AVGN Over the Years: Season 1 (The Angry Nintendo Nerd)

The Angry Video Game Nerd, otherwise known as AVGN, was not someone that I had all that much interest in back in the day. I mean, I certainly knew about him and his popularity, but I was never interested in checking out his content before. It wasn’t until one of my favorite video game reviewers, SomecallmeJohnny, did a video on AVGN Adventures where I got really interested, mainly because of how weird the game was, and that was when I started to question if I really knew who this character was. What’s with all this weird shit going on? Who the hell are these side characters? What even is the AVGN anymore? I got curious and decided to check out his content, and funny enough, it was his AVGN games episode which was the first one I checked. Holy shit. That was when I realized that I was going to follow this guy for the rest of my life.

I have been watching this series and the rest of Cinemassacre’s content for a little over 4 years now, and my enjoyment has never wavered in the slightest. James Rolfe has managed to create a character and series that is so funny yet so informative at the same time that it has quickly become one of my all time favorites. So you can imagine that something like this was going to happen, but how would I do it? How do I show people what makes the Angry Video Game Nerd so entertaining? Well, I never really saw anybody do a full blown retrospective on the series, so I figured that was the best way to convey how I feel about him. Let’s not waste anymore time and go back in time. It’s time to take ourselves back to the past to experience the shitty games that suck ass.

The first ever Nerd episode was the one on Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest. This first episode is actually pretty unique in many ways. In many of the future Nerd episodes, we would always get to see the reactions of the Nerd in full, often with him cutting off the game to having him talk to the camera. In this episode, we don’t actually get that. Instead, the episode is entirely game footage, and in that aspect, it actually gives a rather unique charm to this episode compared to others, and it’s one of the more standout episodes of the series to this day.

Also, you can easily tell that this is a first episode by the way the Nerd talks here. He seems to be much calmer here compared to how angry he becomes later down the line, and you can easily hear him stuttering in some instances. It’s a heavily dated episode by today’s standards, but the way that it’s presented gives it such a genuine feeling, like this is just a guy talking in his room who got bored one day and wanted to talk about a shitty game and why it’s so shitty. I really like this episode because of it, and it does a good job at explaining why he doesn’t like the game, which in turn plants the seeds for what would eventually become the AVGN foundation. Overall, a solid start.

Next up is the episode about one of the Nerd’s most hated games, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This episode continues to set the foundation for the series. This is the episode where the Nerd’s vulgarity starts to show itself, and we finally get to see what the Nerd looks like in full. In my personal opinion though, this episode is a bit less enjoyable than the previous one. That’s not to say I think it’s horrible, not even close, it’s just that for the first half, it’s just the Nerd talking about how bad the game is without showing footage.

One of the things that draws my attention to this series is how the Nerd provides evidence and an explanation for why a game is bad. Now, to be fair to this episode, he does do that for a little bit and we get a basic idea for why the game is bad, but it doesn’t last long, and this ends up feeling more like a rant video than anything, and while hearing him rant is fun, it’s only one half of a whole. That’s pretty much the problem with this episode, it’s lacking in information.

Thankfully, the Nerd would rectify the issues with this episode later on, but that’s for a later time. However, there are some positives to this episode. The genuine feeling you get watching the Castlevania 2 episode is still here and is honestly the best part about the episode, and it does build upon the foundation of the AVGN. It’s a harmless episode, nothing more and nothing less.

This is the episode where the two styles from each of the previous two fully mesh together, topping it off with some funny live-action gags. This is where the true Nerd experience finally showed itself in full force.

We also get a bit of an interesting thing about how the Nerd thinks when it comes to the bad games he plays. He states that he gets angry at the games because they are so bad, and this anger acts as a sort of motivator to beat the games. It’s an interesting thing to think about and it kind of makes James seem like the video game reviewer Jesus, playing these games so that we don’t have to and warning us about what fate awaits us should we decide to play these games, but enough about the Jesus symbolism. A short episode for sure, but it has the Nerd’s vulgar humor, is good enough when it comes to providing information about why the game is so bad, and it does some small character building on top of that. 3 homeruns for the Nerd.

This episode was pretty good. The main thing I like about this one is that the Nerd constantly keeps on getting more and more annoyed as the game goes on, something that I strangely didn’t feel much with the previous 3, considering that this would become a staple style of humor for future episodes to come. Also, this episode probably has one of my favorite gags in the series, and if you saw it, you know what I’m talking about.

Another thing that wasn’t mentioned in this video was LJN. What is LJN? Well, if you look closely at the top left of the image above, you know that it’s this game’s publisher. Why do I bring this up? Turns out LJN would become one of the Nerd’s enemies throughout the series, and this isn’t the last time that we would see a game by them. So yeah, secret worldbuilding.

This episode is one of my favorites of the first season, mainly because of how iconic some of the moments here are. In this episode alone, we get not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 iconic Nerd moments that are still remembered to this day. There is the sewer level joke with all the electricity, the one with the hole that you can walk over, the joke where the Nerd falls in the water because of knockback, and of course one of the greatest lines in AVGN history. Cowa-fucking piece of dog shit! This episode is just classic.

There are also small things that is icing in this delicious turtle cake. You can see James’ experience with the franchise in an obvious light here, and this is also the episode where James had covers for the episodes made, drawn by his good friend Mike Matei. What else can I say about this episode? The game may be as good as rotten turtle soup, but this episode has aged like fine wine.

LJN returns in this episode to torture the Nerd as he heads back to the future. This episode in particular has one reference to the series at the beginning where the Nerd references the scene where Marty poses as Darth Vader while talking to his father. It’s a small moment, but to me, it plants the seeds for the Nerd to add more of a story to his episodes. Could I be reading too much into that? Maybe, but that’s how I like to interpret it. Also, the gag with the toaster was pretty funny, and shows that James is able to put together a decent special effect.

This episode is your standard AVGN episode, but this is the episode where the Angry Nintendo Nerd theme song made its official debut. Created by Kyle Justin, this is probably one of the most iconic themes in all of internet reviewer history. It gives a good idea of what the Nerd is all about while also being very catchy to listen to. Good song to accompany an exceedingly good series.

This episode is formatted in the form of a PSA. Makes sense, since this game is basically an anti-drug game. To be honest though, I think more people are willing to listen to the Nerd when he says not to play the game than listening to this shitload of fuck. However, it is near the end of the episode where it gets really interesting.

In the episode, the Nerd dials the Wally Bear hotline, and while he listens to what the phone has to say, it cuts to a dark and empty basement. This is where James shows his filmmaking chops, and I got to say, for the most part, he actually did it pretty well. The way the camera pans around the basement, the way it transitions to different parts of it, the lack of music in the background with the only sound being the static voice of Wally over the phone, it all combines to form a very disturbing atmosphere. If anybody asks me for a showcase of how good James Rolfe is at filmmaking, that would be one of the scenes I would show them, and that is just the beginning.

The most notable thing about this episode is the introduction of Shit Pickle. Now, a character like this would probably get annoying very fast if he was in every other episode. Shit Pickle’s entire gimmick is that he is only able to say his name and nothing else. Thankfully though, James might have realized this too as this episode is one of the few where Shit Pickle actually appears. As such, I feel we are able to appreciate Shit Pickle more because he is so rare to see. His joke never gets old because he isn’t used much, and in this episode in particular, he actually makes the Nerd’s commentary over the game that much better.

On top of this episode containing the moment where the Nerd gets frustrated about not being able to land the plane, it also shows James flex his special effect muscles more. It still amazes me how well these effects blend into the episodes whenever they appear. James always wanted to be a filmmaker and I feel this series was a good way for him to achieve his dream. Sure, he did eventually make his own movie and is even working on another one right now, but this is still a nice way to show to the public what he is capable of.

I know I’m going to get a lot of hate for this one, but rewatching this episode, I feel this one is the least memorable of the Season 1 episodes. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is a bad episode. It’s a standard Nerd episode, and the standard for Nerd episodes a pretty good. That’s just it though, it’s a bit too safe for my liking.

Every Nerd episode up to this point had something particularly memorable about them. The closest this episode gets to that is the Bimmy and Jimmy joke, but it’s just one small joke. A good one, but ultimately not as memorable as the basement scene from Wally Bear, the phone call to Jessica Rabbit, or the stuff that will come up in the next two episodes. Hell, I think the old Jekyll and Hyde episode is better. Again, not a bad one, just unremarkable when compared to others I feel.

These next two episodes are without a doubt my favorites of Season 1, and two of my favorite episodes of the entire series. The main reason is that this is where James decides to go and make an entire narrative throughout the episodes. The Back to the Future episode was just a reference that left it up to interpretation. This was the real deal.

The basic plot synopsis is that the Nerd is forced to play Friday the 13th by Jason Voorhees, and it gets to the point where the Nerd gets so infuriated that he straight up murders Jason. Then after a healthy dose of Rolling Rock from playing such an awful game, the Nerd passes out and now he is forced to play Nightmare on Elm Street by Freddy Krueger. For such a simple plot, James manages to make it exciting through the technical aspects.

His filmmaking skills are at the absolute best that they have been in this early season. Like in the Wally Bear episode, the Nerd is able to create a good sense of terror here. You know that Jason and Freddy could appear at any moment, and you’re just waiting for the moment they strike. The costume design on Jason and Freddy is pretty accurate to how they were in the movies, the effects are used well here, and the climax is four versions of the Nerd fighting Freddy Krueger with him getting punched in the face by the Power Glove causing him to explode. This is just one of those things you need extreme skill to not make awesome. Speaking of the Power Glove, these episodes also make for a good transition to the next one.

This would eventually become another running theme for the episodes. Starting with the Power Glove, this is where the Nerd would eventually begin reviewing game accessories instead of just games. I feel this was a good thing for two main reasons. One, it gives us another type of humor that would become a staple part of AVGN, and that would be from his reactions. Whether he gets confused at what the hell is going on or frustrated when he can’t get something to work properly, it’s always nice to see the Nerd react to something that he doesn’t understand. The second is that this opens up plenty of room for more stuff to cover, and this works because it means the Nerd will have a hard time running out of things to cover, along with the passage of time making things more retro the more it passes.

This next one is a bit strange, as I have a hard time calling this a Nerd episode. This episode feels more like James just being James and venting about something he doesn’t like. If anything, this episode feels more like an episode of You Know What’s Bullshit than anything else. Still, it’s just as entertaining and informative as the previous episodes, so at the very least there’s that.

This episode marks the point where the Angry Nintendo Nerd becomes the Angry Video Game Nerd. In this episode, the Nerd checks out a Sega Master System game instead of an NES game like the previous episodes. Much like the Power Glove episode, this one broadens the Nerd’s horizons even further, and now we have a whole bunch more potential content to check out. My favorite moment would have to be at the end where the Nerd jumps up in victory. On top of being a reference to the movie, I think it also serves as the Nerd’s way of expressing his new freedom to check out more games for the series. The era of the Angry Nintendo Nerd is over and age of the Angry Video Game Nerd has officially begun.

Finally, we arrive at the Christmas episode and finale to Season 1, and as finales go, this one is pretty good. We finally get the updated Nerd theme, both for the rest of the series and the Christmas rendition, which sound nice. The games he covers here are funny all on their own and the Nerd’s commentary just makes it all the better. The finales to these seasons are just regular Nerd episodes, so there really isn’t much to talk about which I do admit is a bit disappointing. If anything though, watching this entire first season all the way to the end is what makes this finale special when you take into account everything else that happened, and in that sense, I like it. I like it a lot.

I got to say, for the premiere season of AVGN, I’m surprised how much the show evolved over the course of 17 short episodes. We see a lot in this season, from worldbuilding, character building, we got to see James’ filmmaking in action, the evolution from the Angry Nintendo Nerd to the Angry Video Game Nerd and so much more. I honestly didn’t think that this first season would have all that much to unpack, but I was pleasantly surprised. If this is any indication of what’s to come for this retrospective, then I am really looking forward to it.

Welcome to the AVGN retrospective everybody. Take care, and remember to destroy shitty games.

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