Video games have come a long way over the years. Nowadays, advertisers can sell people on a game just by showing off the game itself. But back in the day, older games millennials might not even know about didn’t look so hot, so advertisers had to do something to spice up their ad spots. Some of the resulting commercials were good, some were forgettable, and some were bad. Then there were the ones that go so far past bad that they come back around to being good again. Here are seven of those.
1. Nintendo Power
If you want to unleash a full-scale assault on your eyeballs, watch this commercial for Nintendo Power. This beloved periodical was the gateway to all the video game information kids craved in the days of the NES. It was so exciting to open up a new issue that only a commercial this aggressive could even begin to do the magazine justice. And in case anyone’s wondering where the ’90s went, it’s pretty clear that it was turned into a concentrated serum and injected into this commercial’s lava-hot blood.
2. Tunnel Runner for Atari
The guy in this commercial gets points for effort. He runs through a purple maze, fleeing giant pixelated faces and consulting a map on what must be a distant ancestor of the iPad. The actual game is a lot more blocky than it appears in the commercial, but then again, you can’t blame the marketing team for smoothing the rough edges. They had a game to sell, and the real graphics weren’t going to cut it.
3. Star Wars The Arcade Game for Atari
If there’s an award for overacting, it has to go to this guy, who just might be the best commercial actor of all time. The ad is great because it seems totally normal at first, lulling viewers into a relaxed mindset. But the moment our thick-haired hero pops the cartridge into the Atari, he cranks the energy level up to 11. It only increases from there, until his head explodes. If any commercial has achieved absolute perfection, this is it.
4. Nintendo Entertainment System
The NES was one of the most remarkable pieces of video game hardware ever made. Not only did it revive the entire video game industry after the great crash of 1983, but it did so by being one of the best consoles of all time. You don’t have to oversell the NES; it sells itself. Apparently the makers of this ad didn’t get the memo, because it oversells the product big time, with a kid performing power poses in his living room on a stormy night. Why? Who knows!
5. Defender for Atari
A guy and a girl sit on a couch, grinning and gesticulating wildly as they pretend to play a video game. What game could possibly cause such a reaction? Defender, a game that doesn’t look like any fun at all when it’s shown onscreen. But that’s OK, because the commercial is backed by a song about Defender that calls it “a great Atari game.” You can’t argue with that.
6. Frogger for Atari
Instead of casting awesome ‘80s commercial actors to sell the home version of this arcade blockbuster, Parker Brothers whipped up an animated frog to chat with viewers and explain to them why playing Frogger is an enjoyable way to pass the time. Between sentences, he says “ribbit” over and over again, for no reason other than to set up the commercial’s closing pun, when he calls the game “ribbiting” instead of “riveting.” A game as good as Frogger deserves better.
7. The Legend of Zelda for NES
What brings nerds and cool kids together? The NES, of course. Not only does this commercial dabble in stereotypes, but it also features one of the most painfully uncool rap songs ever conceived. At least it gets one thing right: The Legend of Zelda is pretty rad.