The 5 Most Cringe-Worthy Video Game Commercials
Confessing a love for video games won't get you beaten up on any playground these days, but gamers still have something of an inferiority complex about their favorite hobby. This might be because so many of the attempts to make gaming seem cool have backfired so spectacularly.
If you don't know what we mean, look no further than video game advertisements. For decades, out-of-touch marketers who have never held a controller in their lives have tried to come up with ad campaigns that make their game seem "hip" or "edgy." The results are, let's just say, awkward ...
Game Boy Micro: The Console That Rats Want to Fuck
From the Game Boy Pocket to the 2DS, Nintendo has always been known for putting out endless variants of their portable consoles regardless of whether anyone actually asked for them. So, when the time came in 2005 to explain to fans why they needed to buy the new smaller version of the Game Boy Advance, they didn't even bother. They could make an ad showing a rat relentlessly humping their product, and people would still buy it. Here's that ad.
We tried to warn you.
If you couldn't watch that (the video might be blocked in some states with particularly strict bestiality laws), don't worry, we can describe the rat-fucking action for you. We open with some scientists in Nintendo's lab testing to see if a rat would prefer a Game Boy to a slice of cheese to determine "how addictive truly are," because that makes sense.
"Rats. Kids. What's the difference?"
The rodent scurries around a bit before deciding to beeline it right to the Game Boy, even climbing over a wall, not giving two shits about the rules. Then he arrives at his choice, and it turns out that the rat doesn't like the Game Boy -- he really likes it. Hard. Enjoy this GIF that Nintendo inexplicably filmed.
The new Game Boy: Half the size! Twice the rat jizz!
Look at that thing go. They actually got a rat to soil a piece of Nintendo hardware for this commercial (hopefully they disinfected it before it ended up in some kid's hands). And in case you missed it, the implication here is that the answer to "How addictive are Nintendo consoles?" is "So addictive that you'll want to put a hole in them. A sex hole." And since they were worried that this message wasn't clear enough, the ad ends with an awkward shot of one of the scientists looking at the hot rat-console action and nodding in unmistakable arousal.
Is he nodding at the Game Boy or the animal? We're not sure what's worse.
That's right, kids: Buy the new Game Boy and enjoy it while you can before your pet pulverizes it with its dong. Oh, did we mention it's called the Game Boy Micro? Because associating the word "micro" with sex is a great way to get pubescent boys to buy things.
The Atari Jaguar Will Make You Puke
The Atari Jaguar was basically Atari hoping the world had forgotten about E.T.: The Game by the mid-'90s and trying to be competitive in the video game industry again, which is like returning to a party where you took a huge dump on the table and pretending nothing happened. Predictably, no one wanted anything to do with it. How could Atari possibly change that? Easy: tell people their games are so awful, they'll make you physically sick! Wait, no, that's a bad plan, Atari, don't do th-
Whoops, too late.
The ad for the game that came packed with the Jaguar, Cybermorph (did we mention this was the mid-'90s?), starts with some kid with a shit-eating grin inserting the cartridge into his console while looking impossibly punchable.
We're not even at the gross part yet, and we already want to puke.
As the kid experiences the impressive polygons that were supposed to convince you this thing was vastly superior to the Super Nintendo (while looking exactly like Star Fox), the camera jostles all around, tilting back and forth in accordance with the movements on screen.
The game also included a convenient feature that changed day into night.
As the camera sways, we cut to the kid winding up and ... blowing chunks all over the screen. Bonus points for making it look like he's throwing up on the logos of the game and console this is supposed to be advertising.
Marketing 101: Associate your product with food poisoning.
So, are we supposed to think the game gives you motion sickness, or just that the kid didn't like it very much? Between this, the Nintendo ad above, and the puke explosion Yoshi ad we showed you recently, we're thinking '90s advertisers had some sort of regurgitation fetish (which will make Season 30 of Mad Men very ... interesting).
Then again, the Jaguar's entire marketing campaign (or at least the ads that didn't yell at you for liking Nintendo and Sega better) seemed to revolve around the theme that if you play Jaguar, you'll be irrevocably changed for the worse. There's the series of ads that showed the various things you won't be able to enjoy again because "Suddenly, nothing else seems fun anymore," like blow-up dolls:
The Atari blow-up doll division was like "Man, what the hell?"
Although the crowd of gawking zoo-goers may have helped kill some of the magic as well.
Ironically, Clinton has gone on the record to say he was thinking about orangutan sex at the time.
Dead Space 2's Secret Marketing Weapon: Your Mom
Look, we all know that despite what those black letters on video game covers like to pretend, kids will always play age-inappropriate games. If you don't believe us, just hop on Xbox Live for a few rounds of COD and see how long it takes to hear a prepubescent voice using a slur that would ruin a radio host's career. The companies know this, too, which is apparently why EA decided to market an M-rated game like Dead Space 2 with a slogan that seems specifically designed to appeal to 14-year-olds trying to look edgy:
It's true -- she's more into GTA.
But it's not just the slogan. The whole marketing campaign revolved around your mom and how much she would hate Dead Space 2, because that's every adult's criteria for deciding what game to spend $60 on: whichever one would make your parents most disappointed in you. In order to demonstrate this, EA plopped down a bunch of moms, showed them some gameplay, and recorded their reactions (ranging from faces of horror to literally asking the camera why anyone would even make a game like this).
They also set up the website YourMomHatesThis.com (don't go there; it's since been taken over by spam squatters) and paid Twitter to make #yourmomhatesthis a promoted hashtag. And to really drive the point home, the marketers even held a contest that encouraged kids to show their moms clips of the game and tweet their reactions to EA.
"Honey, have you gotten wrapped up in some kind of ... viral marketing? WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?"
This is like a Budweiser ad explaining how drinking their beer will magically give you rad dance moves at the prom. Another weird consequence of the campaign is that it makes fun of the only people that would even be able to purchase the product: the ignorant moms buying it for their bratty kid so they'll shut up for two hours, completely ignoring the GameStop clerk who explains that there is a scene in the game where you take a screwdriver to your own eyeball.
Of course, EA still claimed the ads were aimed at adults. Their rationale, as the behind-the-scenes video explains, is that "A mom's disapproval has always been an accurate barometer of what is cool." Multinational corporations run by people your mom's age, on the other hand, are known for being super hip, as the following example demonstrates ...
Nintendo's Cringe-Worthy "Play It Loud" Campaign
In the early '90s, you couldn't flip a pog without seeing a sassy Sega ad about how Nintendon't or Nintencan't. Eventually, as Super Nintendo sales began to suffer in the face of the edgier competition, the House of Mario decided to retaliate. Since they couldn't think of any clever puns about Sega's consoles ("Genesisshit" was rejected), they did the next best thing: starting a campaign called "Play It Loud" that was specifically designed to make Nintendo look cooler. Let us summarize it in one GIF:
And that's why you don't eat sprites.
Yes, the result can only be described as the marketing equivalent of your grandpa trying to break-dance at your birthday party and throwing out his back.
In addition to the "Play It Loud" slogan not making much sense (apparently the marketers didn't realize an SNES was a game console, not a music player), the commercials themselves used slang phrases that have never been uttered before or since. Whatever marketing robot they programmed to fart out such phrases as "hock a loogie at life," "give the world a wedgie," and "fight earwax" from a keyword bank should have been decommissioned.
Go ahead and give Mars a purple nurple while you're at it.
Each of the commercials featured music from an indie band like the Butthole Surfers over a montage of schizophrenic jump edits of various cool stuff like skateboards, Beavis and Butthead, tattoos, sunglasses, and the aforementioned puking. But, because this was still Nintendo, of course they had to bleep out the word "hell" in the B-Hole Surfers song. We're not even kidding. Why use that song at all if you're just going to make yourself look tragically unhip by censoring the least offensive swear other than "damn"? What the bleep were they thinking?
Perhaps the most baffling part of the ads, though, are all the examples of Nintendo-themed street graffiti that could never and should never exist.
Also, why would Mario have an "M" logo on the back of his hat? This is infuriating.
Nintendo even used this campaign as a backdrop for individual games, which is how you end up with a print ad for Super Mario World 2 that describes Yoshi as "a cold-blooded baby sitter who spits fire and launches eggs out his butt" and this mug shot of Kirby after he got caught jacking it in a porno theater:
Jacking what exactly, we're not sure.
The Legend of Zelda: The Japanese Rap Musical
Dear Cracked reader, we owe you an apology. We don't understand how this website has managed to exist for so long without having told you about the insane The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past ad where everyone dances to Japanese rap music. This is our attempt to rectify that enormous mistake.
While we hate to rely on stereotypes, it's hard to deny that when it comes to gaming, Japan out-crazies all of us. And as you can see in the clip above, that includes their game commercials. The ad starts innocently enough. We get a logo with a cool sword ...
Plus enough star filter to shoot a Lil Jon video.
... but that's as far as the sanity lasts, because a second later, the goddamn synchronized dance number starts.
What the hell do they put in those potions?
In one of Japan's greatest gifts to mankind, we're treated to a "Thriller" dance complete with Link (played by a 16-year-old girl), Zelda, and some enemies grooving out all their problems. If you thought it was only peaceful ass-shaking, you haven't seen West Side Story. There's even cute little battles.
Aw, he killed them all.
The best part happens at the end, when a giant Gannon comes out to murder people and everybody just keeps fucking dancing. It's like they're all under the spell of C&C Music Factory and can't be bothered to notice a gargantuan pig monster.
That, or DJ Gannon really knows how to get the party started.
But surely something got lost in translation here. We're positive that if we knew what the lyrics say, this would make a lot more sense. In fact, let's look up a translation:
It's dangerous! It came out!
Unwitting sword fighting action
Zelda shall reach its climax tonight as well-
OK, uh, let's just stop there.
Related: Of course, video game commercials have always been pretty terrible -- ranging from frightening to confusing to simply dumb. Of course none of this seems surprising when you see the early ideas for your favorite video games.
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