In the late 2000s, 505 Games and Crush Digital Media planned to release a Nintendo DS game based on Mean Girls, the coming-of-age comedy starring Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. However, there’s no proof that the game ever came out, leaving many expert DS observers to regard the game as “lost media.” But now the “lost” game has finally surfaced, almost entirely the result of efforts spearheaded by one Raven Simone (known as Bobdunga on YouTube), who just posted a full playthrough.
The DS adaptation of Mean Girls was first announced in 2008, alongside adaptations of Pretty In Pink and Clueless (as if). But it seemingly never came out, and became the domain of sites like The Lost Media Wiki.
Whispers of Mean Girls have popped up on the web from time to time. A Best Buy listing for a used copy of the game features a product review, posted just six months ago, that suggests someone actually got their hands on it: “Decent DS game for the $US8 ($11) I mean you get what you would expect for a movie tie in game, kind if just a bunch if mini games [sic].” That listing is currently marked as “sold out.” An Amazon listing also says that Mean Girls is sold out. It currently lists four reviews (five stars across the board!), three of which say something to the effect that it was never released. A Newegg page simply lists the game as “out of stock.”
The Lost Media Archive wiki claims that Mean Girls released in Europe, which could be true, but there’s no irrefutable evidence to prove it. An archived 2017 post from 505 Games, Mean Girls’ publisher, even suggests the game never saw retail release: “According to our own retail teams, Mean Girls was never published for the Nintendo DS, and unused assets for the game are not available for distribution.” (505 Games did not respond to a request for comment from Kotaku in time for publication.)
So it was quite surprising back in May when Raven (who asked to be referred to by her first name) revealed she had her hands on the long-rumoured DS game via a cheeky trailer for the then-upcoming second part of her documentary, The Girl Games of Lost Media. In the two-part documentary series, Raven chronicles her endeavours to bring the game to light, stylised like an en vogue true crime docuseries. Here’s the first part:
“One of the biggest roadblocks was probably the timing,” Raven told Kotaku in an email. “My entire time was dedicated to seeking out and finding more leads, as often I would get into contact with people only for the trail to go cold.”
After months of dead ends, an anonymous team member who worked on the original game was impressed with Raven’s video about similarly cancelled DS game Clueless, and shared a copy of Mean Girls with her as a result. From there began the arduous process of debugging and emulating. Raven teamed up with a programmer known as TOMYSSHADOW to get the thing working and playable.
“It was a lengthy process and I had no prior knowledge,” says Raven. Those looking for a thorough rundown of the nuts and bolts of the process can find one written in the video description of the full playthrough, and expanded on in a pinned comment by TOMYSSHADOW.
The end result, a playable version of the Mean Girls DS game, turned out…not so great! Though the game holds clear reverence for the source material — showing off key events from the film, like the infamous talent show scene in which the main cast dresses up like a small group of SantaCon revelers — the fundamental gameplay loop is mostly a collection of uninspired mini-games.
It was also a bug-laden disaster. The ROM initially suffered from an infinite loop error — just 14 minutes in. Sometimes, chapters would crash entirely, or even force the player to re-run them from scratch. Aside from bugs, some mini-games, like the aforementioned talent show, required the precision of a real stylus, which is difficult to replicate with a mouse in an emulator. At the end of her playthrough, Raven was only able to attain 97 per cent completion for the game.
“If this game came out in 2009, I probably would have played it and enjoyed it to some degree (though realising it’s more or less shovelware). The main attachment would have been that it was about Mean Girls and I was a teen girl,” Raven said. “Playing it now as an adult, glitches and all, though: A much different experience.”
Even so, commenters seem appreciative of everything she’s done to finally bring Mean Girls to light, an uncommon feat of dogged perseverance and digital archaeology. “This is legendary in the world of preservation,” said one. Said another: “She is such a legend. … I genuinely never ever thought this game would be found.”