SNES A Day 170: American Gladiators


Approximate Release Date: April 13, 1993
Genre: Action
Developer: Imagitec Design
Publisher: GameTek

American Gladiators is a terrible experience for many reasons.

But of course it’s bad. Would anyone expect otherwise? The majority of minigame collections aren’t worth playing, and it takes a lot of variety and usually some kind of metagame to tie everything together. American Gladiators just has you play the same half dozen 30-second events in the same order every time you start the game.

None of those games are fun to play, and I’m not convinced it’s possible to even beat the computer in any of the events. The first event in American Gladiators has the computer shooting at you while you move from cover to cover. Your goal is to move to the exit, which is a hallway helpfully marked with the words “exit.” Even when I got to this hallway, my gladiator wouldn’t go in! He just stood there and got shot! Every event has one of those gotcha moments. Either the computer runs a perfect route, like in the wall-climbing event, or the game gives you no direction and throws you in with no idea of what you should be doing, like the cannonball event.

I don’t know how you would even improve the events since none of them really seem to fit the limitations of the Super Nintendo. The big marketing push of American Gladiators seems to have revolved around it featuring the television show’s best events, so creating new events or heavily modifying existing ones was probably never an option. The next best option would have been to, I don’t know, make the game not look like an NES game or make the controls standardized in every event, maybe?

American Gladiator‘s desire to be just like the show also means it features the likenesses of your favorite (?) competitors on the title screen, and even includes short biographies for each person. Reading these bios are the most interesting part of the game! It’s humanizing to see that Blaze is working toward competing in track and field in the 1992 Olympics or that Gemini played professional football for ten years, but I could have gotten that information from Wikipedia. And you can’t even play as them in the game!

The sad thing is that American Gladiators isn’t even bad enough to be memorable like the current champions Pit-Fighter and Race Drivin’. But at least those games have the clichéd train wreck quality that makes them interesting to make fun of. This is just a badly designed and poorly conceived game.

Tomorrow: Oops! I missed a game! So let’s take a time machine to 1992 and check out Rival Turf!


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