The Presidential Election Video Game, Made In Japan

The Presidential Election Video Game, Made In Japan

As Americans prepare to head to the polls, it’s worth noting that one of the most important events on the planet is barely represented in the world of video games. Sure, you get the odd social or joke game released every four years to cash in on the hype surrounding a Presidential election, but on the whole, politics and electoral votes can’t exactly compete for sales with guns, explosions and fast cars.

Except for one wonderful October all the way back in 1988, when small-time (and now long-gone) Japanese developers Hect made a game for the Famicom called United States Presidential Race.

The mechanics of the game were simple, if also unnervingly accurate: you can play as a Presidential candidate, and must choose how to spend your campaign money and select which stances to take on popular issues. There’s primaries, opinion polls and even Super Tuesday, and while these are presented in a rather crude manner, the simplicity of the Famicom’s controls and the visuals of the day keep everything relatively simple.

While the Democratic and Republican parties are represented, at least with their animal mascots, the names of the actual Presidential candidates were altered. Their portraits give them away instantly, and all four do adhere to figures of the time (there’s George Bush, Dukakis, Al Gore and Jesse Jackson), but instead of Jesse Jackson you got a guy called “Zackson”, and instead of George Bush you got a guy called “Push”.

You can also, however, choose to play as Margaret Thatcher or a fictional pro-Japanese politician. Because there needed to be something oddball in here, I guess.

The video to the left shows you the riveting gameplay on offer, as well as the game’s rousing soundtrack and blinding use of colour.

Interestingly, as boring as the game was (the front-runner for the reason the game was never released outside of Japan), there’s a hint of controversy about it, as a combination of political conservatism and the timing of the game’s release means some of the issues candidates have to tackle are a little…well, let’s be kind and call them old-fashioned.

Like one where you debate how to isolate AIDS patients.

To its credit, though, many of the other topics up for discussion are as important now as they were then, and it’s a little sad to think this is one of the only commercial video games in existence where the player can seriously debate matters of the environment, abortion, gun rights and Christian morality.

I’m not even going to bother recommending you track this down, since as a text-based game only a fraction of you will be able to play it, but know that if you do, you’ll be owning one of the most intriguing video games ever made: a US Presidential election game made by Jaspanese developers for a home console and never released outside of Japan.

(Plus, it has amazing cartridge art).



  • I came here to see if there were any pointless political arguments going on. I guess I’m the first one here….

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