The Weirdest Ads in an Issue of GamePro Magazine From 1994

We never had a subscription to a video game magazine when I was a kid. My sister and I had to make do with copies of Nintendo Power borrowed from the library, or the occasional treat at the drugstore. The very first instance of the latter was in 1994, when my family took a trip across the border to Buffalo, New York and my parents bought us some magazines at a newsstand, including a copy of GamePro. This thing was gigantic — over 300 pages — and this being pre-Internet, totally blew my mind at the depth and breadth of information it contained. Looking back, what most people likely remember about GamePro is their instantly-recognizable rating system. But what stands out to me most is the ads. God, the ads.

The 90s were the era of extreme sports, gross-out kids’ culture, and Attitude. This is the decade that brought us the infamous Nintendo Power ad featuring a jar full of toenail clippings. I don’t have any of my old gaming magazines anymore, but thanks to people digitizing and preserving these old relics, I was able to take a look back at some of the strangest ads in that very same issue of GamePro that I got nearly 30 years ago.

GamePro

The 32(se)X

Sega kind of lost their minds in the 90s. Desperately trying to keep consumer interest in the aging Genesis as the next generation of consoles loomed on the horizon, they started releasing all kinds of attachments for the console to tide people over until the Saturn came out. The 32X goes in the cartridge port of the Genesis and ostensibly allows for more technically-demanding software to be played. It’s like they’re having sex, get it? I never saw a single 32X in the wild back then — even the rich only children who got everything they wanted didn’t have one of these things, and I doubt these ads helped matters.

GamePro

Attitude X-Mas!

Santa’s rockin’ out, baby! Ads for third-party controller were everywhere in the 90s. These pads promised more features than the first-party models, but frequently ended up being completely inferior. They all had a “slow motion” button, which seemed like a cool idea, but in reality it just toggled pause on and off to create the illusion of slowdown — assuming the start button didn’t send you into a menu or something, in which case it was totally useless. An ad earlier in this issue notes that the producer of these accessories, STD, has changed its name to InterAct. I can’t imagine why.

GamePro

????

The epitome of 90s style over actual content, I had no idea what this ad was actually for until I did some research. Turns out Rocket Science was a developer that was active from 1993 to 1997. They are perhaps best known for Obsidian, a psychological adventure game for Windows and Mac, or for employing Elon Musk, who worked on their Cadillacs and Dinosaurs game for the Sega CD.

GamePro

The Pagemaster

This isn’t an ad! It’s just three sound effects! Someone was ostensibly paid to come up with this!

GamePro

The Ultimate Gaming Scam

These ads were everywhere in the 90s, playing on readers’ greed for the piles of loot on display to get them to send in seemingly-small amounts of money that would rapidly add up the longer you stayed in the game. This scam was so omnipresent that there was an episode of Doug about it. I don’t know anyone who ever entered these things, but the lure was always there. They couldn’t print something fake in a magazine, right? Somebody had to win. If you want the full story on The Ultimate Gaming Rig contest, check out Justin Whang’s video on the subject.

GamePro

Nightmare Fuel

Hey kids! Want to contemplate the dark, erotic horrors of H.R. Giger? No? Too bad! This ad for Darkseed, which by all accounts is a pretty solid horror adventure game, scared the shit out of me as a kid. Christ, just look at it! This was one of those ads that I was afraid to even see by accident, but I couldn’t bring myself to tear the page out — so I made a mental note of where it was and tried to avoid ever having to see it.

GamePro

The 3DO: Better Than Sex

Plenty of gaming ads in the 90s tried to incorporate sex into their sales pitches, but few did so in such a strange way as this one for the 3DO. Rather than actually feature any sexual imagery, this ad suggests that upon reaching their sexual peak at age 17, men should spend the remaining 56 years of their life playing 3DO games — classics like… Gex and Way of the Warrior. And just for good measure, it signs off telling readers to “call mommy” if they can’t handle the raw thrills on offer. Peace.

GamePro

Wordplay!

“Hey Bill, I’ve got to come up with some copy for this Pete Sampras Sega game but I’m having trouble with a tagline.”

“Well, what are the key features?”

“It has state of the art graphics, 32 different selectable players, and up to four people can play it at once.”

“Four can play, huh? How about ‘four play?’ Like sex.”

“Will that scan? It’s going in a video game magazine for kids.”

“Sure it will. Now what do you say you and me wrap up, grab some Bellinis, then head over to that Nirvana show?”

GamePro

Marko

Who is Marko? What does his game look like? What kind of game even is it? You don’t need to know about any of that. All you need to know is that Marko is coming. He will arrive this fall, on all major video game formats — presumably including the 3DO and the Sega 32X.

GamePro

Zero Tolerance

Another ad that terrified me, something about the eyes on the back of this guy’s shaved head just creeped me out. The game it’s advertising, Zero Tolerance, was one of the few first-person shooters on the Sega Genesis. I never played it, and this ad certainly didn’t convince me to give it a shot.

GamePro

Under Where?

It seemed like the party would never end for Blockbuster back in 1994, so maybe that’s why they felt confident buying up full-page ads featuring text and a crude drawing of soiled tightey-whities. And, as we all know, it paid off — Blockbuster is still going strong today.

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