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The Simpsons: Hit & Run’s Final Mission Kept Me From Beating the Game for 20 Years

Simpsons Hit & Run’s Final Mission Kept Me From Beating the Game for 20 Years

Growing up, I missed out on the zeitgeist surrounding Grand Theft Auto. I was in elementary school at the time, and most of my focus was on playful and colorful platformers like Sly Cooper and Super Mario Sunshine. When I thought of video games, my mind went to those and not any of the mature titles that older gamers were flocking to. I remember asking my friend in school one day what the whole point of GTA was, and he told me that it was just about driving around and killing people.

Now I know there’s a lot more than that to Grand Theft Auto, and open-world games in general, but back then I didn’t know and was turned off immediately by them. But there was one open-world game that I did play solely because of how bright, colorful, and charming it was and how the violence instead was full of slapstick than gore — The Simpsons: Hit & Run.

The Simpsons: Hit & Run released 20 years ago on September 16th, 2003. As a GTA clone, it copied a lot of the mechanics that you would expect from an open-world game. You drove around areas of Springfield as a member of the Simpsons family (and Apu, for some unknown reason), but instead of committing crimes, managing hideouts, or playing mini-games, you just drove around the environment and searched it for coins, collectibles, and easter eggs.

Most of those nods were references to early episodes of the show I used to watch, so seeing those items filled me with glee. The environments were small enough where you couldn’t get lost in the game’s world, but large enough that searching for these secret items wouldn’t be too easy to accomplish. There’s also some minor platforming you have to do, but the bulk of the game was driving around and completing missions.

Simpsons Hit & Run’s Final Mission Kept Me From Beating the Game for 20 Years

The missions, if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, were pretty repetitive. What made them  enjoyable was the framing around them, the narrative reasons for completing them, and the stellar writing. You weren’t just driving to a location, picking up an item, then returning it to the starting point. That was nuclear waste you were loading onto the spaceship of Kang and Kodos to stop them from taking over the Earth!

And that mission in particular, which served as the final one of the game, was what transformed The Simpsons: Hit & Run, into a game that I could never beat. The sheer difficulty of the finale is what prevented this game from becoming one of my all-time childhood classics. While most of the game isn’t all that challenging and is fairly easygoing, the final level, in which Springfield is completely transformed into a Treehouse of Horror-inspired hellscape, sees a substantial jump in difficulty. Time limits became stricter, more restrictions were put in place, and what was once simple and fun became daunting and impossible. The final mission was a test of everything you’ve learned throughout the game with zero mercy or sympathy.

You’re given a car with mediocre stats and told to drive from one side of Springfield to the other while hauling the aforementioned nuclear waste. The catch is that if your car hits any object at a certain speed, the waste will explode and you’ll have to drive back to the start, while still under a time limit, to collect more waste and try again. And in a game subtitled “Hit and Run” your car will almost certainly hit other vehicles, the environment, or sway out of control as you grapple with the game’s physics engine, forcing you to restart. Plus, you NEED to go fast if you want to have any chance of making it to the goal in time, increasing the chance of you failing the mission even more.

As a kid, this was virtually impossible for me. No matter how hard I tried, my car would keep crashing and I would have to retry the whole mission. Whenever I did get close, some stray vehicle would sideswipe me as I was making my way to the goal, necessitating yet another retry. It was just senseless frustration after senseless frustration, and I was spending hours on it. Making matters worse was that this was the third time I completed this exact same mission in a row. The two missions before this were the same thing, only with slightly more forgiving time limits and better vehicles. Where was the originality? The creativity? This was just repetitive, and I simply did not want to keep playing this game.

Simpsons Hit & Run’s Final Mission Kept Me From Beating the Game for 20 Years

So for years, The Simpsons: Hit & Run went unfinished in my catalogue. I would load it up every so often and play through the first level, but would fall off of it shortly after because I just knew how the ending frustrated me beyond words. The mechanics never evolved over the course of the game, so that first level was basically everything I could have wanted from the game, perfectly encapsulated in a little two-hour bubble. But earlier this year, I felt a desire to go back and actually complete the game. Maybe it was because I binged every Treehouse of Horror episode of the series last Halloween, but I had The Simpsons on the brain and I wanted to finally gain some closure on a game I’d been trying to complete for 20 years.

So I started a new save file and began my journey through Springfield again. I completed every race, got all of the collectibles, and made my way to that accursed final mission one more time. It took me a handful of attempts and some blind luck, and I can assure you it wasn’t a walk in the park. I hit many tombstones and failed to jump over the gap in the graveyard and land perfectly on the other side on multiple occasions. But I was able to do it. As I reached the goal and saw my car be pulled up in Kang and Kodos’ tractor beam, I knew that I finally beat one of my white whales. Little Jesse would be proud of what I accomplished. Never mind the fact that the ending really was nothing to write home about, it was just so cathartic to finally beat it!

And the journey itself was chock full of nostalgic humor. Yeah, I wish that some characters had more of a presence than others (seriously, why was Snake of all people in nearly every level?), but as a microcosm of what made people love The Simpsons so much back in its glory years, Hit & Run can’t be beat. Despite not really having much competition, it’s undeniably the best Simpsons game, and one of the best licensed games ever made.

In the past year a lot of attention was put back on the game due to a fan-made HD remake of the game being developed and ultimately never being released. While the likelihood of us ever seeing The Simpsons: Hit & Run again is unlikely given all of the associated issues regarding publishing the license since it is currently owned by Activision, there is still a genuine interest in the game and a desire to see this weird little GTA clone revived for modern platforms. If the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spongebob could make a comeback, then surely the same can happen for The Simpsons.

About the author

Jesse Lab
Jesse Lab is a freelance writer for The Escapist and has been a part of the site since 2019. He currently writes the Frame Jump column, where he looks at and analyzes major anime releases. He also writes for the film website Flixist.com. Jesse has been a gamer since he first played Pokémon Snap on the N64 and will talk to you at any time about RPGs, platformers, horror, and action games. He can also never stop talking about the latest movies and anime, so never be afraid to ask him about recommendations on what's in theaters and what new anime is airing each season.