and a wacky story.
Available on Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube and Windows
6. Virtual Springfield
This game is decidedly less goofy than most of the others. In fact, it might be better to consider it a simulator or a 3-D tour than a game. The player explores a thoroughly detailed recreation of the Simpson home town. The goal is to collect character cards, but the more enjoyable part is just to wander around and interact with the world you’ve seen so often on TV. As with Tapped Out, the great writing is also a highlight.
Available on CD-ROM for Windows and Macintosh
7. Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror
The annual “Treehouse of Horror” episodes are often fan favorites, delving into even weirder pop cultural references and zaniness than usual. In this title for the Game Boy Color, each level is based on a different segment from the first few years of the Halloween specials. The various Simpson family members each fight their way through the levels, defeating assorted macabre baddies in this side-scrolling action platformer.
Available on Game Boy Color
8. The Simpsons: Road Rage
Did you ever play Crazy Taxi? This is the same thing. Sega actually tried to sue Fox and EA for the overwhelming likeness. As with the original game, you drive around like mad and get your fares to their destinations. It comes with all the familiar faces and humor of the show, as well as nods to specific episodes. For instance, you’ll see the “Don’t Eat Meat” signs from the episode where Lisa becomes a vegetarian, or you can opt to play as Barney in his Plow King snowplow.
Available on PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, and Game Boy Advance