10 Unlikely TV Shows That Got Turned Into Video Games

Video games based on outside properties have come a long way since the likes of Atari’s E.T., which was so poorly received that it almost destroyed the gaming industry. Now video games based on movies and comic books are routinely among the best-selling and most critically acclaimed titles every year.

Video games based on television shows, on the other hand, are a different story—which might have something to do with some of the more bizarre shows that have been adapted over the years. Here are 10 unlikely TV shows that got turned into video games.

1. DALLAS QUEST (1984)

In 1984, the family drama, corporate intrigue, and 10-gallon hats made famous in Dallas found their way onto the Commodore 64 in the form of Dallas Quest, a text adventure that puts players in the role of a renowned detective hired by Sue Ellen to track down a mysterious map that leads to a South American oil field (and, of course, piles of Dallas-y oil money).

By inputting commands (such as “look” or “dig”), players can investigate the Ewing estate, traverse through hazardous jungles, or (in one spectacularly odd sequence) tickle an anaconda to get to the bottom of this mystery. Much like the show itself, Dallas Quest rewards the eagle-eyed player that pores through the mountains of dialogue that leave hints and clues for each puzzle. Though text adventures are long extinct, and likely can’t hold the attention of most modern gamers, the spirit of Dallas was a perfect match for the genre.

2. ALF (1989)

Remember ALF? Well here he is in video game form, complete with all of his loveable cat-snatching hijinks. The game revolves around ALF attempting to find the parts necessary to repair his spaceship so he can take a joyride to Mars to visit his girlfriend. Along the way, players journey through dank caves, city streets, and the Tanner family home as Alf fights off wave after wave of enemies.

The game does occasionally stray from the typical side-scrolling formula by introducing underwater levels and a section where ALF needs to ride a flying Segway to victory. The whole thing ends up with ALF on the moon, where his spaceship repair kit just so happens to be.

3. THE ADVENTURES OF GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (1990)

If the mere prospect of releasing a video game based on Gilligan’s Island wasn’t strange enough, consider that this 8-bit oddity hit shelves about 23 years after the sitcom had gone off the air. This crude action game puts players in the role of the Skipper (followed closely behind by Gilligan) as he traverses the island, completing a number of tasks, like building a hut during a storm or finding Mrs. Howell’s wedding ring after it is stolen by a bird (players are rewarded with a jar of caviar once they return it to her).

Much like the show itself, the game consists of a lot of walking around; overcoming the occasional obstacle like gorillas, tigers, and cannibals; and wrangling the computer-controlled Gilligan long enough to complete the game’s story. To its credit, the game tries its best to replicate the dialogue found in the show with some banter that feels authentic to the characters (though there's sadly no button to whomp Gilligan with your hat).

4. HOME IMPROVEMENT: POWER TOOL PURSUIT! (1994)

Remember the episode of Home Improvement when Tim Allen had to battle an army of velociraptors, mummies, and scorpions the size of Buicks? Well it had to exist somewhere, because in 1994 that was the entire premise of a Super Nintendo game called Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit.

The plot begins with a line of power tools going missing on the set of Tool Time, which obviously leads to Tim arming himself with a chainsaw to hunt vampires and other ghouls. The whole affair is a standard side-scroller, complete with power-ups (in the form of hardhats) and a choice of weapons like a nail gun and flamethrower. The game does manage to capture the spirit of the show in one way: There was no instruction manual included in the box. Instead, players were just left with a fake booklet with a sticker plastered across it that read “Real Men Don’t Need Instructions.” We’ll grunt to that.

5. DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES: THE GAME (2006)

Desperate Housewives doesn’t exactly lend itself to a typical gaming genre (though a Street Fighter II-inspired fighting game sounds intriguing), but this Sims homage is probably the most appropriate for the show. In this game, players are tasked with creating their character—the new Housewife on the block—along with her husband and children. In typical soap opera fashion, your new housewife also has amnesia and has to piece her life together (and stir up salacious drama).

Gameplay objectives include shopping, gardening, socializing, and housekeeping, all while navigating a story that involves finding out your neighbor’s deepest, darkest secrets. Oh, you can also have an affair with pretty much anyone on your block, including the mailman and your maid. In that respect, Desperate Housewives: The Game might be the most faithful game on this list.

6. THE OFFICE (2007)

Few shows were as big as The Office was at its peak, so it’s only natural that someone would try to squeeze a little more cash out of the show by turning it into a video game. The problem is: How would an Office game actually work? In 2007, developer Reveille came up with a gameplay model that mixed the show’s humor with fairly casual gameplay reminiscent of Diner Dash.

This PC title featured the main Office cast as exaggerated bobblehead versions of themselves, with players running around Dunder Mifflin, playing pranks and handing off different supplies (folders, cash, paperwork) to the appropriate worker. There are some memorable quotes from the show sprinkled throughout, as well as some Easter eggs from the series, such as Pam laying Michael’s Foreman Grill on the floor to prank him. It may not be the in-depth Office simulator you were hoping for, but it’s an easy way to kill an afternoon.

7. LITTLE BRITAIN: THE VIDEO GAME (2007)

It’s only fair that a TV show as crude as Little Britain gets a game that’s equally as rough around the edges. There’s no story to progress through in the game; instead, there are seven mini-games to play, all centered around different characters from the BBC comedy. This includes a rather nonsensical roller skating mini-game with Vicky Pollard; Lou and Andy in a diving competition; and Marjorie Dawes in a Pac-Man rip-off.

The idea was for the mini-games to mirror the sketch comedy style of the show. It didn’t quite work, as the game predictably received unanimously horrid reviews.

8. IRON CHEF AMERICA: SUPREME CUISINE (2008)

In this Nintendo Wii adaptation of Iron Chef America, you can grate, mince, and dice your way to victory through the use of the system’s motion controls. The game boils down to a series of mini-games that you have to complete quickly and efficiently as you cook the dish the show’s host gives to you.

With voice acting provided by the show’s hosts, including Alton Brown and Mark Dacascos, Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine is as faithful an adaptation of the show as you’re likely to find. However, that doesn’t necessarily translate to fun, as both the Wii and Nintendo DS versions of the game have been soundly battered by critics.

9. MURDER, SHE WROTE (2009)

If you think Murder, She Wrote doesn’t lend itself to the world of gaming, you’d be wrong. It just doesn’t lend itself to the world of modern gaming. Taking its cues from the point and click adventure games of the ’80s and ‘90s, this 2009 release features five murder mysteries, leaving players to find the culprit behind each. Clues are discovered by watching conversations unfold and then clicking around locations until hints present themselves.

Though the game sets up the type of plots that a viewer would find in the Murder, She Wrote TV series, none of the actors lent their voices to the game; the mere likeness of Dame Angela Lansbury is all you’ll get. The game must have done something right, though, because Murder, She Wrote 2: Return to Cabot Cove came out just a few years after the original.

10. GREY’S ANATOMY: THE VIDEO GAME (2009)

Part dating simulator, part surgery minigame, 2009’s Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game attempted to squeeze all of the romantic dalliances, brooding, and occasional doctoring of the show into one cohesive title. During the course of the game, players take control of a number of Grey’s main cast, including Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang, as you guide them through the everyday drama that is being a doctor, including surgeries and flirting with your co-workers.

For Dr. Grey, you start the game out with a decision to make: Do you play hard to get with Dr. Shepherd, or do you go right at him and make some not-so-thinly-veiled advances on him in the elevator? As Dr. Yang, an early mission has you literally destroying bubbles of doubt as you build up your courage meter. Each decision dictates what graphic will appear afterwards (like whether or not you get to make out with Dr. McDreamy during your shift).

Some of these challenges do involve simulated medical procedures, but don’t expect anything harder than clicking and dragging your way to an easy victory (thankfully the Nintendo Wii graphics are as detailed as a WikiHow page, so you won’t get squeamish).

Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Cyber Monday has arrived, and with it comes some amazing deals. This sale is the one to watch if you are looking to get low prices on the latest Echo Dot, Fire Tablet, video games, Instant Pots, or 4K TVs. Even if you already took advantage of sales during Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday still has plenty to offer, especially on Amazon. We've compiled some the best deals out there on tech, computers, and kitchen appliances so you don't have to waste your time browsing.

Computers and tablets

Amazon

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet 64GB; $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet 64GB; $84 (save $35)

- HP Pavilion x360 14 Convertible 2-in-1 Laptop; $646 (save $114)

- HP Pavilion Desktop, 10th Gen Intel Core i3-10100 Processor; $469 (save $81)

- Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop; $973 (save $177)

Headphones and speakers

Beats/Amazon

- Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones; $200 (save $100)

- Sony Bluetooth Noise-Canceling Wireless Headphones; $278 (save $72)

- JBL LIVE Wireless Headphones; $100 (save $30)

- JBL Charge 4 - Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $120 (save $10)

- Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II; $79 (save $50)

- Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earphones; $200 (save $50)

Video Games

Sony

- Watch Dogs Legion; $30 (save $30)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

- The Last of Us Part II; $30 (save $30)

TECH, GADGETS, AND TVS

Samsung/Amazon

- Amazon Fire TV Stick; $30 (save $20)

- Echo Show 8; $65 (save $65)

- Nixplay Digital Picture Frame; $115 (save $65)

- eufy Smart Doorbell; $90 (save $30)

- Samsung 75-Inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $898 (save $300)

home and Kitchen

Ninja/Amazon

- T-fal 17-Piece Cookware Set; $124 (save $56)

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Curved Round Chef's Oven; $180 (save $136)

- Ninja Foodi 10-in-1 Convection Toaster Oven; $195 (save $105)

- Roborock E4 Robot Vacuum Cleaner; $189 (save $111)

- Instant Pot Max Pressure Cooker 9 in 1; $80 (save $120)

- Shark IZ362H Cordless Anti-Allergen Lightweight Stick Vacuum; $170 (save $110)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

Beyond Queen Elizabeth: 10 Fantastic Shows to Stream After The Crown

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana and Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles in season 4 of The Crown.
Emma Corrin as Princess Diana and Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles in season 4 of The Crown.
Alex Bailey/Netflix

So you’ve already torn through the latest season of The Crown, which arrived on Netflix in mid-November. You’ve watched and evaluated the performances of the new cast members, including Emma Corrin as Princess Diana and Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher. You’ve done your Google searches on the events depicted in season 4, including the disappearance of Thatcher's son Mark. You’ve played back every scene featuring a corgi. What are you going to do now?

If you’re looking for something else that’s historical, royal, or just vaguely British, give one of these shows a try. They’re all available on a major streaming service and they all feature the same whispered bombshells and meaningful glances that make The Crown such a quietly devastating—and highly addicting—drama.

1. Victoria

Like The Crown, Victoria opens with a young queen ascending the throne after a death in the family. Only in this case, the queen is 18-year-old Alexandrina Victoria, who would rule Great Britain and Ireland for an astonishing 63 years. This costume drama hasn’t even covered a third of that reign, but it’s packed with plenty of royal scandal, real-world politics, and dramatic gowns into its three seasons. There’s no official word on when fans can expect the next batch of episodes, but writer Daisy Goodwin has promised “an absolute humdinger” of a fourth season.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

2. The Tudors

Henry VIII famously had a problem with commitment. He married six women, more than one of whom he had executed, making his life prime material for a soapy drama. Showtime delivered just that with The Tudors, which aired its final episode in 2010. The show covered each of Henry’s marriages and various international affairs in between, casting now famous British actors in some of their earliest roles. Henry Cavill appears in all four seasons as the king’s brother-in-law, Charles Brandon, and Natalie Dormer (a.k.a. Margaery Tyrell) dominates the first two seasons as Henry’s doomed second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Where to watch it: Netflix

3. Outlander

Take all of the historical intrigue of The Crown, add in some time travel and a lot more sex scenes, and you have Outlander. Based on Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling book series, this Starz original centers on Claire Randall, a nurse living in post-WWII Britain who is sent back in time to 1740s Scotland. Her travels don’t end there. Over the course of the show, Claire schmoozes with the French royal court in Paris and gets shipwrecked off the coast of the American colonies. She also falls in love with a Highlander named Jamie, even as she attempts to reunite with her husband Frank (played by Tobias Menzies, The Crown's current Prince Philip) in the present day.

Where to watch it: Netflix

4. Call The Midwife

Drawing on the diaries of a midwife who worked in the East End of London in the 1950s, this BBC show follows young women in medical training as they travel in and out of the homes of expectant Brits. By focusing on a working class neighborhood, Call the Midwife paints a picture of the London outside Queen Elizabeth’s palace walls, exploring in particular the stories of mothers in a post-baby boom, pre-contraceptive pill world.

Where to watch it: Netflix

5. Upstairs Downstairs

The first Upstairs, Downstairs aired in the 1970s—and when it ended, the tony Bellamy family had just been devastated by the stock market crash of 1929. The reboot (note the lack of comma in the title) picks up in 1936, with one of the original series' housekeepers serving a new family. Just like the original, it shows the very different lives of the “upstairs” aristocrats and their “downstairs” domestic staff, while nodding at current events that would’ve affected them both. A special treat for fans of The Crown: Claire Foy, who played Queen Elizabeth in The Crown's first two seasons, playing the frequently misbehaved Lady Persephone Towyn.

Where to watch it: BritBox

6. Versailles

Ever wondered what it was like to party in the Hall of Mirrors? Versailles takes you inside the grand French palace of the same name, fictionalizing the lives of Louis XIV (the “Sun King”) and his court in the mid-1600s. Versailles isn’t quite as critically adored as The Crown and its cohorts—many reviewers have written it off as a slighter historical series—but it’s got all the requisite melodrama and the jaw-dropping sets we’ve come to expect from these costume epics.

Where to watch it: Netflix

7. Poldark

When war breaks out between the Brits and American colonists, Ross Poldark leaves his hometown of Cornwall to fight for King George III. After eight years of battles, the redcoats lose, sending Poldark back across the ocean, where he finds that everything has changed: His father is dead, his estate is in ruins, and the love of his life is engaged to his cousin. This is where Poldark, the BBC adaptation of Winston Graham’s eponymous novels, picks up. While Ross Poldark is a fictional character, the show incorporates lots of real history, from the aftermath of the Revolutionary War to the subsequent revolution in France. Amazon Prime has all five seasons of the series, which ended its run in 2019.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

8. The Borgias

Rodrigo, Cesare, and Lucrezia Borgia were extremely influential nobles in 15th and 16th century Italy. In 1492, Rodrigo claimed the papacy and, with it, control of the Roman Catholic Church. That basically meant he and his children ruled the country: as long as Rodrigo was Pope Alexander VI, the Borgias could get anything they wanted. Showtime dramatized their power plays, betrayals, and rumored incest over three seasons of The Borgias, with Jeremy Irons in the lead role as Rodrigo.

Where to watch it: Netflix

9. Downton Abbey

If you missed out on the Downton Abbey craze in 2010, now is the perfect time to catch up. The entire series—which concerns the upper-crust Crawley family and their many servants—is available on Amazon Prime, and the 2019 movie is available on HBO Max (or for rent on Prime Video). Though the story is primarily set in the 1910s and 1920s, Maggie Smith’s withering insults are timeless.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

10. Coronation Street

If you want to understand the royals, you have to watch their favorite shows—and Coronation Street has long been rumored to be Queen Elizabeth’s preferred soap. (Prince Charles is also a fan; he appeared on the show’s live 2000 special.) Airing on ITV since 1960, Coronation Street follows several working-class families in the fictional town of Weatherfield.

Where to watch it: Hulu, Tubi

This story has been updated for 2020.