South Park video games have mostly been pretty terrible, which is odd, because there probably isn't a show on television more video game savvy than South Park. The show works the release of most major gaming consoles into its storylines, and has incisively skewered everything from World of Warcraft to Pokemon.
By all accounts South Park finally has the video game it deserves in South Park: The Stick of Truth, but before you run out after work and pick up your pre-orders, let's take a look back at the somewhat less than freakin' sweet history of South Park video games...
Note: I'm ranking these from worst to even more bad, so the sort of okay games are first, and the real hankeys are last.
5) South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! (XBLA)
Up until Stick of Truth, this was the best-reviewed South Park video game, but really it just appears to be a fairly generic tower defense thing (I haven't actually played it) with some South Park references plastered on. It's probably not terrible, but I doubt Cartman and company would be caught dead wasting their time on something this dry and undistinguished looking. Butters would probably dig it though.
4) South Park: Tenorman's Revenge (XBLA)
Yup, they based a game on the best (or at least, most infamous) episode of South Park ever. They could have done some twisted, crazy stuff with the Scott Tenorman saga -- pubes, gingers and cannibalism, the story has it all! Instead they just took the lazy 8-bit era approach and made an uninspired platformer. Actually "uninspired" is giving this game too much credit. Tenorman's Revenge commits all the lousy platformer cardinal sins -- bad controls, messy level design and to top it off, they added annoying New Super Mario Bros. style co-op. Tenorman's Revenge is bland and timid, two words that should never be attached to anything South Park.
3) South Park (N64)
Man, if you weren't gaming during the late-90s, there's no way to properly communicate the absurd hype for this game. The South Park game was going to single-handedly rescue the N64 dammit! The game wasn't the worst thing to come out in 1998, but there was no meat to it. The entire game consisted of you wandering around a stark, foggy wasteland throwing snowballs at turkeys and other enemies inspired by the first six-or-so episodes of the TV show. I do recall being briefly entertained by the multiplayer, but again, it was 1998 -- back then we were amused by simpler things (uh, like the crude early episodes of South Park for example).
2) South Park: Chef's Luv Shack (N64, PS, Dreamcast)
I guess if you're being exceedingly generous, you could say Chef's Luv Shack was ahead of it's time, coming out years before the mini-game craze of the late-2000s, but being ahead of the curve on a lousy trend doesn't score you many points. The presentation is a bit better than the other N64 South Park games (well, sort of -- somehow they managed to screw up all the characters' eyes) but the gameplay is the laziest of the lazy. It's one part trivia featuring generic questions that have nothing to do with South Park and one part minigames shamelessly cribbed from old arcade games. The ripped-off arcade games are mostly botched, but a bit of the fun survives, so this isn't the worst South Park game ever. That honor goes to...
1) South Park Rally (N64, PS, Dreamcast)
Hmmm, so let's see, we've had a derivative platformer, half-assed shooter and a crappy mini-game collection, so that just leaves, yup, a kart racer! South Park Rally is probably the worst racing game I've ever played, and this is coming from somebody who once had to review M&Ms Kart Racing.
So, there you have it -- when you goddamn kids are enjoying South Park: The Stick of Truth tonight you better never forget the suffering of the South Park fans who have come before you. Oh God, here come the South Park Rally flashbacks again.