Retro Coin Op Synopsis
Before it was the longest-running animated prime time series in history, The Simpsons was the biggest thing to hit the merchandising world since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Homer, Marge, Lisa, Maggie and especially Bart turned up on everything from T-shirts to beach towels to bathtub lotion. “Don’t have a cow, man,” and “Eat my shorts!” became national catchphrases, and the family even released an album of blues songs. Given Bart’s status as an “Underachiever: And Proud of It!,” most of the items were youth-targeted, so an arcade game seemed like a logical choice.
Konami’s The Simpsons played like 1989’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game, with up to four players joining in on a scrolling action story. At the start of the game, the Simpson family stumbled across a robbery-in-progress by none other than Waylon Smithers, personal assistant to nuclear power plant-owning gazillionaire Mr. Burns.
Smithers had been stealing a precious diamond, but after bumping into the family, he accidentally let the jewel slip into baby Maggie’s mouth. Rather than waste time removing it, Smithers simply abducted the littlest Simpson and hightailed it, leaving the rest of the family to mount a rescue operation.
With that set-up, the action began. Each of the four playable Simpsons had a unique weapon—Marge’s vacuum cleaner, Bart’s skateboard, Lisa’s jump rope and Homer’s beefy fists—and they weren’t shy about using them. Moving through Springfield landmarks like Downtown, Krustyland, Moe’s Tavern, Springfield Butte and the Channel 6 Building, the family battled clowns, zombies, winos, samurai and more en route to a showdown with Mr. Burns himself. At the end of each stage, bosses waited—everyone from a nuclear-fueled boxer to a lethal Krusty the Clown balloon.
The Simpsons sported a few unique features, including a team-up attack to encourage multiple players, but the real draw was the game’s authenticity. Little gags and comic animation stayed true to the spirit of the series, regulars like Milhouse and Barney made cameos, the animation captured creator Matt Groening’s style, and the show’s actual voice actors were hired to do work on the game’s soundtrack. Together, these elements made players feel like they were participating in an actual episode, and that feeling translated into a major arcade hit for Konami.
After the initial Bart-mania wore down, the Simpsons powers-that-be scaled back the merchandising, focusing almost solely on the show itself. While that turned out to be a good thing for The Simpsons, keeping the show on the air for more than ten seasons, it meant no more arcade games for Bart and the gang.