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Okay, this might be a slightly controversial opinion, but I think 2007's The Simpsons Game is the best video game to be based on the lives of America's most dysfunctional family. As someone who was a little too young in 2003 to properly experience and appreciate the more-regularly-celebrated Hit & Run, I find the clamouring for a remake of that game overshadows the absolute joy and chaos of The Simpsons Game - one that I played dozens of times as a kid. And yet, nobody really talks about just how good it was. So, here I am, trying to rectify that.
If you never played The Simpsons Game, it's basically one long episode of the TV show, but with far more random nerd tropes and, naturally, levels (this being a video game, after all). Rather than anything making sense, every level introduces you to new powers, new characters, and new (completely ridiculous) environments, all delivered with a strong dash of The Simpsons' classic humour. Levels are directly inspired by popular video games and pop culture references - from The Lord of the Rings to Pokémon, every major fandom was playfully parodied. The Simpsons Game somehow might be one of the most self-aware titles I've ever played and no one, not even the player, was safe from being made fun of.
Here is a list of every excellent The Simpsons-based game out there. Though I think the crown goes to The Simpsons Game, I can admit that the other titles on this list deserve a shoutout, too:
From a level traversing a museum to literally chatting to God after fighting your way through Heaven, EA's subsidiary Redwood Shores studio (later renamed Visceral, and later shut down) had such incredible freedom developing this wacky adventure that I'm not sure we'll ever see a game like it again. The multitude of plot points that didn't need to make sense, making Milhouse into a knock-off The King of All Cosmos from the Katamari games, the constant pokes at popular games like Grand Theft Auto - the entire game is built on making fun of video games as a whole, and allowing you to have a blast while you get on with it.
A favourite inclusion of mine was the game's Cliche collection - which called you and the game out for leaning into gaming tropes. For example, "Pressure Pads - It takes two losers to make these work," for those pesky weighted buttons you need to stand on in games. I mean, there is a bunch of debris around. Why can't we just put a boulder or something on it, to finish the puzzle?
I have to also begrudgingly mention that it was rarely just me playing The Simpsons Game because I have a little sister. Though often frustrating to get my sibling to use her powers of destruction properly, this game became our couch co-op experience of a lifetime. Running around as two members of the family lead to nothing but pleasant bickering between the characters on screen, and between my sister and me. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than arguing about who gets to play Bart?
A sequel for the game was planned but sadly cancelled ten years ago, in 2011, which means we never got to revisit this fantastic adventure game's approach to adapting its source material. I guess I should be just a little thankful that Ubisoft's two South Park games - The Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole - filled the gap a little, in terms of cartoon-based titles that were unafraid of making fun of themselves and the tropes they used. I just hope that one day EA returns to The Simpsons universe with a remake of this adventure - or at least a port to Steam.
Additionally, a remake would give EA an opportunity to expand trope humour further. Think of the battle royale market, or how Grand Theft Auto V and Skyrim have been re-released far too many times at this point. The Simpsons team would have so much room to laugh at console shortages, and microtransactions and more, with few new levels reflecting these industry topics and talking points. I need another The Simpsons Game just so I remember how silly the games industry is with a smile
If you've not played The Simpsons Game you can still probably find some copies hiding on eBay for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PSP, PlayStation 2 or Wii (though they might be unreasonably priced), or you can find full playthroughs (or just the cutscenes) on YouTube to experience. There is another version of the game out there, on the Nintendo DS, but it's really not the one you want. And finally, to The Simpsons Game: thanks for all those laughs those years ago - I hope to see you again one day, old friend.
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