Party games with digital interactivity are more popular than ever, but they're nothing new. Remember playing board games with your VCR?
Ok, kids, history lesson. Before the days of digital downloads and streaming, watching a movie at home required a big piece of plastic with film in it and a player you can put it into. During that time, several board games were produced that made use of a VHS that ran the game, usually providing players with a timer they had to race against and a game master they had to obey.
Now, so many party games have some sort of digital interactivity with apps being an easy download. But they wouldn't be a thing today had it not been for VHS games from the 80s and 90s.
We're starting with the most successful video board game franchise, the Nightmare/Atmosfear series.
The original game was released in 1991, placing three to six players against The Gatekeeper, the game host on the video. The players took the roles of historical monsters like Gevaudan the werewolf, Hellin the poltergeist, Khufu the mummy, Baron Samedi the zombie, Anne de Chantraine the witch, and Elizabeth Bathory the vampire. The players have one hour to win the game, or everyone loses. During the course of the game the Gatekeeper will appear on the screen, causing all play on the board to immediately stop while the players carry out the instructions of the Gatekeeper. Three sequels/expansions were produced with one of the player characters taking the role of the Gatekeeper in each iteration.
With declining sales, the franchise was restructured into a new game titled 'Atmosfear: The Harbingers' in 1995. A few further expansions were released before the company and series went dark. 'Atmosfear' was remade as a DVD board game in 2004, and a sequel with Khufu as the new Gatekeeper two years later. A new Atmosfear using a downloadable app was released just last year.
Star Trek: The Next Generation - A Klingon Challenge
A VHS board game for Star Trek: The Next Generation was released in 1993, filmed on the set of the series. Much like 'Nightmare', the players are put into a timed battle against a game master, in this case a rogue Klingon commander who has taken control of the Enterprise while its undergoing repairs.
The game is a collector's item among fans of the series as the game was filmed on the set of the series and stars regular guest star Robert O'Reilly as Kavok, the Klingon commander who steals the Enterprise.
Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game
Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game is another board game of a popular franchise that made use established actors and sets. With Darth Vader serving as the game master, the role was reprised by David Prowse in the suit and James Earl Jones providing the voice, and sets from the original films were used.
The game takes place prior to the events of 'Return of the Jedi', with Darth Vader taking the second Death Star to destroy a secret rebel base. The players take the roles of Force-sensitive individuals who have sneak aboard the station to disable it.
The game is praised by fans of Star Wars for officially bringing four extended universe characters into the canon of the movies.
The Three Stooges VCR Game
While most of the other games covered here were based on a dice-based game, the Three Stooges game took an 'Uno' approach, being a card game with the purpose of getting rid of all your cards and having the lowest score each round.
Wayne's Word VCR Board Game
Wayne's World was a staple of the 1990s, so its no surprise that the SNL sketch and movies would be made into a VHS board game. From Board Game Geek,
Wayne and Garth will entertain and surprise you in the VCR/Boardgame hybrid.
Players spin the spinner, moving their game pieces on the game board, collecting Babe or Hunk playing pieces, a backstage pass, answering Party On! and Pop Quiz cards and collecting Party maker discs.
Don't get caught with the mustard jar or you cannot enter Party Central.
Yeah, if that sounds weird, just check out the video of the VHS from the game. That should give you an indication of the... unique nature of the game.
Using set and filming quality that looks a lot like class Doctor Who episodes of the day, the Sherlock Holmes VCR game included 10 cases on one cassette, quizzing players on the events in the chapter and unlocking clues to solve the case.
Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
This one is worth noting, though its not technically a board game. In the case of Captain Power, its more of a VHS Video Game. Originating as a Canadian TV series, an interactive game was released my Mattel, utilizing action figures and toys from the series.
Three VHS tapes were released, featuring a live into and ending featuring the actors from the show, but the missions were animated. Players would use the toy jet accessory to shoot at the screen like Nintendo games used the Zapper. Players would lose points when the sensor registered a missed shot and the ship was hit. When the player hit zero, the game would end by the player's action figure being ejected from the cockpit of the toy jet.