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Let’s set the scene. You’re on your fifth-grade field trip to the zoo when suddenly, the school bus you’re riding in pulls up next to a Volkswagen Beetle. You know just what to do. But just as the words “Punch Buggy” are about to roll off the tip of your tongue, the jerk sitting next to you beats you to it. Alas, you tense up and brace yourself for the inevitable stinging haymaker to the arm.

The Punch Buggy game is iconic, and it was one of the first things people thought of when Volkswagen announced the Beetle’s discontinuation. However, it’s a good thing that fewer children will come home with bruised arms as these models become a rarer sight on the road.

As we reflect on the VW Beetle and the Punch Buggy game, we’re left with a significant question. Do Volkswagen Beetle owners take guilty pleasure in being agents of mayhem? Or are these drivers just simple bystanders who never meant any harm? Thankfully, the internet, as always, helps provide some answers.

VW Beetle owners get a kick out of the game

A pair of 2019 Volkswagen Beetle Final Editions on display in a parking lot
Two 2019 VW Beetle Final Editions on display | Photo via Volkswagen

It seems that just about everyone, regardless of age, has a Punch Buggy story of their own. So, one would imagine that Volkswagen Beetle owners know about the potential chaos they can create during any given drive.

Users on Reddit, a forum-based social media platform, weighed in on the issue by posing a question to real-life Beetle owners. How do they feel about the Punch Buggy game?

Reddit user TotallyLegitEstoc detailed their experience of owning a VW Beetle in a comedic fashion. The post stated, “I used to drive a bug. Nothing gave me a greater sense of power than one time at a stoplight I saw one kid deliberately pound his friend in the arm. Few men know such power. As I drove off, I laughed at the heavens. For a moment, I was god, and my wrath was felt.”

Perhaps owning a vehicle with such power over unforgiving children is too much power for one person to handle. Thankfully, not all VW Beetle drivers have such a cavalier attitude.

Meanwhile, Reddit user Gigiskapoo had a more somber take on their Beetle ownership experience, saying, “A wake of violence follows my 2007 silver shoulder bruiser. I haven’t seen happy children in years. Also, the dashboard is insanely huge, and it smells like crayons. Also, someone stole my plastic flower. 7/10.”

It appears that empathetic VW Beetle owners do exist. However, it’s still out for debate if this seems to correlate with the smell of crayons and plastic flowers.

What does VW think about Punch Buggy?

The German automaker has acknowledged the game in the past, but it takes an official stance of not condoning violence in any form. However, that doesn’t mean the company hasn’t leaned into the fame of the game.

In 2018, Volkswagen even posted an article debating if the game is called Punch Buggy or Slug Bug. The company didn’t land on one name over the other, but it seems pop culture has latched on to Punch Buggy as the real name. 

However, VW’s story did reveal some interesting tidbits. While the Volkswagen Beetle debuted in the U.S. in 1949, it wasn’t referenced to as a “slug bug” in a published piece until 1964. “Punch Buggy” came even later, first appearing in print in 1978.

In true VW fashion, the article ended with a peaceful message of “Try hugs, not slugs.”

The future of Punch Buggy

As the social climate changes and fewer Volkswagen Beetles roam the streets, Punch Buggy will likely fade from the collective consciousness. However, the game will forever live on as a phenomenon.

Of course, it’s likely Volkswagen brings back the Beetle in the future, as it’s an automotive icon. The manufacturer is already reviving the VW Bus as an all-electric vehicle. A forward-thinking version of the Beetle might not be far off either. It may even spawn a new type of road trip game. Perhaps, one that’s a little easier on the arm.


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