Shaquille O’Neal is a man so immense in size and heart he couldn’t be constrained to the basketball court, and believe me, we tried. It all started in 1993 with the release of his first album: Shaq Diesel. With songs like “Shoot Pass Slam” and “I Know I Got Skillz” which featured lyrics like “I lean on the Statue of Liberty when I get tired. Then I’ll punch you in the stomach, I don’t give a heck.” it’s no wonder Shaq Diesel went platinum within a year.
Basketball star tie-ins are nothing new. Lebron has his own flavor of Sprite, Michael Jordan had Space Jam, the Harlem Globetrotters learned how to turn into Spaghetti. But still, there’s something extra weird about the choices Shaq makes when it comes to his tie-ins.
Thank god Shaq is looking out for our kids.
I would dare say that all of Shaq’s ventures off the court have a similar thread of quality running through them. They’re also sometimes bewilderingly popular because, well, you know, this is Shaq we’re talking about. When asked why he chose to star in the colossal trainwreck that was Kazaam, Shaq had this to say.
I was a medium-level juvenile delinquent from Newark who always dreamed about doing a movie. Someone said, “Hey, here’s $7 million, come in and do this genie movie.” What am I going to say, no? So I did it.
So there you go, Shaq likes money. I don’t blame him, I think we all like money, this is something we can all rally behind. Even so, Shaq’s endeavors in both the world of film and music pale in comparison to the video games he has so lovingly loaned his name to in the quest to ever increase his net worth.
And let’s not forget Steel.
Or rather let’s do. Because we could frankly be here all day with the Shaq endorsements. So on with the video games, shall we?
To truly understand Shaq, one must become Shaq. And what better way to do that than by playing every video game Shaq has lent his namesake to? God help me.
Shaq Fu (1994, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis)
Shaq Fu is widely regarded as the best fighting video game based on a professional basketball player, a hard earned title indeed. Yes the game is somewhat notorious, you may have even heard of the fine folks over at ShaqFu.com who even today still carry on their quest to find and destroy every physical copy of the game in existence. Conversely SaveShaqFu.com aims to preserve as many copies of Shaq Fu as possible. It’s spawned a Shaqcold War, complete with vows from all sides to escalate Shaqgressions should the other side not back down. Man talk about controversy!
For all its infamy my experience with the game has actually been relatively light over the years. For example I was unaware that the Sega Genesis release featured 5 more characters than the SNES version I had played when I was younger. I decided for this go around I would play the Genesis edition, but really even with the addition of characters like Colonel (a cyborg cop from the future) and some small improvements to the engine it’s still the same kind of terrible.
Where to begin? Well for starters everyone in Shaq Fu moves like they’re sinking in quicksand. Actually let me rephrase, everyone not controlled by the computer moves as though they’re sinking in quicksand. The AI in this game is ridiculous, it’s always ready to block your attacks and I swear to god it’s able to move faster than the player. Forget combos and special moves, Shaq Fu makes the simple act of landing a kick feel like a great achievement.
The character roster is a particularly bizarre group of brawlers. There’s of course Shaquille O’Neil, basketball legend; Sett, an evil mummy; Beast, a red monster thing; Kaori, a cat girl who turns into a tornado; Diesel, who as far as I can tell is just a black guy wearing a hat; Mephis, who is some kind of undead sorcerer; Auroch, who is half demon and half hunchback of Notre Dame; Voodoo, who is just a woman with a voodoo doll; Colonel, who I already mentioned earlier; Leotsu, the old martial arts master; Rajah the sword wielding Arab; and Nezu, the tiny boy that Shaq is supposed to rescue who ironically seems to be able to cut through Shaq like hot butter.
I’m barely exaggerating when I say that the best part of Shaq Fu is the face Shaq makes when he gets the shit beat out of him.
For god’s sake Shaq, you look like you’re melting!
And just like that, after giving us one of the worst video games of the SNES/Genesis era, Shaq disappeared into the night. Some thought we would never see Shaq in a video game again, but how could we as a society ever be so lucky?
Shaqdown (2013, iOS, Android)
Almost twenty years later Shaq knew it was time once more to digitize his body in the name of entertainment. In 1994 the average video game consumer just wasn’t ready for a Shaq-quality title. Now in 2013 with the rise of mobile games no one would think twice about another garbage game being heaped onto the pile. Shaq Fu stood out because it was lazy garbage in a time when video games actually took time and energy to create. Now twenty years later Shaqdown can only blend in with the crowd.
Having said that, Shaqdown is actually probably the best game on this entire list. That’s not a compliment so much as it is a sad fact.
Shaqdown tells a strangely heavy handed story that opens in Yemen where Shaq (known to the locals as The Justice Bringer or The Dunkman) has arrived to do battle with the copious amounts of zombies that have overthrown humanity. In the actual game Shaq runs through three different levels, punching, flinging basketballs, and firing lasers to clear the mutant horde. Oh and if you feel like spending a spot of cash you can pitch in $.99 to unlock a Lee Kemp assist power up, among many other exciting items in the game’s store.
After the Dunkman is satisfied with his body count he sprouts a pair of gold wings and flies away, presumably to go spread his unique brand of basketball themed justice in some other middle eastern country.
Shaqdown 2 (2015, iOS, Android)
What do Shaquille O’Neal, Jet Li, Muhammad Ali, Lee Kemp, and Brian Shaw all have in common? Why they’re all playable characters in Shaqdown 2 of course.
If Shaqdown 1 is the best of all the Shaq related video games, Shaqdown 2 makes a pretty fine case for being the worst. The game makes the incredibly unnecessary transition to 3D. Shaq can still be found punching and kicking zombies, but now he also has additional goals like rescuing hostages and..uh..actually I think that’s it. It’s hard to tell because Shaqdown 2 is in the unenviable position of being harder to control than Shaq Fu.
To make Shaq move around his surroundings you’re supposed to simply tap on the ground. When you want Shaq to attack an enemy you swipe back and forth to unleash his fists of fury. I would say tapping to move works maybe 40% of the other time, the rest of the time Shaq seems to be more interested in punching the air. God help you if you work your way into a corner, I would very frequently run Shaq too close to a wall and find it pretty much impossible to get out.
I honestly wonder how Shaq would react to Shaqdown 2 if you forced him to sit down and play it. Would he simply be amazed that modern technology was able to put him on the same character select screen as Muhammad Ali? Would he truly believe that everyone involved here did an awesome job? I play a healthy amount of video games and I can barely control this thing, I can only imagine what the experience would be like for a guy with fingers as big as dicks. Though Enemy Slime editor Jay reports he didn’t have near these same problems on his iPhone, he concedes it’s still a pretty terrible game.
Oh apparently Shaqdown 2 also requests permission to read your text messages. Some have deemed this a negative thing, but I would prefer Shaq see as many of my text messages as possible. The game has 32,000 likes on Facebook and over 400 5-star reviews on the Google Play store, so basically I want to kill myself now.
Caddy Shaq (2015, iOS, Android)
Ah Shaq the golfer. Isn’t there something kind of ironic about the fact that in all of Shaq’s illustrious foyeur into video games he never once thought to make a game about basketball?
Don’t let the title or the key art fool you though. Caddy Shaq is barely a game about golf. Instead it’s built into the MyVegas HD Slot Machine app. The obvious problem as soon as you start the app is that you can’t immediately play Caddy Shaq. Instead you’re force to “level up” by playing traditional slot machines. I couldn’t really find any noteworthy footage of Caddy Shaq online, in fact I think I might be the first person to download the MyVegas app with the sole intention of getting a healthy dose of Shaq. However there is this image of Shaq dressed as a leprechaun, because why not:
Unfortunately my slot machine “skills” don’t seem up to par and I ran out of chips two games away from Caddy Shaq. At this point the only choice was to shell out some of my hard earned money to experience the joys of Caddy Shaq and I just don’t think my journalistic integrity meter goes that high.
Maybe we’ll have better luck with…
Shaq Jack (2015, iOS, Android)
Shaq Jack is a game included MyVegas Blackjack HD, and much like its slot machine counterpart Shaq requires a healthy dose of leveling up before he can allow you to experience blackjack on a basketball court. Of course unlike slot machines you can actually win at Blackjack so I cranked through a few hundred hands and eventually found my way into the basketball themed casino of Shaq Jack.
Shaq Jack is probably the game on this list with the lowest amount of Shaq (excluding ShaqRun below). It’s basically just standard Blackjack, the only rule change is the dealer has to re-draw if his initial draw is 20, and if the dealer gets a 22 then it’s a push for everyone. Shaq himself only appears in hand form, when his meaty arm slams the table to clear out any 20s the dealer would dare to pull from the deck. Other than that Shaq takes the form of a disembodied voice that occasionally applauds or consoles you depending on your performance.
The theme would almost be completely wasted if it wasn’t for the occasional chance to “shoot” free throws (a well known favorite of Shaq’s). Is it a bad game? Not really, MyVegas actually makes a pretty solid, nicely polished Blackjack title. Was it worth the amount I had to play to unlock it? Probably not.
AriZona Beverages’ Soda Shaq Basketball (2015, iOS, Android)
Now if you were so lucky to get your hands on some Shaqtastic Soda you were also lucky enough to be rewarded with the ability to download an augmented reality app to bring a little more Shaq into your Shaq Soda experience with Shaq Hoops.
I was not one of those lucky people, however it does a bit unfortunate to me that this game is the closest thing to a real basketball related experience with Shaq.
Shaq Sky Slam (Never!)
Shaq Sky Slam has to earn a little credit for being the game on this list closest to having really anything to do with basketball. In it Shaq and friends take to the skies in order to perform the fastest, sickest dunks imaginable.
Shaq Sky Slam also features my favorite cartoon portrayal of Shaq. Ladies and gentlemen I present to you, Sexual Predator Shaq:
Unfortunately I was unable to actually find Shaq Sky Slam anywhere, no matter how hard I looked. Eventually my search lead me to this heartbreaking message on the game’s Facebook page.
Not enough interest? You’re telling me there’s not an audience for people who want to see Shaq dunk so hard he destroys a national landmark in the process? Well let’s take a look at this consolation prize they’re talking about.
ShaqRun (Maybe never, if there is a god.)
I just…I don’t even know…I’m not sure how to explain this one…
ShaqRun is being developed by the folks behind Monster Truck Destruction (so you know it’ll be good) and it’s a prime example of why you may want to just keep beta footage to yourself sometimes. I can’t find an update on the game after December of 2014 so there’s a fairly good chance this thing has become vaporware. Shaq’s probably not too worried though, even if ShaqRun never sees the light of day he always has…
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn (TBA)
Some predicted the inherent problems that would come along with crowd-funded games, but nobody could have predicted Shaq Fu 2. I would have described the original Shaq Fu as the answer to a question nobody ever would have asked, but that was before 1,339 people (surely ironically) donated a combined $450,000 to the Shaq Fu 2 Indie Gogo campaign.
Now those numbers are pretty skewed, 1300 people donating $450k comes out to just under a $350 dollar donation per person. I imagine what actually happened is 1,338 people donated a dollar to be funny and then Shaq filled in the extra $448,662 himself. That’s the only thing I will allow myself to believe, and even then you should be ashamed of yourselves America for allowing this to happen.
“This time we won’t FU it up!” reads the Indie Gogo page. Oh guys…you already did…
What will the future hold?
Honestly, at some point it feels like more attention is being paid to the names of Shaq’s video games than the actual games themselves. Shaq, if you’re reading this (and I’m sure you are), I’d like to take the time to suggest some other titles that you can use free of charge in your future video game endeavors:
- Fade To Shaq
- Shaq N’ Slash
- Delta Force: Shaq Hawk Down
- Bram Stoker’s Shaqula
- Shaq Payne
- System Shaq 2
- Final Fantasy Shaqtics
- Call of Duty: Shaq Ops IV
- Shaq-ow The Hedgehog
- Legend of Zelda: Shaqarina Of Time
Oh god I think I’m going to be sick…