6 WTF Video Game Ads That Traumatized Their Audiences
Making a commercial for a video game shouldn't require any more thought than making a movie trailer -- just show us some footage from the game and tell us what console it's for and when it's coming out. "Body horror and/or implied sexual violence" shouldn't be included, unless those are key elements of the game, we suppose. However, if the purpose of a video game commercial is to deeply terrify your young fan base so profoundly that they wouldn't dare forget your product, the creators of the following doses of nightmare elixir succeeded brilliantly.
New Super Luigi U -- Luigi Is a Rapist
After many years of languishing in the slightly overweight shadow of his brother, Mario, Luigi finally got his own platforming adventure game, New Super Luigi U, on the Wii U, because Nintendo is terrible at naming both games and systems. So what better way to give the Elwood Blues of the Super Mario universe his own spotlight than to announce it with the rapiest video game commercial ever produced?
Thus, we get this bizarre ad featuring Princess Peach in a minimalist nightmare chamber, tremblingly calling Mario's name.
Setting a level inside the fetid dreams of a Chain Chomp might have been a little too artistically ambitious.
Her cries of terror reach a disturbing crescendo just as tears spill out of her face and the camera zooms in to reveal Luigi's leering reflection in her horror-soaked pupil.
It's safe to assume those coveralls don't cover all.
It is truly impossible to determine what Nintendo was trying to convey with this ad beyond raw, primal fear. If the idea here was to make it look like Peach was in trouble and Luigi was coming to her rescue, there was a catastrophic miscommunication somewhere along the way. Also, note that Peach's voice catches on the last "Mario" just as Luigi reaches her: Clearly, those were her last living words.
It's inexplicable that the princess should be so utterly frightened of someone that, until now, we always assumed was one of the good guys, unless we've seriously misinterpreted what was going on in the Mario games all these years and Luigi was sinisterly blending in with the heroes like Topher Grace in Predators.
There's a reason Birdo always looked so concerned.
Kirby: Canvas Curse -- Kirby Hangs Out With a Giant Walking Dick
The gameplay for Kirby: Canvas Curse revolves around using your finger on the Nintendo DS touchscreen to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles. You could stun Kirby's enemies with your finger, make rainbow paths for Kirby with your finger, and leave opaque Dorito streaks on your game screen with your finger. So naturally, when it came time to film the Kirby: Canvas Curse commercial, Nintendo decided to show Kirby hanging out with a giant finger.
And yes, when anthropomorphized by a flesh-colored costume, the finger looks like a 6-foot penis aiming itself at Kirby's open mouth.
Like most men his age, Kirby wakes up in bed with a giant boner, only his boner is wearing sandals. Kirby then takes his dick to the park, in a sequence that must have brutally confused anyone happening by the set that day.
"Weird, all the parents keep clearing their kids out of the park as soon as we show up."
His penis also lies dutifully down on top of a gaping manhole and allows Kirby to stomp painfully across it, despite the fact that there is a sidewalk 2 feet to the left.
This is the visual definition of "subliminal message."
And then, as if the "Kirby loves his giant severed bone rod" message of this ad hadn't already been made clear enough, the commercial ends with a shot of a phallus and a tiny swollen pink orb skipping down a rainbow into the sunset.
This is like a motivational poster for survivors of testicular cancer.
Yoshi's Island -- A Fat Guy Detonates Watery Entrails All Over a Restaurant
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is a game about a green dinosaur named Yoshi trying to keep Baby Mario safe from unspeakably powerful forces that are inexplicably out to destroy him. The game is more or less meant for children, and is even designed to look like drawings in a storybook brought to mesmerizing life by arcane magic.
Apparently arcane magic has a really primitive color palette.
Nintendo decided that the best way to convey the charming, kid-friendly innocence of their new game was to stage the gluttony murder from Se7en.
The commercial opens with what appears to be a 32-year-old bowling instructor stuffing his face at a restaurant, with the tenuous excuse that Yoshi's Island is "crammed" full of exciting content. So playing it is exactly like shamelessly, self-destructively overeating in public. We guess.
They could have at least given the guy a red hat and a mustache.
After literally eating every type of food imaginable, the man finally says "No more," but the narrator tempts him by asking, "Sure you don't have room for another little bonus level?" The bonus level takes the form of a curdled glob of whipped cream on the end of his finger, so he shrugs and eats that last little bit, which causes him to swell and explode, showering his fellow diners with chunky brown liquid.
From zero to Gallagher in two seconds.
Some of you might recognize the ad as an homage to the Mr. Creosote sketch from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. That may seem cool to comedy nerds, but the target audience for Yoshi's Island was latchkey children in 1995. How many Super Nintendo owners in the mid-'90s were aware of a five-minute scene from a 1983 R-rated movie by a British comedy troupe? Without that frame of reference, this commercial is just randomly grotesque. With that frame of reference, the commercial still manages to make absolutely no sense and have nothing at all to do with the adventures of a dinosaur and his pet human child in a world of Technicolor imagination.
"Game, system, and entrails sold separately."
Xbox -- Shooting Babies into Graves
Back in 2001, Microsoft needed an eye-catching way to introduce its brand new Xbox system to the public, something that conveyed the power and ingenuity of the system and the palpable awesomeness of its library of games. What they made instead was an ad that begins with a woman in a hospital firing an infant out of her splayed crotch like a circus cannon and sending the baby through the glass window of the maternity ward.
As the newborn flies through the sky like a tiny missile made of adorable flesh, it quickly ages into a young boy like a growth-accelerated clone fathered by godless science. The boy continues to eerily morph into a teenager, screaming in terror while reflexively covering his privates, because he is flying through the air at speeds high enough to uproot your genitals like a mailbox in a hurricane.
"We feel that screaming naked boys will really appeal to our target audience."
The screaming teen transmogrifies into an equally nude and screaming adult and then finally into a trembling, shrieking old man before smashing headfirst through a dusty sarcophagus in a lonely graveyard:
Wow; nice aim, Mom.
After enduring that terrifying minute of nihilistic cinema, we are rewarded with the devil-may-care tagline Microsoft invented for its new system: "Life is short. Play more." The ad wound up being banned in several countries, despite Microsoft's insistence that it conveyed a "positive statement about life." That statement of course being "All life on this planet dies in a cosmic instant, so you might as well spend your blip of eternity playing Xbox."
Nintendo 64 -- Blackmail Your Cross-Dressing Relatives into Buying You Video Games
Nintendo decided that the best way to push its line of value-priced Greatest Hits video games for the Nintendo 64 was to release a commercial featuring a young teen walking in on his father wearing full drag and being bribed into silence with the exact retail price of Pokemon Snap, because apparently that's a timeless piece of adolescence we can all relate to.
There was an episode of the Wonder Years about this, right?
We begin with a tracking shot through a suburban home, panning over framed pictures of a happy family as we hear the gentle narration of the father's voice, accompanied by sentimental music, explaining to his son that money isn't everything and that family, health, and happiness are what are truly important. Finally, the camera comes to rest on the son's dopey face as he is standing in the doorway of his parents' bedroom gawking at his father, who has reached an advanced stage of fabulousness in a dress, makeup, and pearls.
Rather than patiently explain to his son that this is just a part of Dad's personality that is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of, the father says, "What I'm trying to say is, how much will it cost to keep this from your mother?" Then we smash cut to the line of bargain-priced Player's Choice games Nintendo is trying to sell as the wackiest narrator on planet Earth guffaws his way through a sales pitch elucidating that the games are so inexpensive, you might be able to con your cross-dressing father into buying you two in exchange for keeping his torturous personal secret hidden from his wife.
"The wig says 'New game,' but Grandma's pearls say '... played on my new TV.'"
As if in response to the wacky narrator's suggestion, the ad ends with the kid walking into the bathroom and discovering his grandfather in a pair of pumps and thigh-high stockings.
"Grandma died last November, I've just been trying to ease you guys into it."
Now he doesn't have to choose between Donkey Kong 64 and Super Smash Bros. -- he can extort his vulnerable, closeted family for both.
Sega Saturn Will Tear Your Eyeballs Out of Your Skull
Back in 1995, Sega released its first 3D gaming console, the Saturn, to fanfare that seems impossible to explain unless you were 12 years old in the '90s, a period of time wherein poorly rendered polygons were virtually indistinguishable from reality. Despite the fact that the Saturn had a four-month lead on the PlayStation in the U.S. and a two-year head start on the Nintendo 64, it still wound up being considered a huge failure and finished well behind Sony and Nintendo in that generation of the console wars. We suspect the following David Lynch masturbation fantasy Sega released as the Saturn's debut ad in America may have had something to do with that:
It begins with a man wearing a trench coat and a face full of scowl strolling into John Carpenter's Castle Dracula, where he is greeted by two topless platinum women who inform us that he "executes" games.
We typically wouldn't bemoan this, but unfinished torsos might be a little too topless.
We're then treated to a juxtaposed series of images showing us a race car driver getting strapped into his driver's seat while the Game Executioner plops down in a comfy ergonomic command recliner. The driver redlines his engine as a pair of plastic tubes deploys into the Executioner's face and dislodges his eyeballs like peeled grapes in a Dyson vacuum.
"FYI, the eye reinserting machine is in the shop."
It is at this point, 45 seconds into the commercial, when we finally see footage from an actual Sega Saturn game, displayed briefly on two small television screens in front of the disembodied eyeballs.
Because this concept worked so well the first time.
The Game Executioner is now in charge of piloting the race car. Understandably, sucking his eyes out of his head makes the task of driving a race car impossibly difficult, and he gets into a horrific crash that transforms the hapless race car driver into Jesus.
"Why don't you just heal yourself?"
"Insurance reasons. Thanks, Obama."
Race Car Jesus then gets rushed down a hallway on a stretcher by some doctors, but the group is intercepted by the Game Executioner, his eyes now glued firmly back in their rightful place. He leans menacingly over Race Car Jesus and whispers, "Reality always hurts." The camera then zooms into the likely paralyzed driver's eye, we see the Sega Saturn logo floating spectrally in his ocular fluid, and nobody asked for a Sega Saturn that Christmas.
Maxwell Yezpitelok is in Chile and also on Twitter. Peter File is a mild-mannered reporter by day, but by night, he's kinda rude.
Related Reading: Not done being creeped out by video games? Check out these horribly true urban legends. Of course all that horror was intentional. These glitches in video games are so scary, it's almost impossible they AREN'T the result of machines turning against us. And if you're more interested in how dark a child's video game can get, this link can help.