The world is desperate for a new Simpsons game. In fact, when a survey was conducted by UK gaming retailer Game about which title is most in need of a remaster, The Simpsons: Hit & Run won out against all others. The gamers were right – I guess there’s a first time for everything. What we sometimes forget about the classic Simpsons games, be they Hit & Run or Road Rage or just The Simpsons Game, is that they’re not very long. I’ve always been of the opinion that we need a completely new Simpsons game – something that’s not Tapped Out – rather than risking the legacy of older titles by polishing them up only for the nostalgia to be shattered by how shallow and short the beloved classics are. So short in fact that some people can beat them in just four minutes.
That’s the current speedrunning record for The Simpsons Road Rage, with ProtoKid topping the leaderboard for the game’s Any% runs with just four minutes and 18 seconds. I spoke to ProtoKid, and a few others in the Simpsons speedrunning community, to find out what keeps these games alive. “I would say generally in speedrunning, communities are very strong,” Proto says. “In all the communities that I’ve participated in, I would say the competition has never come before the sportsmanship of players and everyone is out to improve themselves as much as possible.”
You earn the world record in The Simpsons Road Rage the same way you get to Carnegie Hall – and having a community around you is vital for that, ProtoKid explains. “Typically what I would do is grind individual levels while talking to my friends on Discord,” they say. “This allowed me to build a lot of good muscle memory and even find some new strats. Despite most of my gameplay being outside of runs, I still have thousands of attempts in the game.”
As well as Road Rage and Hit & Run, the Simpsons had a notoriously bad Tony Hawk’s rip-off called The Simpsons Skateboarding – a name that perfectly demonstrates the amount of creativity involved in the project. It’s the only Simpsons game I’ve played that I abandoned, and looking at the stats, it seems I’m not the only one. Only four players have Any% runs on Skateboarding, ranging from 17 minutes to 19 minutes, and nobody has a 100% run registered. Hit & Run has 293 entries in ‘Story Missions’ alone, and several other categories that are just as full. Saiyanz is in both lists – they’re currently second in Skateboarding, as well as being second to ProtoKid by just four seconds in Road Rage. They’re pretty clear on why Skateboarding has so few speedrunners. “As much as this game is nostalgic for me, the game itself is very bad,” Saiyanz says. “However, just because a game itself is horrible doesn’t always mean the speedrun turns out the same way, [although] Simpsons Skateboarding does not fall under that circumstance. The objective is to complete the first two missions of each level, which is quite subjective since it does not force an ending or credits scene. There is a very low skill ceiling to this game – if you can learn how to nosegrind then you have learnt the run.”
I spoke to five speedrunners – Gordo, LiquidWiFi, and HoonGoons were the others – and they were unanimous when asked which Simpsons game deserves a remaster. Much like the gamers, they all chose Hit & Run. “Easy pick is Hit & Run,” Liquid says “The most successful game, and the one that needs it the most. The Simpsons Game is already on Xbox 360, and every other game is either below average or terrible. Hit & Run doesn’t even need a remaster, just a way to play it on the modern generation [of consoles].”
Of the various Hit & Run speedrunning categories, Gordo is in all but two of them, as well as being the moderator for the overall community. Aside from the quality of the game, they suspect Hit & Run’s approachability is a big reason as to why it has so many players. “It’s a very easy game to set up, practice and start grinding with the resources and tools at our disposal,” Gordo says. “The community is always in conversations every day and so it makes you want to play the game more as it’s the core of the community.”
Surprisingly though, not everyone involved in the speedrunning community is a Simpsons mega-fan. “I think I have watched less than 20 episodes in total,” HoonGoons says. “I like the movie though, but it’s not as good as I remembered back when I watched it as a kid. [I] had a good time watching it again with some friends recently, absolutely worth it. I have heard nothing but bad stuff about modern Simpsons, but I heard one of the newer seasons was actually decent so that’s kinda reassuring.”
The rest of the speedrunners had fairly lukewarm opinions on The Simpsons, enjoying the older episodes but either not watching or not enjoying the newer ones – a common sentiment. Saiyanz, however, was more enlightened. “I love the show and the culture surrounding the shitposts, which are always a good laugh. Just a month ago I caught up on all the seasons of the show and believe the show consistently has mediocre seasons – however, sometimes [it] has good episodes hidden within the seasons.”
Most of the speedrunners in The Simpsons community tend to share a consistent cross-section of games, with lots of other cartoon tie-ins in the mix. Of these, HoonGoons had the most, and explained the appeal games like these can have. “Licensed games are an interesting breed,” they say. “It can either be a diamond in the rough or the worst game you have ever played. An ex-friend got me interested in speedrunning, and they did that with Battle for Bikini Bottom. BFBB and TSSM [The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie game] were made by a company called Heavy Iron Studios, and a few of the games I have run are primarily from them. The Incredibles, The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer, WALL-E, Ratatouille, Up, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse, and of course the obvious, BFBB and TSSM. There’s only one game in that list I can apply the childhood thing to, and that’s WALL-E. I grew up with it on PS3, and it was the first speedrun I ever took seriously. I have a lot to thank for that, even if I plan on never seriously returning to the game. Up was specifically mentioned in the list so I’d like to talk about that real quick. Do not play Up. Do not run Up. It is the worst experience you will ever have. I did it just as a meme but it’s so mind numbingly boring.”
While HoonGoons may have the widest range of runs registered, the widest experience across Simpsons games probably belongs to LiquidWiFi – but that doesn’t mean they love them all. “I recently played through almost every Simpsons game,” Liquid says. “Almost all of the games are pretty awful to play, with games like Hit & Run, Road Rage, and The Simpsons Game standing out around pretty below average games.”
Not including mobile games, we haven’t had a new Simpsons game since 2007 – even including mobile games, the last one was Tapped Out in 2013, although that still gets consistent updates. That means 13 seasons have come out since the last non-mobile game, and we’ve been waiting for a new game as long as we have a second Simpsons movie. It doesn’t seem like the wait is going to be over any time soon – maybe you can pass the time by figuring out how to nosegrind in The Simpsons Skateboarding, eh?
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