There was something special about gaming in the 90’s. Playing video games was a lot simpler back then, when you didn’t need to worry about downloads and the best kind of multiplayer came from going over to your friend’s house and engaging in a little one-on-one in something like Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II on the SNES.
But the 90’s were also a time when video game advertising got a little bit…weird. Developers and promoters would go out to get attention from gamers in the strangest ways possible, whether it was with an infomercial (remember those?!) or an advertisement that boggled the mind so much, we couldn’t help but check out the products.
So join us on a journey back in time as we take a look at some of the most bizarre and strangest advertisements we saw back in the 90’s. If a few folks tried these now…well, considering the world the way it is, maybe they would still work…
Game Boy Pocket
We understand that Nintendo wanted to go all out when it came to getting people attracted to the different colors of Game Boy Pocket they had available. But…tongues?
Seriously. There are like six random tongues that are featured on the page, colored yellow, silver, red, black, green and whatever the heck that last one is (clear?). And, it’s a bit odd. First off, they all seem to be coming from the same body. Second, who has a black tongue? Someone who ate a freshly sizzling steak?
The Game Boy Pocket sold well, so we can probably assume this ad campaign was a success. But notice we haven’t seen the tongues make a comeback since then. Maybe they went on to retire…or taste hot sauces for Buffalo Wild Wings…
We understand the message that Midway was trying to go for when it produced this print ad featuring a hot dog on the cover. But then it added the words, “Be one,” and we took a good look at it and went, “Wait, did they just call us a weiner? If I play Cruis’n World on the Nintendo 64, will I end up being a weiner? Should I play San Francisco Rush instead to avoid being a weiner? Wait, isn’t that by Midway, too? Now I’m hungry for hot dogs. Damn it.” See, it’s all very confusing. Again, we get the point, but if Midway wanted to drive it home, it would’ve put the weiner into an actual hot dog with mustard and all that. Y’know, like a hot dog.
Battletoads vs. Double Dragon: The Ultimate Team
Next up, we have this ad for a cross-over game for the NES and other platforms that…actually isn’t too bad. Well, the game itself, that is. The ad is a double page affair in which you have a kid with a somewhat questionable look on his face as he’s surrounded by both the good guys and the bad guys. It’s one thing to look excited, but this kid just looks constipated, and has a big focus on his nose. Couldn’t he have just burst out of the page being happy instead of looking like he’s delirious? Or, hey, maybe take the kid out of the page entirely and focus instead on the characters fighting each other.
Game Boy Pocket Part II
Apparently, the same advertising agency behind the odd tongues ad for Game Boy Pocket was used again, this time for a new ad in which a dude is distracted by his girlfriend being tied to the bed by a…Game Boy? I mean, it’s pretty funny at first, but then you realize that Nintendo was all about submission in the ad – and they’re usually more on the kid friendly side. Plus, if you had a hot lover asking between choosing them and choosing a Game Boy, would you actually choose the Game Boy? I suppose it depends if you have more than Tetris for your system or not, but still…
And speaking of weird Nintendo ads, let’s talk about this one for a minute. Nintendo had a pretty good amount of focus on Donkey Kong Land when it released for the Game Boy, but…we’re not sure what the idea is here. We understand the dude is tribal, and has the name of Yawiga Kanawi, which is fine. But did you really make him boast about the game’s graphics, and not about the game itself? Also…has he seen graphics in other games? Has he even played Battletoads? We have so many questions, and chances are we probably won’t get the answers.
Back in the 80’s, biker gangs must have been…different. But with Capcom’s advertisement for the original Street Fighter – a game that emerged well before the arrival of the 1991 classic Street Fighter II – we can’t help but wonder…who wears a chain alongside the leather jackets? And what’s with the belt? And, sure, your jacket can say, “Street Fighter” all it wants, but that doesn’t obviously guarantee you’re a Street Fighter. Finally, this character just isn’t in the game at all. You play Ryu, who looks nothing like this.
Oh, and did we mention the mullet? Because the mullet.
This Capcom oddball title was actually a great game, so I’m just going to spend the rest of the time voicing the gargoyle that supposedly pops out of the Game Boy system.
“Man, am I glad to be out of there! Being green and white is no fun, man. Hey, like your hair! Really looks good on you. Look, I know you were controlling me and all but I’m tired of sitting in the game so I’m going to chill for a little bit, take a break from all these damn fireballs. Hey, got food in the kitchen? I’m gonna go make me a sandwich. Right after I take a dump."
More than likely, this was a European advertisement for Sega’s handheld system, which features a dude that looks like he’s jacking off, but, surprise, he’s instead just…rubbing a Game Gear on his genitals. And the fact that the ad says that the system will “fulfill your wildest fantasies” is a bit on the weird side, because…well, it’s an 8-bit handheld. If it was a Sega Nomad with a Mega Man: The Wily Wars cartridge, then it’d be more of a fantasy…but we still wouldn’t rub the system on our junk. I mean, just imagine handing it to someone. “Hey, man, why’s it sticky?”
Now here’s what we’re talking about. We’ve got yet another advertisement where a dude would rather be playing his Neo-Geo console, instead of playing around with his girlfriend. That’s a fantasy in itself, but let’s notice a few things here. The way that the dude is sitting looks absolutely uncomfortable. And on top of that, he'd rather look at a bald, long-neck alien than a girl who's standing around in lingerie. That girl definitely deserves someone better -- maybe someone that owns a SNES. (What? The Donkey Kong Country games sure did attract a lot of folks.)
Sunsetriders is a superb game. It is. It’s a rootin’ tootin’ arcade shoot-em-up for two players on the SNES, and it’s a faithful representation of the original game. But…there’s a problem. Konami indicates that all you need to be someone of Wild West origins is a copy of the game – without a Super Nintendo console, natch – and a can of pork and beans? It’s even a generic can of pork and beans. Granted, branding was probably out of the question, but, yeah, we can think of better things to eat while we’re hunting bounties. Like pizza. Or maybe something that won’t give us massive gas. “Ya got me!”
Haunted Castle (Castlevania)
Say whatever you want about how odd it is to have Fabio on the cover of a Nintendo Entertainment System game (Wizards & Warriors), but that’s far more realistic than the weird-ass model that Konami chose to advertise its arcade-to-home translation of Haunted Castle. Just look at this guy – he couldn’t really intimidate anyone if he tried. Even the girl in the ad doesn’t look spooked at all – she actually looks like she’s into it. Into that. Yeah, put a stake through that guy and give us the real Dracula, please. The one from the Netflix Castlevania series. Thanks.
Sometimes, it pays to be a video game mascot. And that’s the case with this Gex ad, which features everyone’s favorite wise-cracking lizard (since there wasn’t one around at the time, y’see) holding the boobs of some model. It replicates a popular ad that came out at the time, but it has us wondering – could other mascots have a chance with girls outside of their games? Does Sparkster from Rocket Knight have a lot of dates? Could Bubsy actually attract someone long enough to avoid coughing up hairballs? The world may never know.
Mortal Kombat certainly achieved its fair share of popularity in the 90’s, and would later blossom into a full-fledged series with a number of great sequels. But this ad is a bit ridiculous. I mean, look at Raiden and Kano. These aren’t representations of the fighters, they’re cosplayers bursting out of a fake machine. Also, the kids don’t seem to be too alarmed…and, for that matter, have poor fashion sense. If this happened at my bowling alley, I’d use a broomstick, shove the fighters back in the game, and then go, “Now let’s get to the real combat, you hooligans.” (Also, I’m apparently a violent person.)
Pro Fishing Challenge
This is a fun little ad when it comes to fishing games, mostly because a good portion of the time, they focus on the fish. But nope, the team brought in a girl to have a weird look on her face as she attempts to capture a fish nearly as big as she is. I probably wouldn’t be standing that close to the edge of the boat with a fish that size, and, I dunno, I’d put a hand on the reel to keep it from dragging me off. But, then again, maybe we just caught her in an alarmed state. And this is certainly better than most of the Reel Fishing advertisements, so there’s that.
BONUS: The Jaguar Infomercial
We figured we would save the TV advertisements for the 90’s would deserve a special by themselves. But, we couldn’t help but mention the power of the Atari Jaguar infomercial. At a time when infomercials were pretty common and boring, Atari’s house-made model truly stood out – mainly because it was so much worse. There’s barely any gameplay footage, and the acting is very suspect – the people on Cinemax actually deserve Oscars compared to this. Just watch it in its entirety and, oh, mind the wackiness. It was Atari in its 90’s.