If you grew up in the 80s, television must have seemed like a golden age filled with exciting memorable characters, awesome vehicles, and amazing soundtracks. Knight Rider, The A-Team, Magnum P.I., and Miami Vice are just a few shows which had a huge following and were loved by audiences across the world. It’s a sign that Hollywood recognizes the popularity of these shows as they have either been remade for current audiences or become big screen adaptations.
Video game tie-ins for popular TV shows are inevitable and there are lots of them. The problem is that they are often cheap cash in’s and not very good quality. This list will explore the cream of the crop and some of the best examples of video games based on 80s TV shows.
Airwolf ran for 4 seasons between 1984 and 1987. The show followed the adventures of Stringfellow Hawke, played by Jan-Michael Vincent, and the heavily armed attack helicopter, Airwolf. As was the case with many TV shows from the 80s, the helicopter itself became as much of a character as the actors.
There were many home console and computer ports of Airwolf, but the arcade version released in 1987 particularly stands out. This side-scrolling shooter gave the player full control over Airwolf, which is something many children would have fantasized about as they watched the show. The iconic theme tune accompanied the action which would have thrilled fans as they faced wave after wave of enemies.
Knightmare was a British children’s TV show which ran for 8 seasons between 1987 and 1994. Taking inspiration from Dungeons and Dragons, as well as ‘choose your own’ adventure‘ Fighting Fantasy books which were popular in the UK, Knightmare was extremely innovative for the time. The show would follow 4 children who went on a quest to escape Knightmare Castle which was filled with traps and monsters. Using a very early mix of augmented and virtual reality, 3 of the children helped to guide the other child who was the Dungeoneer. The Dungeoneer wore the ‘Helmet of Justice’ which obscured their surroundings, meaning it had to be described by the other team who also advised the Dungeoneer which way to move. Their only help was the dungeon master called Treguard who provided clues and advice from time to time.
Although Knightmare was in its own way a live-action video game, there were a couple of home computer versions of the hit TV show. Released in 1991 for Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, Knightmare was a first-person dungeon crawler. The game was very similar to popular fantasy titles such as Eye of the Beholder and Dungeon Master. Knightmare was generally well received by critics upon its release, but there were a few questions raised about its very loose connection to the TV show.
3 The Simpsons
The Simpsons need no introduction, or at least it shouldn’t. From its humble beginnings first appearing in 1987 on The Tracy Ullman Show, it has become a cultural phenomenon winning multiple awards and making millions of dollars in the process. Although some would argue The Simpsons best years are behind them, they are still very popular and their catalog of shows can be enjoyed on Disney Plus.
There have been plenty of games based on The Simpsons over the years with The Simpsons Hit & Run regularly being mentioned as one of the best. But, it is only fair that this list revisits where it all started with The Simpsons arcade. As the TV show was hitting its stride, the arcade game was the first chance for gamers to play as their favorite characters. The game was extremely popular and fans spent a fortune making it one of the most profitable arcade games of 1991. This was partly due to the awesome 4-player cabinet. Konami specialized in this and made other fantastic 4-player beat ‘em ups including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men.
2 Star Trek: The Next Generation: Future’s Past
Since Star Trek was first shown to audiences in 1966 it has captured the imagination of millions of fans, and it shows no sign of stopping. Picking up the mantle from beloved characters made famous by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy was no mean feat, but Star Trek: The Next Generation successfully managed this and in turn, created their own memorable characters and legacy. Running from 1987 to 1994, The Next Generation followed the adventures of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew as they explored strange new worlds, boldly going where no one has gone before.
There have been dozens of Star Trek games, but Star Trek: The Next Generation: Future’s Past, was the first opportunity for fans to play as characters from the TV show. All the main crew was available, and each member had skills that were needed when exploring the many different planets. Despite receiving some criticism for the clunky controls, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Future’s Past was praised for its faithful representation of the TV show.
1 Lego Dimensions: The A-Team & Knight Rider
At one point, the Toys To Life genre was extremely successful for the video game industry. In a lot of ways, it makes perfect sense. Having a real toy that children can play with and then be used in a video game was a real money spinner. Skylanders, Disney Infinity, and Lego Dimensions all had a decent run at mixing toys and video games; while it lasted. Combining the tried and tested formula of the Lego video games and giving the player a chance to build some real Lego featuring classic characters and franchises was a no-brainer.
Lego Dimensions has a real emphasis on nostalgia and bringing back memories of a more innocent time for people of a certain age. As well as including characters from 80s movies The Goonies, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and Back To The Future, some classic TV shows were resurrected. Knight Rider and The A-Team fun packs gave players the chance to play as B.A. Baracus and Michael Knight as well as drive their iconic vehicles.