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The Weirdest Video Game Ads Of All Time

Today, game sales can be directly influenced by review scores and word of mouth. This kind of public reception is accelerated by social media, where everyone has access to game previews. But back in the 90s and early 2000s, such a thing wasn't feasible. Kids and potential customers had to rely solely on the tried and true video game commercial. 


Game commercials can advertise events, consoles, and even games themselves. Anything from celebrity cameos to pure unfiltered gameplay are utilized to sell people this interactive product, and for the most part, they are pretty tame marketing tools. But sometimes things can get complicated.

Ads can almost jeopardize a company or product as well. For instance, a specific advertisement spoiled an unannounced Xbox. Even more bizarre is a PlayStation commercial that had to be pulled by Sony. The tv spot featured an upside-down PS5, being used in a completely wrong way.

Normal advertisements will show the game, explain some details and throw in a release date and price at the end. But not all commercials are built the same. A viewer might watch a commercial and have no idea what they just saw. Maybe it didn't represent the game well enough or was just too outlandish to even explain what was going on. No matter the reason, at least these ads were strange enough to remain memorable. 


Nintendo Mascots Pummel Each Other

What begins as a happy frolic in a field with "Happy Together" playing in the background quickly turns to a melee. "Super Smash Bros." had a commercial that perfectly depicted the premise of the Nintendo 64 party fighter, but that doesn't make the surreal image of costumed mascots fighting any less freaky.


It's a fun and deceptive ad, since Yoshi, Mario, Pikachu, and Donkey Kong are all featured in a lighthearted way. So the twist of Mario tripping Yoshi, leading to the four characters fighting is incredibly bizarre. The cherry on top is how these are humans in character costumes that are unleashing some hilariously brutal wrestling moves.

Donkey Kong spins Pikachu around while Mario proceeds to punch Yoshi. Nintendo is usually concerned about its brand perception, going so far as to issue DMCA strikes on fan-made content that doesn't follow its internal rules, so it's difficult to believe that this ad was greenlit. However, the commercial gets the game's point across. What better way to show off "Smash Bros?" 


The ad then transitions to gameplay with the narrator detailing the 4-player chaotic gameplay of "Super Smash Bros." Somehow this tv spot managed to hook viewers with YouTube commenters looking back on their first reactions to the ad.

Toy Baby Experiences the PS3

Not all commercials are so straightforward. PlayStation sought to go the experimental route in its ad campaign for the PlayStation 3. The company was more than thriving with its record-breaking PS2 sales (via Den of Geek), which is why this early promotion for the next generation of PS consoles was so confusing.


A toy baby sits with a PlayStation 3 in an empty white room. It gets excited after seeing the black box, but suddenly starts to freak out. The baby begins to cry while horrifying images are seen in its eyes. The PlayStation system then starts to rise with the tagline "Play Beyond" featured underneath the floating device.

The commercial played in front of millions of television watchers during a World Series Game (per DidYouKnowGaming). It's utterly insane and begs the question how did this come about? Did You Know Gaming reported on statements made by marketing vice president, Peter Dille. Dille tried to explain that the commercial was up to interpretation, like an abstract art piece. The commercial and Dille's comments suggest a new experimental campaign for a new console at the time.


Future PS3 commercials were more standard and direct, so it's unclear if the strange direction was too much for Sony. One commercial, in particular, featured the made-up Sony employee, Kevin Butler, who poked fun at the bizarre baby ad campaign.

Rick and Morty Team Up with PlayStation

PlayStation teamed up with "Rick and Morty" not once, not twice, but three times. The unlikely partnership discussed the PS5 and popular console games. Although incredibly unpredictable, the ad campaign managed to draw eyes, with viewership ranging from 4 million to 13 million views on YouTube.


In the first promo, Rick and Morty have a crossover with "Death Stranding." The two cartoon characters travel through the world talking about how strange the game is. Morty is dressed as the game's protagonist, Sam Porter Bridges, while Rick is unchanged from his original design. The commercial is filled with references to game creator Hideo Kojima and ends with the two questioning if they should eat BB to gain special powers.

The second team-up is a straightforward ad for the PS5. Morty quickly rattles off the console's features while Rick sits back counting the money they're receiving for the ad. Surprisingly, it does a good job of informing the consumer about the PS5 console as Morty mentions the quicker load times and adaptive triggers.


Lastly is a "God of War Ragnarok" ad. Of course, Rick stars as the intimidating and heartless Kratos while Morty role-plays as Atreus. There are some fun tongue-in-cheek bits, like Rick bringing out the Leviathan Axe and iconic rowboat. 

Kirby Has a New Friend

Taking the cake for one of the most disturbing videos on this list is "Kirby Canvas Curse." The Nintendo mascot had a spinoff for the DS where players would use touchscreen controls to draw rainbow lines. These lines would guide Kirby to the end of a level. The gimmick is pretty simplistic, but Nintendo decided to be zanier with its advertising.


A 33-second commercial portrays Kirby and a mascot costume finger as best friends in a real-world environment. It's both cute and unnerving. For example, a large finger pushing Kirby on a swing is pretty wholesome and lends itself to the game's hook, but everything else is so odd. Being able to see human legs with sandals pop out of the finger costume is horrifying, and the fact that the finger is faceless while Kirby has a static happy face doesn't exactly mesh well. The message does make sense as Kirby and touchscreen controls go hand in hand with one another.

The brief commercial ends with actual gameplay to try to contextualize what just happened. If Nintendo wanted to weird out its fanbase, then it certainly worked. YouTube commenters described the ad as simultaneously "creepy and heartwarming." Other comments noted how bizarre the ad was for a DS game.


David Lynch Freaks Out Gamers

The PS3 baby has nothing on this PS2 ad campaign by David Lynch. Although famous for producing some of the best psychological horror and surrealist films, Lynch had a go at putting his own spin on PS2 commercials. Suffice it to say the promotional material definitely has Lynch's style in all manners.


One ad, titled "Bambi," depicts a deer running into oncoming traffic. Rather than becoming immediate roadkill, the car gets demolished with an uninjured deer leisurely walking away. It then cuts to the words "Different Place Different Rules." 

Another commercial is little more than a dog moving their limbs while they sleep on the floor. This time, the tagline is "Visit Your Third Place." These promos illustrate the PS2 being a total game changer, a console that is seemingly a different world or different dimension. Nothing reinforces this message more than the commercial to end all commercials.

"Welcome to the Third Place" is David Lynch's big hurrah for the PS2 campaign. A man walks through an eerie corridor where he sees unnatural images. Suddenly the man's head floats off, gets reattached to his body, and spits out an arm. It all culminates with a duck on a suited body saying "Welcome to the Third Place." And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the PlayStation 2.


The Segata Sanshiro Journey

Everyone knows Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega's most iconic mascot. But many forget Sega's commercial personality, Segata Sanshiro. Played by Hiroshi Fujioka, Segata Sanshiro was the primary spokesman for the Sega Saturn and was featured prominently in Japanese advertisements for the system.


Segata Sanshiro, a judo master, confronts people, judo flips them, and yells "You must play Sega Saturn!" Segata Sanshiro appears on the street, in the club, or even in a living room during Christmas. Some of his judo flips even leave the victim exploding on site. It's an insane premise, but one that got the job done, since it literally told viewers to play the new system.

Certain commercials centered on specific games and Segata Sanshiro does an activity related to that game. For instance, he wards off zombies when promoting "House of the Dead." Other games advertised with Segata Sanshiro include "Panzer Dragoon RPG" and "Super Bomberman Fight."

In a great turn of events, Segata Sanshiro was killed off in his final commercial. A missile is shown being aimed at a board meeting discussing the launch of the Dreamcast. Segata Sanshiro swoops in, redirects the missile and rides it to space in a huge explosion. Farewell, Segata Sanshiro.


Xbox Has a Dark Message

Not often is there a situation where an advertisement is outright banned. Well, Microsoft managed to get one ad removed in Europe. The commercial in question depicted a woman giving birth in a hospital. The woman's final push shoots the baby out the window like a rocket. During flight, the baby gradually becomes older until it reaches old age. Finally, he lands in a cemetery with the words "Life is Short Play More" left on the screen.


The commercial is quite shocking which makes the final words that much more striking. It's questionable that viewers seeing someone age instantaneously towards death would make them go out and buy an Xbox, but it definitely created word-of-mouth appeal.

Of course, after the commercial aired there were plenty of complaints that led to the ban, but there's more to the story. GamesIndustry.biz reported that the complaints made for the commercial were largely due to the "theme of death" rather than the crude birthing scene.

Harvey Eagle was the advertising manager for Xbox at the time and discussed with GamesIndustry.biz how the team never did console launches before. They wanted to produce something that would end up viral. The goal was achieved as Eagle revealed that the ad was shared 1 million times through individual emails.


The Great Xbox 360 Standoff

Now there's a difference between a banned commercial and one that just never aired. In the Xbox 360 era, Microsoft produced a fun little project to promote the system. It has little to do with the console, but it's a neat video that projected the ingenuity behind gaming. 


A train station filled with people suddenly turns into a childish gun standoff. People lift up their hands with pointed fingers, like they're aiming guns, and immediately freeze in place. Then the chaos ensues with everyone pretending to kill each other. Imaginary grenades are tossed, people in the rafters are shot down, and tables are flipped over for cover. The whole ad ends with a cab driver getting "shot," but finishing his phone call before playing dead.

Topping off the commercial are the words "Jump In," probably insinuating the potential popularity of the console and the importance of Xbox Live multiplayer. There really isn't another advertisement like this one, so it's a letdown that Microsoft decided to pull the plug on it.


GameSpot reported on rumors about why it was unreleased, like the promotion of violence. The outlet did receive a response from Microsoft saying that any and all rumors were unsubstantiated with the company just deciding to play the video to select previews. No matter the reason this remains one of the many banned commercials that won't be seen any time soon.

Katamari Rolls Onto Television Screens

How does one advertise for one of the weirdest games on PS2? "Katamari Damacy" has been praised for its inventive idea of rolling up real-world objects (per IGN). Not only that, but its unique soundtrack and odd charm are also held in high regard. So, its promotional material needs to capitalize on the game's weirdness.


Namco definitely follows through with the earliest commercials especially. One portrays a man waiting in a lobby for an interview who rolls up with the furniture around him. The objects then continue to roll into a large ball consuming everything in sight. Overall, it's a nice demonstration of the game's gimmick.

Likewise is another ad in which audiences get a first-person viewpoint from the rolling katamari ball. This is very creative in that viewers got to see leaves, birds, and a cow-costumed man get rolled up. What differentiates this video is how it offers a glimpse from a different perspective of "Katamari" that hasn't been seen elsewhere.

These two ads are very emblematic of the game itself. Just as how Katamari is unlike any other game, commercials for it are unlike anything on television. Although, Western ads are more cut and dry than Japan's depiction of the Namco title. These contain straightforward gameplay and aren't as zany.


Parappa's Unique Commercials

During the 90s, "Parappa the Rapper" was everywhere in Japan. The rapping cartoon dog appeared in countless TV spots on Japanese television, including restaurant promotions, and crossovers with other video game characters. As a PlayStation landmark, Parappa's presence in commercials extended to the U.S. as well.


Parappa's stardom in Japan was strong, as he had plenty of cross-promotions with McDonald's. In one specific ad, Parappa as well as characters from "Final Fantasy" and "Ape Escape" would jump out of television screens. It's both cute and a bit scary, with the kids in the commercial even being frightened at first.

Continuing the costumed character trend were a few crossover advertisements with the "Crash Bandicoot" series. An old man with a PlayStation head appears to judge Parappa and Crash in gameshow-type activities. Another has the two characters traveling by boat to give a man a PlayStation with the song "Last Christmas" playing in the background. To non-Japanese residents these feel like random and zany marketing tools that don't show off much of the game.


U.S. promotion of the game wasn't any better, though. The ad campaign featured people on the street rapping lyrics from the game, which would then transition to the actual game. It is so poorly done and cringe-worthy because the actors are so off rhythm to the game. Ironic because Parappa is all about rhythm, and timing.

Players Can't Stomach Yoshi Island's Features

A lot of times, commercials revolve around a game's features and all the additions it offers. "Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island" is a good example of this albeit one that goes over the top. Who knew that game features could be compared to someone eating their fill?


To be specific, the Nintendo ad has a narrator describing the game's features in great detail to the point that it's overbearing. During this, the camera cuts to a man continuously eating at a restaurant. Except it's a gross-out sequence that doesn't exactly match the child-like loveable world of Yoshi. Snippets of the game's crayon aesthetic are followed up with a large man consuming plates of spaghetti and jello, so it's very jarring.

The restaurant scene snowballs to a grand finale where the man's shirt breaks apart and he literally explodes. Food flies across the room hitting other customers as well on a copy of "Yoshi's Island." Of course the implication is that the game has too many features to comprehend, but did it need to be shown in the most revolting way?


Future Yoshi commercials are much more simple. For example, "Yoshi's Woolly World" had ads that contained only gameplay onscreen — a far cry from the marketing campaign of the 90s.

You Are What You Play

Similar to "Yoshi Island," "Kirby Superstar" had similar marketing. 90s commercials for SNES games doubled down on disgusting TV spots. And while nothing can top Yoshi's exploding man, the Kirby epidemic commercial is a close second.


Cut to a hospital where there's an outbreak of kids turning into pink blobs. The children are diagnosed with "TMK," or "Too Much Kirby," because they are addicted to Kirby on the Super Nintendo. It's a silly idea, but the effects are horrifying and the closeups of the adults are kind of creepy. 

When watching the ad, it's hard not to think of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," with Violet Beauregarde turning into a giant blueberry. The victims of "TMK" are portrayed similarly with them becoming discolored rolling balls. "Kirby Superstar" puts a spin on the whole "You are what you eat" saying. 

As a whole, the commercial is just way too weird for a Kirby game. Like Yoshi, nothing in the marketing fits with the Nintendo brand. Kirby also received an overhaul in his marketing campaigns. Most notably is "Forgotten Land," which abandons human actors entirely. Commercials for the Switch title let the game speak for itself.


Paul Rudd Plays With Power

Though this old Super Nintendo video stars a young Paul Rudd, he's not the reason it's a weird one. For individual SNES games, there was often a theme of quick, fast-paced, and sometimes nasty marketing. Here, there's a more ominous tone that is extremely serious compared to the usual Nintendo fanfare.


To coincide with the SNES and its tagline "Now you're playing with power" the console was shown off in all its glory. Young Paul Rudd walks up, slams a game cartridge in the system, and starts playing in an old abandoned drive-in movie theater. What's strange is how dark and brooding the narrator and setting are. It feels more like an 80s drama film trailer rather than a fun, easygoing Nintendo commercial.

Also peculiar are the random kids that start running up to Paul Rudd and the giant screen. Everything is random and disorienting. The flashing SNES games and console logo doesn't help either. What the commercial does right, however, is show off the vast catalog of games on the SNES, so there is that. Some of the best games on the device make an appearance, like "F-Zero," "Pilot Wings," and "Link to the Past."


It's far from the strangest video game ads, but this one is still an oddity.