Check Out These 5 Facepalm-Inducing Tabletop Game Commercials

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Terrible commercials for all sorts of toys and games were a regular part of the Saturday morning cartoon experience, meaning you’ve probably seen/survived through these commercials at some point in your life. These commercials don’t make us nostalgic for days gone by, but they sure do make us ask what Milton Bradley and Hasbro were thinking.


Boasting the best electronic board game technology 1981 had to offer, Dark Tower is a totally primitive game by today’s standards. Dark Tower was Milton Bradley’s attempt at trying to cash in on the popularity of roleplaying games. In case you were wondering whom that dramatic older gentleman is, that’s Orson Welles. Yes, that Orson Welles, of Citizen Kane and the seminal 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. We’re assuming it had to have as many zeroes as Sir Anthony Hopkins’ Thor paycheck.

If you’re wondering why Dark Tower isn’t common for a game so obviously hyped by its maker, that’s because it’s plagiarized. The game quickly disappeared after two game designers who had submitted a game similar enough to this Milton Bradley game successfully sued for over $700,000 in damages from the board game giant.


If you were a girl growing up in the 90’s who loved board games, unfortunately for you, they were horrendous. Game publishers at the time thought girls wanted games where they compete against each other for the attention of boys, rather than interesting games of strategy or cooperation.

The perfect example of this is Dream Phone, the electronic 90’s version of Mystery Date. Like Dark Tower, the game focuses around a central electronic component (whose batteries were NOT included, in case you missed it). You try to suss out which boy likes you in a Clue-style elimination system by hearing clues, until you call the boy who we can only assume has been dialing your number and hanging up abruptly, as 13-year-old boys are prone to do. Also, the ad shows guys who are obviously at least college-aged, where the girls in the ads are tweens/early teens at best. Seems like the dream phone should also be able to call the police. Or Chris Hansen.


If the jingle doesn’t get you, the premise surely will (not). You get a credit card and a shopping list. As the ad says, “First one out of the mall with all their stuff wins!” We think it would be better as a mashup with a game like Zombicide, where you’ve got to get those perfect heels while also dodging the undead.


While we’re not above cashing in on nostalgia (given the topic of this article) there’s some crazy stuff happening here. First of all, I’ve never seen anyone have that much fun playing Twister without copious amounts of alcohol, which are definitely not visible in the ad. The end of the commercial claims that, “Milton Bradley makes the games kids love the best.” We think there are many better games for kids, but we also just want to point out all the games previously mentioned in this article were also made by Milton Bradley.


It would be disingenuous to imply Milton Bradley was the only company with terrible game ads (and games). While there’s so much wrong with Episode I, the notion of Star Wars Simon seems so wrong in so many ways.

Do you remember terrible board games from your childhood? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image Credit: Toys from the 90s (Fair Use)

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