“Give credit where credit’s due.” I think we have this phrase in the English language because sometimes people are hesitant to give or show appreciation for the amount of effort that so many people put into various projects. As Americans, we are usually so focused on “what would be better than this?” or “how can we improve on or compete with this?” that we often fall short when it comes to thanking people for the work that has actually been done.
There’s so much we take for granted. Whether I'm playing my favorite games of all time or the newest games with the most cutting-edge technology it's not long before I'm criticizing some aspect. “Well, it would have been a perfect game if only they had added THIS in.” Or “Why the hell would they take that out from the first one! At least leave in the option! That was the best part of the original!” Or “My God, it seems so obvious they should have added this simple feature! Don’t they beta test anymore? Jeez!”
Maybe it’s something in human nature to always be looking for the next rung on the ladder. Then again, maybe it has to do with the nature of stupidity. A rocket scientist dressed in street clothes wouldn’t stand out at your local super-market. Unfortunately, the drooling, angry mental patient, flailing his arms about and destroying the canned-goods aisle is hard to miss.
There is no phrase “Take a piss where piss is due.” And that’s because we never forget to. We don’t need to be reminded to tear apart the worst that a particular medium has to offer, be it movies, music, video games or simply anything that Paris Hilton has taken part in. But as Philip J. Fry would say: “I’m good at video games and bad at everything else.” So that’s what we’re going to talk about. The absolute worst video games of all time.
Abandon All Hope Ye Who Play These Games...
Coming up with a list of the best video games of all time is a bitter and divisive process. Harder still is picking out the worst since you have such a wider range to work with. Considering all the gaming systems, imports, computers games…choosing the worst five is not unlike choosing the five worst body parts to get shot in. You can rule out maybe the eyes and the gonads…but pretty soon you realize it sucks equally to get shot anywhere. Same goes for these terrible games. Nobody wants to play them. And as torture devices it’s like choosing between eye torture and fingernail torture: neither road is one that any gamer (casual or not) would want to go down. There is no significance to the order/numbering. They are simply five games I consider the worst.
Getting back to people not needing a reminder to criticize, I feel I should preface this list with a disclaimer. There are many other honorable and courageous attempts by others to nail down the worst games of all time. Seanbaby and nesplayer.com come to mind. I’ve taken lists like these into account because I salute their bravery and willingness to submerge themselves in the muck of the gaming pool that nobody wants to swim in. Admittedly, I was forced to repeat two games Seanbaby had already singled out simply because they bear repeating.
But in taking them into account I also had to keep in mind that my list will include only five selections. Few people are willing to allow themselves such little elbowroom. So I had to make damn sure that every one of these games is a true setback for the human race. So god-awful that families were torn apart when they were played on the Famicom. So tasteless that even John Waters would boo them. These titles are not just poorly conceived, but also poorly executed – turning an already vague mess of an idea into an overall experience about as coherent as Cheech & Chong on blow. And I do mean blow. Now, prepare yourself for the suck:
They're both right to be fearful...1 - E.T. - (Atari 2600)
Let’s shoot the elephant in the room with a lethal dose of tranq right off the bat. Actually, maybe it’s more like beating the dead horse. No matter, in this instance the animal-homicide is one in the same. No worst games list would really be complete without this entry. Part of the reason I think it gets credited is its huge overproduction and underperformance. It was based on a blockbuster movie and millions of copies wound up in a landfill instead of gamers’ homes. I can still shamefully say that I own one of the original copies. Obviously I keep it locked in a box, away from any display device for fear a freak electrical storm might accidentally cause it to power on. I think there were plenty of games for Atari that were equally ugly and unplayable. But because E.T. epitomizes the “What the hell am I even doing?” spirit of so many of the worst Atari games. Not to mention the fact that it represented such a big financial disaster that it will be forever remembered as shorthand for why Atari crashed and burned. I’ve read multiple explanations of how to play this game and I still don’t know what the hell is going on. The only defense I could see for this game is that technically it doesn’t even constitute a game. But when you need to delve into a discussion about what the definition of a game is, it probably belongs on the list.
Not Super Noah's Ark 3-D, mind you. It's: Super 3-D Noah's Ark. Makes sense.2 - Super 3-D Noah's Ark - (SNES)
When I was younger, I was walking near a local park and I actually found a copy of this game lying on the sidewalk. Naturally, the outline of a cartridge drew me right to it. But once I looked at the cover…something about it gave me pause. I didn’t pick it up. Instead, I backed away from it as if it were a rattlesnake. No joke. Absolutely true story. And oh, how right I was. I can see an argument for making this entire list comprised of only Wisdom Tree games. But the problem with that is that these games are so ridiculous that there is a saving grace (pun definitely not intended) in the unintentional humor. On the other hand, you really can’t make a list without at least one title from Wisdom Tree because…COME ON. I chose Super 3-D Noah’s Ark because it not only sums up their penchant for barely changing a secular game and dubbing it “Christian”, but also because it’s totally unplayable. It really looks like shite. And really isn’t that the story of Wisdom Tree? Imagine someone takes a shite in his hand and tries to sell it to you as a video game. Of course you say no. But then he takes the same piece of shite and sticks a little cross in it. Now he has an entire new market cornered. After 99% of all games (Wisdom Tree’s older games being in the 1% of course) released in the USA got the Nintendo Seal of Approval for the NES, the emphasis was pretty much abandoned by the time SNES rolled around. And if it wasn’t, most consumers stopped paying attention. But this game has the dubious distinction of being the ONLY SNES game to not receive the seal of approval. I’ve heard rumors that this game is based entirely on Wolfenstein 3-d coding for the SNES (which the Wolf 3-d team supposedly leaked after Nintendo made them take out the blood) and just changed things like bullets into berries and a captive soldier into Moses. Everything about that seems reasonable (It’s a rip-off, to be sure!) except I also hear the graphics are exactly the same and I swear that this game looks worse.
Well, at least you can tell what the letters are supposed to be.3 - Fisher Price’s Perfect Fit - (NES)
I swear to all of you that I was playing Super Mario Bros. for NES when I was not yet five years old. And I’m sure that most of you have similar stories of how early you started gaming. We all showed our younger siblings how to game as early as possible. Gaming has always been associated with youth, even that young. So it begs the question: Who exactly was Fisher Price targeting with games like Perfect Fit? According to them, “children ages three to six” with a focus on improving object recognition and hand-eye coordination…you know…the things all video games improve. The one thing I will give them is that the objects are so poorly drawn that even adults will have trouble figuring out what the hell they’re doing. But after a little eye-strain it becomes clear: you are ‘matching’ objects that are ALL Fisher Price products! Say what you want about MC Kids, it was subtle compared to this tripe. And it was also playable beyond the first five minutes. Perfect Fit is representative of a line of games brought out by Fisher Price in and around 1990. What’s amazing is that in the late-era of NES, such a wealthy corporation could yield little more than poorly drawn product placements. Perfect Fit and its sister games have the look and feel of a Commodore64 title – in its beta stage. I guess Fisher Price’s logic was similar to that of Wisdom Trees. We can’t make a good game, so let’s make a crappy one and excuse the crap by saying catering to a small percentage of the gaming population. “Well, it’s not for you, it’s for kids.” Of course their research into the target audience was as poor as the effort put into making the game. Their intended audience was already playing quality games on the NES, but they still chose to insult both children and parents with this marketing ploy. It’s perfect something alright. Perfect something that rhymes with fit.
Clearly, the lowest point in the series.3 & ½** - The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past - (SNES)
Where to begin? Oh, where to begin? This game took a horrible concept and just made it worse. Could the top-down view be any less effective? I don’t think so. But what really makes this game one of the worst of all time is the total lack of imagination. When I play a video game I want to explore a new world filled with wonder and surprises. I don’t think there was one original thought put into this game. Not one innovation. And I hate to harp on it – but the graphics! It basically is the ULTIMATE misbalancing of graphics and game play. It really shows you that you need 3D and lots of CGI to make a good game. Thank God future Link games (although the game play remained awful) got rid of the top down view and make Link’s nose look like a triangular building block. Zelda LTTP is a lot worse than other bombs like Megaman 2, Megaman 3, Super Mario Bros. 3, Final Fantasy, etc. And that says something. This is just one of those rare games where gamers of all kinds can come together and say: “Wow, this sucks.”
It's like Kryptonite to gamers.4 - Superman 64 - (N64)
With all the positive hype surrounding Superman these days, we might do well to remind ourselves of this disgraceful effort. Around the time Superman 64 hit shelves I remember eagerly reading through the upcoming games lists in Nintendo Power Magazine. We were promised games like Metroid 64 and the sequel to Mario 64. They were promised to us like inevitability. Instead, what we were left with was games like Superman 64 and a rain check for GameCube. Terrible, terrible, terrible. The controls for this game must rank among the all-time worst. And not just video games. I mean counting cars, boats, TV sets...anything that has a control feature. This game must rank among the worst of them. And that’s quite an achievement considering that this game was released in May 1999. It’s a game based on the biggest superhero of all time, backed by the capabilities of a 64-bit system. And yet, we wind up with an exercise in frustration, with graphics literally many-times worse than that of the system’s launch title. It just goes to show you that crap is truly timeless.
Ocean presents Waterworld...hehe!5 - Waterworld - (Virtual Boy)
The highly publicized collapse Virtual Boy as a system has really overshadowed a great irony. And that is, the only license for Nintendo’s biggest failure was Waterworld – one of Hollywood’s biggest failures. Admittedly, being declared the worst Virtual Boy game doesn’t really do much to enhance Waterworld’s status of one of the worst games ever. Gamers have been told over and over to expect nothing from the total bust that was Virtual Boy. The bar has been set so low that most other VB games can trip over it. But not Waterworld. Waterworld still manages to do a backbreaking limbo under it, clearing into new depths of crap. All the usual suspects are here: terrible graphics, poor control, and repetitive/non-existent game play. But Waterworld can make a unique claim to the worst of the worst list: it can actually
make you go blind.
And there you have it. I’d like to both thank and curse everyone at Retrojunk for encouraging me to do this article. On the one hand so many of you have really supported my writing on this site and I can’t thank you enough. On the other hand, you sadists made me sit through hours of unspeakable gaming horror to write this. And I’m talking about dozens of games that didn’t make the final list, but were still horrible enough to bring me to tears. So thanks…and see you in hell!**Again, just kidding. Kidding!