It’s funny how easily a rip-off can outstrip the success of its inspiration; Fortnite beats PUBG, Angry Birds beats Crush the Castle, and so on. Though it’s tempting to assume that rip-off games are not worth playing at all, I think they can offer some decent entertainment value, at least ironically.
Video games have been copied and knocked-off for about as long as the technology has existed to do so. In this article, we’re paying a visit to some of the most notorious offenders.
Simpsons: Road Rage (2001)
Before there was Hit & Run, there was Road Rage, a game that was so obviously ripping off Crazy Taxi that Sega sued for patent infringement. There is absolutely no reason on Earth that The Simpsons needed so many road-based games.
Despite mixed reviews, Road Rage has managed to sell over 3 million copies since its launch in 2001, and of course lead to the spiritual successor that was itself a blatant knock-off of the GTA series, but you don’t really hear anyone complaining about that.
The Great Giana Sisters (1987)
In this side-scrolling platformer, you play as Giana, a woman who is trapped in a 33-stage nightmare that she must complete to find the “magic huge diamond”.
As far as Super Mario Bros rip-offs go, this one doesn’t seem the most imaginative. Despite its hilariously campy key art and multiple urban legends of Nintendo’s legal wrath, The Great Giana Sisters was warmly received by critics and spawned multiple sequels.
Star Wars: Dark Forces (1995)
Originally released for the MS-DOS and Macintosh, Dark Forces follows the mercenary Kyle Katarn as he joins the Rebel Alliance after defecting from the Empire. This FPS uses the specially-created Jedi game engine, with noted similarities to the Build engine used in Duke Nukem 3D – others have drawn parallels to Wolfenstein and Doom.
Funnily enough, Dark Forces was also very well-received, with some even claiming that the game improves upon Doom’s mechanics. The game has led to two sequels (technically being the first in the Jedi Knights series), action figures, the canonization of the Dark Troopers (see: The Mandalorian, Chapter 14), and more. A net win for Star Wars fans?
Golden Axe Warrior (1991)
Sega released this title on the Master System, itself being a spinoff of the Golden Axe arcade beat-em-ups, which follows a young warrior who explores “labyrinths”, collects crystals and battles the evil tyrant Death Adder.
Though not receiving the worst reviews, Golden Axe Warrior paled in comparison to the games it imitated; namely, Willow and the Zelda series. Most players were mainly disappointed that the game wasn’t very similar to the original Golden Axe. I’d personally take the Master Sword over a dumb axe any day.
Fighter’s History (1993)
This arcade fighting game from Data East used a very familiar six-button configuration. Unsurprisingly, they were hit with a lawsuit from Capcom USA that accused the game of infringing Street Fighter II. Fighter’s History did have a couple of unique features, though, primarily its “weak point” system, which allows players to stun their opponents.
Data East won the lawsuit, in part due to the claim that their 1984 game Karate Champ was the true originator of the fighting game. The court also found that Fighter’s History’s similar elements were scenes a faire, meaning that they were so essential to the genre that the game was practically obligated to use them. Capcom really was suffering from success.
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