3 The Ford Simulator Series
Cars are possibly the easiest and least obtrusive product placement in gaming: It adds realism to your game to show genuine makes and models while you execute handbrake turns and take bitchin' jumps. That Jaguar drove like a dream in those Gran Turismo races -- maybe you should check one out for real! That's the obvious route, anyway. But then you have the path less taken -- the Ford Simulator series, perfect for people who can't drive 55, but only because they never really wanted to in the first place.
Beat it on hard to upgrade to rust undercoating.
Originally released by Ford as a promotion for its 1988 models, Ford Simulator consisted of little more than the player sanely test-driving Ford cars. Realism is all well and good in auto games, but this was 1988, when gaming had like 20 pixels to work with, total. The player couldn't get a genuine sense of the car's looks from the simulator, much less its handling or its power, because you didn't race the Fords in this game. You didn't perform stunts with them. You didn't run over old ladies with them. There were real and immediate consequences for any tomfoolery:
Like GTA for Mormons.
You simply pressed the gas button until you didn't press it anymore. You ostensibly needed to "race" to your destination, but if you crashed or sped, you were out, so gameplay was mostly adhering to the speed limit and staying within the lines. Thrills around every corner! Too bad this is the highway. To be fair, though, there were various mini-games you could play to break up the monotony of driving sensible cars in a sensible way. You could fill up your gas tank:
If you time it just right, you unlock a windshield cleaning mini-game.
You could stop at the local mini mart to buy a map:
"You've always been this car's owner. I should know, sir. I've always been here."
And that was it.
Back to sane and sober driving, please! Oh, and don't think Ford Simulator was a one-and-done deal. Nope -- they released a new one every year for six years.
2 A Psychedelic Sci-Fi Shooter Starring the Toyota Yaris
One of the most basic rules of advertising is to know your audience and build ads that cater to their interests. Toyota did just that in 2007 with Yaris, the absolute perfect video game tie-in for the burgeoning demographic of minivan-driving soccer mom acid freaks with violent tendencies.
The most ridiculous thing here is a Yaris actually breaking 65.
Check out the gun stuck to the Yaris' roof (standard option?), observe the UFOs, the giant 8-balls, the winged MP3 players ... truly, this was a game designed by a developer who looked around at the crap on his desk and thought, "Eh, this'll do."
But hey, if the game itself is good, who cares how absurd the premise is, right? Unfortunately, the game turned out to be completely awful, with horrid controls that attempted to cross-breed a traditional stick shooter with a legitimate driving sim, and failed miserably on both counts. This was your track:
"It was inspired by only the finest of Guy Fieri shirts."
Without those hokey flames (the animations don't move at all; they just stand there like cardboard cutouts), this would be one of the most boring levels of all time. A gray track on a white background, populated by living knickknacks and an affordable hatchback. On the other hand, perhaps the developers just really wanted to make the Toyota Yaris the most exciting thing on the screen.
Obviously, the only way to manage that was to make everything else as boring as possible.