In another reality where our passion for MMORPGs is matched only by the power of nostalgia for the greatest era of cartoons, we would no doubt witness studios scrabbling over one another to secure licenses to some of the more inventive and tubular franchises from the 1980s animated scene.
While we continue to wait in our reality for this to happen, I would like to put 10 cartoons from the ’80s out there for studio consideration to be made into full-fledged MMORPGs. To make things even more interesting, I’m not going to go for the obvious picks, like your G.I. Joes or Transformers or the demographically challenged Smurfs. Instead, let’s revel in how gloriously strange these cartoons were and how that creative thinking could make for fascinating MMOs.
At the very least, it’s totally going to make you look up all of these theme songs on YouTube, so I’ll help you out and provide those links as well. You’re welcome.
Speaking of G.I. Joe and Transformers, M.A.S.K. is like this goofy hybrid of both shows that combines the struggle between two militarized factions and the high-tech of transforming vehicles. Also, there were masks. That’s not a spoiler, since it is literally in the title.
This whole format would translate surprisingly well into a conventional MMO, starting with the dual factions and continuing on through the use of gear that gives you additional stats and abilities. Plus, I love the thought of a game where you got to control both a human avatar and a transforming vehicle that sports heavy armaments. For the record, I used to own the Rhino Rig and it was so much better than Optimus Prime in the big rig department. (theme)
Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors
Perhaps too ’80s even for the ’80s, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors aimed for this cool sci-fi steampunk aesthetic that visually distinguished it from its peers. What interests me most in a potential MMO, however, is the focus on vehicles that can mix-and-match parts from vanquished foes and helpful allies. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could help out a friend in combat by zipping them over some fifty-foot buzzsaw while they loaned you a rack of missiles? I think so, at least.
Add in a touch of magic and plant-tech, and this is an IP that would set itself apart in a glorious way. (theme)
Captain N: The Game Master
Today’s generation would probably watch Captain N and think, “Oh, so it’s Super Smash Brothers: The TV Show?” And they’d be absolutely right. While licensing pretty much all of Nintendo’s properties and its popular third-party franchises might end up being more cost prohibitive than financing a state-of-the-art aircraft carrier, there’s no doubt in my mind that Captain N’s cross-genre adventures would make for the most successful MMORPG of all time. Until that happens, I’m stuck in Guild Wars 2 with the light gun zapper from Super Adventure Box. But I know where I’d want to be instead. (theme)
The Real Ghostbusters
For real, this needs to happen. The cartoon greatly expanded upon the two movies’ lore and added a massive array of tech, ghosts, and rules to this universe. Now mold that into a horror-lite MMORPG where players’ main goal is to seek out and contain wily ghosts instead of shoot things dead, and it could get very interesting indeed. This is doubly true when you consider how some challenges in the show could only be overcome by gutsy teamwork and combined streams. (theme)
If an ’80s cartoon didn’t have optimistic anthropomorphic animals or violent dinosaurs, chances are that transforming robots would come into the mix. Voltron strikes me as particularly ripe for an MMO makeover considering that players would have the option to solo as a smaller robot or combine into a “group” to make up a large one. I envision that everyone would continue to independently control appendages, leading to no end of unity, harmony, and verbal encouragement. (theme)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Turtleverse was, of course, insanely popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and I’m pleased to see it continues to stay relevant today through reinvention. We were all play-acting as ninjas after watching this show, so a jump to an online RPG wouldn’t be that far. Choose your mutation, select your school of fighting, and then get in there and battle giant warthogs and evil brains from Dimension X! (theme)
Scifi westerns had a short but memorable run in the animated scene, with titles such as Cowboys of Moo Mesa and Saber Rider mixing up genres. I’ll nominate Bravestarr, however, as the best model from which to base an MMO. Fighting on top of a robotic horse and wielding special magical talents while adventuring through an unknown planetary frontier could be… oh wait, I’m totally describing WildStar, aren’t I? (theme)
“It’s crime fighting time!” Oh yes indeed it is! The near-future setting for C.O.P.S. reminds me not just a little bit of City of Heroes, with both heroes and villains wielding high tech gadgetry and boasting special talents as they struggle to maintain (or overthrow) law and order. Logging arrests or pulling off heists could be a lot of fun, especially if it didn’t involve straight-up fighting all the time. Also, I want a cyborg K-9 companion. (theme)
Transforming robots, scifi westerns, ninjas — what have I left off the ’80s animated list? How about some ground pounding dinosaurs! Lots of dinos all over ’80s TV, because dinosaurs are awesome and making dinosaurs fight is extra-awesome. I always had a soft spot for this show, probably because I totally wanted talking dinosaur friends to pick me to be a Secret Scout. What’s that? How would it be a great MMO? BECAUSE ALIEN DINOSAURS AND SPACE SHIPS THAT’S WHY. (theme)
Most of the cartoons targeted at girls in the ’80s were sugary sweet frippery, but Jem delivered perhaps one of the most amazing female-led ensembles of that decade. Listen, if you can’t make rock and roll, holographic technology, ’80s fashion, struggles against a homicidal rival band, and mistaken identity work for an MMO, then I don’t know if there’s hope for this world. It would be the most truly outrageous game of all time. (theme)