At Replay Lincoln Park, there’s always one game that, no matter how busy we are, is always packed with people waiting their turn to play — at least, when they’re not up at the bar grabbing a drink. For some reason, The Simpsons Arcade Game has a magnetic attraction for fans of the show, fans of arcade beat-em-ups, fans of competition, and fans of 90’s nostalgia. The Simpsons Arcade Game, back when it was released in 1991, was notorious. Arcade games of the era were designed to suck every last quarter of unsuspecting kids, and The Simpsons Arcade Game was so fun, so frustrating, and so charming that — if you’re anything like us — it would drain your of your lunch money before too long. So, as a tribute to this wonderful game, why not take a deep dive with us and learn why the game was so ubiquitous and great?
The Simpsons Arcade Game: A Brief History
The Simpsons Arcade Game was released in 1991 — which was incredible timing for Konami, the game’s publisher. Thanks to arcade games like Street Fighter II, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and Captain Commando, the arcade boom was still going strong. In addition, it’s an open secret among Simpsons fans that the show was at its very, very best in the early ’90s. This created a perfect storm for a new challenger in the arcade space.
Developer Acclaim tried to capture lightning in a bottle earlier by releasing Bart Vs. The Space Mutants for the NES, but the game was widely panned because it was poorly conceived and, critically, not all that fun. So when Konami announced that it would be throwing its hat in the ring, it was a risk. It would be the second-ever Simpsons video game, after all!
The Simpsons Arcade Game, however, would be developed and produced by Konami, a heavyweight of the arcade industry with plenty of experience adapting TV shows and movies into quarter-sucking arcade games. Crucially, Konami decided to model The Simpsons Arcade Game after another successful arcade game that they also made — the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game.
The mold made sense, especially since a major gripe with Bart Vs. The Space Mutants was the fact that you couldn’t play as any of the other members of the Simpsons family. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gave Konami a framework to create an arcade beat-em-up with support for four players, each of whom would play as a distinct character with (slightly) different abilities.
The Simpsons Arcade Game would build on the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by adding other innovations. Remember those weird balloon minigames at the end of certain levels, where you would compete with your friends to see who could pop the balloon fastest? Or those awesome tag team attacks that required players to actually (gasp!) cooperate to pull them off?
All of this, combined with The Simpsons Arcade’s great visual design, made the game absolutely irresistible — both in its heyday and today at arcades, bowling alleys, and barcades across the globe. And if you’ve ever played it, you know how dangerous that made the game for your wallet. Like other beat-em-ups of the day, the concept of “fairness” was a foreign one to Konami. Bosses didn’t telegraph their moves, making it all but impossible to conserve lives (and therefore, quarters) in order to make it further.
WIN a Tabletop Simpsons Arcade Game at Replay Lincoln Park’s Charity Raffle!
The only way to truly appreciate the game without the risk of blowing your entire savings on it, therefore, is to find a place like Replay Lincoln Park, where the game is set to free play, or spend a couple thousand bucks and buy your own. Luckily, we’re here to help with that last part.
Visit Replay Lincoln Park on Wednesday, November 28th to join us for our charity raffle, where we’ll be giving away an honest-to-goodness tabletop version of the Simpsons arcade game to a lucky winner! You won’t want to miss it.