Wheel of Fortune has had many video games released over the years. Every modern version of Wheel features the likeness of co-host Vanna White (and later, the voice of announcer Charlie O'Donnell), but not of host Pat Sajak, with no explanation given to why.
These include a computer game for older Macintosh computers, a version for the Commodore 64, a game for the Nintendo Entertainment System released prior to the overhaul of the bonus round during the "Big Month of Cash", both a Super NES and Sega Mega Drive rendition, a Nintendo 64 version, several PC versions, and even some arcade versions. A free version of the game is available on Station.com.
All versions were released by GameTek unless noted below.
The NES version was designed by Rare, and three editions were made: The original in 1988, a Junior Edition in 1989, and a Family Edition in 1990. The Family Edition did not feature the Wheel of Fortune "Changing Keys" theme. The games do not support the NES Four Score accessory; the third player must use the first player's controller.
A player entered his selection by using the controller to scroll through the alphabet, contained in a string along the bottom of the screen; the answer had to be entered within a time limit, with a player losing his turn if he took too much time. A player attempting to solve the puzzle had to enter the exact solution to be credited with a victory.
Each of the first three versions featured three rounds, a wheel that never changed values or templates (top value in every round was $1,000), and the third round was always the Speed-Up Round with the final spin. If the player advanced to the bonus round, they chose a prize to play for and tried to solve the final puzzle by choosing five consonants and one vowel (this was before R, S, T, L, N, and E were given in the offset).
Every one of the wheel's letters and numbers appeared upright regardless of their position.
For the Bankrupt, Lose a Turn, and Free Spin wedges, a symbol appeared before two zeros – B (Bankrupt), M (Lose A Turn, called Miss Turn in this version), and + (Free Spin).
The only differences with the Junior Edition were puzzles more identifiable to children and prizes to match (instead of playing for cars, players could win trips or similar items). The Family Edition followed this same route.
Another version, titled Wheel of Fortune featuring Vanna White, was a fourth version designed by IJE, who also developed Talking Super Jeopardy! at the same time. This version used enhanced graphics, music, and sounds. It was also the first Wheel game to feature a character selection.
A Deluxe Edition was released only to the Super NES in 1993. This version, like the one above, followed the 1989 rules but had 1992 set changes (such as the colored "W" wheel backdrops) as well as more detailed graphics, somewhat simplified controls, and the speed-up round, which was previously only available in previous versions when there was a tie. Oddly, the full spinning wheel present in the original Super NES version was replaced with a much simpler but 3D-like animation.
Sony Imagesoft released a version for the Sega Mega-CD in 1994, concurrently with the PC version (see below). This edition featured full-motion video and Red Book CD audio of the 1989 theme and various cues from that era (though the 1992-1994 intro was used), but like the Deluxe Edition on the SNES, the game used the 1992-1996 (Seasons 10-14) set with the "W" glass-tower starburst backdrops behind each contestant.
GameTek released a version for the Nintendo 64 in 1997, and featured rules similar to the 1995-1996 season such as the Bankrupt/$10,000/Bankrupt wedge and Jackpot round. This was the first game to feature these two elements, but would also be the last Wheel game published by GameTek, as they filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy that year. It was also the last game to use the wheel's old 2 1/2 template system. Games after this release use the one-template system that has been seen on the show since 1996.
Atari (then known as Hasbro Interactive) acquired the Wheel and Jeopardy! licenses and started releasing versions for the PlayStation. Two versions were released, the second of which featured a behind-the-scenes look at the show and a sample contestant exam.
The most recent console edition of Wheel was in 2003, released a little after the PC version (see below).
A PlayStation Network version is available in a downloadable form exclusively via the PlayStation Store. It was released on March 19, 2009. It is the second game to feature the Million-Dollar Wedge, after the iPod Touch/iPhone Wheel game.
The Game Boy Wheel had values that were multiples of 100, as opposed to the actual show's 50. $1,000 was the top value in the first two rounds. In round three – the speed-up round – top dollar was increased to $5,000. The winner of the game played the Bonus Round (using the five consonants, one vowel rule) for $25,000.
Like the first three NES versions, Lose A Turn was called Miss Turn and used an M with two zeros. Bankrupt was also seen as a B with two zeros. Instead of a cross (+) used in those versions, Free Spin used an F with two zeros.
The Game Gear version used a noticeably-futuristic environment, and although there are 16 wedges displayed on the rainbow-schemed wheel, the display at the bottom of the screen shows the overall configuration has only 12 values. Round one has a top value of $900, round two $2500, and round three $5000.
There were also many versions made for the PC. Five editions were made by Sharedata (later GameTek) from 1987-1990, including a Junior Edition and a Golden Edition (versions of these were also released for the Apple II and Commodore 64). GameTek continued publishing PC versions, released around the same time as their console counterparts. Lose A Turn was simply called "Lose Turn" in these versions, as with several other versions at the time.
Sony Imagesoft released a PC version around the same time as the Sega CD version, using the 1992-1994 intro AND theme.
Once GameTek folded, Hasbro Interactive (later Infogrames, and now Atari Interactive) released three versions in 1998, 2000, and 2002, developed by Artech Entertainment, Ltd..
The most recent Wheel game for the PC was released in 2007 by Sony Online Entertainment.
One of the very first electronic versions of Wheel was made for the Commodore 64 by Sharedata in 1986, although this was followed up in 1993 by three companies – Chromance, Vermes, and Marex – who each created their own Wheel game for the C64. Even though it played like the American version, it was actually an English translation of the Polish version of Wheel (Koło Fortuny).
GameTek also produced an arcade version of Wheel in 1989 (one of their few forays into arcade games). Playable by one to three players, the gameplay was much like the show with a few exceptions – no Bonus Round (as gameplay was continuous), selectable difficulty of puzzles (normal or expert), a single Wheel arrangement for all rounds (top dollar value of $900), and no prizes or bonuses. Players were given a set number of "misses" (wrong guesses or hits on Bankrupt or Lose A Turn, adjustable by the arcade owner between 1 and 5) before gameplay ended and the player was prompted to buy-in and continue. Hitting certain score amounts could replenish these misses (similar to earning extra "lives" in other games). Player controls were limited to an encoder wheel (which was used to spin the Wheel or select letters and game options) and one button for each player to confirm said selections.
This was a video redemption game – while no real money was actually won (it was simply a means of keeping score), reaching certain score amounts would cause tickets to be dispensed. Graphics were on par with arcade games of the era (slightly over the home game systems of the time), and the game even featured a "Vanna" look-alike to "turn letters" on the board and urge on players with a simulated voice (which was not Vanna's).
This game used a software-based test menu (as opposed to DIP switches) to set the game options – they were saved to EEPROM.
In 1995, Funhouse released the first non-video Wheel redemption game. Out of seven large boxes spelling out JACKPOT, the A, K, and O had to be lit up via a 12-wedge wheel. A light traveled around the wheel itself, and once a coin traveled down a chute into the machine, the light would stop spinning on a value. Ten wedges had values normally ranging from 2-12 tickets, while Bankrupt gave the player zero tickets (but the player would not lose any tickets already earned). The twelfth wedge at the top of the wheel netted the player a lit letter plus the biggest value on the wheel, normally 50 tickets. If the player successfully lit up the last letter, in normal circumstances, 100 tickets would be won.
The game's backdrops were similar to Tyco's 1992 Wheel board game, only the photo was morphed to stretch across the machine. There was a letter girl at the left side of the machine, however it was not Vanna.
In 2000, ICE released a Wheel redemption game similar to their popular Cyclone games. In order to spin a large, 20-wedge wheel offering bonus values, players needed to stop a light traveling around the game on a blue bulb marked "Spin Zone". Otherwise, a smaller amount of tickets were dispensed.
In 2005, ICE also released a coin pusher version. In order to spin the wheel at the top of the game, players needed to skillfully light up all 14 letters on a puzzle board spelling out "WHEEL OF FORTUNE". To do this, players needed to drop their coins onto a lighted section (the light would move back and forth along seven sections).
In 1983, GameTek (then known as The Great Game Company) planned to release a version of Wheel, along with conversions of six other popular game shows, for the Atari 2600. However, these plans were canceled when the Video Game Crash of 1983 almost killed the video game industry. Since many felt that the Atari 2600 was not powerful enough to faithfully reproduce these games, it is believed that if these games had been developed and released, they would have been released as a hybrid video/board game (such as the Quest for Rings on the Odyssey2).
In 2004, Tiger Electronics teamed with VEIL Wireless Technologies to make a Wheel game which let home viewers play along with the actual TV Show. The game, titled "Wheel of Fortune Live Play", was never released because of technical issues. Despite this, one unit sold on eBay in December 2006, possibly a prototype version.
In 1988, Mattel released an electronic handheld Wheel game that allowed players to point the device at the television and play along, as the puzzle would appear on a small LCD screen. The unit also included video tapes with puzzles on them and allowed players to program their own puzzles.
Tiger Electronics' "Wheel of Fortune Live Play" (see above), was to be a game that worked in a fashion similar to Mattel's 1988 game, but technical issues prevented its 2004 release.
Given creator Merv Griffin's fondness for gambling (including being a successful casino owner), it would seem natural that Wheel would be featured as the basis for a slot machine. International Gaming Technology licensed the rights to make Wheel-based games in 1996.
The first machines (and still the most popular) featured standard IGT three-reel slot machines, each with a reproduction of the show's famous wheel above the reels. When a "SPIN" symbol lined up on the third reel with maximum coins bet, the machine played the traditional "WHEEL! OF! FORTUNE!" audience shout, indicating bonus mode. The player then pressed a button to start the wheel spinning, and could win as many as 1,000 coins (with no "Bankrupt" wedges). Lining up three "Wheel of Fortune" symbols wins the progressive jackpot, which can be linked with other Wheel machines throughout one or more states and reaches into the millions of dollars. An indication of the slot's endurance is that in the 2000s, IGT updated the sound chips for the machine with the more current "Happy Wheels" theme music by Steve Kaplan, replacing Mort Lindsey's 1994 big-band style theme song.
In 1998, Tiger Electronics made a handheld game based on the Wheel slot machines. It featured a Progressive Super Jackpot which started at $5,000 (just like the Jackpot on the actual show) and increased by $1, $2, or $3 depending on what the player's bet is. There were two ways to win the Super Jackpot – either land on the Super Jackpot wedge when spinning the Wheel (the Wheel would be spun when a SPIN symbol landed on the payout line), or get three "Wheel of Fortune" symbols on the payline with a $3 bet.
Compared to the handheld game, the actual slot machine had no such wedge on its bonus wheel to give away the expensive progressive jackpot. If it did, the progressive jackpot would become too easy to win. The Super Jackpot wedge on the handheld game was added in as winning it the traditional way would prove very rare, and since no actual money was dispensed from the handheld game it merely added to the excitement and fantasy of racking up a huge score.
In more recent years, as video-based slot machines with many paylines have become popular, video versions of Wheel machines have appeared, all with the familiar Wheel above the screen. In 2004, a version featuring Sajak, White, and O'Donnell was produced as a "Special Edition". A second version of the Special Edition machine was produced in 2006, which features nine video terminals situated around a giant wheel in the middle. In this game, multiple players may become eligible for a bonus spin at any given time.