80's Cartoons That Deserve New and Improved Games

80's Cartoons That Deserve New and Improved Games

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

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.


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!"


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.


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.


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 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.

Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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