games / Columns

Top 8 Cartoons Based on Games

September 19, 2022 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Castlevania Image Credit: Netflix

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about cartoons, specifically those based on video games. Almost ever since games were created there have been cartoons based on them, with the earliest one being Pac-Man in 1982. Most of them are not great, mainly cash grabs at something that is popular but some of them are good, if not quite excellent. Here is my list to celebrate the good. The one honorable mention is the “Sam & Max Freelance Police” cartoon show. I’ve only ever seen the first episode and it’s pretty interesting. My friend Jens introduced me to it, however, the DVD is fairly expensive and a bit out of my reach.

#8: Super Mario World

I only have very vague memories of this show. I mainly remember the theme song being catchy, and at least two episodes revolved around fast food being addictive and another about Koopa (none of this Bowser crap) got everyone hooked on TV. The show was weird because it took place in Dinosaur Land but there were all these cave people running around as well. I don’t remember them from the game. Also, the SMB3 Koopa Kids are in it but they have different names, so, for example, instead of Wendy Koopa, she’s known as “Kootie Pie Koopa”. It didn’t last long but the theme song, at least, has stuck with me ever since I watched it.

#7: Street Fighter

As someone who never really watched GI Joe till years, if not decades later, Street Fighter is a really weird take on it. While it does have all the main Street Fighter characters, in more or less, the right moral alignment, have the show focusing on Guile as the head of the “Street Fighter” unit is strange, to say the least. As an adaptation on actual Street Fighter, it’s mixed, but for a dumb kids cartoon show, it’s not entirely bad. They handled the Cammy brainwashing arc fairly well at least. Plus, the show occasionally did dive into other Street Fighter stuff like Akuma or having a crossover with Final Fight characters. It’s not great but Street Fighter is at least better than the Mortal Kombat cartoon that came out around the same time.

#6: Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?

I would say this is the first legitimately good cartoon on this list but with one personal caveat. The show is centered around Zack & Ivy, two ACME agents who try to take down the titular Carmen Sandiego with help from the Chief and a human player. Yes, much like Reboot, the show actually takes place inside of a computer program, so Zack & Ivy occasionally ask the player for help or to C5 (transport) them somewhere, in some really interesting animated sequences. The personal caveat I have about this show is that it really ruined Jennifer Hale as a voice actress for me. She has kind of uses one of her standard voices for Ivy but because it’s one of her default voices, I instantly pick up on it when she does a lot of other roles.

#5: Mega Man

Mega Man, more or less, did follow the general plot of a Mega Man game, at least when it came to the basics. Dr. Wily would set up a new plot, Mega Man and Rush would stop them, and Mega Man would usually end up using a copied ability from a robot master to truly win the day/save people. Unlike the games, Mega Man had much more of a personality on the show, with the character being voiced by Ian James Corlett. Like with Mrs. Hale, Corlett’s voice is pretty identifiable since he was also Bob on Reboot and an early dub as Goku in Dragon Ball Z. Most of the episodes were pretty standard affair but there was a really cool one where X (Mega Man X) traveled back in time to stop two Mavericks from changing the past, so Mega Man and X teamed up to stop them.

#4: Captain N: The Game Master

Another show featuring a Mega Man only this one is green and sounds like he has smoker’s lung! Kidding aside, Captain N basically combines a bunch of popular franchises into one show. Featuring Simon Belmont, Mega Man, Kid Icarus and eventually an anthropomorphic Game Boy, they team up with the titular Captain N (Kevin) along with Princess Lana to save Videoland from the evil Mother Brain and her cronies. The funny thing is, while the show has Mother Brain as the main bad guy, I don’t think the show ever actually had Samus on it. Captain N went to various game lands like “Megaland” or “Bayouland” (Bayou Billy) to stop Mother Brain’s schemes. He had a NES gamepad and a Zapper that helped give him super powers to take down foes. It’s cheesy by today’s standards but was pretty great when I was a kid.

#3: Pokemon

Love it or hate it, you have to respect the Pokemon cartoon for still going relatively stong. It’s the only one on this list that is still on the air. The show is extremely formulaic, almost to a detriment. Aside from when there is a tournament going on, or when Ash and co. finally move to a new area, that’s about the only thing that actually changes. Well, that and when Ash finally got a new hat, like 6 seasons in. Hell, it’s been 25+ seasons and his disobedient Pikachu still won’t get into his damn Pokeball. The episode usually breaks down with Ash and crew going to a new area and finding an issue with someone new or a town, usually instigated by Team Rocket. Ash usually ends up battling them, or maybe a misunderstood character that has a new Pokemon. Ash vanquished Team Rocket, and the misunderstood character form a friendship, rinse and repeat. Ash’s company may change, from either human or Pokemon, but the episode formula remains the same.

#2: Castlevania

This is actually the newest series on this list by quite a bit. Aside from Pokemon, most of the series on this list is from the mid-90’s, if not earlier but Castlevania started in 2017 and ended just last year. Castlevania is probably the most faithful adaptation on this list, with only some of the humor being a bit out of place. But Castlevania was a mature show, that even just animated, expected you to pay attention and for you to be rewarded for its character development and overall stories. Castlevania just respected the actual source material while greatly adding to it, which is the hallmark for any great adaptation.

#1: Sonic The Hedgehog (Sonic SatAM)

The funny thing about this Sonic cartoon is that it is barely an adaptation about Sonic the Hedgehog. It has Sonic, Tails and Doctor Robotnik but that’s about it. It mainly takes its actual inspiration from the Archie comic series at the time, which featured Princess Sally Acorn, Bunnie Rabbot, Rotor and others, as they squared off against Robotnik and his various evil robots/SWATbots. The gold rings also acted differently on this show, as they provided a brief but very powerful upgrade to Sonic’s speed, usually to get him out of a dangerous situation. Sonic had some good pathos though with the ongoing saga of his Uncle Chuck, or Bunnie’s unhappiness with her body. If anything else, this show had one of the best cartoon shows intros ever.

For comments, list which cartoons you like based on video games and why.

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