If you’ve ever seen an episode of Regular Show, one of Cartoon Network’s quirkiest and most enduring hits, you might have caught on to something: The team behind the show, anchored by creator and voice actor J.G. Quintel, sure does love the ‘80s. Each episode is steeped in references to the days of neon and glam metal, but best friends (and anthropomorphic animals) Mordecai and Rigby have a special place in their hearts for retro video games most of all.
“Video games are in the the DNA of the show,” Quintel told us during New York Comic Con. We spoke hours after Regular Show’s very last stage appearance at the annual convention; the show’s eight and final season premieres this fall.
As Regular Show, which pairs the absurd adventures of Mordecai, Rigby and their friends with a sweet coming-of-age story, has evolved over the years, Quintel’s lifelong affection for games has consistently bled through. It’s something he’s spoken at length to Polygon about in the past; we talked to him in 2013 about how his career almost went in another direction, due to his childhood gaming obsession.
Considering how personal the cartoon is for him — he is his character Mordecai, he told the crowd during the panel — it’s no surprise that Regular Show often features a deluge of ‘80s and early ‘90s video games straight from his childhood.
Several installments involve the gang taking part in life-or-death gaming sessions, going up against extremely competitive gamers or getting stuck inside an actual game. One episode made headlines when arcade game record-holder Billy Mitchell alleged in court that Regular Show ripped off his likeness for the character Garrett Bobby Ferguson, a gigantic talking head who gets intense about his gaming.
(When asked during the panel about the true inspiration for the character, a fidgety Quintel explained vaguely that “there’s a lot of people who are very competitive, and we wanted to make this character who was super competitive.”)
Mordecai and Rigby have an insatiable thirst for all games console, portable or arcade. But just as Regular Show’s cast of sentient vending machines are off the beaten path, so too is its Sega-loving creator when it comes to his own taste in games.
“I was a Sega Master System kid, and that’s why Sega Master System is in Regular Show,” he told us. “I have a whole wall of my old Master System games and [Sega] Genesis games.”
Favorites include Shadowrun on Genesis and Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap on Master System, he said; Quintel is no basic Sonic the Hedgehog or Alex Kidd fan.
Not that he’s anti-Nintendo, of course: A sneak peek at this month’s upcoming Halloween episode featured a quick glimpse of a character in-costume as Metroid’s Samus Aran. Quintel does have a bias toward the 16-bit days, however; he told co-star and one-time Atari 2600 owner William Salyers that the even older console was “garbage.”
Either way, it’s those fond memories of playing games at all hours of the day that best account for Regular Show’s own love of gaming.
“I remember when we got [the Master System] for Christmas,” Quintel told us. “We played it all the time ... All of that gets transferred into Regular Show. The excitement over the box art and playing the game, whether or not the game is good.”
With nearly every episode on Hulu, those in the middle of the cartoon- and video game-loving Venn diagram can catch up on Regular Show now before dipping into its “very meta,” surely Sega-filled final season.