Pretty much anything you could think of has been made into a video game. Being a four-legged animal? Goat Simulator, Bear Simulator, and DEEEER Simulator have got you covered. Toasting bread? Yup, just check out. I Am Bread. Auditioning for a talent show and then being hopelessly slammed by the judges? Try American Idol, now with all new snarky Simon Cowell commentary because what you always wanted was a video game that insults you even when you aren’t playing with other people.
But even with practically every film, TV show, and popular brand getting its own tie-in video game, there are still bound to be at least a few you’ve never heard of. Here are a couple that are definitely worth checking out, or at least to learn about them if maybe not to actually play them.
Honorable Mention: Ralph Lauren
When you think of Ralph Lauren, do you think of video games? Of course not! If you’re anything like me, you think of endless pastel pop-collared shirts, more than likely worn by men in their mid-twenties with names ending in -ayden. However, the polo shirt giant has actually been sneaking its way into the game industry for the past several years. First there was Ralph Lauren Holiday Run, an endless runner where you play as the world’s slowest bear trying to collect various Ralph Lauren clothing items. Now, Ralph Lauren has partnered with G2 Esports AND you can get Ralph Lauren clothes to wear in Roblox as part of a special winter event. Polo shirts becoming the next “gamer wear” is one bandwagon I will definitely NOT hop on.
Ralph Lauren Holiday Run was released in 2019 for Android and iOS devices.
10. Fight Club
This one is funny because Fight Club ostensibly centers around a message of how capitalism damages people and why they should reject it. Plus, Tyler Durden makes it clear that the titular club is about much more than a bunch of shirtless men beating each other up. And then…there’s the tie-in game, where you play as a random man who beats other men up, usually shirtlessly. In addition to characters from both the movie and the original Chuck Palahniuk novel, you can fight Abraham Lincoln and Fred Durst from the band Limp Bizkit – but, sadly, not whoever thought this game was a good idea.
Fight Club was released in 2004 for PlayStation 2 and Xbox.
9. Burger King
Few brands have embraced the “tie-in video game” idea so completely as Burger King. What kind of gameplay could you possibly have in a game about a fast food franchise? A management simulator? A restaurant decorating game? ….or how about a stealth action game where you deliver Burger King goodies to unsuspecting passerby? Or a racing game? Or a bumper car simulator? You can have all of the above with Burger King’s three tie-in games, most of them unfortunately starring its titular mascot, who I recently named one of the most terrifying monsters in the history of gaming.
Sneak King, PocketBike Racer, and Big Bumpin’ were released in 2006 for the Xbox and Xbox 360.
Sadly, Hooters: Road Trip is not a charming adventure about traveling around the world to collect and raise different varieties of owls. That would be a much better game. This is an utterly bland racing game that only received any sort of notoriety in the first place because it had the Hooters name attached to it. You pick a car (the game’s description says you can choose between three cars, but actually only one is available in-game), you drive to the Hooters restaurant of your choice, and then you get to see a cringy “congratulations video” supposedly coming from a real-life Hooters waitress from that city or state. Yeah. It’s about as painful as it sounds. (Also, this was somehow published by Ubisoft. What?)
Hooters: Road Trip was released in 2002 for PC and PlayStation.
7. The California Raisins
OK, so putting this one on the list is kind of cheating. Technically, The California Raisins: The Grape Escape never actually got made. It was cancelled partway through development when developer Radiance realized just how much the wrinkle-skinned sunglasses-wearing mascots had decreased in popularity. Screenshots of this unfinished game show a a side-scrolling action platformer in which “moonwalking” was apparently a key gameplay element. Still, with a planned 1994 release, this never-premiered game is possibly one of the earliest chronological examples of the bizarre tie-in video game.
The California Raisins: The Grape Escape remains unreleased.
6. Owning A Ski Resort (No Actual Skiing Involved)
A skiing game? Sounds fun, I’m down with that. Skiing is a generally cool winter sport, and you can make some cool gameplay elements out of dodging trees or conquering more difficult slopes. A game about owning a ski resort, primarily centered around making sure you keep the slopes clean and get enough visitors during the prime skiing season? Sounds…less fun. But such a game exists in the form of Ski Region Simulator, a game which includes such fascinating elements as smoothing out the snow and ensuring that the ski lifts are running properly.
Ski Region Simulator was released for PC in 2011.
OK, so this one is pretty much the reason I wrote this list in the first place – I’m a huge Survivor fan, and there have been two attempts to turn CBS’s flagship reality show into a video game. Both are little more than collections of mini-games with janky physics, played by uncanny-valley representations of some of the show’s most famous players. Also, gameplay is nothing like the actual show, as, if you win a challenge, you get to….vote someone from the OTHER tribe off. Also, you unceremoniously “win” when there are between four and six players left in the game, because that’s absolutely what being the “Sole Survivor” means. At least it’s slightly better than the Amazing Race game, where the prize for winning a challenge is…getting to watch clips from the show. Which you are presumably already a fan of, given that you were one of approximately ten people who decided to purchase the game.
Survivor The Interactive Game released was released for PC in 2001. Wii Survivor was released for the Nintendo Wii in 2010.
4. Being a Roomba
For most people, cleaning is something you do because otherwise you wind up living in a dump that would make Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street proud, not because you want to. What if I told you there was not only a game all about cleaning, where you had to do chores but got no actual tangible real-world result from them, but also you had to do it as a tiny, round robot locked in an eternal battle with a less-than-forgiving physics engine? This succinctly describes Robot Vacuum Simulator, a game so popular that it somehow managed to spawn multiple sequels. Apparently, the selling point of the most recent release is that it features multiple types of dust that require different types of suction to be cleaned up.
Robot Vacuum Simulator 2012 was released for PC in 2012. Robot Vacuum Simulator 2013 was released for PC in 2013. Robot Vacuum Simulator X was released for PC in 2019.
3. Les Miserables
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is a sweeping, epic classic novel about love, redemption, revolution, and what it means to be a truly good person. Arm Joe, an awkward pun based around the book’s Japanese title, Ah, Mujou (which roughly translates to Ah, Misery), is a clunky, nearly unplayable fighting game with playable characters including a robotic version of protagonist Jean Valjean, the embodiment of the concept of Judgment, and a random stuffed animal named Ponpon. Despite all this, it’s weirdly fun to play, if only because literally dropping a barricade on your enemy has to be one of the best finishing moves in fighting game history. Cast of Les Mis for Smash when?
Arm Joe was released for PC in 1998, with an updated version released in 2004. It remains free to play.
2. Mean Girls
This one makes this list mostly because I’m so disappointed by it. A video game based on the iconic high school movie Mean Girls could have actually been pretty cool. We could have had a Mad Libs-esque “Burn Book” simulator, a social sim where you have to manage your relationship values with the members of the Plastics clique, or a fighting game where everyone who has ever been personally victimized by Regina George could finally get their revenge. Instead, Mean Girls is a bland puzzle/fashion game that came out five years after the film itself and tried its best to pretend that star Lindsey Lohan had never been involved with the movie. Also, it sold so poorly in Europe that its North American release was cancelled as quickly as Regina’s diet after she realized Kalteen Diet Bars actually make you gain weight.
Mean Girls was released for the Nintendo DS (in Europe only) in 2009.
On the surface, a game based on the iconic rainbow-colored Skittles candy doesn’t seem that weird. Other candy brands, including M&Ms and Trolli, have released tie-in games, mostly centered around directing mascot characters to collect various sweet power-ups. Darkened Skye, on the other hand, is a gritty action-adventure third-person shooter tale about a young woman traveling through a fantasy realm to find her lost mother. It has an actual story, fairly deep lore, and even got decent reviews comparing it to titles like Tomb Raider. The Skittles candies themselves are incidental and feel like an afterthought. They’re items protagonist Skye can combine with her weapon to perform various energy-based attacks. This definitely wins the award for “bizarre tie-in game that actually doesn’t feel like a bizarre tie-in game.”
Darkened Skye was released for GameCube and PC in 2002.
Were there any games on this list that you had never heard of before? Do you have experience playing any of these unique tie-in titles? Are there any tie-in games that you feel should have been included on this list? Comment below and let us know your thoughts!