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80's Cartoons That Deserve New and Improved Games

The 80's live on in Transformers: Devastation - but it shouldn't stop there.

List by Nadia Oxford, .

Platinum Games' Transformers: Devastation is a good reminder of how powerful 80's nostalgia can be, especially when it's used to power a good game experience. Sure, the Transformers property is hotter than ever, but Devastation is based around the first generation of the Robots in Disguise, a fact that has people chattering excitedly about the game (and champing to detox their children of Michael Bay's influence via Devastation's retro roster).

G1 Transformers isn't the only long-lived cartoon franchise deserving of a second chance as a modern video game. We can think of several animated 80's programs that need the same treatment.

He-Man

Imagine He-Man, the Most Powerful Man in the Universe™, is standing beside you. Imagine he's flexing his muscles. They're rippling and bulging, an awe-inspiring reminder of why this man rides a green tiger to work every morning.

Now imagine taking a pin, popping those muscles, and watching them deflate to flaccid sacs of flesh. That's He-Man's video game history in a nutshell.

The Masters of the Universe franchise burned hot in the 80's, and nostalgia (along with a series reboot in 2002, a robust figure line, and an ongoing comic book series) has kept it on a low simmer since then. As a consequence, He-Man's video game career started as far back as the Atari 2600, and stretches all the way to mobile platforms.

Unfortunately, most of these outings by the world's favorite Skeletor-slayer are tepid at best. They're hack-and-slash distractions that don't even use the iconic theme song in some cases.

He-Man needs another chance as a game hero, and that chance should invoke all the color, imagination, and weird characters we've come to love and remember over the decades. That includes The Sorceress, Man at Arms, Beast Man, and a certain skeleton that goes "Nyeh-heh-heh!"

She-Ra

If Prince Adam is ever allowed to take another stab at video game fame, Princess Adora should, too. In fact, warrior princess She-Ra deserves her very own game instead of being expected to play second banana to her twin brother.

And why not? The siblings were raised apart, and have very different backstories as a consequence. Prince Adam was reared in the light of goodness, while Princess Adora was kidnapped as a baby and trained to be one of the top generals for the evil Horde. She broke away and assumed leadership of the hidden Great Rebellion, often working stealthily where He-Man prefers to yell and bash things with his ham-chunk fists.

Leadership, swordplay, rebellion, and covert operations. Throw in the flying unicorn Swift Wind, and you have the makings of a potentially awesome game packed with genuine Girl Power.

The Real Ghostbusters

The Real Ghostbusters is an animated extension of the movies -- the first movie in particular -- and it helped endear kids to the franchise, which is probably why so many of us remember it fondly. The show is also solidly-written and has aged surprisingly well, which helps.

So while there's been myriad games based on the general Ghostbusters franchise, we'd love to see one based more solidly in its animated universe. That means cartoony graphics, as well as special appearances from Samhain, the Boogeyman, Marduk, and Tiamat.

Even Slimer ought to join the party, just as long as he remembers his place and doesn't put his name ahead of everyone else's in the marquee. The top spot is reserved for Janine.

Voltron: Defender of the Universe

THQ released a Voltron title for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2011, and it's a pretty sad affair. An effort was certainly made: The game features music and voice clips from the original show, and the characters are treated with respect and reverence.

Alas, actually playing Voltron is like trying to make a one-legged lion walk down a straight line. The twin-stick shooter is repetitive and generic -- not a legacy befitting of a beloved anime series so many of us grew up with (even if we had no idea it was anime at the time).

THQ's attempt at Voltron has the right idea as far as fanservice is concerned. If we can pile a game worth playing onto all that genuine love, we'll have a project that's truly the cat's pajamas.

ThunderCats

When we think of the 80's ThunderCats cartoon, we think of Lion-O raising the Sword of Omens and crying "HOOOOOOO!"

When we think of the ThunderCats' video games, we think of a cat scratching quietly through its litter pan.

Now, ThunderCats fans in Europe and the UK have fond memories of ThunderCats: The Lost Eye of Thundera, a 1987 action game that was released across multiple platforms, including the ZX Spectrum. Otherwise, the best you can do for a ThunderCats game is the Nintendo DS title based on the 2011 series reboot.

The reboot is very good. The game is… less good. Unless you like laggy action and boring fights.

With its fantastic world full of cat-people, mutant lizards, monsters, and mummies with a taste for the dark arts, there's no reason why the ThunderCats property shouldn't be the basis for an imaginative and well-constructed platformer or RPG.

SilverHawks

Even though these partly-metal, partly-real space cops can fly, the SilverHawks never quite reached the same heights of popularity as their thunder-kitty cousins.

Maybe SilverHawks' key bad guy is just too predictable. Like, his name is seriously Mon*Star. But he looks like the product of a passionate night between a lion and an electrical socket, and he rides an armored space-squid. Any game developer who can't fit all that into an epic space opera / shooter needs to turn in their game-making license.

For real, though: SilverHawks. Armored cyborg space-warriors go hand-to-hand with a bad guy who uses a squid as a bio-weapon. Everybody can breathe in the vacuum of space, because why not. There's a lot to work with, here.

Jem

Jem is a surprisingly story-heavy series for an 80's cartoon, which makes us feel like the pop star might be ripe for an adventure game or a visual novel. Something in the vein of a Telltale game -- heck, maybe even a Telltale game, period -- would be as fabulous as a Saturday night concert with the Misfits (the show's true heroes, obviously).

With the impending live action movie hovering over the world, an interactive Jem / Jerrica story with classic visuals and music may be the balm the children of the 80's need.

G.I. Joe

G.I. Joe is a hot-and-cold franchise that tends to fade in and out of favor according to the United States' political climate. The quality of its video games is similarly unsteady, with Konami's 1992 arcade shooter being the last title worth mentioning.

Hasbro's had a hard time getting kids to latch onto G.I. Joe for extended lengths of time, but it'd have no problem attracting 20- and- 30-somethings by wafting the scent of Duke, Destro, and Zartan (all dressed in their original Village People-style uniforms, of course) in their general direction. Bonus points if the opening cinematic for the game resembles the first couple of hyper-patriotic minutes from the 1987 animated film.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (80's series)

Unlike most entries on this list, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a very robust roster of video games behind them. Many of those games are still remembered fondly, especially sprite-based beat-em-up romps like the original arcade game and Turtles in Time for the SNES.

But the Ninja Turtles series has seen a couple of reboots since the 80's, and while the quality of each successive cartoon improves, the quality of the tie-in games takes a hit. Even modern efforts to fire up nostalgia over old favorites, like Ubisoft's remake of Turtles in Time, have been dismal.

Maybe part of the issue has been the new games' tendency to use computer-generated models. Granted, the newest series from Nickelodeon features 3D turtles, but big, beautiful sprites would be a lovely way to capture the Turtles at their most nostalgic. They might also go a long way to eliminating the messed-up collision detection some fans feel has also been a big reason behind the modern Turtles' games' failures.

For best results, the game should call back to the first iteration of the series. Endless declarations of "Dude!" and "Cowabunga!" Pizza. Skateboards. The Technodrome.

Okay, so the Nickelodeon series has all that. But it doesn't have the one thing that would propel an 80's-inspired Ninja Turtles cartoon onto every Game of the Year List: Cut scenes with Shredder and Krang sniping at each other like a married couple.

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Comments 30

  • Avatar for mobichan #1 mobichan 2 years ago
    I have plans to make a 2D Bionic 6 fangame in the future. Not sure if there is a market for it, but I feel a personal need to fill that missing part of the 90's gaming landscape. I would also say that M.A.S.K. and Centurions deserved some decent game treatment.

    As for Ghostbusters, the Genesis game was actually very much in the spirit of the cartoon. It had creative and goofy ghost ideas and didn't take itself too seriously. But I agree the Japanese designs and animation of The Real Ghostbusters had a nice feel to them and would make great fodder for a game.Edited October 2015 by mobichan
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #2 LBD_Nytetrayn 2 years ago
    @mobichan I was disappointed that the more cartoon-like Wii/PS2 games didn't go with Real Ghostbusters style.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #3 MetManMas 2 years ago
    Dunno if he's tired of military themed games in general after doing Metal Gear for so long, but I would love to see a Hideo Kojima directed G.I. Joe game. With the massive toy line, cartoons, and comics, the series already has all kinds of military tech and crazy characters on both the Joe and Cobra sides to draw from.
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  • Avatar for jihon83 #4 jihon83 2 years ago
    A He-Man fighting game like Nether Realm Studio's offerings would be good. The toys are silly and accessory-laden enough to handle a system that is both sound and has a sprinkle of gimmick, and the toyline origin might make it easier for gamers to pay for characters and new stages.
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  • Avatar for ArugulaZ #5 ArugulaZ 2 years ago
    Ah yes, Nadia Oxford talking about the intersection of video games and cartoons is a guaranteed good time.

    Can I just add Mighty Orbots to this list? It was one of the few cartoons from the 1980s where the rest of the show looked just as good as its introduction.
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #6 SigurdVolsung 2 years ago
    For American cartoons I would go with a Beetlejuice game in the vein of Mario Galaxy. That world is insane and has many different ways you can go with it and many subworlds within it.

    For Japanese cartoons I would choose Fist of the North Star with the Witcher 3 engine. That would be insane. Awesome martial arts and 80s cheese and insane stories with being able to have a free roaming open world to represent the huge world that the anime series represented.
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  • Avatar for Spectreman #7 Spectreman 2 years ago
    Helps a lot that in the 80s most children cartoons had adult protagonists. And without stupid paranoia about phantasy weapons, battles etc. Such good time.

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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #8 Captain-Gonru 2 years ago
    @SigurdVolsung I think there was a Beetlejuice game based on the cartoon. I know there was one based on the movie. Can't remember how good (or bad) they were, though.
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #9 Captain-Gonru 2 years ago
    How about we revive a forgotten genre while we're at it, and do a vehicular combat game based on M.A.S.K.?
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  • Avatar for AlltheNeSWorldCups #10 AlltheNeSWorldCups 2 years ago
    Definitely volition I was just telling someone at work how sad it was that one of the pilots didn't even last till the end of the credits I always wondered why wasn't till I saw the Japanese version go lion that I found out the dude literally gets assassinated by the evil witch and another guy I think barely like 2 episodes after they even first form voltron
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  • Avatar for metalangel #11 metalangel 2 years ago
    @Captain-Gonru You are correct, it was for the Game Boy.

    I'd like to see a C.O.P.S. game!



    It sort of already exists in the form of Crackdown (futuristic setting) but it could be expanded further with the existing and varied cast of characters and their numerous abilities. A sort of cops vs crooks multiplayer game, where you had to balance your team's abilities against those of the enemy, could be a lot of fun. I think I'd like to stealth around as Mirage <3Edited October 2015 by metalangel
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  • Avatar for Thad #12 Thad 2 years ago
    I read Hear the Roar (disclaimer: that's an affiliate link), and a few of the writers discussed why they thought Silverhawks never achieved the popularity of Thundercats. Peter Lawrence suggested that it was because all the good guys were bland except for Commander Stargazer (and of course in an adaptation of The Untouchables, the only interesting character is going to be Elliot Ness); Leonard Starr said the show failed due to its appalling lack of Leonard Starr; and Steve Perry said it was because the toys just weren't very good.

    I think all three of them were probably right to some extent.



    On another topic, regarding Krang and Shredder bickering: there was a rather wonderful interview awhile back (before he passed, obviously) where James Avery said, in-character, "Krang and I are divorced now, I haven't seen him in many years. I kinda miss him, but not really, he was always such a nag."

    I can't find the video now; looks like it may have been removed from YouTube. But if anyone can find a copy please feel free to share.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #13 yuberus 2 years ago
    I actually really love the Intellivision Masters of the Universe game. It's got the theme song, some solid animation, and plays pretty well for a 1983 console release. I sure wish there were a good Real Ghostbusters game... or even a new version of the show.

    Where's the Dino Saucers video game? That show just screams tie-in.
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  • @Thad I liked Bluegrass (the cowboy pilot) and Copper Kid, but the other three were dull as cardboard, yeah.

    Too bad, because the villains/henchmen were fun. They should have gone and messed with the Thundercats for funsies.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #15 LBD_Nytetrayn 2 years ago
    @metalangel Was COPS 80s? I thought it was early 90s.

    Also, regarding SilverHawks, I thought the toys were pretty cool, and liked some of the characters. Quicksilver was a pretty vanilla leader, like you do, and Copper Kid was okay. I thought the twins and Bluegrass were cool, and Condor, Flashback, Moonstryker, and Hotwing were all pretty cool.

    And Stargazer, of course.Edited October 2015 by LBD_Nytetrayn
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  • Avatar for darrinwright07 #16 darrinwright07 2 years ago
    Yes to practically all of these, with two caveats:

    1) Good luck topping Turtles in Time.

    2) How's about a new Rescue Rangers game, because those were NES classics in my household.
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  • Avatar for KakiOkami #17 KakiOkami 2 years ago
    @darrinwright07 Funny you mentioned Chip N Dale's Rescue Rangers! One of my fav NES games, but I don't think it would really need to be remade per se. Just a new game done in the same style ala Shovel Knight..

    And Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game. My other top NES game and would kill to play that again (I do own the cart.) but having a save feature would vastly improve it (though that whole "gotta beat the game in one sitting and with limited lives" thing was a hella challenge in its own right!

    I guess my contribution here would have to be Tiny Toons Adventures. So fun!
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  • Avatar for cwillia111 #18 cwillia111 2 years ago
    Deck 13 should develop a He-man game because Lords of the Fallen reminded me a lot of Masters of the Universe. I also think a Ninja Turtles RPG "could" be one of the greatest things ever if implemented correctly. By correctly, I mean in the vein of the original comics and animated series.
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  • Avatar for chiptoon #19 chiptoon 2 years ago
    Galaxy Rangers

    Please
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  • Avatar for docexe #20 docexe 2 years ago
    This was like seeing a parade of my childhood in some respects. Sad that some of these properties have never been revisited. Some of them would make for great games indeed.

    Interestingly, while not as popular as Thundercats, Silverhawks did got a following here in Latin America. It’s still well regarded in some corners. Personally, outside of the Copper Kid, I always liked more the additional members of the team that were introduced late in the show’s run, especially Hotwing and Moonstryker.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #21 Roto13 2 years ago
    Jem and the Holograms rhythm game like Persona 4: Dancing All Night, OK? OK.
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  • Avatar for Flojomojo #22 Flojomojo 2 years ago
    When I see pieces like this from people that are a little younger than me, it helps me understand how others see my fondness for Atari and Intellivision. Just because something was important to you as a kid and makes you feel nostalgic does not make that thing any good. I wouldn't want anything based on what I see as cheap Saturday morning dreck, because I have no nostalgia for it. It wasn't good then, and it certainly hasn't aged well, despite how you might feel about the subject matter.

    <\old man yelling at cloud>
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #23 WiIIyTheAntelope 2 years ago
    @Captain-Gonru The Beetlejuice was bad enough that it had an LJN logo on the box, and it's been featured in Angry Video Game Nerd reviews
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  • Avatar for unoclay #24 unoclay 2 years ago
    @mobichan I'll say this--I grew up watching nearly all of the cartoons listed in this article (note, i said "nearly"--sorry Jem, you were just too girly, even for a guy who liked She-Ra) but i dont think i even know what Bionic 6 is. So, that in mind, only one guy's opinion...but i would say the market for it might?? be small? Just a cautionary, subjectively anecdotal note...
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  • Avatar for mobichan #25 mobichan 2 years ago
    @unoclay Haha, well, it was more of an early 90's cartoon, but it has enough of a following for me not to assume it is lost to the past. I have to say the intro song is one of the most catchy products of that era of cartoon intro awesomeness. If I can catch even an ounce of that awesome, I think fans and newcomers alike will enjoy it. At least I know I will like it, and that is the best reason I can think of to make a game. :)
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  • Avatar for unoclay #26 unoclay 2 years ago
    @mobichan That explains it. By the early 90s, i was past the age where i was staying current with cartoons and instead had moved on to the allure of trying to figure out ways to get illicit alcohol, chasing girls, riding skateboards, and naturally, playing video games. Maybe if you include all of those items in the planned game, it will appeal to me as well!! ;']
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  • Avatar for GaijinD #27 GaijinD 2 years ago
    Well, the Japanese series lion Voltron is based on got into Super Robot Wars once. Does that count?
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #28 LBD_Nytetrayn 2 years ago
    @cwillia111 "By correctly, I mean in the vein of the original comics and animated series."

    How are you suggesting that would work? I mean, of all versions of the TMNT that have been over the years, I think those two are the most disparate, ironically enough.
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  • Avatar for Lucas-Amaral #29 Lucas-Amaral A year ago
    the Genesis psn plus março 2017 game was actually playstation plus março 2017 very much in the spirit psn plus of the cartoon. It had creative and goofy ghost ideas and didn't take itself playstation plus too seriously. But I agree the Japanese designs and animation of The Real Ghostbusters had a nice feel to them and would make great fodder for a game.Edited February 2017 by Lucas-Amaral
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  • Avatar for caio-Lago #30 caio-Lago A year ago
    Deleted September 2016 by caio-Lago
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  • Avatar for caio-Lago #31 caio-Lago A year ago
    Imagine He-Man, the Most Powerful Man in the Universe™, is standing beside you. Imagine retrocompatibilidade xbox one he's flexing his muscles. They're xbox one retrocompatibilidade rippling and bulging, an awe-inspiring reminder of why this man rides a green tiger to work every morning. I have plans to make a 2D Bionic 6 fangame in the future. Not sure if there is a market for it, but I feel a personal need to fill that missing part of the 90's gaming landscape. I would also say that M.A.S.K. and Centurions deserved some decent game treatment.
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