Top 20 Video Games with Shameless Product Placement
VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
Wait, are these video games or commercials? For this list, we'll be looking at games that either included product placement or had their entire basis centered around it. Our countdown includes “Mario Kart 8” (2014), “Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker” (2010), “Devil May Cry 2” (2003), “Death Stranding” (2019), “Final Fantasy XV” (2016) and more!
Script written by Fred Humphries and Ty Richardson
Top 20 Games with Shameless Product Placement
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Games with Shameless Product Placement.
For this list, we’ll be looking at games that either included product placement or had their entire basis centered around it.
Have you encountered any shameless ads in video games? Let us know in the comments below!
#20: “Mario Kart 8” (2014)
This free Mercedes Benz DLC in Nintendo’s incredibly popular kart racer was used by the German car giant to promote their new line of GLA vehicles, allowing the player to ditch the kart for a shiny new Benz. A bizarre series of adverts featuring live action versions of Mario, Luigi and Peach first introduced us to the idea of the crossover, but the corporate plug kind of feels out of place in a world of flying turtle shells and piranha plants. No doubt the cars look cool, but do we really need it in a Mario title?
#19: “Enter the Matrix” (2003)
This game was released as a side story to The Matrix Reloaded and while it was ambitious, it was ultimately mired in mediocrity. So, the attempt to shoehorn in some marketing for the sports drink Powerade did no favours for a franchise already struggling to not ruin a good legacy. A TV ad released at the same time unashamedly has an agent telling you to ‘drink more Powerade’ while the in game advertising comes in the form of vending machines where you can grab yourself a bottle of the good stuff. Oh and apparently their bottles are bullet proof too.
#18: “Pikmin 2” (2004)
This sequel to the original real time strategy game reunites us with Captain Olimar and was equally as popular and critically acclaimed, yet even this great title wasn’t afraid to embrace product placement. It wastes no time in giving this duracell product it’s airtime as the first treasure to be retrieved is the classic copper-top battery. It seriously breaks the illusion of unfamiliarity, and considering that the treasures are human waste, it might not be the best association for this battery brand. You know you’re not supposed just to throw those out right?
#17: “Alan Wake” (2010)
In a game where your flashlight is the key to your survival, what else could you plug as easily as batteries for said flashlight. Apparently the people of Bright Falls never played Pikmin 2, cause Bright Falls is an Energizer town, through and through. Aside from that less than subtle gameplay mechanic, it feels thoroughly out of place that you can stop and watch a 30 second Verizon advert on a TV in the middle of a level. Incredibly, you are even given an achievement for standing still and enduring the whole thing.
#16: “Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory” (2005)
This Tom Clancy stealth title has you playing as agent Sam Fisher, but it’s product placement of Airwaves, Nokia and Axe couldn’t be less stealthy if it tried. It could be argued that the best product placement fits right in with the tone of the game but neon lights in a darkened area and a blimp with a chewing gum brand emblazoned upon it have really worked hard to worm their way into the game. It seems that there might be an uncanny relationship between stealth games and shameless product plugs, as we’ll see with our next entry.
#15: “Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker” (2010)
The Metal Gear action-stealth series of games are never shy to make obvious their corporate associations as Metal Gear Solid 4 showed with the iPod and Playboy, yet it is the Japanese version of Peace Walker that takes it to a whole new level. Snake can be outfitted in Mountain Dew and Axe t-shirts while Doritos and Pepsi serve as blatant in game power-ups. The man behind it all, Hideo Kojima, justifies the placements in the interests of ‘keeping it fresh’. I suppose by “it”, he means their budgetary constraints.
#14: “Fight Night Round 3” (2006)
Sports and their video game counterparts are no stranger to advertising and product placement, as is the case in this boxing title. So a bit of Burger King branding on the canvas did little to stir your suspicion, it even adds a bit of authenticity. But wait what? The Burger King can now be your boxing trainer? Something is not quite right here. Well … Other than the blatant attempt to plug the fast food chain of course, he would be a horrible distraction in your corner, that perma-grin would only serve to creep you out. Plus we really wouldn’t trust any training diet that he gives you.
#13: “Devil May Cry 2” (2003)
Upon release “Devil May Cry 2” received harsh criticism due to feeling like an unfinished game and was widely regarded by fans as one of the worst sequels of all time. Despite all of it’s problems, one of the more unusual things to come out of it was it’s collaboration with the clothing company Diesel. Players would be able to unlock special Diesel based outfits for both Dante and Lucia, both of which were also available in real life stores in Japan. One has to wonder if this product placement was one of the major reasons for them rushing this awful game out.
#12: “Sonic Adventure 2” (2001)
Now a prominent part in pretty much every modern Sonic release, the rail grinding technique was originally introduced in 2001’s “Sonic Adventure 2”. This in-game mechanic was featured alongside Sonic and Shadow’s branded Soap shoes, which were used in real life for rail grinding or as they liked to put it, “soaping”. The game also contained an incredible amount of advertising for the shoes on billboards, blimps and benches. Unfortunately for the Soap company itself, financial difficulties meant that all of the advertising was removed in future re-releases of the game.
#11: “Death Stranding” (2019)
As you’ve seen from the Peace Walker entry on this list, Hideo Kojima is absolutely no stranger to putting in product placement in his video games, and nowhere is it more apparent than the Monster Energy drinks in Death Stranding. In a world that is pretty much post apocalyptic, it’s a good thing Sam Porter Bridges has a never ending supply of this extremely sugary concoction to boost his stamina. And if that wasn’t enough product placement for you, the game also features a cleverly placed advertisement for “AMC’s Ride with Norman Reedus” whenever you use the bathroom.
#10: “Final Fantasy XV (15)” (2016)
The fifthteenth entry of this long running franchise was filled with a plethora of product placement throughout, such as Coleman camping gear, but none stood out quite so much as the Cup noodle quest. The entire sidequest is pretty much a 15 minute advertisement and has you scour the land for the best ingredients to include in your instant ramen. We’re even treated to incredibly weird moments where party member Gladiolus just lifelessly stands there raves about how great Cup Noodle is!
#9: “Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension” (1992)
Developed by Gremlin Graphics, this 2D platformer has you running around as a gremlin ninja who must complete his training on Earth while collecting lollipops and candy. Sounds simple and…wait, was that a Chupa Chups billboard back there? Yes, this game advertises Chupa Chups, a Spanish candy company mostly known for their lollipops. While “Zool” is remembered fondly, we can’t ignore the amount of times we see the Chupa Chups logo in just the first level! Believe it or not, the game was such a success that it spawned a sequel a year later, featuring just as many Chupa Chups ads as its predecessor. Well, at least the game was good.
#8: “M.C. Kids” (1992)
Ronald McDonald has often been compared to being just as big of a mascot as Mickey Mouse. So, McDonald’s capitalized on this for a while and released a handful of video games in the 1990’s. Enter “M.C. Kids”, a platformer where two kids must retrieve Ronald’s magic bag from the Hamburglar. Many of the game’s elements were borrowed heavily from “Super Mario Bros. 3” and “Star Tropics” with most of the environment and power-ups taking form of McDonald’s products and golden arches. While it’s easy to hate on this game for its difficulty spike and never-ending ads of products and characters, we must give credit for the game design and innovative physics. Hey, 1992 was a different time!
#7: “Yo! Noid” (1990)
As popular enough as the “Avoid the Noid” campaign was, did it really deserve a video game? Call it a strange move, but Domino’s joined the onslaught of platformer advergames in the 1990’s with this title for the NES. The Noid must save New York City from his evil twin brother, and if he is to succeed, he shall be rewarded with…PIZZAAAAA! Not hungry yet? Well, maybe bonus levels of pizza-eating contests will suffice! Look, Domino’s, you could have just given us the dollar-off coupon that was on the back of the box and called it a day. It would have saved us from the graphical glitches, insane difficulty, and nauseating movement of the environment.
#6: “Darkened Skye” (2002)
So, get this; we have an action adventure game set in a fantasy realm, telling the story about a young woman searching for her long-lost mother while battling creatures with her mystical staff. Now, what part of that tells you to start advertising Skittles? Inspired by the commercials encouraging consumers to “taste the rainbow”, the game has you collecting Skittles to power your staff in combat, a feature some critics described creative where others found it to be some of the most blatant product placement in video game history. Either way, the advertisement was explicit and annoying, and the game was not well received, to put in generous terms.
#5: “Chex Quest” series (1996-2008)
Hang on a minute…this looks familiar. No, you aren’t seeing a mod for Doom. This is Chex Quest, an FPS where players take on the role of the Chex Warrior to stop the invasion of goopy aliens called “Flemoids”. Where Doom had simple laboratories and walls covered in gore, Chex Quest had the company name plastered in most of the rooms. Just in case you forgot that this is a Chex game, pickups for armor took shape in the form of what’s called “Chex armor”. Despite poor reviews, the public praised the game, leading Chex sales to increase to nearly 300%, allowing two more games to spawn, a few years apart from each other.
#4: “Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool” (1992)
If lollipops, cereal, and fast food can have video games, why not cheesy, powdering snack foods, too? Enter this Cheetos mascot Chester Cheetah, starring in this 2D platformer where Chester must locate the missing parts to his motorcycle…and that’s about it. While there is no direct acknowledgement of the finger-licking food, the game lets collectibles serve as the product placement. Health is represented by Cheetos Paws, and tokens are pictured with Cheetos Cracker Trax. Given the game’s negative reception and discontinuation of Cheetos Paws, we can only guess that it isn’t easy being cheesy.
#3: “Cool Spot” (1993)
When it comes to junk food, we understand characters like Chester Cheetah getting a video game. At least there’s something to work with there, but a red dot? This 2D platformer lets players control the mascot of 7Up as they jump and shoot soda bubbles to rescue other cool spots. While the game doesn’t advertise heavily, the real spotlight is on completing the game on Hard Mode. Upon completion, you are told to take a picture of the screen and send the photo to Virgin Games for “the Grand Prize”. Yep, the entire game was part of a contest to promote 7Up – with some reporting the grand prize ranging from such fantastic items as a small plastic toy or a couple of cases of 7up. Awesome.
#2: “Sneak King” (2006)
When it comes to video games, this is not Burger King’s first rodeo. In “Sneak King”, customers roam the environment on empty stomachs, and it is up to our nightmare-inducing majesty to stalk, surprise, and serve them up a delicious meal only Burger King can provide. (If this sort of thing was to happen in real life, we can only imagine it going something like this. Released alongside “Big Bumpin” and “Pocketbike Racer” which also promoted this nightmare fuel, “Sneak King” takes the cake (er…Whopper?) for cooking up a large promotion for the fast food chain’s individual products. Despite obtaining poor reviews, the games increased Burger King sales by 40%, making the marketing stunt a success.
#1: “Pepsiman” (1999)
He is the brave, the bold, and the savior to quench the thirst of many. He is…Pepsiman! Players must navigate obstacle courses to save the thirsty people before the time runs out. Some levels are based on the commercials, like the red truck chase. (Is that a Coca-Cola truck?) What sticks this game out most is the insane amount of promotion for Pepsi in this game. It’s literally everywhere! Pepsi on billboards, Pepsi on trucks, Pepsi City, Pepsi Pepsi PEPSI! Even the cutscenes serve as mini-commercials with bizarre slogans such as “Pepsi for Pizza” to promote the product, complete with spinning logo and all. We get it, Pepsi; you’re Pepsi, he’s Pepsi, everything is and should always be…Pepsi.