Movies, books, and TV shows are full of fictional games (some better than others…), but most are either way too impractical, boring, or just plain insane to actually work in real life. Once in a while though, whether it’s the result of licensed products, savvy marketing, or occasionally, just some really ambitious fans, a few of these “fake” games become playable.
1. Fix-It Felix Jr. from Wreck-It-Ralph
Given that it’s a movie about video games, it’s no surprise that Disney used actual games to promote it. At E3 2012, Disney brought in actual, playable arcade cabinets for Fix-It Felix, Jr., the game that Ralph lives inside in the movie. If you missed that, don’t worry, the game is still available to play at the DisneyQuest arcade in Florida, and a few other locations.
You can also play an online browser-based version of it, and the two other fictional games from the movie, on Disney’s website. But let’s be real, that’s nowhere near as cool as playing it on an actual arcade cabinet.
2. Card Wars from Adventure Time
The fictional game of Card Wars was featured in just one episode of Adventure Time, but it proved to be so popular that fans almost immediately went out and created their own version of it (complete with online rules and print-out cards).
A few years later though, that proved to be unnecessary, with the release of not only a video game version of Card Wars on tablets, but also real-life cards and official rules.
3. That Adventure Game from Big
Remember that cheesy adventure game from the movie Big? The one that the main character couldn’t beat because he didn’t know the correct command?
Well, now you too can experience the frustrations of fictional 80s video games, with this playable fan-made recreation. It’s 100% accurate to what we saw in the movie, so sadly that means it only has the game’s last screen. On the bright side, if you remember the winning text command, that wizard is going down.
4. Space Paranoids from Tron
In the movie Tron, Space Paranoids was the video game that Jeff Bridges’ character created, which was subsequently stolen from him by the villainous Encom corporation.
Like Fix-It Felix, Disney turned it into a playable arcade cabinet to promote the release of Tron: Legacy, making its debut at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con. To keep up the illusion, the game credited the fictional “Encom” as its developer, and had “Flynn” as the current high score.
5. Wrestle Jam ’88 from The Wrestler
Darren Aronofsky’s film The Wrestler was a pretty fantastic movie all-around, but one particularly clever bit of storytelling it used was through a fictional NES game called Wrestle Jam ’88. To give the scene a sense of authenticity, Aronofsky commissioned an actual game that the actors could play, complete with a working, “intro screen, character select, win / loss conditions, opponent AI, eight different attacks,” and an original 8-bit soundtrack.
6. Tri-Dimensional Chess from Star Trek
A futuristic version of Chess made several appearances throughout the many iterations of Star Trek. Considering how fanatically popular that show is, a real-life version wasn’t far behind. Unfortunately, the game’s in-universe appearances weren’t very useful when fans tried to recreate it. In fact, the show couldn’t even keep the board itself consistent from one appearance to the next.
Not to be dissuaded, fans (with varying levels of official support) have refined the rules over the years, with instructions on how to construct your own board available online. If you need instant gratification though, you can skip that step and buy a pre-made one, or play it digitally on your tablet.
7. Grifball from Red vs Blue
Grifball got its start as a throwaway line on the machinima series Red vs Blue. Once the Forge map creator tools arrived with Halo 3 though, the series creators went to work creating a playable version of the game.
Soon, official Grifball leagues began to form, eventually becoming so popular that it was made into a permanent game mode in Halo: Reach and Halo 4, complete with its own icon and Announcer line. It even got an official action figure!
8. Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne from Community
In one of the show’s craziest episodes, the Community gang traveled through an elaborate video game known as Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne. Paying homage to a wide variety of 8-bit era classics like Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, Final Fantasy, Zelda II, and Turtles in Time, the episode was easily one of the most memorable in an already memorable season.
Just days after it aired, fans were inspired to create a real-life version of the game, a project they have continued to work on to this day. You can download and play through what they’ve created so far here, as well as track the game’s development on their own subreddit.