I’m probably on my own on this one, game shows being about as popular in America as ingesting breakfast cereal via the nasal cavity is. But I love them. In a way, game shows provide the same rush as an action movie, tension, adrenaline, and hopefully, victory. And occasionally, my friends and I have a ton of fun playing some great game show games at parties.
But for whatever reason, game shows don’t do well in America for very long. There are periodic game show ‘booms’, usually caused by some British game show becoming more popular in the U.K. than fish and chips, and some producer then decides to bring it to America and completely screw it up. I’m not kidding here, the British version of Deal or No Deal is VASTLY superior to the gaudy mess that the American version was.
And as far as video game versions of game shows go, we’ve gotten just as screwed. Ludia puts out cash grab after cash grab, year after year, and they always get upstaged by better games, either having been produced earlier by other companies, or worse, free, fanmade games of the same shows. The best game Ludia has made is The Price is Right, with a lot of features and unlockables, and there is still a better version out there with more game modes and features, all made by one guy with an awful lot of talent and an absurd amount of free time. (I’d like to provide a link, but I don’t trust Ludia to not do everything in their power to shut this guy down, when they’d be much better off hiring him.)
But game show games CAN be great party games when they’re done well – and if you want to make it like a real game show, there’s no reason you can’t put a little money and thought into it. Everybody brings $5, have a fair tournament, and the winner gets the pot. Just be careful you don’t do this with a game where contestants are voted to lose, like The Weakest Link for the PSOne – I haven’t tried it for money, but I suspect that you could lose a few friends that way.
And there are so many game shows out there to choose from, it seems a shame there aren’t more options than Jeopardy and Wheel every year, or Ludia’s tripe. So this is a list of game shows that I think could be fantastic video games, whether as party games or online competitions. Keep in mind, I’m more interested in gameplay than popularity, so it’s likely you’ve never heard of most of these. And off we go.
HONORABLE MENTION – DUEL
Duel was a ‘big money’ game show on ABC for short periods during 2007 and 2008, and the premise is pretty simple, it’s a lot like head-to-head Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Two players get the same trivia question and four possible answers. The players have 10 chips, and they can use those chips to cover up to all four answers, and if a chip covers the right answer, they can keep playing, but any chips on a wrong answer are taken away. It wasn’t a great show, but in my experience it’s a lot of fun to play, and a lot more strategic than it seems at first glance – and it’s even better if real money’s at stake.
Duel is an honorable mention and doesn’t actually make the list for two reasons: first, while the game show wasn’t a huge success in America, it was on a major network for two seasons, so chances are you might have heard of it. And the second reason is that a game version does exist – sort of. I made it. But I’m listing Duel as an Honorable Mention because I’d still like to see a full-blown game made out of it.
It’s not so much of a game as a game control – that is to say, you’d probably have to supply the questions (I wrote only 100 sample questions that come with the program), and one player would have to be ‘the host’ and tell the program if the contestants got the answer right or wrong. But the program does keep track of players if you’re doing it tournament-style, and it has music and sounds from the show, so it does spice up the experience quite a lot. You can check it out here – along with the other game show games I made years ago – but don’t expect any technical support.
4. THE RICH LIST/THE MONEY LIST/WHO DARES WINS
Though it’s known by three different names, it’s all the same game, contestants are paired together at random and play against another pair of contestants head-to-head. Players are given a list, such as “Best Picture Oscar Winners”. The teams then make bids as to how many items on that list they can name, going back and forth until one team challenges the other to meet their bid. Then that team must successfully name as many items on the list as their bid to win the list – one incorrect answer, and the list goes to the other team. First team to win two lists goes on to the bonus round.
The Rich List is low on the list for one very big reason, and that’s the fact that it’s incredibly unpopular. How unpopular is it? The show had exactly one episode air on Fox before it was cancelled. Yikes.
To be fair, the show was poorly marketed, and they didn’t do themselves any favors by hiring a no-name Australian man to host. Nothing against him, he was good as a host, but some people have told me they had a hard time understanding him due to his accent, and I’ve got to imagine that put some people off the show. The show was revived on the Game Show Network as The Money List, but it still only lasted 9 episodes. The game has done much better in other countries – in Australia, The Rich List lasted for three seasons, and the British version, Who Dares Wins, has lasted for five seasons, and according to Wikipedia, is still going to this day.
Having said that, this is a game that I feel would be much more fun to play than it is to watch. The premise is so simple that anyone could understand it, and the head-to-head approach would make this a natural tournament-style game. But to the best of my knowledge, no one has made a game version of this yet.
3. DIRTY ROTTEN CHEATER
Dirty Rotten Cheater was a game show on the PAX network in 2003. The premise was a tad on the complicated side – six players took turns answering Family-Feud-esque survey questions, but unlike Family Feud, the least popular answers earned players the most money. However, one of the six players is randomly and secretly designated the Cheater at the start of the show, and is given all the answers on a screen in their podium. Every round, the players have to determine who is the Cheater, and vote them off – if they vote off an honest player, or can’t get a majority vote, they all lose half their money. If the Cheater is voted off, the players keep their money, and a new Cheater is randomly chosen.
While it wasn’t the most popular show (only lasted three months), this definitely seems like it could be a good party game, and one that the WiiU could handle easily – just pass the controller from player to player, have the player input their answer using the screen on the controller, so they all have a reason to look at it, and the screen will only show the answers to the Cheater. It would also work really well for online play.