The Hilariously Bonkers History of 'Jaws' In Video Games
A lot of people have been talking about Jaws recently, partly because Steven Spielberg's classic blockbuster just celebrated its 45th anniversary, and partly because we're all currently living through it. It's not just the occasional meme, the American government's pandemic response is shockingly in line with Amity Island's shark response; from fudging medical reports, to an unwillingness to close beaches, to Mayor Vaughan being more concerned with petty vandalism than the deaths of citizens.
And with the exception of that movie where Will Smith saves humanity with a floppy disc, Jaws is probably the definitive July 4th movie. But for some of us, just watching the movie isn't enough, we want to play it too. Most blockbuster franchises have spawned innumerable video game tie-ins, and Jaws is no exception. But while adapting, say, Star Wars into a game seems pretty straightforward, Jaws is a movie mostly composed of anxiety and political malfeasance, with some brief shark-killing action at the end. How do you turn that into a game?
The 1987 Nintendo game expands the narrative to include, not just shark-hunting, but killing all forms of sea creatures imaginable. The result is less like the movie Jaws and more like some kind of aquatic Death Wish, in which players relentlessly slaughter every living being in the ocean. There's literally a level where you board an airplane and carpet bomb a cluster of jellyfish for some unknown reason.
In 1989, there was a Commodore 64 game that mostly involved piloting an underwater craft through Mario-like caves. The same year there was the more nuanced Jaws: The Computer Game in which you play as Chief Brodie and, more like in the film, you actually have to deal with the mayor's bullshit.
And if the high score screen is to be believed, the primary reason everyone is after the shark is to get laid.
More than twenty years later, the brand was revived in Jaws Unleashed. Since people in 2006 had likely given up on the idea of rooting for humanity, in this game players control the shark. And it's completely bonkers. Like Jaws 3-D it takes place in a SeaWorld-esque theme park -- meaning that Jaws has to murder his way to freedom, evisterating Shamu in the process.
It's easy to forget that this game is based on one of the greatest movies of all-time, because it features an awkward Baywatch parody, followed by a level where you devour digital representations of TV's sexiest lifeguards.
This was followed by Jaws: Ultimate Predator, in which you, again, play the shark; body-slamming fishing boats and somehow battling a Megalodon. More recently, indie developer Matt Round created an old-school text adventure game, where you similarly spend the entirety of the time eating people.
Thankfully no games so far have integrated the "voodoo curse" aspect of the series.