I had a really great time making the 15 God-Awful Video Game Commercials list for FileFront last week. It basically amounted to scouring YouTube for several hilarious hours, watching some of the most ridiculous TV spots ever put to film with the hopes of selling a video game to, seemingly, whoever the hell might be interested in buying one.
Seriously, it appears as though prior to the turn of the millennium, nobody in the industry had a clue as to how to sell their product. They were stabbing madly in the dark with jingles and goofy scripts and awful footage, hoping that someone might be dumb enough to buy what the companies were selling.
Even the ads for some of the best games ever – notably, The Legend of Zelda, which defined a great many childhoods – are uproariously terrible.
The list originally was supposed to include 10 spots, but I just couldn’t bring myself to trim down to so few. The number I finally settled on, 15, was a painful line in the sand. I had to quit or it was going to consume an entire day, and even though it was really fun, let’s be honest – I wasn’t getting paid that much to do it. Other projects needed my time, too.
Still, there were a few I had to pass on, and I’m including them here for no other reason than that they deserve to be seen and I’d like to watch them again. Consider the following items 16-20, or 15 God-Awful Video Game Commercials (Honorable Mentions).
20. Zelda Puppets, Will Someone Please Sell Me Those
This one isn’t actually that bad – especially for Japan. In fact, I kind of love it. Really, it’s pretty brilliant, deceptively and purposefully hoaky, and perfect for inducing a desire to check out the game that spawned this loving commercial.
Also, if you were looking for the most awesome possible Zelda memorabilia, you found it in the form of those puppets.
19. Ask Your Mom to Help You Play This Awful Game
Parental assistance may be required to play E.T. on the Atari 2600, perhaps because it is largely considered to be the worst game ever made. It sold dismally, and there’s an urban legend in the industry that after making it, the game’s creators, unable to sell thousands of copies, dug a hole in the desert and dumped them in just to be rid of this horrible piece of interactive history.
It’s easy to see why. Apart from no part of the movie really being interesting enough to be the crux of an interactive adventure, if you check out the screens, you see why the game requires the aid of someone who isn’t a five-year-old. It’s nearly undecipherable. Apparently E.T. is that tan blob, and those green spikes might be the forest. Then again, that could be a radioactive torture room, which probably would be more entertaining, considering the film.
18. Yes. Someone, Please Call an Exterminator
I’m all for this commercial’s wry and hilarious use of old movie footage, and it wouldn’t be that bad except for the woefully inadequate rubber centipedes, and the acting that goes with them.
Really this one’s just fun to watch.
17. Nintendo, Where We Hire Mental Patients to Pretend to be Actors
Super-awkward situation to put grown adults into. Especially that one nurse at the end with the big needle. Her rubber face is a bit frightening. Although, I guess that was the idea. At no point does this commercial actually make me want to go play a Kirby game, though, and Kirby Superstar was sort of amazing.
Also, that doctor? Yeah, he’s the psychiatrist (psychologist?) from the Terminator movies. Following that, he starred in this ludicrous Kirby commercial where they roll that fat kid through those double doors. So…bummer.
16. Case in Point. See Above.
I wanted to include this one in the original list – it should be there, it’s absolutely god-awful – but there were just so many terrible and sad Zelda commercials that this one had to get bumped. It not only didn’t include any rapping, it also didn’t make fun of the key demographic of Zelda players by dropping two clear stereotypes into the commercial.
However, this one is so bad it’s irritating. The fact that anyone asked an adult human to perform in this spot is kind of demeaning to all of us as a species. This ad should be held up with all those unethical psychological experiments of the 1930s, under the banner, “We do not do this to other human beings.”