The 10 Least Subtle Product Placements in Video Game History
Sick of advertisements in your video games? Well, once upon a time, the video games were the ads. A number of titles were produced from the ground-up to be nothing but a sales pitch--one you had to pay to see.
Luckily for mankind, this corporate cabal shot itself in the foot. Most of the games were so jaw-droppingly shitty that few have attempted it since (we're looking at you, Burger King).
How shitty were they? Behold:
The California Raisins: The Grape Escape (Nintendo, 1991)
For those readers too young/senile to remember, these desiccated purple turds were the claymation spokesfruits for the California raisin industry. Like a carnival freak show, folks were intrigued by the Raisins overall grossness, and raisin sales initially shot up as people bought the product out of morbid curiosity. However, the Raisins popularity waned as consumers soon could not look at them without dry heaving.
Legendary game designer Capcom (Mega Man, Final Fight) produced The Grape Escape in the dying days of the Raisins' fame. Luckily for Capcom's reputation and the human condition, the game was never released. If you have a taste for sadomasochism and dried fruit, know that this monstrosity occasionally pops up on eBay.
Surprisingly enough, your raisin's primary weapon was not his own horrible shriveled face. No, it was a "Raisin Rifle" or a "Goop Gun" or a "Puree Peashooter" or whatever. Anyway, when you shot foes with raisin gunk, in actuality you were slinging your own bodily fluids around.
That's a Freudian quagmire we have zero interest marching into.
Pepsi Invaders (Atari 2600, 1983)
During the "Cola Wars" of the 1980s, some wacky advertising execs at Coca-Cola took the term a little too literally and hired Atari to create Pepsi Invaders. The soft drink manufacturer released the game - a modified version of the arcade classic Space Invaders - for their 1983 sales convention. Atari produced only 125 copies of Pepsi Invaders, ostensibly to prevent their asses from getting sued off.
In retrospect, these labels are kind of unnecessary.
Pepsi Invaders has no plot, but we can infer this much from the gameplay - Pepsi (or a malevolent, Pepsi-loving alien race) is annihilating humanity. The Coca-Cola Company (which has somehow scored a sweet defense contract from the Reagan administration) now mans the Star Wars Defense System.
Once you crushed Pepsi's alphabet-shaped fleet, the words "COKE WINS" materialized in the heavens, the god of the video game world declaring to his creation the superiority of one can of high fructose corn syrup over another.
Pepsi Invaders made some really bold claims about Pepsi's corporate ethics. Blindfolded taste tests are one thing, but accusing your competitor of engineering global genocide? Look who's talking, Coke.
Super Caesar's Palace (Super Nintendo, 1992)
In the early 90s, Caesars Palace commissioned game manufacturer Majesco to tempt Super Nintendo owners with the forbidden fruits of Las Vegas. This scheme failed as A.) many SNES owners weren't of legal gambling age; and B.) Super Caesars Palace made you feel like you were the last gambler in a post-apocalyptic Vegas where all other humans had been wiped out.
Never mind the come-hither stare of the buxom patrician on the game's box - Super Caesars Palace is an exercise in loneliness. You navigated the nearly deserted casino playing slots, poker and scratch-off lottery tickets all by yourself.
We're not sure if you're familiar with the gambling industry, but the scratch tickets aren't a good sign. Legitimate casinos don't have those. Also, if you ever wander into a Vegas casino and realize you're the only customer in the joint, you should probably run for the doors, because it's either a really bad place to gamble or it's on fire.
M.C. Kids (Nintendo, 1991) and McDonald's Treasure Land Adventures (Genesis 1993)
Video games about fast food? The only thing more conducive to childhood obesity would be if it came with an IV that injected bacon drippings directly into kids' veins as a reward.
These two corporate tie-in titles from the early 90s seemed to have nothing to do with McDonald's products and everything to do with corporate iconography.
Then again, look at that picture up there. You might be wondering how the sight of a mutated apple vomiting on a clown was supposed to make kids hungry for hamburgers. Well, we're thinking it has something to do with a mom trying to get her boy to eat some healthy apples the next day, and the kid screaming in terror and demanding a nice McDonald's burger instead.
Also, Mayor McCheese doesn't appear in either game, an oversight so egregious that it borders on criminal. Fuck these guys.
Chester Cheetah: Too Cool To Fool (Genesis & Super Nintendo, 1992)
If by this point you're saying, "Who in the hell would actually buy these games?!?" remember that there is a whole section of the terrible games industry that aims itself, not at gamers, but at the out-of-the-loop family members who do the gift shopping.
It's not hard to imagine your grandmother walking into the video game aisle of Toys "R" Us, seeing Cheetos mascot Chester Cheetah on a box and thinking, "By gum, that interactive television novelty has that saucy cat on the box! My lovable porker of a grandchild does adore his curdy twigs!"
It's impossible to tell how many Christmases and birthdays Chester Cheetah: To Cool To Fool ruined, but we estimate way too many.
On top of that, here's another case of an advergame miserably failing to sell the product it's supposed to shill. You'd think a game about Cheetos would make the snack look like ambrosia, right?
Wrong. In the game, Cheetos are circular, purplish and look like nipples. Apparently they thought the game was supposed to be based on Japanese Cheetos.
Kool-Aid Man (Atari 2600, 1983)
Right off the bat, you know a game starring the Kool-Aid Man won't be that much fun. Any video game hero who can be disemboweled by a hard shove doesn't scream "instant classic."
As a sentient pitcher of Red Dye #3, it was your job to stop "The Thirsties" from guzzling an entire community swimming pool. Hey, it's not like Super Mario Brothers made an iota of sense either.
"He's bursting through the wall!..Or maybe that's a glitch. This game blows."
What's paradoxical about Kool-Aid Man is that, despite the best intentions of your overzealous spokespitcher, The Thirsties would rather chug community pool water than touch a drop of Kool-Aid. In other words, the game was tacitly admitting that Kool-Aid was less delicious than chlorinated H20 laced with urine. Nice sales pitch, Atari.
125 proofs of purchase? That's enough Kool-Aid powder to mummify those kids.
Yo Noid! (Nintendo, 1992
In the 80s, Domino's Pizza's mascot was The Noid: a claymation humanoid, who, like many corporate mascots of the day, was incensed at being arbitrarily denied an easily accessible foodstuff (in this case, tasteless chain pizza). See? These advergames write themselves!
It's worth noting that Yo Noid! is the second crummy Capcom game on our list inspired by a horrifying claymation ad campaign. Maybe Capcom had a thing for claymation, but we suspect they had more of a thing for sleeping in giant piles of money.
As expected, the game was shitty on an elemental level, but the ending of Yo Noid! was particularly offensive. After you spent an hour or so playing this $50 Domino's advertisement, your spokesabomination celebrates at the neighborhood pizza parlor.
That's right; it's not even freaking Domino's. When your own crappy mascot refuses to eat your pizza, how do you get out of bed in the morning?
Cool Spot (Genesis & Super Nintendo, 1993)
Cool Spot, the suave spokesdisc for 7-Up, got a 16-bit video game treatment that probably sucked the least of all the ad-based games. In fact, the game won Electronic Games Magazine's 1993 award for "Best Sound."
"The sound's okay, I guess."-EGM
Don't laugh. Have you ever won Electronic Games Magazine's Best Sound award? We didn't think so.
Cool Spot was hell-bent on cramming the coolness of 7-Up down your throat. It's beyond us how its plot conveyed said coolness. As Spot, you spent most of the game wandering around a beach shooting carbonation at hermit crabs.
To be fair, the fact that Cool Spot was even mediocre means its developers actually gave a crap about game play. We even have to admire their horrible product integration, since it suggests they didn't even know that 7-Up was a soft drink at the time they made the game.
In this arcade classic, you play a browbeaten barkeep who must toss beer at wave after wave of angry drunks. If you fail to pass a brew to your delirium tremens-wracked patrons, your bartender is ejected from his bar, Dodge City style.
Tapper was intended for release only in bars, but you have to wonder what Budweiser was thinking when they greenlit the game. Admitting that your product results in assault and battery is like a Joe the Camel game in which the last boss is emphysema.
Whoa. THE street location game of 1984.
We already knew that booze can lead to mob violence, but it's sort of upsetting hearing it straight from the horse's mouth.
Journey Escape (Atari 2600, 1982) & Journey (Arcade, 1983)
Plenty of musical acts have jumped into the video game arena (Aerosmith, KISS, 50 Cent, etc.) but we believe only one has tried a direct album video game tie-in. And that only one was Journey.
The members of Journey were either extreme narcissists or paranoiacs, as a big part of both games was to prevent the band from being murdered by their own fans.
In Journey Escape (to tie in with Journey's 1982 LP Escape), you must guide your faceless polygonal band member through legions of equally geometric groupies, who would like nothing more than to sex you to death. As the game's TV ad ominously warned, only Atari owners and their joystick-jamming skills could allow Journey to "live to rock another day."
As you can see from the commercial, Journey's groupies were either aliens, robots or hamburgers.
Seeing as how Journey Escape was an Atari game about malformed women wanting to fatally bone Neal Schon, the game's graphics and plot are forgivable. Unfortunately, its music is not - the game ironically contained almost no Journey music. For a game designed to sell records, this was a bold strategy.
This problem was rectified by the 1983 Journey arcade game, in which players got tinny, comically bad MIDI versions of Journey songs in every stage.
The exception was the bonus round where you earned a full version of "Separate Ways" courtesy of the futuristic, in-machine cassette player. And, once again, the game included stages where you had to defend the band from its crazed fans, playing a bouncer shoving the lunatics away from the stage. Journey couldn't have made the message any clearer even if they added a "piss on the worthless masses from the hotel balcony" bonus level.
Find out about the more subtle ways they've learned to rob you blind in 5 Innovative Ways the Gaming Industry is Screwing You. Or find out the truth behind those food emails your mom always forwards you, in 7 Retarded Food Myths the Internet Thinks Are True.