A trip back to the pre-2000s can be as surprising as it is nostalgic. In terms of video games, the difference between then and now is stark. Everything from the graphics, to the games, to what was acceptable in a commercial is a world away from what they are now.
Gaming ads have used a variety of tactics to sell games throughout the years. At one time it was a case of bad-mouthing a rival, or trying to be as edgy and weird as possible to appeal to kids by way of shocking their parents. Some of the adverts of yore have stood the test of time thanks to their humor and shrewdness, while others are best left in the past.
10 Did Not Age Well: The Legend Of Zelda Rap
Two boys, one of which looks suspiciously like Tim Robbins, are sitting on a sofa. One of the boys shows the other a picture of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the Nintendo Fun Club Newsletter, prompting the other boy to deliver, with impressive stiltedness, this line: “Woah nice graphics I’d like to get my hands on that game.”
The two then embark on a Zelda-themed rap that’s unrivaled in its level of corniness and has to be heard to be believed.
9 Timeless: Crash Bandicoot Trespasses On Nintendo’s Property
This ad was made back in the days when game companies would unashamedly slag each other off in their commercials. It sees Crash Bandicoot rock up on the premises of Nintendo ‘s American headquarters with a megaphone, unveiling a load of TVs on the back of a pickup truck all showing the original Crash Bandicoot and shouting about how good the PlayStation is and what features it has.
Crash is eventually asked to leave by a security officer who hurts his elbow, but by then he’s already made his point. The concept and humor were fresh at the time and still feel that way today.
8 Did Not Age Well: Give A Man An Atari & He’ll Turn Into A Little Boy
This ad for Atari from 1982 played on an idea that was prevalent at the time: That only men were interested in gaming and that it was seen as a juvenile pursuit.
It shows a man on a couch, smiling and laughing in an almost maniacal way as he plays breakout on the Atari, while his wife looks at him from the doorway as if he were a child. Gaming has since moved on from this kind of thinking, becoming much more inclusive and less patronizing.
7 Timeless: Zelda – A Link To The Past’s Iconic Sword-In-The-Stone Ad
Somersaults, lightning, and pulling swords out of rocks will never get old, and this 1992 ad for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past features all of them. It shows an actor climbing a mountain to reach the Master Sword, which he pulls out of the ground.
There isn’t actually any footage of the game, but the atmosphere, music, voice-over, and the fact that it’s a Zelda game are enough to get you excited or at least intrigued.
6 Did Not Age Well: Superman – Shadow Of Apokolips Ad Glorifies A Boy Trying To See His Classmates Naked Without Their Permission
This ad for Superman: Shadow of Apokolips shows a high school kid standing outside a girl’s bathroom with a strained look on his face. Two cheerleaders then come out, and a voice-over says that while you can’t have x-ray vision in real life, you can in this game.
It’s a truly bizarre and distasteful ad that thankfully would not see the light of day in present times, and it’s hard to think how it did even back then.
5 Timeless: Gameboy Advance Platinum Ad Predicted Things Like TikTok & Viral Fame
The series of ads for the Gameboy Advance Platinum featured a number of wannabe singers, dancers, and musicians performing. The footage of the performers is like something you might see on TikTok today, making it seem way ahead of its time.
The best one has to be a peculiar character, “the bubblegum man,” who sings about “going to ride the bikes on the beach.” Words appear on the screen that say “He dreams of going platinum. Now he can.” With his earnestness but clear lack of talent, he may not be worthy of going platinum but he’s certainly worthy of being a meme.
4 Did Not Age Well: Family Becoming Addicted To The Atari 2600
With this commercial, Atari tried to play on the public perception of gaming that it was a problem and a waste of time. A woman is reciting a letter to Atari Anonymous, likening video games to alcohol addiction, while footage shows her children and husband engrossed in various Atari games.
The kicker is when the woman says, “With Atari games so ingenious, so involving, so intense,” while the game being shown is clearly none of those things— at least by today’s standards.
3 Timeless: Battletanx Hilariously Takes Aim At Another Ad Campaign
Battletanx for the N64 may not be a game that a lot of people remember, but the commercial was and still is funny and clever. The opening shot is of laundry detergent mascot Snuggle Bear folding laundry while pleasant piano music plays over it— only to be interrupted by a huge tank bearing down on Snuggle’s house, creating an explosion that sends him flying.
Gameplay footage is interspersed with shots of a wounded, on-fire Snuggle running for dear life from the tank. The ad for the sequel shows Snuggle gradually rehabilitating, running on a treadmill, and becoming “stronger, faster, and softer,” only to get run over by a tank again.
2 Did Not Age Well: Sega’s Ability To Brag About Their Superiority Over Nintendo In Their “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” Ads Would Prove Short-Lived
The “Genesis Does” ad was clever, shrewd, and memorable, but looking at what happened to Sega in the years after it was made, it no longer has the same punch that it had when Sega and Nintendo were going head to head in a huge console war.
It’s kind of a sad watch from Sega’s perspective, considering they don’t do much of anything these days, at least in terms of consoles, while that which they mocked Nintendo for has seen the Kyoto-based company go on to achieve great success.
1 Timeless: The Sega Blast Processing Ads Took A Completely Made Up Tech Trick & Convinced Millions To Buy Into It
The production values for this commercial went above and beyond what most ads at the time were offering. It features two vehicles, a van with an old-fashioned TV showing Nintendo games strapped to the back of it, representing Nintendo, and a race car with modern TVs attached to it showing Sega games, representing Sega.
While the van sputters and stalls, an allusion to its lack of blast processing, the race car zooms along a stretch of tarmac smoothly. It’s a fast-paced, eye-catching ad that makes it clear that you don’t need to know what blast processing is— just that it makes things faster, and that Sega has it and Nintendo doesn’t.
10 Games With Non-Playable Sidekicks We Wish We Could Played As
About The Author