simpsons hit and run

In our series Old Games for New Kids, we suggest a great past-generation game to play with your new-generation children.

The Simpsons: Hit & Run (2003)
by Vivendi Universal – GameCube, PlayStation 2, Windows, Xbox

I love sharing video games with my daughter, but I’ll admit that, lately, I’ve been a little concerned about HOW she plays video games. My kid is six, so the majority of games she plays are either touch-based games on the iPad or motion controller games on the Nintendo Wii. And, as a guy who grew up in the Nintendo generation, I wanted my daughter to spend some quality time with a more old school controller – i.e. a rectangular thing you hold with some kind of directional pad and/or stick and some kind of A/B button configuration. So I set out looking for older controller-centric games that might catch her interest and be simple enough in their design to help her get comfortable using an iconic action-button gamepad design. And the game I landed on was 2003’s The Simpsons Hit & Run.

I realize that I might get some crap for calling a ten-year-old XBox title an “old game” when Zach went back to 1988 with his Rampage review, but I think any game that forces a dad to dust off a mothballed console to share it with his kid qualifies. My daughter loves The Simpsons, particularly Bongo Comics’ fantastic Simpsons comics line, so, when I was looking at my library of potentially age-appropriate games to share with her, The Simpsons Hit & Run stood out immediately. While The Simpsons franchise has spun off numerous video games of varying quality over the years, The Simpsons Hit & Run is easily one of the best and I think it’s a fantastic game to get kids excited about using an old-school controller.

The Simpsons Hit & Run can probably best be described as a kid-friendly version of Grand Theft Auto III. Radical Entertainment got real Simpsons writers – and the real voice cast – to create a storyline built around an open-world version of Springfield. Like GTA, you can either complete missions or just walk around the town, doing whatever you want. This seemed like an ideal kind of game to use to introduce a kid to a traditional controller. My daughter got to sit there with her Homer avatar and the whole world was open to her. She could run in circles, she could practice jumping for ten minutes without fear of a clock or approaching foes, she could stop anyone on the street and take their car to practice driving – open-world games really do create fantastically supportive sandbox environments for kids to teach themselves game mechanics (this was probably the only time in my life where I was glad that the game tutorial was slightly overbearing.) And then, once she was ready, she could start trying missions – the majority of Hit & Run’s missions are racing-related – and see how she performed under slightly more stressful conditions. She got to set the pace.

The added bonus was, whenever my daughter got too frustrated with the missions, she could opt out and just run around this crazy virtual Springfield, collecting coins, unlocking secret jokes, and laughing at the character banter (there might be one or two pieces of slightly inappropriate banter buried in the game, but, hey, she’ll hear worse at school). Here’s a few minutes of gameplay to give you a feel for The Simpsons Hit & Run:

If you want to teach your kid that gaming is more than just swiping their finger across a dirty iPad screen, I can’t recommend enough introducing them to the fun of The Simpsons Hit & Run, one of the best games ever based on probably the best TV show ever, and a game that really show offs how much fun operating a gamepad controller can be.