Product placement in video games has become an annoying intrusion (except for driving games, in which case branded realism is more than welcome). But over the years, several companies have developed promotional video games starring their actual products, logos, and spokescharacters in acts of commercialism so blatant it’s almost cute. Here are some of the more memorable games of this genre, most of them snack-or-fast-food based, some of them kind of fun.
“Kool-Aid Man” (1983)
If you sent in 125 proof of purchase seals from Kool-Aid packs, you got this Atari 2600 or Intellivision cartridge for free. And you know what? It was a pretty cool game. Players moved Kool-Aid Man around the screen in an attempt to knock out the Thirsties while also collecting the ingredients for a pitcher of sugary drink before time ran out via the pool at the bottom of the screen draining empty. Confusing? Sure. But, seriously, way more fun than it sounds.
“Pepsi Invaders” (aka “Coke Wins”) (1983)
This game was not a huge seller. In fact, it wasn’t for sale at all. Coca Cola poked fun at their rival by producing this version of Space Invaders for their 1983 Sales convention, handing out about 125 copies of this Atari 2600 cartridge to attendees. They replaced the alien shapes of the original game with the letters from PEPSI, but it’s otherwise identical to the mass produced game. Original cartridges sell for a lot of money these days.
Domino’s Pizza “Yo! Noid” (1990)
Perhaps no spokescharacter in the history of advertising was more despised and ridiculed than the Noid. With that strike already against it, Domino’s released this Nintendo game to terrible reviews for its pointless play and frustrating level of difficulty. It was like getting double anchovies on your pizza.
Chester Cheetah “Too Cool To Fool” (1992)
Long before Goat Simulator, this game allowed you to become a cartoon cheetah who promotes fried cheese curls by riding around on a scooter and jumping on unsuspecting victims’ heads. Because, y’know… EXTREME! The first of two Cheetos based games of that era, it was available for Super Nintendo and Sega systems.
McDonald’s “Treasure Land Adventure” (1993)
Connoisseurs of fast food could get this Sega Genesis game to go with any meal (Happy or otherwise). Similar in play to Super Mario World and many other games, the graphics on this are surprisingly well developed for the era and price. This was one of several games McD’s has offered over the years.
7 Up “Cool Spot” (1994)
The mid ’90s were a golden age for anthropomorphic junk food stars and their related games. For that reason, 7 Up turned part of their logo into a radical red dot with sunglasses to appeal to the youth market, and inserted him into this surfing game for Sega, GameBoy and PC.
“Chex Quest” (1996)
This video game is an important part of your nutritious breakfast. Here’s a first person shooter game that came as a prize in boxes of Chex cereals. It was based on the engine that ran the awesomely popular Doom video game, so the action rocked. But instead of killing Martians, players used their “Zorcher” to “teleport” “phlegm-based monsters” to “another realm.” It was PC based, but not to worry. If you don’t have a mid-90s Pentium machine laying around, you can still find it to play online.
Burger King “Big Bumpin’,” “Sneak King,” and “Pocket Bike Racer” (2006)
Not to be outdone by McDonald’s, Burger King offered these Xbox games for a buck each with purchase of a combo meal. Big Bumpin’ was a bumper car game, too slow to be much fun. Sneak King required the scary rubber-headed King to present unsuspecting strangers with burgers (creepy, complicated and stupid). But the Pocket Bike Racer game was kinda entertaining, probably because it was based on the dynamics of existing racing games with new skins applied.
“Super Mario Spaghettios” (2012)
Oh wait, this wasn’t a game… it was a can of pasta shaped like objects from Mario’s world. Never mind. But that would’ve been really cool.
Taco Bell “The Waiting Game” (2013)
In the history of dull video games, this one was the most exciting. After Taco Bell introduced their first flavor of Doritos Locos Tacos to worldwide acclaim, it took them a loooong time to release the next variation. So, a month before the Cool Ranch Doritos flavor was to hit restaurants, these arcade games showed up at Canadian Taco Bell locations. Gameplay was based on the excruciating angst of that waiting period in the form of your character standing in line and gradually moving forward. Seriously. Your reward for finishing the intentionally dull 10-minute odyssey? A coupon for a free taco. To be redeemed later. Of course.
Levi’s “Skate-A-Rama” (2014)
Not a console or PC game, and not online either, this virtual reality game required players to perform real skateboard tricks on a stage coordinated with graphics projected behind them to score points. The ramps and rails are pretty basic, so the novelty wore off pretty quick. Levi’s set this up at trade shows to promote their skate wear line. Because, y’know… EXTREME!
Know of any others? Mention them in the comments below, and add them to the hobbyDB database if they aren’t already there!