Nickelodeon enjoyed a boom of popular kids game shows in the 1990s, and one of the best-remembered celebrates its 25th anniversary this week: Legends of the Hidden Temple. The show only ever ran for three seasons, but thanks to its elaborate lore and massive set pieces, it garnered a cult following that’s been maintained to this day.
Legends of the Hidden Temple featured two hosts: Kirk Fogg, who was the “temple guide” and called play-by-play on the action in each round, and Olmec (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker), a massive talking stone head who served as the master of the titular temple. The goal of each show was to retrieve an artifact from the temple, but teams had to earn the right to enter Olmec’s temple over the course of several different trials.
The show consisted of four rounds of play, beginning with six teams of two and eventually narrowing down to one. The teams featured on the show were the Red Jaguars, Blue Barracudas, Green Monkeys, Orange Iguanas, Purple Parrots, and Silver Snakes. Two of these teams would be eliminated in the first round of the game, which involved crossing a pool of water called “the moat.” The moat had to be crossed in some form or fashion, sometimes involving using a raft, or by using ropes.
The four teams that advanced then moved on to the Steps of Knowledge, in which Olmec discussed the artifact of that day’s show. The teams were then quizzed on details from the story that Olmec had told, and two of the four teams were eliminated. The final two teams then went on to the Temple Games, in which they competed in three head-to-head physical challenges in order to earn Pendants of Life. The team with the most Pendants of Life after the three games was then granted access to the temple.
It’s the Temple Run that Legends of the Hidden Temple is likely remembered most for. The temple itself consisted of 12 rooms, each with a puzzle of some sort to solve or a physical challenge (like ropes or a pit of “sand”) to overcome. The goal of the Temple Run was to reach the artifact and escape from the maze within three minutes. The team that won the right to enter the temple begins by sending one of their team members into the maze, equipped with one full Pendant of Life. Those Pendants are essentially the equivalent to “lives” in video games – there are three dangerous Temple Guards hidden throughout the temple, and players who run into one must give up a Pendant in order to pass them, or else be thrown out of the temple. If the first person sent into the temple was thrown out by a Temple Guard, the second person began their run. If either member of the team made it out with the artifact in time, they won that show’s grand prize.
The Temple Run was notoriously difficult – it was only ever successfully completed by the final team 32 times over the course of 120 episodes. Between having to avoid Temple Guards and dealing with the limited amount of time, on top of a long day of actually filming the show, the Temple Run became an infamously challenging task for the young kids who were competing.
The show proved to be wildly popular with its intended audience, and lived on in reruns for many years after it was properly cancelled. In 2016, Nickelodeon brought it back as a made-for-TV movie based more on the lore of Olmec’s hidden temple rather than the games themselves, with Dee Bradley Baker and Kirk Fogg both returning to their original roles. A board game based on the show was also released in 2017.