Playing with Your Food: Fast Food Videogames
There are many strange subgenres in the increasingly vast world of videogames. One of the strangest -- and oldest -- has to be the fast food video game. Usually a marketing tie-in, these games are rarely popular or fun, but the burger congloms, ever in a frenzy to reach their target market (a demographic who also happens to like videogames), they keep making them. Here are some of our fast food faves.
Unlike most titles on this list, this game is a genuine classic. Popular in arcades when it was first introduced in 1982, Burgertime quickly emigrated from Japan to the US and from arcades to home consoles. The player controls a chef, Peter Pepper, who must construct a burger while avoiding his three mortal enemies, Mister Pickle, Mister Egg and Mr. Hot Dog. (Some people like pickles and eggs on burgers, so I'm not sure what the animosity here is all about.) In terms of gameplay, Burgertime is clearly a close relative of Donkey Kong, but its sequels didn't do nearly as well: most people have played Donkey Kong Jr. and the ubiquitous Mario games, but Burgertime follow-up Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory didn't exactly catch on. Here's a nostalgia-inducing (for some) commercial from the 80s for Burgertime:
Perhaps trying to capture some of Burgertime's magic, the 1993 Nintendo game McKids was a poorly-conceived entry into the game market and yet another Super Mario Brothers 3 rip-off. You play a kid who's entered into the magic McDonald's fantasy world in a quest to retrieve Ronald's magic bag, which was stolen by the Hamburglar. McDonald's reportedly wasn't happy with the game, and dampened their own sales by refusing to market the game properly.
Another vintage food game, Fast Food was released in 1982 for the Atari 2600. You control a pair of disembodied lips which move frantically around the screen trying to consume as much flying fast food as possible. The objective is to get fat, but if you eat too many rotten purple pickles, you barf up all the food you've eaten and have to begin again. A truly strange game. Here's a funny review, which includes a NSFW word or two, FYI.
Burger King Games
As part of a recent marketing campaign (which seems to revolve around their company's mascot being strange and creepy), Burger King released several small-scale videogames featuring The King. You play The King, who beams down into the world in order to feed hungry people -- not starving orphans in Micronesia, but already-plump Westerners with insatiable cravings for fried meat. And you do it with a kind of burger-tastic Jujitsu. I don't know if they sold any more hamburgers for having made this game, but it's definitely entertaining.
Ronald McDonald, Street Fighter
I can't quite figure out what this is, but I do know one thing: it's wonderful. It appears to be some kind of Japanese game hack, using definitely-not-licensed characters like Homer Simpson, Ronald McDonald and KFC's Colonel in a Street Fighter kind of milieu. Fast-paced, violent, and full of nonsense pop culture references. Genius!