Scooby-Doo is a timeless franchise. In one incarnation or another, Scooby-Doo has been on television since it first aired back in 1969. Since its inception, there have been countless iterations, from the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! to 2010's Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. There have been animated shorts, animated films, live action feature films, and everything in between — including a spread of video games.
Scooby-Doo video game history encompasses 20 years of publication, but it's hard to argue the franchise has found the same success in the gaming sphere as it has in animation and film. On a scale of 1 to 10, the quality of Scooby-Doo video games averages out at Scrappy.
Scooby-Doo's Maze Chase
- Developer: Mattel Electronics
- Release Date: 1983
- Platform: Intellivision
In 1983, the games industry suffered one of its most significant crashes. The use and ownership of home computers was on the rise and a streak of over-hyped games which turned out to be just plain awful undermined the public's faith in a fledgling entertainment industry. Atari's infamous E.T. released in December 1982, for example. In the midst of this crash, most game developers closed up shop, and so did many of the companies producing home gaming consoles. Mattel Electronics, and its Intellivision console, were one of the few survivors. (Check out our game console timeline to see which others were in the mix.)
Scooby-Doo's Maze Chase was one of the games developed by Mattel Electronics for its Intellivision console during this market crash. Through the lens of 2017, Maze Chase doesn't look like much. It's simple: Navigate a maze, catch some ghosts, don't get caught by a roaming skull. For 1983, though, it was a perfectly acceptable game. It wasn't revolutionary even for its time given Pac-Man was released in 1980, but it was fun. At the time, that was all the game needed to be, and something games like E.T. couldn't claim.
Scooby-Doo in the Castle Mystery
- Developer: Gargoyle Games
- Release Date: 1986
- Platform: Armstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, and Commodore 64
Scooby-Doo in the Castle Mystery is more fascinating for what it isn't than what it is. The original developer for the title, Elite Systems Ltd., envisioned — and marketed — what they called "the first ever computer cartoon." Games That Weren't describes the developer's ambition:
It was to be something never seen before on any 8-bit. You would direct the action yourself, and not be restricted as much like with other games at the time. The game would feature around 8 action sequences, separated by descriptive scenes where the main characters would interact.
Action sequences would focus on Scooby and Shaggy searching the castle through different view points, helping them solve various problems occurring along the way. The action would be driven by the player, making decisions like a movie director might make. The breakaway to descriptive scenes would give hints and tips to aid your mystery solving.
The game's ambition seems like small potatoes today, but it was a serious overreach for home consoles in 1986. Ultimately, an 8-bit laser disc simply was not capable of delivering the animations, audio, and player-driven interactivity Elite envisioned. Elite had been marketing a game they couldn't deliver. In the end, they scrapped the game they were working on and tagged in Gargoyle Games to develop a last-minute replacement. (This is exactly the kind of thing that caused the industry to crash in 1983, by the way.)
What had been described as "the first ever computer cartoon" ended up being a simple side-scrolling platformer where Scooby-Doo punches his enemies into submission to gain access to the next level. For anyone who'd been looking forward to what Elite delivered, the disappointment was intense. Still, for the time, the game's sprites were highly acclaimed. Scooby-Doo looked like the Scooby-Doo from the cartoon rather than a generically dog-shaped blob common to most other licensed games of the time period.
Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo
- Developer: PAL Developments
- Release Date: 1991
- Platforms: Amiga and Commodore 64
Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo is another action-adventure platformer. In this game, Scooby has been kidnapped and you take the reins of Scrappy to save him. For whatever reason, the gameplay of a puppy punching out its enemies remains intact.
This title is notable mostly in comparison to the end result of Scooby-Doo in the Castle Mystery. Castle Mystery was lauded exclusively for the quality of its graphics. Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo must have blown minds. It stands as an example of how quickly graphical fidelty improved in the gaming industry, especially early on. Every new console provided a staggering jump in visual quality. If people thought Castle Mystery had graphics faithful to the cartoon, Scooby and Scrappy is something else completely.
- Developer: Argonaut Software and Illusions Gaming Company
- Release Date: 1995
- Platforms: SNES and Sega Genesis
Scooby-Doo Mystery, like many licensed games of the time period, is actually two completely different titles. Despite having the same name and release date, Scooby-Doo Mystery on the SNES and Scooby-Doo Mystery the Sega Genesis had nothing in common other than its title. On the SNES, you had a hybrid adventure and platformer. On the Sega Genesis, you had a traditional point-and-click adventure. Different gameplay, different stories to tell, but the same name. Weird.
While neither of these titles made waves, they were the first titles to fulfill Elite's ambitions back in 1986. They represented the essence of the Scooby-Doo cartoon: Solving mysteries, not punching bad guys with boxing gloves. Elite had the right idea, but it took two full generations of consoles for a developer to actually accomplish it.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery of the Fun Park Phantom
- Developer: Engineering Animation, Inc
- Release Date: 1999
- Platform: Windows
After Scooby-Doo Mystery captured the mystery-solving essence of the cartoon, the platformer approach to the franchise fell by the wayside. Engineering Animation, Inc latched onto the mystery aspects and took it to the next level with Mystery of the Fun Park Phantom, the first Scooby Doo game for the home PC.
In Mystery of the Fun Park Phantom, the player can control any member of Mystery, Inc except Scooby himself. The player explodes the titular Fun Park, searching for clues, parts for a trap to capture their suspect, and Scooby Snacks which can be used to goad Scooby into lending a helping hand.
After finalizing the initial design, developer Rick Raymer devised a unique method of playtesting the game — before any actual development on the game itself took place.
After the initial video game design was complete, Raymer designed a full board game of the proposed computer game. An entire game board complete with game pieces representing the Scooby characters was produced by the art team. The development team brought in a group of the target demographic, children between the ages of seven and eleven, in order to test the game. Raymer acted as the gamemaster, performing the management of the game that would eventually be handled by the computer. One member of the development team paired up with each player and acted as a mentor, helping them know what could and couldn't be done each turn.
The focus group loved the gameplay, the rewards and the general feel of the game. Only minor modifications were needed before executing the proposed design.
It must feel pretty good to get it right on the first try.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Adventures
- Developer: The Learning Company
- Release Date: 2000
- Platform: Windows and Macintosh
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Adventures is a 3-disc set of educational games for children. They were in the same vein as the games The Learning Company is still releasing to this day, such as Carmen Sandiego and their version of The Oregon Trail: Embracing settings that inspire curiosity and turning it into an actual learning experience.
Scooby-Doo and its mysteries were an obvious fit. Mystery Adventures won't fulfill an adult's desire to play a game, but they were excellent for children who were already fans of Scooby-Doo.
The Learning Company released another set in 2003: Scooby-Doo Case Files.
The THQ Era
Somewhere around 2001, publisher THQ acquired the rights to Scooby-Doo video games. Other than the games released by The Learning Company, every Scooby-Doo game passed through THQ's hands. They certainly didn't shy away from trying to milk the license as best they could. Between 2001 and 2006, THQ released eight different Scooby-Doo titles. That's eight games in five years. In some cases, the games were released on both consoles and handhelds — the technical limitations of each platform being so different, the games might as well be considered distinct from one another.
All in all, THQ released the following titles:
- Scooby-Doo! Classic Creep Capers
- Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase
- Scooby-Doo (based on the 2002 feature film)
- Scooby-Doo! Night of 100 Frights
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Mayhem
- Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (based on the 2004 feature film)
- Scooby-Doo! Unmasked
- Scooby-Doo! Who's Watching Who?
None of these games were particularly well-received by critics, but they probably weren't expected to be, either. They were treated as licensed games to churn out and get in the hands of children. Hey, it's Scooby-Doo, right? Parents will eat this stuff up!
THQ declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2012.
The Warner Bros. Era
Scooby-Doo is and has always been owned by Warner Bros. However, until 2003, Warner Bros. didn't publish its own games. Instead, it licensed its properties out to game developers — like all of those mentioned earlier in this article. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment spun up in 2003, and in 2009, they published their first Scooby-Doo game of their own.
With developer Torus Games, Warner Bros. published Scooby-Doo! First Frights and Scooby-Doo! and the Spooky Swamp. The games feature a younger version of the Mystery, Inc team. Rather than characters who could pass as 20-somethings, the crew are teenagers at best. Both titles are puzzle-platformers which didn't receive very good reviews. Again, though: Young children will probably love them entirely on the merit of being Scooby-Doo games.
Since Spooky Swamp's release in 2010, Scooby-Doo hasn't seen another standalone release on a home console. However, the Scooby Crew joined the Looney Tunes in a handheld game, My Friend Scooby-Doo! was released on Android and iOS in 2015, and Scooby-Doo has made an appearance in Lego Dimensions. In addition, Scooby has appeared in web games from Cartoon Network.
Will we ever see another major Scooby-Doo release? Honestly? Probably. Scooby-Doo is timeless. Scooby has endured on television for nearly half a century. More Scooby games are inevitable. Even a decade of stinkers can't derail that train.
For more gaming history, check out:
- The 11 Greatest Innovations In Console Gaming
- A Complete History Of The 2 Most Influential People In Gaming
- Console Wars: The Ultimate History Of How Nintendo Destroyed The Arcade And Bankrupted Sega
- Top 10 Best-Selling Video Games Of All Time