Whenever a medium gets big enough, tie-in cartoons are sure to follow. Comic books, toy lines, and even books have received the Saturday morning cartoon treatment over the years, and video games are no different. Ever since the world’s imagination was captured by a yellow ball chomping on dots and ghosts — heck, even before that — the animation industry has been there to turn that beloved property into a cartoon. And while plenty of video game cartoons have cropped up over the years, not every video game cartoon has stuck in the public conscious. In fact, there are plenty of video game cartoons that we bet you have totally forgotten about.
Whether they were bad, short lived, overlooked, or just generally forgettable, these are the video game cartoons that have likely slipped your mind. So while you were busy leaping across crocodiles in Pitfall! or chomping pellets as Pac-Man, cartoons based on these video games graced the airwaves and disappeared into the ether. So, join CBR as we take a look back through the years at 15 cartoons based on video games that have entered obscurity. These are fifteen video game TV cartoons you TOTALLY forgot!
15. WING COMMANDER ACADEMY
The Wing Commander franchise made a splash when it debuted in 1990, but it was never a series that burned up the sales charts. This, however, didn’t stop the USA Network from turning the space combat games into a short lived cartoon in 1996.
Serving as a prequel to Wing Commander, Wing Commander Academy followed a group of recruits as they attended the titular Academy and learned the ins and outs of space combat. The series featured a stacked voice cast, featuring the likes of Mark Hamill, Malcom McDowell and Ron Perlman, and even managed to crossover with the Street Fighter cartoon and Mortal Kombat cartoon during its brief run. Despite these impressive credentials, Wing Commander Academy had its plug pulled after a single season.
Q*BERT wasn’t exactly filled to bursting with plot; after all, the game followed an orange ball with an anteater nose that hopped on cubes and swore like a drunken sailor. So when the time came to give Q*Bert the cartoon treatment, the studio had to get creative. And by “creative,” we mean “they just kind of ripped off Happy Days.”
On Q*Bert’s segment of the 1983 Saturday Supercade cartoon, Q*Bert was portrayed as a hip youngster living in “Q-Burg,” a slice of 1950’s Americana. Q*Bert and his friends drank malted milkshakes, went to sock hops, and did other sufficiently ’50s things. Oh, and characters had a tendency to add the letter “Q” to words. The cartoon wasn’t exactly a runaway hit, and Q*Bert’s Greaser phase faded into obscurity.
13. MUTANT LEAGUE
The Mutant League series was founded on an easily understood premise: What if sports were played by mutants, and also the sports were needlessly violent? With this surefire concept, Mutant League Football and Mutant League Hockey were released, with a short-lived cartoon following soon after.
Premiering in 1994, Mutant League followed a young mutant named Bones Justice, a teenage skeleton man with a penchant for sports, as he played football, hockey, basketball, and more as a member of the Midway Monsters. Across 58 episodes, the Midway Monsters took on teams such as the Slay City Slayers and Screaming Evils, populated by villainous characters such as Jackie LaGrunge and Grim McSlam, in pursuit of Mutant League victory. Unfortunately, much like the franchise it was based on, Mutant League didn’t escape the ’90s, and now exists as a cartoon footnote.
In the early ’90s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reigned supreme, and companies were eager to get a slice of that red hot “spunky teenage amphibians fight crime” pie. Thus, when Rare’s Battletoads became a surprise NES smash, DIC Entertainment produced a pilot for a Battletoads cartoon, only for the planned cartoon to fizzle out and fade into obscurity.
In this animated special, Rash, Zitz, and Pimple were reimagined as wisecracking California high schoolers that were transformed into the Battletoads by Professor T. Bird after the super scientist bird escaped from an arcade game. The special aired several times but ultimately didn’t elicit much interest, and the proposed series was aborted, leading to the Battletoads cartoon slipping into obscurity.
11. SUPER MARIO WORLD
You’d be hard-pressed to find a child in the early ’90s that didn’t tune in to The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, chronicling the adventures of Mario, Luigi, and the gang, all while giving viewers the gift of Captain Lou Albano as a live action Mario, in the role he was born to play. But you would also be hard-pressed to find many who remember the Super Show follow-up: Super Mario World.
Released in 1991 to capitalize on the success of the wildly popular Super Mario World Super Nintendo game, the series whisked Mario and pals off to Dinosaur World, where they discovered a Yoshi prone to talking in a grating baby voice. The show’s final episode, “Mama Luigi,” went on to become a bonafide internet meme years later, but Super Mario World remains mostly forgotten.
While many cartoons based on video games ran into the inevitable issue of “how are we possibly going to make a story out of this game,” the popular Pitfall! seemed custom-made for the cartoon treatment; after all, Pitfall! followed Pitfall Harry as he braved exotic jungles in search of treasure. So, in 1983, Pitfall! was brought to TV as a part of the Saturday Supercade.
In this short-lived cartoon, Pitfall Harry explored jungles with the help of his spunky niece Rhonda and his cowardly pet mountain lion Quick Claw. With only a paltry seven episodes, Pitfall! had the shortest run of any segment on Saturday Supercade, so even the most hardcore Pitfall! fans may have missed this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cartoon run.
9. KIRBY: RIGHT BACK AT YA!
Kirby has cemented himself as one of Nintendo’s most beloved characters. After all, the cheery pink puffball has starred in dozens of games, popping in popular franchises like Super Smash Bros. to put his enemy-eating powers to work. Thus, the cuddly thingamajig seemed like the perfect candidate for a cartoon of his own.
Known in Japan as Hoshi no Kirby, the series was brought to the West as Kirby: Right Back At Ya! The cartoon followed Kirby’s adventures on the planet Popstar, as he ran afoul of King Dedede and got into misadventures with his new friends, twins Tiff and Tuff. Kirby: Right Back At Ya! ran for four seasons, receiving positive reviews from critics and fans alike, but there are plenty of hardcore Nintendo buffs that have all but forgotten about this cartoon.
8. DONKEY KONG COUNTRY
Rare’s Donkey Kong Country is commonly regarded as one of the best 2D platformers ever released. The subsequent cartoon based on the DKC series, however, is definitely not held in the same regard as Donkey Kong Country; no, this cartoon is commonly regarded as one of the worst cartoons of the late ’90s.
The aptly titled Donkey Kong Country followed Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, and the gang as they protected the Crystal Coconut from the villainous King K. Rool. The series utilized 3D animation, and was one of the first animated shows to utilize motion capture. Despite this claim to fame, DKC is mostly remembered for its catchy theme song and grating musical numbers. After two seasons, Donkey Kong Country was mercifully canceled, becoming an odd footnote in the history of the Donkey Kong franchise.
7. F-ZERO: GP LEGEND
The F-Zero series has everything video game fans could want: awesome future cars, white knuckle races, and a protagonist who can punch you so hard it launches you into low orbit. So it makes sense that F-Zero got the anime treatment; it’s only surprising it took as long as it did.
F-Zero: GP Legend debuted in 2003, only 13 years after the franchise started. The show followed police detective Rick Wheeler as he hunted the insidious Dark Million Organization, all while trading paint in the F-Zero races. Fan favorites such as Captain Falcon and Samurai Goroh popped up over the course of the series, but after two seasons, the plug was pulled on the series. This oft-forgotten show managed to capture the adrenaline-pumping races of the games, but has lapsed into obscurity.
6. POLE POSITION
While F-Zero was custom made for the animated treatment, fellow racing game Pole Position definitely was not. But this didn’t stop the popular racing title from spawning a Saturday morning cartoon in 1984.
While the video game Pole Position simply focused on racing and featured no story, the cartoon followed the Darretts, your normal, everyday family that just so happens to be world famous race car drivers, who also fight crime. Obviously, “Pole Position” was the name of the family’s traveling stunt show, which was funded by the U.S. Government as a front to investigate suspicious characters. Needless to say, Pole Position took some liberties with the source material. After a short 13-episode run, Pole Position was yanked from the airwaves.
5. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA
Since debuting in 1986, the Legend Of Zelda series has capture the hearts of gamers around the world, as the series followed plucky adventurer Link as he battled the forces of Ganon to save the kingdom of Hyrule. With its epic story and beloved characters, the Legend of Zelda seems a natural fit for a cartoon. But when LoZ finally got the cartoon treatment, the end result was… well, bad. Real bad.
Debuting in 1989 in a Nintendo-centric animation block that included Super Mario Bros Super Show!, The Legend Of Zelda followed Link and Zelda as they ran afoul of Ganon. The show’s opening outlined that the heroes were fighting for the mystical Triforce of Wisdom which, once assembled, would bring peace to the kingdom of Hyrule, but Link mostly stayed busy trying to convince Zelda to give him a kiss as a reward for his heroic deeds. Oh, and Link had a catchphrase of “Well excuuuuuuuse me, Princess!” that he used at least once an episode. Perhaps The Legend Of Zelda cartoon is forgotten for a reason.
4. PAC-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
In the ’80s, a little little yellow circle ruled arcades with an iron fist. Pac-Man chomped his way into the public conscious, starring in a wildly popular game, netting plenty of tie-in merchandise, and even inspiring a dance hit. So, a cartoon was inevitable for Pac-Man, but Pac-Man: The Animated Series took a weird approach and turned the pellet-munching hero into a family man.
In this 1982 cartoon, Pac-Man has a wife named Pepper, a baby imaginatively named Pac-Baby, a dog named Chomp-Chomp and a cat named Sour Puss. Despite drawing middling reviews, the series inspired two tie-in games, Pac-Land and Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures. The series did well at the time, but has since become virtually forgotten.
3. RAYMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
The limbless Rayman made a splash when he debuted in 1995, and the French platforming hero would go on to star in numerous games. With his unique appearance and best-selling franchise, Rayman seemed the perfect fit for an animated series. And while Rayman would get the animated series treatment, it was fated for worldwide obscurity.
Hitting French airwaves in 1999, the series followed Rayman as he fought the villainous circus owner Rigatoni, who dedicated himself to capturing Rayman and his friends to feature them in his failing circus. The 3D animated series never made it to American airwaves, though it did receive a domestic VHS release. Canceled after a single series, this oddball has become a forgotten footnote in the history of Rayman.
Capcom’s Darkstalkers series has become a cult favorite among fighting game fans; after all, its dark atmosphere and bizarre fighters definitely made the franchise stand out. But the Darkstalkers franchise didn’t exactly seem the perfect candidate for a Saturday morning cartoon. This, of course, didn’t stop Darkstalkers from getting the syndicated cartoon treatment.
Debuting in 1995, Darkstalkers introduced viewers to Harry Grimoire, a young boy descended from Merlin that would team with the titular Darkstalkers. The show featured what could be generously described as “butt ugly” animation, and received scathing reviews. The show may have featured fan favorite characters such as Morrigan and Hsien-Ko, but when you adapt a dark and moody fighting game like Darkstalkers and give it episodes with titles such as “There’s No Business Like Dragon Business,” cancellation and subsequent obscurity are inevitabilities.
1. MORTAL KOMBAT: DEFENDERS OF THE REALM
Mortal Kombat was red hot in the ’90s; so popular was the bloody fighting game series that anything bearing its name was a practical license to print money. So a cartoon tie-in was inevitable. Never mind the fact that the franchise was based around ripping off opponents heads and coating the stage in blood and gore; apparently, Mortal Kombat: Defenders Of The Realm missed this memo.
Debuting on the USA Network in 1996, Defenders Of The Realm followed the assembled warriors of Earthrealm as they fought the forces of evil. The show received overwhelming negative reviews, and fans of the series were left scratching their heads; gone was the brutal fights that made Mortal Kombat famous, in its place were episodes dealing with Jax grappling with his insecurities relating to his being picked on in high school for being overweight. Yeah. It was weird.
Which other obscure video game cartoons can you remember? Help us fill out our list in the comments!
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!